Welcome to Intermediate Fly Tying

Part Twenty-one

Parachute Adams

Intermediate Fly Tying:

Parachute Adams

By Al Campbell

Several readers have asked when we would cover parachute flies. This is the week you've waited for. This week we cover the most popular parachute dry fly of all; the Parachute Adams.

I'm not sure why there is so much mystique about parachute flies, but many people seem to think they can't tie them without a major headache. In fact, I was one of those people for many years. It wasn't until the advent of rotating hackle pliers that I decided parachute flies were not as complicated as I had believed they were.

If you haven't purchased a Griffin rotating hackle plier yet, this would be a good time to add one to your inventory of tools.

No other tool makes the parachute fly so easy to tie as the rotating hackle plier. You never need to change the tension on the hackle when you wrap it if you use one of these handy tools.

A lot of people don't understand the significance of parachute flies. These hackled morsels are a lot more than just another dry fly. They land, float and look much different to the fisherman than the standard dry fly. To the fish, they also look much different than a standard dry fly.

First, the body of a parachute dry fly is suspended in the surface film. The only time natural insects have their bodies resting fully in the surface tension or film is during emergence or when they have been captured by that film and lay dying on the surface. For that reason alone, this is an excellent fly to use during the hatch when insects are emerging, and later during the mayfly spinner fall when adult insects have been captured by the surface film and lay dead or dying in that film. These are also the two best times for the fish to capture insects since the insects are most vulnerable at these times.

Second, the hackle on a parachute dry fly looks like the legs of an insect when viewed from the bottom. As an adult insect emerges from its nymphal body, it extends its legs outward to support its weight on the surface tension of the water. As it continues to crawl out of its shuck, it places more weight on its legs until it's free from the shuck. As the shuck floats away, the adult insect dries its wings and eventually flies away. Only during the wing drying phase of this emergence does a standard dry fly look more natural from below than a parachute dry fly.

Again, when the female returns to the water to lay eggs, its wings often get caught by the surface tension of the water and begin to absorb water. The female will spread her legs out to provide support for her body as she dumps her ballast of eggs and tries to rise above the water to fly away. They are rarely successful in flying away, but their legs and wings remain splayed out on the surface as they expire and float downstream. From the bottom, this also looks a lot like a parachute dry fly.

Finally, the post type wing of a parachute dry fly is easy for the fisherman to see. This is very important during heavy hatches and heavy spinner falls. If your fly looks exactly like all the other flies on the water, it's often lost in the crowd and missed strikes are the result. That's a good reason to use a visible post on your parachute flies.

I think you can see the significance of this type of fly. Later, we'll look at several other flies that look similar from below, but for now let's look at the dry fly that seems to gently float to the surface of the water.

Like the standard version, the Parachute Adams is probably the most productive and absolutely the most popular of all parachute dry flies. I suppose that's reason enough to use this fly as the example for parachute flies.

List of materials: Parachute Adams

  • Hook: Standard dry fly; Mustad 94840, Tiemco 100, Eagle Claw L059, Daiichi 1180. Size 10 - 22.

  • Thread: 3/0 to 6/0 Gudebrod or equivalent, black or colored to match the under-body.

  • Tail: Moose body hair, hackle fibers, antron or other synthetic fibers.

  • Body: Angler's Choice pure silk dubbing, muskrat under-fur, any fine gray dubbing.

  • Wing: Calf tail or body hair (traditional), antron, other natural or synthetic hair, white is the most common color.

  • Hackle: Quality brown and grizzly neck or saddle hackle, webby parts removed and 1/16" of the remaining stem stripped of barbules.

    Tying steps:

  • 1. Create a tail of hair, hackle or synthetic fibers. You can use a split tail if desired.

  • 2. Select a patch of hair to use for the wing, remove the short hairs, even the tips, measure it for length (about 1 1/2 times the hook gape), and tie it to the hook approximately 1/3 hook shank back from the hook eye.

  • 3. Gently pull the wing back and wrap the thread tightly in front of the base of the wing.

  • 4. Trim the excess wing hair and tie the remaining hair down to the hook shank forming a smooth transition to the tail.

  • 5. Gently wrap the thread around the wing post, up and then back down the post. Repeat this sequence three or four times until you have a stiff thread base on the wing post.

  • 6. Add a drop of head cement to the thread base of the wing post to strengthen it.

  • 7. Dub a body and attach the hackle behind the wing using the same steps you used in the standard Adams.

  • 8. Continue dubbing the body forward to just behind the hook eye. Leave plenty of room for the head of the fly.

  • 9. Using a rotating hackle plier, gently wrap the first hackle up then down the wing post. If you use too much pressure on the hackle, it will bend the wing post and slide off, so go gentle.

  • 10. Once you've wrapped the hackle down the wing post, you can let the weight of the hackle plier hold the hackle in place as you gently bend the hackle back to tie off the first hackle. After one or two loose wraps of thread, you can pull the hackle plier tight to tighten the hackle and finish tying it off. Trim the hackle tip and add a half hitch to secure the thread before you wrap the next hackle.

  • 11. Wrap the second hackle up then down the wing post and tie it off like you did the first one.

  • 12. Pull the hackle back to build a head. Hackle guards are real handy to keep the hackle out of the way while you whip finish the fly. A Thompson style whip finisher works best when working in close areas like this fly creates. Cement the head when you're finished. Your finished fly should look like this.

  • 13. From the bottom, your fly should look like this.

  • 14. From the top it should look like this.

    If you prefer, you can use mallard flank feathers, wood duck flank feathers or partridge feathers to give the wing post a variegated appearance similar to the look grizzly hackle tips give the wings of a standard Adams.

    Practice hard folks. Next week we pick up where we left off this week. Your first flies might be a little difficult, but it gets easier fast, so don't give up. You'll love the way this fly catches fish.

    See ya next week - Remember, I'm always happy to answer your questions, feel free to email me. ~ Al Campbell

    Be sure to read Al's Product Review on Mustad Hooks in Product Review!

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