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Yellow Sally
By Dan Fink (DanBob)and tied by Ken Sample (hotrodkas)

We first learned of this fly from a fiasco. We were headed for the Fly Retailers trade show in Denver, CO last summer with plans to fish the gold-medal stretch of the Colorado River near Parshall afterwards. As we packed our gear, I couldn't find my tent poles anywhere. I searched frantically, with no luck. So we hit the Sportsman's Warehouse in Littleton on the way out of Denver, so I could buy a new tent. On their river conditions report board, it listed the Parshall stretch of the river, and recommended the Yellow Sally as a caddis imitation there, among other patterns. We bought a few, and went fishing. The fly worked very, very well in Byers Canyon, and looked easy to tie. Oh, and I found my tent poles at the bottom of my backpack when we made camp I'd already had them packed the whole time. The new tent is really nice, though...

So, we tied up a whole bunch of Yellow Sallies for the FAOL fish-in in Lowell, Idaho last fall. Sure enough, they worked GREAT imitating the big October caddis in the area. We fished them exclusively for almost the entire trip, and tied up a few in the Rumpus Room at night. They performed better than our other caddis patterns, probably because the rear of the fly rides low in the water like an emerger (or egg-laying caddis) while the front floats high, and the red tag imitates an egg case. Here's what we were trying to imitate:

Natural Caddis

And here's the results, from the Selway River:

Cutthroat and fly

Here's the recipe that we use. One of the key aspects of our fly tying philosophy is to mix things up with every pattern try it with different hook shapes and sizes, slightly different color variations, different tag colors, and more. We've including pictures of some of these variations here, too.

Materials for Yellow Sally:

    HOOK: #8-#14 curved scud or caddis emerger shape. See also pictures of hook variations below. The key is the curved shape, so the back of the fly rides low. In a pinch, you can take a standard dry fly hook and gently bend it in the middle of the shank with needlenose pliers before tying.

    THREAD: Cream or light cahill.

    TAG: Red floss.

    BODY: Thread.

    WING: High-quality bleached deer or elk hair.

    HACKLE: High-quality yellow dyed dry fly hackle, undersized. For hook sizes 8-12, we use hackle sized for #18.


    Note the curved hook shape in the photo below, it's critical. After starting the thread, tie on the red floss at the hook bend and wrap a tapered egg case tag. Wrap a thin, well-proportioned thread body.


    Pick a clump of your favorite bleached deer or elk hair for the wing and eliminate the chaff from the base. High-quality hair will float better. Even up the tips in your hair stacker, and eliminate any short hairs. The final amount of hair is small, and should be about double the width of the hook eye. Hold the hair 1/8 inch above the hook, give it a wrap in the air, then tie down. Loop behind the hair clump to make it stand up at the correct angle. Trim and wrap thread forward to cover loose front ends.


    Pick an undersized, high-quality yellow dry fly hackle and tie on. Wrap forward all the way to the hook eye an tie off, this fly has no head. Use a hackle guard to keep things out of the way, and whip finish with only 3-5 wraps. Secure this with a tiny bit of cement don't soak the all-important hackle in cement.

    Finished Fly


    If you like to use floatant, dress ONLY the hair wing and the hackle with it don't dress the thread body. The fly should ride butt-down in the water at all times.


    As always, we like to mix it up when tying. Every so often, a seemingly 'silly' variation will prove to work better than the original. Here are some other variations that we tied up for this article. All of them have worked as well as the original. And all of them have curved hooks.

    Stretch Sally
    Ken's Stretch Sally: As above, but use a long hopper or caddis hook.

    Yellower Sally
    DanBob's Yellower Sally: Scud hook, bright yellow dyed elk hair instead of bleached.

    Thorax Sally
    DanBob's Yellower Thorax Sally: As above, but trim bottom of hackle thorax-style. If the hackle is good quality the fly will float nicely.

    Bent Sally
    DanBob's Bent Yellower Sally: As above, but on a San Juan worm hook and with full hackle. ~ Dan Fink (DanBob) and Ken Sample (hotrodkas)

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

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