One method of dealing with coloured head cements

Marc LeBlanc

Well-known member
Reaction score
New Brunswick, Canada
In a recent thread, a discussion arose about how to deal with coloured head cements and its inherent problems. I thought I would share with you the simple method I follow that resolves the basic issue of the cement wicking into the hackle and wings.

This issue is called capillary action and it involves the wicking that occurs when using thin head cements (coloured or clear).

This first sequence of photos demonstrates the basic problem.

I tied this Ally Shrimp and finished it with white thread so we can clearly see what happens.

Here is the head cement I will use. Shake it well as the component parts tend to separate if left untouched for a period of time.

Applying a small amount of it to the head, you can see that it quickly and permanently wicked into the hackle. Crap! (Picture is at bottom of thread- I can’t seem to place this photo where I want!)

This is the problem we need to solve. In order to further explain the problem and solution, I will sacrifice a portion of a lovely stout and some paper towel. (The lengths I go through for you! :) )

Pretend for a few moments the paper towel is the thread head and the beer is the head cement.

Pouring a small bit of the stout onto the paper towel, you can see the beer spread in all directions due to capillary action.

We need to create a hard barrier between the porous paper towel and the liquid to prevent the unwanted spread of the cement. In this case, I used the clear plastic cover from a CD to form a solid barrier and stop the capillary action from occurring.
Pouring liquid on this barrier stops the wicking effect as the barrier is not porous.
Comparison of with and without barrier.

Now, how do we create this solid barrier on the head of a fly? The answer is simple- clear head cement!

Apply 2 coats of clear head cement allowing it to dry between coats.

Then apply the same black head cement I used in the first fly. Look how the black cement doesn’t wick at all because of the hard barrier we created with the clear cement.

Finish the head as per normal. Be careful so as to not touch any of the hackle fibres with the black cement as it will spread like in my first fly. Apply the black cement only on the protected head.

Top fly with no barrier. Bottom fly with the barrier. Notice how the head on the top fly is dull? This is because the cement soaked into the thread head and the hackle. The bottom fly has the clear head cement barrier and remains bright and shiny with the one coat



Last edited:


Well-known member
Reaction score
Great stuff, I’ve fecked up a few flies thinking I’d be careful but as you show unless there’s a barrier doesn’t matter how careful you are. 👍👍👍