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March Brown Spundun
Dry Flies with Life Vests
By Art Scheck

The biggest advantage of tying a no-hackle dry fly is not paying for rooster feathers that cost considerably more per ounce than gold. For many tiers, that benefit outweighs the drawbacks of some no-hackle designs: marginal floatation, poor durability, difficulty of tying. When one-third of a specially bred chicken can cost more than a good fly line, fly tiers look for alternatives to fowl.

That's why I've included this chapter. [See credits at bottom of this article.] The flies we're going to examine don't require hackle feathers, but they avoid the drawbacks of many no-hackle constructions. They float well, they hold up as well as most dry flies and better than some, and they're easily tied with cheap materials. I call them Spunduns, a reference to the spun deer hair that forms their wings and thoraxes.

In profile, a Spundun resembles the Comparadun style invented by Al Caucci. But the two flies are built in entirely different ways. On a Comparadun, the butts of the wing hair are bound down by thread, adding weight and bulk to the fly. The butt ends of a Spundun's deer-hair wing surround the front of the body to become a plump, buoyant thorax; they function as a miniature flotation vest. When treated with a good floatant or waterproofing agent, Spundums float very well and for a very long time.

How long? How does five weeks grab you? That's how long a test batch of Spunduns remained afloat. Actually, they never really sank. I finally threw the flies out because after five weeks in a container of water, they began to look like a science experiment gone horribly wrong.

A Spundun has only three components: tails, body, and deer hair. It's a simple construction that progresses from one end of the hook to the other. Spunduns can be tied to represent all but the smallest mayflies, and they eliminate the expense of dry-fly hackle.

The Parts

As they do on most dry flies, stiff, shiny hackle fibers make good tails on Spunduns. Suitable fibers can come from large neck hackles (including those from cheap, imported rooster capes) and strung saddle feathers that don't have too much web. Other materials also work: calf tail, woodchuck guard hairs, moose mane, and, on small patterns, synthetic fibers such as Microfibbetts.

Dubbing is the most versatile body material, though Spunduns can also have bodies made with peacock herl or stripped quills. Any of the dubbing suitable for other dry flies will work on a Spundun. On smaller pattersn, the fine synthetic dubbing are easier to use. Natural furs should have the guard hairs removed.

Use fine, soft deer hair for the wing and thorax. Such material is usually sold as "coastal deer" or Comparadun hair. The tips of longer hair might work, but they're sometimes too hard to flare and spin when you tighten the thread. About the only way to find out is to try hair from various patches of hide.

Most deer hair has dark tips, though the length of the dark band varies considerably. Try to use hair with the shortest possible dark area at the tips. After stacking a bundle of hair, you can trim a little bit off the tips to shorten the dark band.

Flymaster 6/0, size 8/0 Uni-Thread, and such like threads are strong enough for tying small Spunduns, which require tiny bundles of deer hair. On size 14 and larger flies, I use size 3/0 Monocord or sizr 6/0 Uni-Thread for both their greater strength and the speed at which they let me build up the head. The latter item is important, because a Spundun's head is what props up the deer-hair wing.

Tying a March Brown Spundun

There's only one tying tip for these flies: Leave the front quarter of the hook shank naked until it's time to add the deer hair. As long as you do that, you will have no trouble tying a Spundun.

For our sample fly, let's tie an Eastern March Brown version of the Spundun. This is a fairly large mayfly, which means that our imitation has enough room for me to show you another method of making divided tails. Here's the recipe.

Materials List March Brown Spundun:

    Hook: Standard dry fly, size 12.

    Thread: Tan 3/0 Monocord.

    Tails: Brown or ginger hackle fibers divided by a tiny ball of dubbing.

    Body: Yellowish brown dubbing. The dubbing shown in the photos is a blend of brown and yellow fur. These mayflies vary in color from place to place; some are more brown, others more yellow. If you want to duplicate the color of your local bugs, you'll have to catch some and study them. Generally, though, you can get by with a blend of two parts of medium brown material and one part yellow. On a fly this big, rabbit fur works fine.

    Wing and Thorax: Natural deer hair.

Instructions - March Brown Spundun:

1. Attach the thread one-fourth of the shank length behind the hook eye; be sure to leave the first quarter of shank bare. Wrap back to the end of the shank. Twist a tiny bit of dubbing onto the thread and wrap a small ball of dubbing at the start of the hook bend.

2. Tie in a few hackle fibers on the near side of the shank, then tie another few on the far side. The tiny ball of dubbing keeps the two bunches of fibers separated, giving the fly forked tails. You can use this trick on most mayfly patterns.

3. Dub the body, stopping at the one-quarter mark of the hook shank. Build the body with a slight taper.

4. Clean a small bundle of fine deer hair. Stack the hair to align the tips. When you separate the halves of the stacker, do it so that the tips of the hair are pointing forward, as shown.

5. Measure the length of the wing. The thread should interest the hair about one hook-shank length from the tips. Hold the hair with your fingertips even with the tie-in spot. Cut the butts straight across about 1/16 inch from your fingertips. Hold the hair atop the hook and pass the thread bobbin over the hair twice, making two soft wraps around the butts.

6. Slowly tighten the wraps by pulling the bobbin straight down. The hair will begin to flare. As the butts of hair stand up like those in the photo [above] release your grip on the hair. Tighten the thread all the way, spinning the hair around the hook. Make another two or three wraps of thread in the same spot to secure the hair. The process is like spinning the head of a Muddler or Fathead Caddis, except that the hair is backward.

7. You can fold the hair back with your fingers, but a small tube makes the job easier. This is a piece of plastic tubing. Slide the tube over the hook eye and push it against the base of your hair. Once the hair is roughly perpendicular to the hook, you can fold it back with your fingertips.

8. Gather all the hair and fold it toward the rear. Wrap a head against the front of the hair. Be sure to make a number of wraps right against the base of the hair; the fly's head is all that keeps the hair elevated.

9. Whip-finish the thread. Trim the hair under the hook to the same length as the butts. Cement the head and apply a tiny bead of cement to the base of the wing.

10. The butts and the trimmed hairs form a buoyant thorax. If the pale color of the thorax bothers you, tint the hair with a permanent marker. Most mayflies, however, have pale bodies. This shot also shows the forked tails, though they're out of the cameras's depth of field.

Options and Variations

The easiest way to cook up Spundun patterns is to steal the tails and bodies of established patterns and combine them with appropriate shades of deer hair. For a Light Cahill Spundun, use the standard pattern's cream tails and body, and make the wing with pale tan deer hair. To tie a Hendrickson Spundun, swipe the tails and body of the classic dressing and spin a clump of dyed-gray hair on the front of the hook. For the wing of an Adams Spundun, use deer hair with pronounced dark bars.

You can also study real mayflies or photos to determine the best colors of deer hair to use for wings. On most patterns, though, grayish tan or dyed-gray hair works well enough to fool fish.

This construction does not lend itself to tying imitations of the smallest mayflies. I can manage Spunduns on standard size 16 dry-fly hooks; a short-shank hook lets me produce a fly roughly equivalent to one tied on a size 18 standard hook. That still leaves out some little bugs such as Tricos and the smaller olive mayflies. I can live with that. A cheap, simple, buoyant construction that I can use for better than 90 percent of mayfly hatches strikes me as a pretty good deal. . . ~ Art Scheck

Credits: From Tying Better Flies, by Art Scheck, published by The Countryman Press. We appreciate use permission.


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


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