Biots for fly tying and used in flies

Biots and Flies – My Fly Tying Experience

The success of your next fishing trip is always determined by the flies in your box.  Some of my favorite flies use a simple often cast away feather called a biot.  I think tiers started using biots as a way to utilize as much of the bird as possible.  (Why waste something right?) These favorite flies Prince Nymphs, Black Stonefly and Copper John’s use the infamous biot.

Biots are the stiff tapered wing barbs or fibers on a flight wing feather. In fly tying turkey, goose and other wild bird biots are used to imitate the wings, antennae, legs, body and tails. A fly tier can readily harvest or buy biots in all kinds of colors.

Biots are crucial for any fly-tying enthusiast like us, as they can help you imitate the real fly and even manage to attract a trophy catch. And with a perfect imitation of the live bait body shape and movements, you are guaranteed to catch something every time you cast. So, in this article, we’ll discuss biots and the fly tying experience – 3 things you need to know.

Prince Nymph
Prince Nymph Fly Pattern using Biots
Copper John Fly Pattern
Copper John Fly Pattern

What Are Biots?

Whether from turkeys or geese, biots are the most crucial part of fly tying. Biots come exclusively from bird feathers; they are short and stiff fibers along the bird’s primary wing feathers. Even though the longer biots can be used for specific functions, the shorter ones on the leading side of the feather can come in handy when fly tying. (source)

And depending on the bird species, they can vary in transparency, color, stiffness, and length. The most common biots are extracted from turkey or geese, and commercially they are available in a wide range of colors.

Therefore, you can use turkey and goose biots together with the ones from other domestic and wild birds to create a wrapped dry fly’s body, legs, wing buds, antennae, and tails.

Preparing The Material

Before you tie your biot pattern, you must prepare the material, which means you must monitor the biot’s quality and length. Fortunately, some patterns require biots that are cracked, broken, or the tips singed by the dyeing and bleaching processes.

Therefore, when extracting it, you have to be very careful, so instead of snipping it using a pair of scissors, you can extract it from the bottom of the feather. Stripping them leaves you with a visible notch that can come in handy when aligning the biot on your hook when tying your fly. (source)

Goose biots are way smaller than turkey biots, which is why most fly tyers love them, especially when tying the tails and legs.

A Little Rainbow Trout Caught with a Copper John
A Little Rainbow Trout Caught with a Copper John

3 Things You Need to Know About Biots

As aforementioned, biots are a must-have for any fly-tying person, especially if you plan on tying biot patterns like Copper John and Prince Nymph patterns. But before you pick any biot for your following fly patterns, here are some key things that you should know:

1.     Types Of Biots

Generally, there are several types of biots on the planet. Still, the most common kinds of biots that anglers use are goose and turkey biots. But you can still extract the biots from different domesticated wild birds.

Goose biots are shorter than the ones obtained from turkeys, and since they are stiffer, they produce thinner filaments at the rib. Therefore, short goose biots are used to tie the tail and legs, while long ones are ideal for tying the body of the dry fly together with the turkey biots. (source)

Stonefly Pattern
Stonefly Pattern uses biots for legs, tail and antenna

On the other hand, turkey biots are longer, less brittle, and more flexible than goose biots. Turkey biots are about 1.25 inches long, while goose biots are about an inch long. (source)

The biots obtained from turkeys are longer and easier to tie thanks to their length; plus, they’re a bit mottled on one of its sides.

The lower side of the feathers obtained from turkeys is white, meaning that if you harvest them, you can easily dye them before using them. Turkey biots are easy to dye, but most importantly, they’re indestructible. On the other hand, goose biots are brittle. Still, turkey biots are the best option for making the ribbed-body effect of midge emergers. (source)

2.     You Can Harvest Turkey and Goose Biots

Wild turkey have biots feathers on the leading edge of flight wings
Wild turkey have biots feathers on the leading edge of flight wings

You can harvest some at home if you own some goose or turkey and don’t want to spend cash on the pre-prepared biots. Gathering the biots can help you save money while ensuring you have a never-ending supply of this reliable fly-tying material. Plus, the harvesting process is relatively straightforward, and anyone can do it.

All you have to do is look for the stiff fibers on the primary wing feathers, and then you can pull them out or clip them. On the primary feathers where you obtain the biots, the fibers on one side are solid and short, while the ones on the other side are long and soft.

Biots are the short fibers on one side of the primary feathers. (source)

But make sure you don’t crush the edges of the fibers between your fingers. The only disadvantage of harvesting your biots is you won’t have the colorful options that you find in the store.

Therefore, if you need a bright orange biot for a particular pattern, the natural black one from your goose won’t do the trick. Sure, you can dye them, but with the many colors available for different patterns, it makes sense to purchase them from the store.

Are you looking for some great How To Fly Fish Articles? Checkout this list:

1.     How To Use Biot in Fly Tying

Biots can be used in several ways, especially when tying dry flies. In fact, the most common usage for biots includes making wing-casting and tails, but you can also use them for antennae and body.

But before you start working on your dry fly, you should first soak your biots between two wet paper towels. Remember, stiff biots tend to be very brittle and hard to work with, especially when using it as a body wrap.

Biots tend to bend when they’re dry, making it hard for you to catch something easily. Fish tend to shy away from baits with bent tails.

Using Biots As Tails

Generally, tails from biot resemble the splayed tails of a stonefly nymph. Therefore, it can be an excellent substitute for a hackle-fiber tail on most wet flies and nymphs. After all, when they’re pulled off the quill, they usually are curved a bit. The curve is what makes them ideal for making tails in fly tying. (source)

But there are several ways you can use biots which can be a bit challenging for newbies. But with a little practice, you can tie your tails in no time. So here are a few ways you can tie the tails:

Outward Curve

Biots make very short tails than most materials, and they are usually tied using a different technique than most materials. After all, the bend on the biot helps give the biot tails when tied on the hook flare. To create a biot tail, you should do the following:

  • Start by snipping some biots after you have bent the stem and set them aside before you start your fly-tying process.
  • Secure your hook to the hook, and then start tying the thread from the center of the hook. And then wind your thread backward to create a unique thread mound. Measure the length of your biot against the hook, ensuring that the size of the tail equals the hook’s gap.
  • Next, you can place the biot on your hook in the tail position, with each end on both sides and the tip facing backward. Secure it with a few wounds in front of the mound before winding backward and securing it.
  • Finally, you can snip the excess to create a unique tail facing outwards. (source)
Biot Feathers and a Prince Nymph
Biot Feathers and a Prince Nymph

Upward Curve

When tying a giant fly, you should always have the tail curved upwards. For an upwardly curved tail, you should clip two adjacent biots from the feather and place them on the dominant hand’s palm, ensuring they’re curved upwards. Next, cross one of your biots over the other to ensure that they are splaying away for each other.

Finally, you can secure the biots to the hook shank, but remember, tying the upward curve can be tricky since the biots tend to fall off the hook, so you should be patient. 

Using Biots as Wings

Most flies, including the Prince Nymph, will use biots to imitate the fly’s wings.

To do this, you should snip two biots from the quill and keep them together while passing the butt ends through your fingertips. With the biots pointing forward, measure the length of the hook from the bend to the head, and then move the equal distance in front of the hook. Secure the biots using your thread, then tie a few more wounds in front of the biots.

Snip the butt of the biots, then take one of the biots and bend it back to create one wing, and then secure it before working on the other wing. (source)

Using Biots as Body

When it comes to the body of the fly, the best option is usually the turkey biots; after all, they’re longer and less brittle. Another fact that makes them a better choice is that they’re way more flexible than the goose biots. But some fly tyers prefer using goose biots which they believe are way more effective when it comes to the body of the dry fly.

But make sure you soak them before tying your fly; after all, a brittle fly won’t work when wrapping the fly’s body. The best thing about using biots for the fly’s body is that it can create either a segmented or smooth body.

But the smoothness of the body will be determined by the biots’ orientation when secured to the hook.

For a segmented body, you must tie the tip of your biot to the hook’s shank with its ridges pointing upwards. It can help you create different sorts of emergers and nymphs.

It would be best if you secured the biot to the hook for a smoother look with its ridges facing downwards. Doing this will hide the ridges to give you a smooth body instead of a segmented one. You should practice more and perfect your skills.

One More Spin at the Tying Vise (with Biots)

You can use several types of fly tying materials to create your dry fly collection, but very few are as effective as biots. You can even harvest them from your turkey; the goose is a bonus. Fortunately, they are very easy to manipulate, with goose fibers shorter than the turkey biots. But you can still harvest the biots from any domesticated or wild bird to create a perfect dry fly.

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Hi David Humphries Owner of Guide Recommended. I love everything to do with fly fishing. Casting, Tying, YouTube, writing about it and even teaching. I’ve got a FREE video workshop teaching how to dry fly fish at this link How to Fly Fish


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