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Woodchuck Special
Text and photos by Peter Frailey

It's hard to remember what I was thinking when I first put this pattern together. I had just fished successfully for Autumn brownies with an unweighted streamer tied by my fishing buddy, Alberto Jimeno. He called it the Gadwall and Orange. With it I quickly learned that orange is a fabulous attractor color. So, when he offered to split his orange hen cape with me, I readily accepted.

Alberto's streamer uses the same basic design as a popular New England streamer called the Woodduck Heron and another streamer designed by New Englander Jay High called the Woodduck Orange. Each is tied with two feathers: first, a tip-tied woodduck (or substitute gadwall or mallard) feather is wrapped softhackle-style nearly at the front of the shank; then, a softhackle feather of a different color is wrapped in front of the woodduck feather, as a collar. These, and the many variations, are very simple and effective streamers. However, I found that the ones I tied spun in the water, and the long-fibered mallard feathers often wrapped around the hook bend.

Being a fan of woodchuck (for tying material, that is), I immediately took the words "Woodduck Orange" and thought to myself "Woodchuck Orange." Plucking a nice orange feather from the hen cape and deciding to use the woodchuck wing design of an old streamer pattern, the Llama, I sat down at my tying table to ponder the body. I thought a tinsel body would work best for me. Unlike the red wool body I used on Llamas, the thin profile of a tinsel covered body would allow the fly to sink more rapidly. Of course, a few lead wraps under the tinsel would also be an option, when a deeper presentation is desired. A copper rib would add some weight, and I liked its color contrast against the silver tinsel. There you have it: the Woodchuck Special!

This fly has been well-received by my fishing buddies. Commercial tier Rob Knisely wrote an excellent article about this streamer, which is in the Readers Cast section of this week's issue.

Materials List:

    Hook:   Streamer hook, sizes 6 -10.

    Thread:   Danville 3/0, yellow.

    Tail:   Orange hen hackle fibers .

    Body:   Silver tinsel.

    Rib:   Copper wire.

    Wing:   Woodchuck fur (use both guardhair and underfur).

    Collar:   Orange hen hackle.

Here's how to tie the Woodchuck Special streamer:

    Hook: Streamer style, sizes 6 - 10. My first choice is 3xl Tiemco streamer hooks, size 6. The length of the shank seems to best fit the length of the woodchuck fur.

    Thread: Danville 3/0, yellow. Though the sample here was tied with white thread, I prefer yellow. I did switch to yellow when completing the head.

    Tail: A few orange feather barbs. Mine were from an Whiting hen neck. Cut the butts off so as to leave room for a lead wire underbody, if desired.

    Lead Wire: About 20 wraps of .015 lead wire. Cover about one-half the length of the shank. Leave bare shank behind the eye (about 1 1/2 to 2 hook-eye lengths).

    Wire Rib: On top of the shank (over the tail fibers), tie in a length of medium diameter copper wire.

    Thread Body: Cover the entire underbody with thread wraps to create an even thickness overall. Finish this step with the tying-thread hanging where shown below:

    Tinsel: Tie in a piece of tinsel. With two-colored tinsel, the gold side should face the tier. When wrapped, this will create an underbody of silver.

    Body: Wrap the tinsel rearward to create a first layer and then reverse directions to form the second layer. A few wraps of thread are used to tie down the tinsel in front, as shown below. Snip off any excess tinsel and bind down the tag end.

    Tying Tip: Before wrapping the tinsel body, I like to spread head cement along the top of the shank for added durability.

    Rib: Wrap the copper wire forward. This will reinforce the tinsel and provide some additional weight.

    Wing: Snip a small clump of woodchuck hair and tie it in, creating a wing.

    Tying Tip: Like squirrel tail, woodchuck fur is slippery and bulky. Therefore, at the tie-in point I put a healthy dab of head cement on the body before applying the fur. Shown below is more head cement being applied after the first couple of thread wraps.

    Base For Hackle: Create a tapered base of thread all the way to the eye, tightly binding the fur. Below, I have switched to yellow thread for this step. When the base is completed (not shown), the thread taper will cover the shank all the way to the eye.

    Hackle: Tie in an orange hen neck hackle, by the tip, as shown. Snip off the tip and bind down the end to create a smooth platform for wrapping the hackle.

    Collar: Shown below is a collar made with three wraps of hackle.

    Head: Complete the Woodchuck Special with a strong head of yellow thread, finishing off with a couple of whip knots and a coat of head cement.

    Here are some of the original and varations of this fly:

    ~ Peter Frailey

About Peter: After spending his childhood as an avid warmwater fisherman, he was coaxed back into the sport by his older son, who wanted to attend a local United Fly Tyers meeting. Now, fly-fishing and fly-tying are year-round activities. During the three cold seasons he fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of Eastern and Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, with occasional trips into Vermont and Maine. But he still enjoys lazy days as a warmwater fly-fisher, float-tubing during the summer months on local farm ponds near his home in Eastern Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and three children. For other interesting flies and stories visit Peter's website:

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

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