Fly Life Magazine

Can your laundry room help you make dry(er) flies?

By Steve Hudson, field editor

Steve Hudson, the field editor for Fly Life, at a local North Georgia fly shop – promoting fly tying. A Sizemore image.

The monster has been there for years now… sitting quietly in its corner, mostly silent, but now and then coming to life. First, it begins to whine. Then, with a tremor, it starts to growl. It shakes (slowly at first and later with increasing vigor as it comes to life). Sometimes it grinds. Sometimes it howls. But always it produces lint.

“Why are we saving all this dryer lint?” my wife asked me the other day, but then added, “Oh, wait. You’re going to use it, aren’t you? You’re going to use it to tie flies.”


That is, of course, unless you tie flies. Fly tyers are always looking for new ways to use things. Take those mop tendrils that got repurposed as Mop Flies. If you’re a fly tyer, you never know what path some new material might put you on.

That’s how it was with the dryer lint. My job’s to load the clothes from the washer into the dryer. It’s a minimalistic chore, but it’s a chore nonetheless. I never much liked doing it – but then one day it dawned on me that the stuff coming out of the lint trap looked an awful lot like fine dubbing. In fact, it seemed to be just the right color for tying those little gray-bodied nymphs that I needed to top off my trout fly box.

The wheels started turning. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder… 

So I took a wad of dryer lint and sat down at the vice and tied up a fly using the dryer lint to see how it would work.

It worked well! The fine-textured, gray-toned dryer lint turned out to make a dandy body. Pretty soon I had a half dozen brand new gray-bodied nymphs and emergers, each with a body fashioned from dryer-born dubbing.

What’s in the blend?

What does dryer dubbing consist of? That depends on what I put in the dryer. If I load the dryer with cotton bath towels (and towels make great feedstock for producing dryer dubbing), then the lint trap will capture cotton fibers…and if the towels are a mixture of colors, the color of that trapped lint will almost certainly be some shade of steel gray. In other words, what goes into the dryer is what you get out an hour or so later in the lint trap.

You can, of course, use that to your advantage. Need some reddish-toned lint – uh, dubbing? Throw four or five red towels into the dryer and let it run. Dry a few pairs of blue jeans, and you may end up with a blue hue. The same thing holds for many other shades.

The colors you’ll get are interesting, and they seem to trend toward the muted pastel end of the spectrum (though that might vary with the color and nature of the things you put into the dryer). You’ll just have to experiment to see what your particular set of towels or pants or shirts and such will yield.

 A couple of fresh batches of dryer dubbing. Two different clothes/dryer batches, two different color-shades and enough dubbing for months. Adding colors from Angelina Fibers (Joann’s, Michaels’s or nearby craft store), or whatever you have in stock can tint the dubbing color to your needs.

Fine, fine, fine texture

One thing you’ll immediately notice about dryer dubbing is that’s remarkably fine in texture. With such dubbing, you’ll be able to create remarkably smooth dubbed bodies.

However, you may need to practice a little to get the hang of applying it to the thread. The best way is to lightly wax the thread (or use good pre-waxed thread) and then “touch-dub” the thread to apply only a little at a time. Then roll it onto the thread as you would with any other dubbing.

Because dryer dubbing is so fine, it may be a suitable binder or filler when combined with other dubbing components in custom dubbing blends. If you blend your dubbing, try mixing a decent pinch of dryer dubbing with some chopped-up yarn. The color of the resulting blend will be determined primarily by the chopped-up yarn, while the dryer dubbing will fill things out a bit. You may be very pleased with the result.

No matter how you use dryer dubbing, one thing that does not work well (at least in my experience) is to moisten your fingers before handling this dubbing. Damp fingers and dryer dubbing don’t seem to mix, and it doesn’t take much moisture to turn all that fluffy dubbing into a soggy and pretty much worthless mess.

Click on book cover to see other Steve Hudson publications.

How does dryer dubbing perform in the water?

Again, that depends on the clothing or towels that it comes from. For instance, bath towels or blue jeans are often mostly cotton. Cotton absorbs water. That makes cotton-based dryer dubbing good for nymphs and emergers; however, if you use cotton-towel dryer dubbing on dries, remember that the material will quickly soak up water unless you use a floatant that keeps it from doing so.

To get a more synthetic-based dryer dubbing blend, start with synthetic-based towels or clothes. For example, if you run a mess of socks through the dryer, you’ll get fibers with the color and composition of the socks that you put in.

The possibilities are endless, and I’m continuing to explore them – especially for subsurface flies. I’m coming up with some interesting results.

And my wife is happy, too, to see my sudden interest in washing (and especially in drying) the laundry!

Featured Image by The One Fly.


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