In my quest simplify the tandem-fly chassis in general and the stinger (rear hook) connection in particular, I joined a stinger to a lead hook in a way that is simple, versatile and adaptable. The beauty of this method is that the coupling of the stinger hook to the connecting material requires no tools (usually), no knots, no thread and no glue. All that is needed is a hook (either up-eye or down-eye) and about 12 inches of connection material, which will be examined later in greater detail.
Don Johnson is an environmental chemist by profession who is also contract fly tier for Pacific Fly Group and enjoys appointments to the following manufacturer's pro-staffs: The Norlander Company (Nor-Vise), Daiichi/Angler Sport Group, Gudebrod Inc., Ross Reels and St. Croix Rod Company.
Copyright 2003 Don Johnson Photos by Lou Hurlbut
The Art of Articulation: Simplified Stingers
By Don Johnson
Tandem flies fill a definite niche in the many disciplines of fly angling. The major deterrent associated with tandems from a tying point of view stems mostly from the fact that they can be laborious, time-consuming productions. In my search for a satisfactory, fast method of manufacturing a tandem hook setup for commercial application, I came across numerous techniques, none of which resembles that which I will later describe. All of the techniques encountered during my search were ones that I had tried, disliked and wouldn't employ because I considered them too labor-intensive.
Of course, as with everything else I have encountered in fly tying, there is not much in the way of technique that is new or earth-shattering. I rambled on, (re)inventing the wheel at my own pace completely oblivious as to this technique's existence. As it turns out, this method had already been developed, just not publicized in literature or known to me. A gentleman named Don Ordes mentioned that he first used this technique about 15 years ago. He, like myself, was not shown or introduced to the technique but just happened to stumble upon it, refine it and adapt it as necessary to suit his angling needs. His needs happen to be a lot more demanding than those of mine. Don's furled tandems have held 150+ pound billfish. That should be clear evidence that the connection is quite strong.
To begin construction, take 12 inches of 30 pound-test backing material and a Daiichi 2553 octopus hook and double the backing so it is shaped like a "U". There should now be a loop at one end and the two tag ends should be of equal length. If you are right-handed, hold the hook between your thumb and index finger of your left hand as if it were mounted in your vise. Thread the loop-end up through the hook-eye (or the tag ends down through the eye) so there is about a one-inch loop dangling over the shank of the hook and the fingers of your left hand.
Now, pinch the hook-eye between your right thumb and index finger and pull the shank of the hook through the loop with your left hand. Then, simultaneously pull both tag ends of the backing to snug the loop up against the eye of the hook. Basically what has just occurred is that a loop to loop connection has been made with the hook-eye and the loop in the backing.
If the process ended at that point the stinger would "float" on the loop, which, in my opinion, would be unacceptable. To "lock" the stinger in place, take the tag ends, one each pinched between your thumb and index finger of each hand, and pull them directly apart from one another. There should now be a straight line between your hands with the hook approximately in the middle. Now, twist each tag end in opposite directions while keeping the backing material taut.
When the backing material has become sufficiently twisted, which will vary with the type of material being used, the act of bringing your hands together will cause a furling of the material. This furling will lock the stinger hook in place on the loop. This is what I have come to refer to as a 'J-Rig' (because it resembles the letter). At this point, the completed J-Rig (stinger andfurled connection) is ready to be tied onto the lead hook.
Unlike traditional stinger assemblies, no tools, no glue, no knots and no thread were used to construct the J-Rig. When the furled connection material is lashed to the lead shank with tying thread in such a manner that the J-Rig extends off the back (bend), a tandem chassis has been completed. If manufactured in advance, to prevent the J-Rig from unraveling, simply tie a tight, overhand knot in the furled connection material (both tag ends) a few inches up from the stinger hook. The pre-manufacturing of numerous J-Rig setups speeds up the process of tying a complete tandem fly at a later time.
This technique of furled connections has been successfully employed while using Gudebrod braided Dacron backing material of differing pound-tests, monofilament (Climax tippet and Amnesia shooting line, Gudebrod Lead-Free Trolling Line and American Fishing Wire stainless steel leader material. For stiff materials such as the trolling line and heavier stainless leader material, it is necessary to enlist tools to facilitate sufficient twist in the material to initiate furling. In these instances, one of the tag ends was tightened into the jaws of a Nor-Vise and the other was held stationary in the axis of rotation while the material was twisted.
The act of twisting the material with the Nor-Vise can be done at a very high rate of revolution and much care must be taken as this causes the hook to rotate at a high rate of speed as well. So as to not impale one's self with a hook it is best to proceed with this part of the process after constructing a "sheath" for the hook and with slow, controlled revolutions.
The merits of this technique are many and it must be noted that experience has shown this furling technique to be best applied using either up or down-eye hooks if it is desired that both hooks be aligned with one another. When using a straight-eyed hook, the shank of the stinger will not be in the same axis as that of the lead hook.
Although the exact origin of this time-saving technique is dubious, the furled-stinger method greatly reduces the time investment previously requisite of tandem-tied flies. Many thanks to Bill Chase of Angler Sport Group/Daiichi, Norm Norlander of The Norlander Company (Nor-Vise), Paul Black of Gudebrod, Don Ordes of Fantasy Fly Company, Ron McKusick of Featherside Flies, Christopher Armour, Dean Endress and Lou Hurlbut for their input and assistance during the development, or redevelopment as it is, of this technique.