When I first started tying flies, I learned the majority of the steps quickly and felt confident in my fly tying abilities. When I first tested my flies, however, I realized that they were falling apart and I was going through them at a disappointing rate.

I learned that I wasn’t finishing flies properly. I did some research and invested in a whip finish tool. As soon as I learned how to use the whip finish and added it to my arsenal, I was able to create some wonderful patterns.

How to tie a whip finish - tying flies
How to tie a whip finish – tying flies

Step-by-step Instructions for Using a Whip Finish Tool

  1. Start by grabbing the handle of the whip finish tool between your thumb and middle finger. This is vital to ensure you use it correctly. Hold your pointer finger near the point of the tool. You can slide your thumb up the handle to pinch the swiveling portion and prevent it from turning.
  2. Your next step is to begin the whip finish. To do so, use the point of the whip finish tool to grab the thread. The thread should be in the bend of the “hook”.
  3. Next, you need to put the thread in the groove near the bottom of the tool. This part of the tool looks like a pin you would use to secure a bolt. Once the thread is in the bend of the hook and the groove at the bottom of the tool, we can move on to the next step.
  4. Now that the thread is in place, pull your bobbin left or up to create tension. Make sure that it doesn’t slip from the groove or bend in the point of the tool.
  5. As you keep the tension, go ahead and remove your pointer finger from the swiveling portion and place it on the handle. Pull the thread left and the tool should spin naturally and create a small isosceles triangle. It may take a few attempts to make sure that the thread doesn’t slip from the point or the groove.
  6. This next step is one of the trickier aspects of a whip finish so make sure you read carefully and pay close attention to the video. You need to essentially capture the thread that is coming from the bobbin and pin it on the hook.
  7. With your left (or right) hand, place the thread on the hook and rotate the whip finish. Then pass the triangle of thread completely over and around the eye of the hook 4 to 6 times. This will tighten the thread onto the hook.
  8. The next step is to unhook the thread from the groove at the bottom of the tool. Lift up the whip finish while still keeping tension on the thread. This will allow the thread to slip off the bottom groove.
  9.  To release the thread from the bend of the hook at the top of the whip finish, pull the tool back down and under the hook. Then, lift up and the thread will release. Remember to keep tension on the thread in your opposite hand the entire time! This will ensure it’s done properly.
  10. You can then snip the thread as close to the hook as possible and you’re good to go. This process takes a bit to learn, but you’ll soon master it! Many of these motions become second nature after you’ve been tying for a while.

Video on How to Tie a Whip Finish

Are Whip Finish Knots Necessary to Tie Flies?

Whip finish knots are necessary to ensure the quality of your tie. Many fly tiers only worry about the knots near the eye of the hook. If you don’t have your materials secured in the middle of your hook, you’ll find yourself in just as much trouble.

So yes, whip finish knots are necessary for high quality flies! Don’t skimp on any of these extra efforts to properly secure the thread on your flies. The extra time will save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

Can You Tie a Whip Finish Without a Tool?

Yes, you can tie a whip finish knot without a tool! My grandfather always tied his whip finishes without a tool. When you’re ready, take a few extra inches of thread and wrap it around your index and middle fingers.

Twist it four or five times, slide the loop off your fingers and over the eye of the hook. Once you have done this, pull it tight. It’s not uncommon for anglers to tie a double whip finish especially if they’re only using their fingers. To do so, repeat the described process two times. This is a great technique if you’re out of cement or in a bit more of a hurry to complete some flies!

Recommended Whip Finish Tool

A great option for a whip finish tool can be found in Dr. Slick’s Fly Tying Tool set. In the set, you will receive all the essentials you need to tie your flies. You’ll find a whip finish tool, a hair stacker, scissors, a bobbin, hackle pliers and a bodkin needle. AMAZON Link to read the great reviews and check current price -> Dr. Slick’s Fly Tying Tool Set

All of these tools are extremely reliable and they’ll likely last a lifetime if you use them correctly and treat them with care. These tools can tie almost any size of fly that you would like. They’re all the medium side tools that provide versatility. This is a great option if you’re new to fly tying! The box you receive them in also can double as a fly box if you already have a place to store the rest of your fly tying tools.


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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 2 Fly Fish