The exact origin and birth date of the Yallarhammer pattern
has apparently been lost in the mists of pre-recorded North
American history. Unfortunately, American Indians did not
have written languages and passed their histories and customs
down as oral histories. It is generally accepted that it was
the Cherokees who first brought down a Yellow-shafted Flicker
with a blowgun, wrapped its bright quill around a hook, and
caught a trout. Maybe they first tied the fly as they tied
the deer hair fly, reverse Palmer style. However, the Cherokee
as an invader of the Southeastern United States may have
simply adapted what those they drove out already were doing.
Nevertheless, whatever the particulars it is clear that the
Yallarhammer fly pattern pre-dated European settlement of America.
One early written description of the style of tying the
Yallarhammer is outlined in a letter from J. H. Stewart,
Jackson, MS, 1887 to Mary Orvis Marbury (yes that Orvis).
This letter was later published in Ms. Marbury's book
Favorite Flies and Their Histories:
"The two specimen flies which I enclose you will see are
reversed hackles, made by cutting narrow strips of deerskin
with the hair left on, wrapped around the hook a few times,
and well tied at each end. The North Carolina Indians
(Cherokee) tie them to perfection, using some sort of
cement or waterproof varnish over the thread, and for
the bodies the various colors and length of hair from
different skins, but usually rather stiff hair, preferring
it from the deer's legs. They often cut the hair off and
use it without the skin, but made in this way the flies
are not as durable. They use feathers occasionally in
the same way."
The original Yallarhammer is tied from the leading edge
of the primary flight feather of the Yellow Shafted Flicker
(Yallarhammer), an endangered species of woodpecker. It
is illegal to possess this feather, so the primary flight
feather of a dove or quail wing, dyed golden yellow is used
as a substitute when tying this pattern. To use this feather
for tying the fly you must first soak the wing feather in
warm water, to soften the quill. Then the softened quill is
split length-wise and any pulp within the center of the quill
is cleaned out by scraping. Tie the prepared quill in at the
rear end of the hook shank so that the top few barbs extend
beyond the hook, forming a tail. Then wrap the split quill
forward to the eye of the hook, in touching turns, and tie off.
Trim the feather fibers to suitable length, slightly shorter
than the hook gape distance. The resulting "bottle brush"
is a Yallarhammer.
The fly became popular in the 1930's and 1940's tied on a
trailer hook (ring eye, long shank) and trailed behind a
gold willow-leaf spinner blade, which probably accounted
for most of its fish-catching success. In the 1960's, it
was the inspiration for two new Yallarhammer patterns. These
are the Yallarhammer nymph and the Yallarhammer dry fly.
However, these patterns are another story for another time.
The original Yallarhammer pattern is generally believed
not to imitate anything in nature; it's an attractor pattern.
However, the streams where it was born do have an abundance
of large yellow stonefly nymphs having a general length of
about 1 to 2 inches and a generally yellow body color, so
it is possible that the original Yallarhammer pattern was
an imitation of the large yellow stonefly nymph.
Hook: Mustad 9674 (size 6 C 12).
Thread: Black 6/0.
Tail: First few fibers from split dove primary flight feather.
Body: Split dove primary flight feather wrapped palmer style.
Head: Black thread.
~ Bruce E. Harang (halcyon)