What’s caus­ing the thread to break?

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Advice Squad -

Q Why does the thread snap when I am ty­ing off flies with a whip fin­ish? Is the hook to blame? David Todd

PAUL PROC­TER REPLIES: Ini­tially, I’d be tempted to say the ten­sion on the feet of your bob­bin holder is a lit­tle tight, which pre­vents the thread spool from turn­ing smoothly. How­ever, given that break­ages are oc­cur­ring on com­ple­tion of the fly, it sounds like one of the two fol­low­ing prob­lems. The most likely cause is that dur­ing the process of ty­ing a fly, un­less you keep it in check, the multi-fi­bre threads we use will grad­u­ally be­come more ten­sioned due to twist­ing. As­sum­ing you’re right-handed, the threads grad­u­ally tighten in a clock­wise di­rec­tion with each rev­o­lu­tion of the hook shank when viewed from above. This tight­en­ing process even­tu­ally be­comes too much for the thread, caus­ing it to break. Do bear in mind that a fair few turns of thread are re­quired when dress­ing each fly, so it’s pos­si­ble to see how this can hap­pen. In ex­treme cases the thread be­gins to ‘ball up’ on it­self, es­pe­cially prior to snap­ping. Be­cause we’re taught to main­tain a tight bob­bin/thread this ‘balling-up’ ef­fect isn’t al­ways ob­vi­ous. How­ever, when com­plet­ing a fly us­ing a whip fin­ish, or se­ries of half hitches, some­times we in­ad­ver­tently gen­er­ate a lit­tle slack, which causes the thread to ‘ball-up’. This small tan­gle of thread can­not pos­si­bly pass through the whip fin­ish knot and con­se­quently causes a break. There is good news here, as this is pre­ventable. When dress­ing a fly, af­ter each stage, like ty­ing in the tail for ex­am­ple, we should pe­ri­od­i­cally and gen­tly spin our bob­bin holder in an an­ti­clock­wise di­rec­tion. Such ac­tions re­lease ex­ces­sive twist­ing of multi-fi­bre threads, leav­ing them in their un-twisted neu­tral state. We can even gauge this by let­ting the bob­bin holder hang for a few mo­ments, when you’re likely to see it be­gin ro­tat­ing in an an­ti­clock­wise di­rec­tion un­til all the un­wanted twists are re­moved, where­upon it will come to rest. This in­di­cates the thread is now in the de­sired neu­tral state. The sec­ond is­sue is some­times caused by a tiny burr which can oc­cur on the hook eye end dur­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing process. Or, the eye is not prop­erly closed, re­sult­ing in a minis­cule gap. Both these faults re­sult in a pos­si­ble sharp edge that is lethal on taut threads and cuts them like a hot knife through but­ter. As we tend to ini­tially se­cure our thread (catch it on) a lit­tle way be­hind the hook eye this burr re­mains un­no­ticed un­til you come to the ty­ing off (whip fin­ish) pro­ce­dure. Now, the thread is im­me­di­ately be­hind the hook eye where it can catch on any sharp edge. As hooks tend to come in batches, if you do ex­pe­ri­ence this it’s best to dis­re­gard that cer­tain box/ packet of hooks.

Check hook eyes for gaps or burrs that can snag thread. Thread grad­u­ally tight­ens in a clock­wise di­rec­tion dur­ing ty­ing. Pe­ri­od­i­cally and gen­tly spin the bob­bin holder in an an­ti­clock­wise di­rec­tion to re­lease ex­ces­sive twist­ing.

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