Cheap Atlantics

Lesson 1 - Cheap Atlantics

March Brown - Dressed To Kill

This lesson will be the most challenging one yet for novice Tyers. It involves a lot of techniques not used in other types of tying so in some ways even accomplished Tyers of some styles of tying will share some of the same frustrations as new Tyers. I will show you how to make feathers in particular do things contrary to their structural makeup. The patterns in this part of the series are not overly complicated. I don't want to give you patterns at this stage of your tying that will be overly frustrating to you and run the risk of turning you off to tying these flies. There will be quite a lot of new things to learn here but, many of the basics we have already covered will be used here as well. A big part of tying these flies for myself and just about every other Tyer of these kinds of flies is the challenge of overcoming often stubborn materials, to create a fly that is easy on the eye and, to continue a very old tradition.

I originally came up with a series of "cheap" Full Feather Wing Salmon flies a few years ago to utilize some of the many beautiful feathers found on various Gamebirds, Ducks and, some of the more common Pheasants. Another reason for doing them was an attempt to show Tyers that they can tie beautiful full dressed flies without spending a ton of money and, often with materials you already have.

This fly will hopefully encourage you first to try tying the full dressed flies and, second, to look at everything with the question, "will this be useful as tying materials?" I have even used strands of a copper scrub pad as tinsel before. This particular fly has been tied using 100% inexpensive and available materials. If you don't have the exact feathers or, other materials, substitute similar ones. The three patterns I am presenting in this lesson are fairly simple in their construction and number of parts. Later in the series, we will tie some much more complicated full dressed flies. The techniques presented here will allow you to tie just about any full feather wing Atlantic Salmon fly either simple in design or complicated.

I will guarantee once you have tied one of these flies, you will have embarked on a new and exciting tying journey. Tying full dressed flies is probably the most satisfying and challenging of the craft. Having said that, it is not necessarily that much harder than other styles once you have learned the "tricks" and techniques.

Matching Feathers For Full Featherwings

When you are matching feathers for flies that use the whole feather for the wings, great care in matching will make the task of setting the wing either easy or difficult. It can also prevent wings that flair to one side or twist out of shape.

When I first started to collect my "special" feathers and before I had actually begun to tie full featherwing flies, my routine for matching was simple. First, look at the outline and match shape. If the curve of the feathers shafts didn't curve in the same precise direction and follow the changes exactly down the shaft, I didn't see as all that important. So, I had all these feathers matched and in labeled bags ready for me to tie with. I soon found out that trying to make two dissimilar feathers behave as one, no matter how slight the difference, is difficult at best and near impossible at worst.

My matching criteria now is a three step test. A feather passing all three qualifies as a matched pair. Two of three tests relegate the feathers as non-pairs. First, I select two feathers whose outline, curves and, length look the same. Second, I place them together good sides out and, hold them up to a bright light. If the outsides match exactly and, the shafts are also matched exactly, it passes the second test. Third, while still holding them together with my right thumb and index fingers, I flick the "wings" with my left index finger rather hard. If the feathers do not move any amount, they pass the third test. Now and only now, they qualify as a matched pair. I then put a dab of hot glue on the bottom tip of the feathers to stick them together and bag them for later use. One other visual thing to look for in matched feathers is that the wing will be perfectly straight but, this is a natural result of the three tests so, doesn't qualify as a fourth test. If the barbs curve unnaturally even a little, you can be assured there is a conflict somewhere.

If you really look at feathers, you will see some amazing structures that are incredibly strong for their weight. Every curve has evolved to produce maximum strength. This is especially true of the wing feathers that are some of the more frequent feathers used for full featherwing flies. If you have a pair of feathers that for every purpose match but, one is a little shorter or, slightly more or less curved than the other, you will have one feather that is, for lack of a better term, stronger or weaker than the other. When you assemble these two dissimilar feathers, a conflict arises and the stronger feather will win. You may be able to finish a fly that looks great with such a pair of feathers, but the slightest disturbance will make the feathers move to the path of least resistance. The wing will "blow up." If this happens, the options are limited to none. A little more careful matching could save that one of a kind creation and, all the work that goes into putting it together.

Before we get started with this lesson, let me explain how I go about creating a Full Feather Wing Fly. Almost 100% of the time, I choose the wing feathers before any other component of the fly including the hook. Some Tyers will go by an existing pattern and others will draw the pattern as they want to tie it. I have never been able to end up with a fly that I have tried to draw out and choose all the materials beforehand. Some may be able to do it this way I can't seem to make that approach work for me.

Assorted Matched Feathers
Assorted matched feathers for full featherwing flies

I have boxes of matched feathers that over the years, I have either plucked pairs of feathers from a skin or, sorted through countless thousands of molted feathers (a grueling and time consuming process in itself). Most of these feathers have been washed and attached with a dab of hot glue on the bottom end of the shaft to keep the pairs together. Then I have pairs of like feathers in zip-loc bags and, these in plastic boxes. Over the years I spent literally, thousands of hours sorting, washing and, matching feathers. All of this time pays off when I am ready to tie a fly though.

When the inspiration to tie hits me, I go to the matched pairs boxes and, go through the various bags of feathers until one or more jump out and, say, "use me, use me!" Then, I lay them all side by side and determine which "speaks" the loudest. That one is the cornerstone of next fly I tie.

Now that I have the rough wing, I select the hook of the shape and size that will best show the beauty of the feathers of the wing. While choosing the hook size, I start to get a rough idea of the length of the wing. I strip away much of the fluff at the base of the feathers to get it out of the way but, not before careful consideration. All the rest flows from these two components. The colors of the fly are determined by the color/colors of the wing and, the "style" of the fly is determined by the shape of the wing. It's these first few steps that are the most important in my tying a Free Style fly.

It will take you a few flies to begin to understand the limitations of the materials, the different feather types and, the mechanics of their structure and, how to make it all work together for you. Sometimes a material simply has a "mind of it's own" and, all the tricks and techniques will simply not make it conform to your will. These times need a different approach. Let the peculiarities of the material work for you, not, against you. This is when you need to think "outside the box." What is the structure of the material that can't be changed without a detrimental effect on the final look of the fly? How to make that problem be part of the solution?

Throughout this series you will see flies with unusual materials, uses of materials and often unusual combinations of materials. To me, my materials are my paint, the hook my canvas. If you don't have the materials to draw upon, your finished "painting" will be bland and uninteresting. This is not to say that, the fly needs to have wildly bold and bright colored materials to be a great looking fly however. It means you may have a fly that seems incomplete or lacking something.

I am sure you have seen flies that have tons of parts sticking out in all directions and, at first they are amazing to look and marvel at. Sometimes though, a fly can have so many parts that it renders it confusing. What is the focal point? Where does one material end and the next begin? In my view, a successful display fly needs to be a "quick read." By that I mean you needn't look at the fly for an extended period of time to figure out whether or not you like it. It either "speaks" to you or it doesn't. But, since we all like different things, not every viewer will react to the same flies in the same way. So, that brings me to the second step that I mentioned in the introduction, "The real intent is to have fun tying". Do what you enjoy tying, develop your own individual style of tying and the rest will take care of itself.

If you find that you like tying the Full Feather Wing Atlantics and/or the Free Style flies, you will be doing yourself a huge favor if you try to buy full skins to work from. There are a huge number of feathers that you will never see in fly shops that are on full skins. Even when you do find full skins, it is likely that they trimmed any number of feathers off when it was skinned. When I get dead birds and skin them myself, I take great care to skin them as though it were going to me mounted. I leave the legs and all the head feathers on. Many of these make wonderful veilings for my flies. If you hunt or, know hunters, let them know you will take any birds they don't want. Even if they don't want to give up the birds, maybe they will save the plucked feathers for you.

In any case, keep an eye out for feathers because you just never know when an opportunity of a lifetime will pop up.

    A. Prior to removing any part on the feathers, assess how much of the feather you want to use for the finished wing. Remember that some will be covered by other materials along the sides near the head. I try to use as much of the "good area" of the feather which is usually the upper part. Now, select the hook for the fly. You have already established the basic wing size/length/shape so, just match that to the correct hook size and shape. Strip the fuzz from the base of the feather to a place just short of the actual wing size. If the feathers are of a type that can be tied in and stay tightly together with their curves canceling each other out, lay a temporary thread base at the wing tie in area. Now, you can strip a little more fuzz away until you are at or just about at the final wing size and tie the wing on temporarily. You can "fine tune" the length of the feathers before you set the wing in place for the final time.

    A word on feather fuzz; some feathers have barb shapes that when the fuzz has been stripped up to the "good area" the shape of the wing will have a shallow curve at the base of the wing which will accommodate the topping easily. Other feathers have steep curves that make adding a topping difficult at best and, impossible at worst. It is much easier to plan and select the topping at this point rather than ending at the front of the fly with no easy topping solution. If you had planned to put a topping on, selected and tied in the tail which anticipated meeting the topping, and, it turned out impossible to select a topping that would accommodate the wing, the tail may look odd back there all alone! In such a case, that tail may be too long and a shorter one or another material would look more appropriate. Some wing shapes simply will not accommodate a standard topping so alternatives must be found. Sometimes, a short partial topping can be used to good effect or, none at all. Leaving some or all of the fuzz on can actually enhance some wings. I have said it before, "think outside the box" to find solutions to problem materials. Make their structures and looks work for you rather than against you. You are going to get tired of hearing this but, for this type of tying, it can make the difference of a fly that works and one that falls flat.

    On this fly, I will not be leaving any of the fuzz on the wing. With that decision made, we have the question of how to remove the fuzz. We have two alternatives. One is to strip the barbs with the fuzz away but this "eats" up much of the wing length. We also do not want the shank of this hook to be hidden anymore than absolutely necessary so, we would have to strip away a lot of the barbs to the point of where they no longer cover the shank. Well, as you can see in the illustrations, this leaves a sizable void underneath the wing. That void will need to be covered somehow and that can be very difficult to do. It will also leave an area that will not provide a base to lay our sides, cheeks or, shoulders onto. So, these parts will want to go in every direction in those areas. One solution is to VERY carefully and, with very sharp scissors, cut the base of the feather in the shape you desire. This procedure can be very tricky to do without wrecking feathers. The blades of the scissors can and will push the barbs ahead of the cut so the resultant edge is sometimes uneven. Since these areas will be in plain view, uneven edges will ruin the look of the fly. So I recommend practicing cutting similar feathers until you have a good degree of control. It is best to take care of this step now, at the beginning of tying the fly. If you wait to trim the wing until you are ready to tie it in and mess it up then, you will be one unhappy camper especially, if these were your only two wing feathers like them. Easier to find another wing now in the event you make a mistake.

    Wing feather shape prior to trimming and, showing the ideal shape indicated by the trim lines.

    Wing feather showing the potential areas to be removed or, modified.

    Wing feather trimmed on top with scissors and, stripped on bottom creating a void.

    Wing feather trimmed top and bottom with scissors. This gives us the ideal wing shape that a topping will cover nicely. If the bottom edge has been trimmed perfectly, the cut edge will not be noticeable and, much of it will be covered with other feathers.

    B. With the shaped wing temporally in place, select the tail and topping. The tail wants to come off the shank directly at or, very slightly before the bend starts so the tail looks like a continuation of the hook shank. With a curved shank hook, use an imaginary straight line from the hook eye and the area of the bend, a compromise if you will. What you are after is, an overall gentle curve both of the upper edge of the wing/topping and the hook shank and tail. It is these surfaces that frame the wing and, really determine 75 to 80 percent of the final look of the fly. The tail generally should end at the very tip of the wing. The topping should meet the tail and wing at the same location. You can visually extend this point beyond but still in line with the tip of the wing to move out the topping/tail frame around the wing for a good effect on some flies. There are of course, exceptions to this and, every other tying rule. Some old full dressed flies did not specify that the topping and tail meet and, some even went different directions. If you are tying a classic and trying to duplicate it, use the style that has been passed down through the years. If, on the other hand, you are creating your own pattern, do what you like and/or feel like.

    C. When selecting a topping of Golden Pheasant (GP) crest feathers, you may have some with nice curved shafts and cascading barbs or, you might only have straighter ones. Try to select the tail and topping either from the same head or, at least that they match in color and, general shape. The nice curved toppings with cascading barbs are sometimes difficult to find. When you see an exceptional head, get them. Some GP will have red tips which look good on some flies. Also, the colors of feathers are bleached by sunlight over time on birds kept outside so deeply colored crests are also to be coveted. I get some of my birds from a breeder who houses them in an old dairy barn so the sunlight doesn't shine on them a whole lot. The colors on his birds are uncommonly brilliant.

Let's get started with our first "Cheap Full Featherwing Atlantic Fly". This is what I call a "Free Style" fly since I am not following a preset recipe. I call this fly, March Brown, Dressed to Kill. I am using eyed hooks on these patterns because they will be easier to find and cheaper than blind eye hooks. If you can't find Partridge hooks, use whatever you can get. The same goes for any of the feathers I use. If you can't find a particular feather, use something similar. We are more interested in learning the techniques used to tie these flies than the actual patterns.

March Brown, Dressed to Kill
By Ronn Lucas, Sr.

    Hook:  Partridge Bartleet CS10/1.

    Thread:  Black.

    Tag:  Silver oval UNI-Tinsel, yellow UNI-Floss, red UNI-Micro tinsel.

    Tail:  Golden Pheasant.

    Butt:  Black Ostrich.

    Rib:  Silver oval UNI-Tinsel.

    Body:  Rear 2/3 orange UNI-Floss, body veil California Quail tied below and vertically, body joint, black Ostrich, front 1/3 rib, silver oval UNI-Tinsel, red UNI-Floss.

    Hackle:   Olive hackle folded on front section only, two turns at the head.

    Throat:  Green dyed Guinea Fowl.

    Wing:  Ringneck Pheasant.

    Sides: Orange dyed Guinea Fowl.

    Cheeks:  Ringneck Pheasant.

    Topping:  Golden Pheasant.

    Horns:  Turkey tail.

1. Select the wing and start to figure what length and shape it should be. I like to tie them on temporarily to get a visual impression. Note: When you use most Salmon hooks with black finishes, you might consider using some protection so the vise jaws don't scratch or deform the finish. While most finishes are pretty durable on the Salmon hooks, I just prefer not to chance something happening to mar the finish of a hook on a presentation fly. And, I would NEVER chuck up a Ron Reinhold hook without protecting it well!

I have found that hard compressed paper like cereal boxes or manila folders works best to protect the hook finishes. DO NOT use coated glossy paper because it can stick to the hook and sometimes you can ruin the finish trying to remove the paper. So, you want to have bare uncoated paper/cardboard touching the hooks. And, be careful that you don't tighten the vise jaws too tight because they can cut through the paper. Just tighten the jaws to the point that the hook does not slip and, no more.

Consider the hook protection as a bit of insurance, you need it but hope never to have to use it!

2. Strip or cut away the excess feather to the desired wing shape and size. You will notice the small area at the very front of the wing below the shaft where I made a trimming mistake. Yes, I make mistakes all the time! I am confident that I will be able to cover the area easily with other parts later so I will go with this wing. We want the bottom edge of the wing to rest directly over the top of and lightly touching the hook shank, trim the bottom edge to conform to the contour of the hook.

You will need to prepare the feather shaft in one of a number of ways to allow the wing to be tied in properly. The following are a couple ways to do this.

This will be a good place to discuss some of the mechanics of mounting essentially flat or irregular surfaces to a round hook. Picture if you will, a square sitting atop a circle. Fastening the two together presents some challenges right? Well, you could modify one or both attachment surfaces to broaden the area of contact. Since we are dealing with round steel hooks and feathers, the only surface we can modify is the feather. Or is it?

In the following illustrations you can see the hooks and their relationships with the feathers.

Figure A, Feather modification for wing.

In Fig. A you can see the surface of a hook shank at the top and, a hook shank and return leg of the loop eye on the bottom. It will be relatively easy to set the wing or veil on the bottom example in comparison to the single wire on top. With a flat surface, the two feathers will tend to stay together while the feathers on the round surface will fall to the sides of the hook when tied on.

Figure B, Feather modification for wing.

In Fig. B we see the hook with a gut eye in the upper right corner. This will be a fairly straightforward foundation for setting the wing since the gut on each side makes the area fairly flat. The example at the top left shows the hook with various materials around it as might be found at the tail tie in area or other spots on the hook shank where veils or other materials need to be tied on. The example below that shows these materials after being compressed with smooth face pliers. You can see that it has created a flat area, which allows easier placement of veils, tails and, other parts of the fly. I also use the pliers to flatten the tag at the tail area so the tail comes off the fly gracefully. The area at the wing tie in will also have a few materials there, which are also helpful in leveling out the mounting point with the flat pliers.

I am surprised that more books don't recommend using pliers more than they do. I find them extremely useful for a variety of purposes. I use several different plier configurations for different uses. Most started their lives as Dental tools and, while I can still get some shapes, a couple are no longer available.

Figure C, Feather modification for wing.

Fig. C in the upper left shows a cross section of a typical feather shaft. You can see that the shape is something like a square or rectangle but with round corners. This shape coupled with a core not unlike Styrofoam give feathers extreme strength for their given weight. This structural makeup also gives us certain challenges in making them conform to our wills when we use them for full featherwings. The examples on the right show that you will need to compress the shaft either straight down as on top or sideways and twisting as on the bottom. The twisting motion shown would be for the left wing when looking towards the eye. The right wing would be twisted the other direction. This twisted shape creates some stress that will keep the wings pressing against each other. If you look at this example and that of the example in Fig. E in the center, this combination is what works on most wings.

Figure D, Feather modification for wing.

Feather showing the area of the feather shaft to be removed for a full featherwing. I do not know of any books that cover this method for removing the bulk of the feather shaft. I will try to explain how I do this.

Fig. D shows what we want our wing tie in to look like. To achieve this we can either remove structure or, reshape structure. The tie in area of the feather shaft MUST BE COMPRESSED 100% for the wing to have any strength.

Figure E, Feather modification for wing.

Fig. E shows what must be removed from very thick shafted feathers shown in yellow on the far left illustration. The reasons to remove some of the shaft are that the feathers will be held apart due to the bulk and, the reduced shaft will make the two feathers come together with less resistance, (if you can picture the feathers of whatever length as being levers). The tie in point is the hinge. If the feathers are heavy shafted and quite curved, the force to have both halves of the wing to come together will be great and, it will manifest this force at the tips of the wing, which act as levers opening the hinge. Say you have a wing 3" long and the tie in area is 2mm to 3mm wide. That makes for a very weak spot in the fly and it could even come apart at some point. You can nick the outside of the feather shaft to take some of the curve out but chances are that those nicked areas will show. Also, remember that on a fishing fly, once a feather gets wet, it will try to return to the way it grew.

The next illustration shows the feather shaft after removal and the location of the compressed material that is left. Notice that the tie in area of the shaft has been bent slightly away from what will become the center of the wing. The third example to the right shows where on very curved or large feathers one can use a very small amount of hot glue between the lines on the shaft area only. This is not a practice that one should rely on as a general rule but there will be instances when a pair of feathers simply can't be used any other way. Truth be known, more Tyers than will admit will resort to using a dab of glue now and then. A little head "cement" here, a dab of spit there. It's all a form of adhesive isn't it? At some point I will tie a fly using this winging method and cover it in more detail than here. Using any adhesive on a fly will find acceptance by some and condemnation by others. You will have to decide for yourself whether this is an acceptable tool that can be used in special circumstances or not. Personally, when I have feathers on which all other options will not work, I will do what I can to use the feathers.

I use a bench mounted dental grinder with a small " abrasive wheel mounted. A drill or Dremel tool will work as well if it is mounted to a bench or vise so both hands are free to hold the feather. Have the wheel turning fairly slowly and hold the feather concave side up, its tip with your left hand and the bottom of the feather in your right hand. Hold the feather under the wheel and slowly put the shaft against the wheel and move it towards you and away to reduce an inch or so depending on the size of the feather. Don't worry about grinding the barbs off, they will simply and naturally move away from the wheel. Look at the picture of the feather and you can get an idea of how much of the area to remove. Be careful not to remove too much or the feather will not hold its shape at all. I suggest you practice with some extra feathers to get a feel as to how much to remove is enough and how much is too much. You can do this to a feather regardless of whether or not you will use hot glue. In fact, by doing this to some feathers the material removed will take enough of the resistance to bending out of the feather so glue isn't necessary.

All of this has been a problem associated with very few full featherwing flies. Most other flies that don't incorporate large full feathers for wings don't have these problems. Even this sounds like a challenge but, once you figure out how to tame the materials, it will be easy.

3. Select the tail and topping now. I temporarily tie the tail and wing on to hold them in their positions in the finished fly. Try to select the tail and topping from the same GP head so the color and curves will be the same or similar. It will not look all that great when one has a nice graceful curve and rich color and the other is straight and pale in color.

4. Attach the tinsel and ribs for the tag as shown.

5. Apply the floss and ribs to the tag.

6. Prepare and tie in the tail. It helps to have the wing in place to determine the length of the tail. This fly wants the tail, tip of the wing and the topping to meet at the same location as on the classics. (If you missed this in previous lessons, see Stripwing, Step 3).

Figure F, Ostrich Herl and Hook.

7. Tie in the Ostrich for the butt as shown in the photo and Fig. F. Have enough stripped barb to make one turn around the hook before the barbules start. Wrap six or so turns right up tight to but not over the preceding turns so the finished butt will take on an oval shape and be quite dense. When selecting Ostrich for Salmon flies, we want to look for feathers whose barbs have fine, short, dense barbules that stick out straight from the barbs. These will give our flies dense, neat butts and body joints. It isn't always easy to find these kinds of feathers so, as with other sometimes hard to find materials, buy them when you find them.

8. Secure the end of the Ostrich with two flat turns of thread and cut the waste ends of the preceding materials flush with the butt. Flatten any bumps that might occur with smooth faced pliers. Attach the ribs at about 1:00 and 5:00. Advance the thread binding the waste ends of the ribs along the back side of the hook with close flat thread turns to the end of the body section.

9. Apply the floss body of the section.

10. Apply the ribs and tie down with a few flat turns of thread. Select and prepare the body veiling. Use smooth face pliers to flatten the area of the feather shaft to be tied onto the hook.

A note about ribs: The generally accepted "rule" for the number of ribs on the body (or body segment) is that five should be used. If you are tying an established pattern copy what it has. If you are making your own pattern, use your judgment as to how many to use. I use ribbing on the tags of many of my free style flies and generally apply three of them there. If I am using more than one body segment, I will more often than not use four ribs in the rear section and at least four in each of the other segments. Never do I use more ribs in a preceding segment than one in front. Picture it this way, ///{}////{}////, never, ///{}////{}///. This is just a personal preference and I offer it for what it's worth.

11. Attach the body veil as shown. There are many other types of body veils and, we will cover them in other patterns.

12. Apply a body joint the same way as the butt. Fold the hackle as shown in the illustration below.

Folding Hackle per TE Pryce-Tannatt

13. Attach the ribs and the hackle (by it's tip so it will follow the bottom rib) and, advance the thread in flat close turns to a spot well behind the eye as shown. Flatten any lumps.

14. Apply the floss as shown and smooth with burnisher.

15. Wrap the lower rib in even turns and tie off with two or three turns of thread, wrap the hackle directly behind the rib and take two turns at the head, remove one or two turns of thread and take two or three turns over hackle, wrap the top rib through the hackle, crossing at the sides and being careful not to trap any barbs, unwind one or two turns of thread and secure the second rib with two tight turns and one tight half hitch. The reason for the half hitch is that the clockwise wraps of the thread actually want to unwind the rib! Fold and tie in a dyed green Guinea feather by it's tip and take two turns, pull down throat style and bind with thread wraps, cut waste. Flatten the area with smooth faced pliers to give the wing a flat bed to sit on. Cut or pluck the hackle barbs from the top of the hook.

16. Tie in the wing as shown. Do not crowd the eye; it is better to end away from the eye a bit rather than on top of it. When tying the wing in, use maximum pressure, several overlapping turns to lock it in and, a half hitch if you want. Since I use UNI-Thread 8/0 most of the time, the bulk created by a couple extra turns here and there don't create problems. Also the UNI-Thread is quite strong which helps secure materials very well. Do not cut the waste of the wing or any of the following parts of the fly. These are the last thing we do because, each provides a mounting platform for the next material.

17. A potential cheek.

18. Another potential cheek.

19. Attaching the Guinea sides. You will find it helpful to flatten the feather shaft of the sides for easier tie in. Also, if the unneeded barbs are trimmed with scissors rather than stripping, they will be easier to secure.

20. Attaching the cheeks. Same as the sides for tying in.

21. Preparing the topping by flattening the shaft with smooth face pliers and crimping the base as shown.

22. Topping as seen from the top.

23. Trim the barbs at the base as shown. This will help secure the topping better than a stripped feather.

24. Topping tied in.

Note: The topping can cover the exposed edges of the individual wings and any gap that might occur. The topping also helps to frame and define the upper edge of the wings. Many different feathers can be used for a topping but GP is by far the most common if only for the reason that it's shape is naturally suited for this purpose. If God hadn't created the GP crest feathers, a Tyer would have had to. Truth be known, I think God is a Tyer in his spare moments. Otherwise, why would he have created so many wonderful materials for us to use?

25. Horns tied in with two separated turns of thread. This keeps them from moving. Now we can trim the waste of the wings, etc.. Don't try to cut all of them at once or you will certainly move them. It is best to cut them once at a time. Try to cut them as short as possible so the head will be small and compact. You can use very sharp, fine tip scissors, a sharp razor blade or, as I do, some toe nail clippers that cut flush. These are the ones that are shaped somewhat like wire cutters and, they can be found in most cosmetic departments or drug stores. You may find it helpful to hold the wing assembly with your left hand while you trim the waste. Just don't be in a big hurry or cut into the thread wraps that are holding it all together.

March Brown - Dressed To Kill

26. The finished fly. I use black fingernail polish for the heads on my display flies. I usually put one or two thin coats that are followed by one to three coats of clear nail polish. This will usually fill the uneven areas and give the head a deep shiny finish.

As always, I am happy to answer any questions you might have about these patterns. You can reach me at or 503-654-0466.

Also, I will be happy to accept any flies you would like to tie and send to me for inclusion in this series. I will need the fly, it's recipe, any pattern info and, a short personal bio. I will try to include every fly we get in the appropriate section. The only limitation is that the patterns used must be for Salmon and/or Steelhead. This includes the display flies too.

Happy Trails! ~ Ronn Lucas, Sr.

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