For my personal tieing, I use primarily Lagartun ,Wapsi Ultra 70 and 140, and Gudebrod 45 denier polyester and Veevus 30 denier gel spun, along with Wapsi 130 or Wapsi 75 denier gel spun for deer hair work. These threads provide the right strength, size, and appropriate attributes such as the ability to flatten that I find makes tieing durable and beautiful flies much easier.
In the summer 2004 issue of Fly Tyer, author Lyle Morgan addressed the question of whether standardizing thread size would help tiers become more effective in producing beautiful and effective flies. It certainly makes sense to have standardization, which would eliminate much of the confusion that surrounds fly tying thread today. Based on the fly tier web poll conducted in the same issue as Lyle’s article, voters overwhelmingly agreed (252 to 32) that thread should be standardized. The process has been almost fully implemented over the past eight years. Most thread spools with a few exception put the denier rating on the spool label. ”Fly Tyer” magazine includes the appropriate denier in all of the fly pattern recipes. This has been a hugh help in slowly educating their readership on this correct method of measuring thread.
Tom Schmuecker of WAPSI started the denier information process by introducing WAPSI UTC 70 and 140 denier threads in 1998. His purpose in using the denier number rather than the “aught” was to try and subtly suggest that this system was more beneficial to the tier than the “aught” system that had existed for more than seventy years. Denier is also a recognized and accepted standard of measurement among thread manufacturers and the garment industry. The term “denier” was coined by the French in 1535. It is not a new term.
A good example of the misuse of the “aught” system is Gordon Griffith 14/0 Sheer thread. This thread is acutally a 72 denier thread, but the aught rating would suggest it is much smaller than other threads in the 70 denier category. The use of the 14/0 rating was designed to mislead the unsuspecting fly tier. Another clue is that the breaking strength when test by Bill Merg was 10 ounces. I obtained the actual denier rating from a representative of the late Gordon Griffith’s company who contacted the manufacturer for the denier rating on all of the threads that they sold.
Another good example of how confusing the “aught” rating can be is a comparison of Gudebrod’s 10/0 polyester thread, Bennechi’s 10/0 thread. The denier of Gudebrod 10/0 is 45, and Bennechi 10/0 is 120. The aught system does not allow an apples to apples comparison. Using denier does provide a good comparison between threads.
The late Jean Guy Cote’ of UNI Products was already putting the denier on a number of his products in 1995. He stated, however, ” I won’t put the denier on the 8/0 thread until I am sure that all of the other distributors are using the same measurement system to identify the denier of their thread”. He had already identified in a chart the denier of all of his products. This information is available to anyone requesting it.
Although Gudebrod closed the company in 2006, at the time I interviewed Paul Black of Gudebrod he stated, ” I have already started to put the denier number on the labels of our thread since we do all of our printing in house” Of course, this process may take a year or more to complete given the number of thread sizes (7) and the multitude of colors. These new labels will begin to show up in fly shops gradually as the proprietors order new stock. Gudebrod thread is still available in some shops even today. I still have a reasonable selection of sizes and a number of colors.
Danville manager, Dan Bezanson, stated, “Wherever possible, Danville will include the denier on the spool label.” A few labels may not contain the denier due to unavailable space. Danville recently introduced a 140 denier thread that does not have an “aught” designation.
Giorgio Benecchi Products, of Modena, Italy, does not have labels on their spools. However, they do provide this information freely to shops or distributors. In my own shop, I use a rubber stamp to put the denier as well as the “aught” rating on each spool of Benecchi thread.
Historically the “aught” system began in the late 1930’s. Dan Bezanson said, ” Based on the information that has been handed down in the company, Danville Chenille implemented the “aught” system to help standardize fly tying thread. This was based on a system where the number 0 or “aught” was the base point and as the thread became smaller additional zeros were added indicating that the thread was finer. As an example, a thread with six zeros (000000) translated to a 6/0 thread. As other thread distributors came into the market place after the early 1960’s, they followed the same system which was assigning an arbitrary number that does not necessarily provide as accurate a measurement for the fly tier as denier.
As more thread distributors and brands became available, the accuracy of the “aught” became muddied. When only one distributor existed, making some sense of the system was not difficult. Now there are at least seven distributors of thread in what has become a very competitive market. It occurred to me in the mid 1990′s that some of the aught numbers being assigned to some thread was a matter of trying to gain a competitive edge rather than providing accuracy for the fly tying customer. That is precisely what Denier is defined as the weight in grams of 9000 meters of nylon, polyester, rayon thread, etc. There is a correlation between denier and breaking strength of nylon and polyester thread. The smaller the denier numbers the lower pound / ounce breaking strength of the thread. At the present time, about the smallest denier nylon or polyester for fly tying thread is 20, which would be used for tying midges. The one exception to this denier vs. breaking strength rule is that gel spun polyethylene thread is two to three times stronger than nylon or polyester thread of the same denier.
Denier is only one factor the tier should take into consideration when selecting a thread. The type of material of which the thread is constructed should be considered, whether the thread is a continuous filament, simple twist, bonded, or a rope type. Nylon has about 25% stretch, polyester around 15% stretch, and gel spun only 3% stretch. The type of material being used on the fly as well as the appearance desired also has to be considered. It is important to experiment with all of the various threads available to gain a complete understanding of the pros and cons of each.
Listed below are some of the most popular brands and sizes of threads available. Compare the denier of the thread you are using with others of a similar “aught” size.
|Thread Brand||Aught Size||Material||Denier||Breaking Strength||Thickness (.000)|
|UNI Caenis||N/A||mono||20||3 oz.||1.7|
|Veevus||N/A||gel spun||30||1 lb. 7 oz||1.0|
|Euro Thread||12/0||polyester||45||15 oz.||1.3|
|Danville Spiderweb||N/A||mono||30||5 oz.||2.0|
|Roman Moser Power Silk||8/0||gel spun||55||2 lbs. 6 oz.||1.3|
|WAPSI 50 GSP||N/A||gel spun||50||2 lbs. 5 oz.||0.8|
|UNI Cord||12/0||gel spun||50||2 lbs. 7 oz.||0.9|
|Benecchi Ultra Strong||N/A||gel spun||50||2 lbs. 6 oz.||1.3|
|Benecchi Ghost||N/A||mono||60||11 oz.||3.0|
|Veevus||10/0||polyester||110||1 lb. 5oz.||*|
|Gudebrod||10/0||mono||50||2 lbs. 11 oz.||6.0|
|Benecchi||8/0||polyester||150||1 lb. 13 oz.||2.2|
|Veevus||8/0||polyester||110||1lb 7 oz.||*|
|Gordon Griffith Shear||14/0||polyester||72||14 oz.||1.8|
|Montana Fly Co||8/0||nylon||72||14 oz.||1.4|
|Gudebrod||GXI||gel spun||70||4 lbs. 4 oz.||1.0|
|WAPSI UTC 70||N/A||nylon||70||13 oz.||1.1|
|Lagartun||N/A||polyester||95||1 lb. 1 oz.||1.4|
|Gordon Griffith Wisp||8/0||polyester||108||15 oz.||2.2|
|Veevus||6/0||polyester||110||1 lb. 8oz.||*|
|Montana Fly Co||6/0||nylon||110||1 lb. 7 oz.||2.0|
|Gudebrod||6/0||polyester||143||1 lb. 15 oz.||2.3|
|Benecchi||10/0||polyester||120||1 lb. 6 oz.||2.0|
|Danville Monocord||3/0||nylon||116||1 lb. 10 oz.||2.6|
|UNI||6/0||nylon||135||1 lb. 13 oz.||2.9|
|WAPSI UTC 140||N/A||nylon||140||2 lbs 12 oz.||1.6|
|UNI Cord||7/0||gel spun||100||5 lbs. 9 oz.||1.4|
|WAPSI GSP 100||N/A||gel spun||100||6 lbs. 15 oz.||1.2|
|Gordon Griffith Cobweb 2||N/A||polyester||134||4 lbs 3 oz.||4.1|
|Wapsi||N/A||gel spun||130||6 lbs. 8 oz.||2.0|
|Veevus||N/A||gel spun||150||8lbs. 4oz.||*|
|Roman Moser Power Silk||6/0||gel spun||110||4 lbs. 8 oz.||1.3|
|Gudebrod||6/0||mono||143||2 lbs. 11 oz.||6.0|
|Danville Flat Waxed Nylon||N/A||nylon||210||2 lbs. 14 oz.||2.0|
|Danville Fly Master Plus||N/A||nylon||210||3 lbs.||2.8|
|UNI 210||N/A||nylon||210||3 lbs. 3 oz.||2.0|
|Gudebrod||3/0||polyester||176||2 lbs. 6 oz.||4.0|
|Montana Fly Co||3/0||nylon||135||1 lb. 9 oz.||2.2|
|WAPSI UTC 210||N/A||nylon||210||3 lbs. 5 oz.||3.2|
|Gudebrod G||N/A||mono||210||3 lbs. 7 oz.||7.0|
|Gudebrod G||N/A||polyester||330||3 lbs. 11 oz.||3.5|
|Montana Fly Co||N/A||nylon||350||4 lbs. 4 oz.||3.2|
|UNI Big Fly Thread||N/A||nylon||440||5 lbs. 4 oz.||3.5|
|WAPSI UTC 280||N/A||nylon||280||3 lbs. 14 oz.||2.7|
Another thread article by Ed Engle in the spring 2000 issue of Fly Tyer entitled “Hanging by a Thread” compares twelve different threads for tying small flies. Then he rates the threads in a manner similar to how Consumer Reports evaluates products. This same article appears in Ed’s book Tying Small Flies. Ed describes the qualities of twelve threads and discusses the characteristics of each.
Darrel Martin wrote an excellent article on thread in the March/April 2000 of Fly Rod and Reel entitled “A Thread of An Idea”. He discusses silk thread and its history along with numerous facts about thread sizing, characteristics of the each material used in thread. He also comments on thread pressure applied when tying and characteristics of waxed thread. Matching the thread to the size of the fly and the material being used is extremely important in achieving both functional and aesthetically pleasing flies. The more a tier understands about all the materials used in tying the fly, the more efficient and effective fly tier he or she will become.
The newest thread to be included in this chart is Veevus, a product from Denmark. I was able to obtain the denier on a few of the sizes, but not all of them. The owner of the company is
not willing to release this information which is puzzling. In those instances, I based the denier on the breaking strength of the thread after obtaining an average after 10 tests. A majority of the Veevus threads sizes are twisted thread rather than semi-twisted or flat. Twisted thread is stronger for the same diameter and denier than semi-twisted or flat thread. This may explain some of the number not appearing to be accurate. I tested the thread with the same testing tool as Bill Merg used, and I ran ten tests on each size and took as average of those ten. Thread thickness will be entered at a later date.