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Relapsed Speyaholic
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Spent some time a couple years ago working up some patters using married wings. Loved the way they looked off the vise but they didn't seem very durable after being fished. By this I mean they de-married and I was left with a frizzled wing of fibers. Now, I doubt the fish care one bit but it turned me off to fishing them. Curious what others thoughts and experiences are on this.
 

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Pullin' Thread
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'Tip,

Here is a scan of a Kelson Purple Emperor I just took out of my fly box. As can be seen, it has been fished and in fact has caught 2 steelhead. If you look closely, you can even see that I've had to touch up the hook's point after hanging it up.

Yes, it is a little tattered and beat up, but the married wing has stayed together, although the silk in the tag has been cut by a fish's teeth and the tail has been pretty much removed by the fish.
 

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Relapsed Speyaholic
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Discussion Starter #3
Ft,

Perhaps part of my trouble is my choice of winging material to marry with. So far I have been using goose shoulder. I have the marrying part down and they make lovely looking Spey and Dee style wings until I fish them.

'tip
 

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'Tip,

I use turkey tail on the larger flies like the Purple Emperor, but goose shoulder on strip wing flies such as the Night Hawk I use in summer. I have found that it is necessary to have the fibers collapse on top of each other without getting any of the wing fibers out of line for them to stay together when fished. One of the easiest ways to make sure they remain stacked in order and collapse on top of each other when tied in is to use the wing stubs as a handle. After the wing it tied in with 3 or at most 4 turns of thread, hold the wing between you left thumb and forefinger, then take the wing butts in your right thumb and forefinger and rock them up and down while squeezing them together. This action will allign the fibers and help greatly in preventing the wing from splitting.

Once you have performed this rocking with your right hand, keep holding on to the wing with your left hand and remove a turn of thread followed by making 2-3 turns of thread tight against each other moving to the hook eye. It is important to keep your left hand holding the wing as you do this, or the fibers will shift out of position or the wing will cock to one side of the hook or the other. Then put a drop of cement on the thread windings only to help hold the wing in place and lock the fibers to each other at the base of the wing (remember the wing is only being held in place by only 4-6 turns of thread and the cement aides greatly in locking it in place and keeping it together).
 

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Steelhead are cool!
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Tip,

I have the same problem with my bronze Mallard wings. I love the way they look. I have mainly went to hackle tip wings now. I think I may need to watch your technique someday Russ.
 

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Kevin,

The secret to good bronze mallard wings in tying them in by the grey root of the feather with only 2-3 turns of thread and then squeezing the fibers with your thumb and forefinger nails to push them together after tying them in with those 2-3 turns of thread. Then after they are squeezed together, lock them in place with 2 turns of thread, cut off the wing butts, put some flexible cement on the thread and now very small wing stubbs (I use Flexament, but any flexible cement works as well), and finally whip finish right over the wing stubbs to form the head. You may have to make 2 whip finishes to completely cover the wing stubbs and have a well-formed head.

The cement locks everything in place and actually glues the wing to the hook and the thread, while gluing the thread to the hook and to itself. A very durable fly with a nice small head is the result. A whip finish tool makes whip finishing over the wet cement easier, I use and prefer the Materelli, which I think is the best ever designed.

I also use Hale's technique he recommends for putting the bronze mallard roof on a married wing for bronze mallard spey wings. Hale's technique is taking a section of bronze mallard twice as wide as needed for one side of the wing from both a right and a left feather. Then one is placed on top of the other (if right-handed, put the right wing/feather section [the one closest to you that bends to the left] on top. Place the doubled sections on the hook and use your thumb and forefinger of the left-hand to hold them in place. Hold them down with 2 turns of thread and take a look at the wing to see if it is in position. Chances are very good that until you get used to using this technique it will be off toward one side or the other. If it is off, just use you thumbnail and forefingernail to move it so it is centered with some of the feathers down each side of the hook at the tie in (remember a bronze mallard spey wing covers the top 40% of the hook shank).

This method produces a very nice low-set wing on larger hooks (#3/0 & #1.5 AJ's, #1/0-#3/0 Partridge HE2, etc). On smaller hooks (i.e. AJ's in #3 & #5, etc.) the wing sits up a little high, but it is still very fishable although it doesn't hug the body. It is the easiest method I've found for tying in bronze mallard spey wings that are durable and look good.
 

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Flytyer: When you say "then squeezing the fibers with your thumb and forefinger nails to push them together after tying them in with those 2-3 turns of thread." do you mean squeeze the fibers on the sides of the wing with the left hand immediately behind the thread wraps (if you are right handed), and if so, are you trying to compress the base of the wing vertically or horizontally. Sorry to be dense. I have had to use the overlapping method as when I try to form a tent with the mallard, the bases do not compress evenly and I end up with a split in the wing, though I have been tying the wing in with the brown part of the feather and not the gray as you suggest. Thank you.
 

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Mark,

You hold the wing in place with your left hand and use your right hand thumb and forefinger nails to compress the wing from each side toward the top of the hook shank (if a right-handed tyer). You want to have the wing cover the top 40% of the hook at the eye. This compressing of the wing from side to side (or horizontally if that helps you visualize it) helps tent the wing and puts it in the proper position for a spey wing.

As you (and I'm sure many others have found) that if you tie in bronze mallard by the brown part of the feather, the fibers will separate. You absolutely must tie bronze mallard in by the grey roots of the feather strip or the wings will separate simply because the barbs that hold the fibers together (the little feather zip-locks if you will) are found only in the grey section of the feather. When you get bronze mallard, you really ought to get a selection of feathers from large to small so you can tie wings on hooks from #3/0 to #6/7 and have the wings tied in by the grey base of the feather. Just buying "jumbo bronze mallard" is fasle economy unless you are only tying the largest of flies exclusively.
 
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