How to do a One-Finger Whip Finish

6 CommentsThursday, 5 April 2018  |  Paul G

Teach Anyone to Whip Finish a Fly 

Part 2 Here

Part 3 Here

If you've ever wanted to tie a fly - OR Especially if you want to teach someone else how to tie flies - you'll get a huge advantage when you know the (Cheat's!) "One Finger Whip Finish"...

Becoming a Fly Tyer

Tying the fly that catches your fish is incredibly satisfying...But there can be a lot of frustration involved when you are learning the skills of wrapping thread, material and feather onto a hook. All fly tyers have had to learn the tricks of making those materials behave themselves - but very often, it is difficult for experienced tyers to analyse and explain how they solved those problems...

Working out and passing on those methods for actually teaching awkward "moves" like the infamous "whip finish" knot creates an amazing gift that you can pass on to others who you'd like to inspire to tie and to fall in love with fly fishing. And, if you can pick your nose, you can do a whip finish (as the video proves).

My sons trying out fly tying

My two boys checking out this "fly tying" caper

So the great thing about the demo in the video is that it doesn't matter if you just want to learn the One-Finger Whip Finish move for yourself - or if you wanted a way to help you teach someone else to progress in their tying. It works just as well either way for you.

It was also really important for me to cast my mind back and remember what it was like (and what the various hurdles I had to get over) when I began tying for myself. Now, I was very fortunate because I had an older brother (Ian) who was leading the way in terms of learning fly fishing and also about tying. My parents, too, were happy to buy me a basic vice and tools for a Christmas present - and I never looked back from there.

In fact, if you've seen my "Kebari Azumaya" (fly tying hut) video diary/blog-entry from last year - that is the vice that I'm still using in my garden shed when the weather is warm enough. It is just about getting to those temperatures now (but the picture below is from just a few days ago - the joys of April in Yorkshire).

Fly Tying Summer house: Kebari Azumaya in the snow

Kebari Azumaya: Fly Tying Summer house - not looking so summery last week

That vice is well over thirty years old as I write this (terrifying as that is to me) and it is a very basic model, but of course I've got a huge soft spot for it. Because I've had it for so long, it does remind me that the joy of tying and fishing my own flies must be pretty damned special. There aren't a ton of things that I've continuously enjoyed and kept doing for over three decades.

At the same time, I'm always still learning (which I guess is part of the long-term appeal). It also means that I can easily remember what it is like to be a beginner at any of the techniques that you wind up mastering as you tie flies over a period of years. And you know what, it doesn't take a huge amount of special skill or natural gifts to become a really effective fly tyer. I know that there are always special challenges for people - but I do also know that Peter Arfield in Bakewell has taught fly tying to someone who has one hand; which is an amazing achievement for both pupil and teacher.

Anyway - do watch the video carefully (and I hope that my "confessions of a bait angler" and example flies show that every tyer starts with just one turn of thread on a hook, no matter who they are). 

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You'll get a heads up on the next episode where John shows how you can use a sneaky "tying on" method that lets you make a simple sliding "ramp" so you can create perfectly even underbodies for your flies.

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Don't Miss the next episode with JP's great demo and, now the cat is out of the bag, feel free to share my One Finger Whip Finish secret that I've sat on for almost 30 years now... Just use the whizzy Social Share buttons on this page.



James Carey
Thursday, 5 April 2018  |  14:59

Brilliant. Tried this out this morning before heading to the office, works, so easy. May never use a whip finish tool again.

Paul G
Thursday, 5 April 2018  |  16:31

Possibly the best testimonial ever there James!

Many thanks


Neil McGhee
Thursday, 5 April 2018  |  15:07

Great stuff ! 1 finger whip finish = half hitch?

Paul G
Thursday, 5 April 2018  |  16:35

Not quite Neil. The half hitch only has one turn of thread trapping the previous wrap. With the whip finish, the more turns that you wrap over the "leg" of the loop that is laid along the shank, the more turns of thread "bury" that leg with whippings. So between three and six whips is probably average - with possibly the most popular choice being 4 turns. The only way to build up "insurance" with half hitches is to do a series of two or three of them (and that tends to make heads a bit more lumpy and still not quite as secure. Don't get me wrong, three half hitches with some varnish on is a secure finish. The whip finish is just a touch faster and more elegant once you've cracked it.

Brian Smith
Thursday, 5 April 2018  |  15:49

Thanks for this video Guys. Without doubt in my pathetic attempts at fly tying, the whip finish has been the most awkward obstacle to overcome. When I get home I'll be on the vice and put the finger to the test!

Paul G
Thursday, 5 April 2018  |  16:36

You are welcome Brian - and do let us know how you get on...I hope you crack it as quickly as James C seems to have above!