Biots are the short, stiff fibers found along the leading edge of a bird's primary wing feathers. Depending upon the species of bird, biots vary significantly in length, stiffness, color, and transparency. Goose and turkey biots, which are commercially available split from the feather stems and dyed almost every imaginable color, are commonly used making flies. Use goose and turkey biots, along with biots from other wild and domestic birds,to make wrapped bodies, tails, antennae, wing buds, legs, and a host of ther parts on your insect imitations.
First and foremost, be critical of the quality of the biots used. Some stripped stems have biots that are broken, cracked, and the tips singed by the bleaching and dyeing process. This is readily visible when bending the stems. Second, always select the right biots for the job, starting with the proper species of bird. Goose biots are stiffer, produce a thinner flat rib, and most important, are shorter than turkey biots. Use goose biots whenever possible because they tie prettier, more durable flies. Unfortunately, goose biots are usually too short to wrap bodies on anything larger than standard size 14 dry flies. In the case of larger or fatter flies, use turkey biots.
Goose biots come in many shapes and lengths, even on the same stem. Use short, stout goose biots for making tails (i.e. Copper Johns); save the longer biots for wrapping bodies and tying wings (i.e. Prince Nymphs). Also, pay attention to the widths of the biots used. Narrower biots create more closely spaced ribbing; as a result, narrow biots are suitable for wrapping only shorter bidies.
After finding the perfect-sized biot, pull-do not clip-it from the stem. This trick is especially important when wrapping a biot body because there is often little excess material to gasp with your hackle pliers. Furthermore, the curved notch at the butt end indicates what type of rib a biot will create. Since consecutive biots on a stem are roughly equal size, find the correct size for the job, and then break the stem at that point. Peel the biots from the broken ends of the stem. Be sure to moisten biots before wrapping or folding them around the hook to prevent cracking; place enough biots for the number of flies you want to tie, plus a couple extra biots, inside a wet folded paper towel.
Finally, don;t limit yourself to goose and turkey biots, especially when it comes to tying tails and natennae. Other species of birds, such as partridge, pheasant, ducks, chickens, and other large birds, all have biots of differening colors, shape, and textures.
By pulling the biot from the stem instead of cutting it from the stem will allow you to see the notch in the butt of the biot. The position of this notch will determine if the fly body will be ribbed or flat.
There are many techniques to tie on biot tail. This is one way to make a difficult tie much easier. First, apply a small amount of dubbing to the thread and build a ball of dubbing about half the hook eye in diameter at the point where you want the tail to be placed. Grasp the biots (both curving the same way) and measure for length. Place these two biots on the top of the hook shank just in front of the ball of dubbing and place a loose turn of thread at the point where the biots begin to separate. Apply increasing pressure to the thread, twisting the tail into position while flaring the biots. Add a few more turns of thread to the biots to hold them in place securely.
Another technique would be to build up a small ball of thread at the location that the biots are to be tied on to the shank. At this point follow the directions used in the above technique.