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Extended Body Mayflies
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Building Miniature Sailboats
The Hexagenia and Drake Extended Body Mayflies
By Jack Pangburn, Westbury, NY

Look at a real Mayfly and study the basic characteristics or, peruse a flyfishing book that portrays the natural fly and tied imitations. (Ex., Dave Whitlock's Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods, or the Hatch Guide for New England Streams by Thomas Ames, Jr.)

The naturals set low on the water surface and float like small sailboats with wings like sails and thin curved, extended bodies (abdomen) tapering to a fuller forward section (thorax).

The following illustrations and information will give you (the Tyer) direction on how to make a good facsimile. You will finish with a realistic looking fly that has the characteristics of the natural.

A starter list of extended body flies follows with suggested hook size for a particular Mayfly. The color and type of materials used will vary but, the tying procedure and sequence remains the same. If you tie one you can tie them all.

    Giant Mayfly Hexagenia #8 2xl
    Green Drake Ephemera #8 2xl
    Brown Drake Ephemera #10 2xl
    Western Greene Ephemerella #10 2xl
    Western Gray Drake Siphonurus #12 2xl
    Eastern Yellow Drake Ephemera #12xl
    March Brown Stenonema #12xl
    Gray Fox Stenonema #12xl
    White Mayfly Ephoron #14
    Light Cahill Stenacron #14
    Hendrickson Ephemerella #14


List of Materials for the Extended Body Mayfly

Illustration 1 1. (illustration #1) To accomplish the elongated body or abdomen, closed cell foam strip or vernille is used. Color is Tyer's choice. Prepare to build the extended body by tying on the foam strip and tail material (2 or 3 strands) to a needle or hat pin that has been clamped in the tying vise. Some potential tailing materials are Cock Pheasant tail barbs, Peccary bristles, paintbrush bristles (often Pig hair), Moose mane, Elk mane, Micro Fibetts. Palmer the thread the length of the foam with equal spaces. Return palmer the thread X-crossing the first turns. Tie off thread at butt end of the abdomen.

To complete illustration #1, slide the body off the needle, adjust and set the body curve, coat with cement and, let dry.

2. Illustration #2 shows the attachment of the just completed body to the hook shank. First, cocoon the shank with thread and coat with cement before tying on the extended body. This will keep the body from rolling and traveling around the hook shank. Tie the body to the hook at about mid shank. Trim the excess body length as shown with sharp scissors or sharp blade.

Illustration 2

The wings are the sails for your fly and again many options exist. (Note the feather sample sheet) Some of the suitable feathers for this kind of wing come from the following, Cock and Hen Ringneck Pheasant, Hen back, Woodcock, Mallard flank and Teal flank. Really, just about any upland game bird or Duck will have suitable feathers. Remember though, they must be matching pairs, that is, one from the left side and one from the right. When possible, always buy a full skin so you will have a source for several options with regard to pattern, color, size and suitability.

Feather Options

3. Wing feather preparation. Choose a matching pair of feathers of the color, size and general appearance desired. ull off the unwanted fluff and barbs then hold the pair together with a piece of masking tape on the shafts or, use a drop of hot glue. The wing feathers can be mounted with the curves facing each other )( or opposite to each other (). Using a sharp pair of scissors, the two wing feathers can be cut to the desired shape at the same time.


Another method is to use "wing burners." These are usually a brass clamp shaped like a wing. The two matching feathers are clamped in the burner and held near a flame as shown in illustration below. The flame will burn off the feathers that are left exposed and will be identical when removed from the burner.

Illustration 3

4. Once you are satisfied with the pair of wings, they need to be attached to the hook and body fusion area. With thread and a touch of cement, tie in the wings just ahead of the attached body as in illustration below.

Illustration 4

5. The thorax of the extended body Mayfly pattern. Vertical hackle is not suitable because it causes the fly to ride too high on the water surface. The bottom hackle could be trimmed but, then why use vertical hackle? Hackle applied parachute style is satisfactory, however, my choice is SLF (synthetic living fibers), a coarse, kinky dubbing material. The choice of colors and mixtures is unlimited. The thorax is constructed by dubbing the SLF onto a waxed thread and then wound around the wing base and the hook shank. The illustration above shows the beginning of this. Once finished, pick out the dubbing with a bodkin to simulate legs.

Here are some other finished flies:

March Brown
March Brown

Green Drake
Green Drake

Yellow Drake
Yellow Drake

Teal Flank Wing
Extended Body Mayfly using Teal Flank Feathers for wings.
~ Jack Pangburn

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.


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