Synthetic Hi-Tie


The high-tie is a simple technique where all the material is tied on top of the hook shank to produce a fly with a tall profile. Although this technique pre-dates the use of synthetics, I have found that with a few tweaks, it adapts itself nicely to the new materials such as EP fibers, Neer Hair, Ultra/Super hair, Polar Fiber and Kinky/Slinky fiber.


The basic high-tie technique is to tie the fly in sections, starting at the back of the hook and progressing towards the eye. Traditionally, each section would be a separate clump of bucktail lashed to the top of the hook shank, but we can take advantage of the 8-10" lengths provided by synthetic materials to do things a little differently. For the synthetic version of the high-tie, all materials will be folded in half around the thread and then lashed to the hook shank. The half facing the back of the fly will be tied in first, the thread will be advanced, and the forward facing section will be pulled back and secured in place slightly ahead of the first tie-off point. This technique is repeated several times, with each section being tied off closer to the eye of the hook.

Folding the material in half around the thread not only makes it much harder for the material to be pulled free, but it also allows us the opportunity to apply a couple of other handy techniques that can be used on all flies that use synthetics. Most synthetic materials come in exactly the same lengths, and don't have a natural taper to them like you would get with a bucktail. To avoid having your fly look like a paintbrush, you need to create this taper to give the fly a natural look. You could use a pair of scissors to trim the fly after it is completed, but this is tricky and you end up wasting a lot of material.

An even better approach is to cut a section of material roughly to size and to create an artificial taper by lightly pulling and teasing the ends of the fibers. You'll notice that you will end up with a clump of material that is now tapered on both ends, which is ideal when you are doing high-tie style flies.

Another technique you can use to alter the appearance of the fly is to vary the number of fibers used and how they are distributed around the hook shank. Obviously using less material will create a sparse fly, and using more will create a fly with an opaque body. You can also vary the width of the fly by varying how the material is tied around the hook shank: for a thin fly tie all the materials directly on top of the hook shank; for a wider body, use slightly more material, and spread it around to cover the sides and top of the shank.

Typical Fly Pattern

As an example pattern for a 3-4” baitfish, I would use a 1/0 or 2/0 short-shank hook. I have found that tying the fly in four separate sections works well. Typically I make the first two sections white to form the belly of the baitfish. To copy the color of the bait's shoulders, I use a highlight color like pink and/or lavender. The fourth section is usually a dark color for the back of the fly, such as olive or blue. Depending on the bait I am trying to imitate, I either mix in flash with each of the sections, or tie it in front of section 2 and/or 3.

If I'm using 10" synthetics like Neer Hair, EP Fibers or Polar Fiber, I have found that cutting the material in half to create two 5" sections works well for flies in the 3-4" range.

To get the taper that I want, each 5” section will be folded around the thread at a different point, creating a body that will have the shortest fibers in the belly, and the longest fibers for the back. As a result, the first section is tied in half, creating two equal 2.5” sections. The second section is tied in so that there is a 2” half and a 3” half. The fourth will have a 1” half and a 4” half. For each section, make sure the longer half is initially tied in towards the hook eye, so that when it is folded back, the longest material is always on top of the fly.

The first section is tied in above the barb of the hook. Again, you are folding the material in half around the thread, securing the half towards the hook bend, advancing the thread about 1/4" towards the eye, and then bending the forward half back and securing it in place.

Continue with the second section of 5" white material starting about 1/4" forward of the first section. As described earlier, the second section is folded around the thread and secured in place so that the shorter half (2") faces backwards, and the longer half (3") extends over the eye. The short half is secured in place, the thread advanced 1/4" and the longer half is folded back and tied down.

The process is repeated with the third and fourth 5" sections, adjusting the tie in point as described above, to create a longer and longer wing as you move forwards. Remember to add some flash along the way, and plan ahead so that the fourth section is tied in right at the eye of the hook. As a last step, you have the option of tying in a little red flash or a small amount of red fibers as a throat to help cover the hook shank. Whip finish and cement the head, and Goop some 3D eyes in place, remembering to work the goop into the material to hold the desired profile.