Northwest Fly Tyer

The fly tying pages of Monte Smith

Archive for the ‘Steelhead Flies’ Category

Working With Bronze Mallard

Posted by nwflytyer on February 26, 2012

I’ve been doing a little tying with bronze mallard lately, and I was reminded of some notes I put together awhile back for a couple of Spey classes.  Sorry there are no pictures…perhaps I will add some later.  In the meantime, I hope this might help the budding Spey fly tyer.

Incidentally, these tips pertain to forming a mallard roof on your full-dress salmon flies, too; just pare down the width of the mallard strips.

1. Get good quality bronze mallard.  Long fibers with grey roots (it’s a softer part of the feather and easier to mount) and tips that tend to stick together (you don’t want the tips to fray or splay out).  You must bind the mallard to the hook over the grey section of the feather to avoid it splitting and/or rolling out of position.

2. When snipping the mallard sections from the feather, leave the stem (rachiis) on your slip.  This will hold things together as you form your wing.

3. Use two matching quills when selecting your mallard slips.  Your slips will meld together much easier that way, and look good too.  Otherwise, it can be a battle to get them to work together.  Use fairly thin feather sections to start with (⅛” – ¼” per section).  It will make the material less likely to bunch up or roll and ruin your wing.  This width of the mallard slips can be increased as you get more comfortable with your techniques, if desired.

4. Try to keep the head area free of any other materials where you will apply the wing.  It’s really tough to set mallard on top of another material.  Careful tying of the throat materials is important so as not to create a “bump” at the head that must be overcome when applying the wings.  You can, if needed, create a nice platform with your (flattened) thread, if necessary, snug up against your throat material.

5. One method of mounting is to use a left side slip for the near side, and a right side slip for the far side.  I align the ends and “hump” them together as a single unit (remember tip #2?).  Then apply it to the hook as one wing, using a soft loop to hold it in place and then tighter wraps to secure.  The key to this method is to have these slips of mallard hold against one another and retain the shape of your wing.

6.  You can also apply the wing slips one at a time.  I’ve started using this method more and more as of late where I apply the far side and hold it with a wrap or two.  Then apply the near side slip using that far side section as a brace.  You can slide the near side wing right up to your brace and then use your fingers to adjust the final position.  It’s amazing how you can sometimes just squeeze the wing sections into proper alignment after applying them in this manner.

7.  Both of the methods described will also work if you want to reverse the mallard slips and work with a right side feather section for the near side wing.  This will give a distinct downswept appearance to the wing.

I happen to prefer the upswept appearance at the end of the wing, and the left side = near wing follows how I apply married strips on full dress salmon flies.  So it keeps it consistent for me.  But many tyers go with the right side = near wing, so feel free to experiment to see what looks good and works for you.

7. A final method of applying a bronze mallard wing is also probably the simplest:  using a single slip of feather and folding it in half before tying it on.  Select a ½” or so width of mallard. Pull it out so that it is perpendicular to the stem. Strip it off with a quick pull – do not cut it, as you want a bit of the stem to remain to help hold it together.

Fold the slip in half and give it a bit of curve so that it will hug the body of your fly, and attach to the hook with a soft loop of thread to hold it.  Position it with your fingers and then follow with a couple of snug wraps to set your wing in final position.  Voila!

Happy tying!

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Posted in Reference, Salmon Flies, Spey Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | 1 Comment »

Stormy Morn Steelhead Dee

Posted by nwflytyer on January 22, 2012

Stormy Morn

This is a Dee style fly designed for steelhead fishing and is a dressing re-visited from years past.  I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly, but the general color, components, and design remain the same.

I used to tie this with marabou hackle, but found that it was a little heavy for my liking.  It would sometimes mat and ruin the look of the fly when swimming through the water.  I used to set the wings higher, but I have since gone to a lower-set and sleeker design for many of my steelhead flies.  Here’s the recipe for this version:

Hook:  TMC 202SP, #1/0

Tag:  Silver oval tinsel

Tail:  Golden pheasant crest veiled with a few fibers of white guinea dyed light blue

Butt:  Black ostrich herl

Rib:  Gold oval tinsel

Rear 1/3 Body:  Flat silver tinsel

Front Body:  Blend of purple and claret fur (seal, angora, etc)

Hackle:  Purple schlappen – stripped on one side – wound from the fur.

Throat:  White guinea dyed light blue and a blue-phase peacock feather

Wings:  Strips of Amherst pheasant

Cheeks:  Jungle cock, drooping (optional)

Here is another recent fly, sans jungle cock, tied on one of the beautiful new Dave McNeese Blue Heron Spey hooks (2.25″):

tied on a Blue Heron Spey Hook - 2.25"

Here is one of the original Stormy Morns:

Stormy Morn - original version

Pair of Stormy Morns ready to go for a swim

Posted in Fly Patterns, Spey Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tying Notes | 2 Comments »

‘Tis the Season – Yuletide Spey

Posted by nwflytyer on December 4, 2011

A fun fly in the colors of the season.  Originally tied for a lighthearted contest, but not submitted.  Perhaps for the best since it wasn’t as lighthearted as I thought!

Yuletide Spey

The recipe:

Hook:  Daiichi 2052, # 1.5 (nickel finish)

Rib:  Medium oval silver tinsel

Hackle:  White schlappen, stripped on one side

Body:  1/5 red floss, balance red seal or goat dubbing

Throat:  Red schlappen, sparse (1 – 1 1/2 turns)

Wing:  Four medium green hackle tips

Sides:  Jungle cock

Head:  Red

Posted in Fly Patterns, Spey Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tying Notes | Leave a Comment »

Summer’s Fire Streamer

Posted by nwflytyer on May 7, 2011

Here is an original Rangeley style streamer, tied on another of the Mustad-Chestertown 3298 sleek hooks.

Summer's Fire

Summer's Fire

I have modified the hook slightly:  I removed the offset by putting the hook in an old vise and bending it into position.  I then ground the tip slightly to give it a slight taper and make it easier to apply my gut loop.  Perhaps you can spot the difference between an original  and one of my modifieds:

Mustad-Chestertowns No 3298, original and modified

I think these hooks lend themselves very well to featherwing streamer designs, and I plan to tie some for both display and fishing use this season.

Summer’s Fire Recipe:

Tag & Rib:  Flat gold tinsel

Body:  Hot Orange silk

Belly:  Yellow bucktail, white bucktail, short golden pheasant crest.  Orange schlappen fibers as throat

Underwing:  Peacock herl, covered with long golden pheasant crest

Wing:  Two hot orange hackles covered with two black hackles

Shoulder:  Red golden pheasant breast feather

Cheek:  Jungle cock

Front throat:  Black schlappen

Posted in Fly Patterns, Steelhead Flies, Streamers, Trout Flies | 3 Comments »

Expo Class Notes

Posted by nwflytyer on March 14, 2011

The handouts from my Northwest Originals for Lake, River, and Stream class at the NW Fly Tyer Expo on March 11 have been posted.  The page is located here and the notes are available in individual Word documents at the bottom of the page.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Flyfishing, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques, Trout Flies, Tying Notes | Leave a Comment »

New Ad Campaign

Posted by nwflytyer on August 8, 2010

Life is about choices…

Posted in News, Op-Ed, Steelhead Flies | Leave a Comment »

The Purple Storm

Posted by nwflytyer on May 22, 2010

Purple Storm - Orange



Here is another steelhead fly (like the Orange Crush) that utilizes Edge Brite for part of the body. Edge Brite is a vinyl like material available in some hot colors that make very appealing hot spots on flies. Lazer Wrap is another similar material. You cut it into strips – the width depending on the size of the fly you are tying – and wrap it in overlapping turns over a base of flat silver tinsel.

It is important to wrap in overlapping turns so that the edge of the material, which is even brighter than the rest of the material, creates a nice “hot” rib while creating a bit of texture on the body. By wrapping over a base of tinsel, the color of the material really glows. Try wrapping the Edge Brite over a thread underbody and you will immediately notice the difference!

The Recipe:

Hook: Daiichi 2051 (Alec Jackson Spey hook), # 1.5 – 5

Tail: Black squirrel tail

Underbody: Flat silver tinsel

Rear Body: Strip of hot pink Edge Brite wrapped over the tinsel in overlapping turns

Front Body: Purple seal fur or substitute

Wing: 3 layers – black squirrel tail, pink squirrel tail, black squirrel tail

Hackle Collar: Black schlappen

Note: For the orange version of the Purple storm, substitute orange Edge Brite  on the body and orange squirrel tail in the wing.

Use sparse bunches of squirrel tail when tying in the wing.  Squirrel tail hair is hard and slick, difficult to secure if you use too much at once.  I will usually wrap the black hackle collar on this fly between the pink or orange hair and the final bunch of black squirrel.  So the tying progression is black hair, “colored” hair, collar hackle, then black hair to complete.

Purple Storm - Pink



Posted in Fly Patterns, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques | Leave a Comment »

Speys Revisited

Posted by nwflytyer on August 30, 2009

I have been working, once again, on a few Spey flies.  These simple and elegant flies are a favorite of mine to tie.  I just think they look great in a display case, a fly box, and in the water!
Red King

Red King

I just set the wings on this, so the head is not yet finished.  What I have been working on is getting the schlappen body hackle to look less matted, and not too thick (a matter of preference to each, I suppose).  Employing the technique of Dec Hogan in thoroughly wetting the feather with saliva and then working the fibers apart (I use a brush to help with the job), I am getting more of the look that I want out of these feathers.

In setting the wings, I employ a couple of techniques.

1. Matching strips of bronze mallard, cupped slightly, and applied as a single unit.  Taking care to spread the wing out across and slightly around the shank and not bunch it in at the tie in point is the key for me when I employ this winging method.

2. Apply the strips of mallard one at a time.  When using this method I apply the far side wing first, holding it with a couple of loose wraps.  Then, I apply the near side wing using the far side as a brace.  They key to this method for me is to really having thread control and use just enough pressure to move the wing into place and not pinch it too much tying it in.  Once in place, you can then push down on the slips a bit and spread them across and slightly around the hook shank. Then secure your wing with a few tight turns of thread.

I strive for having the wing closely hugging the body with a slight curve downward to the body.  It does not extend much past the body.

Here’s a view of the top of the fly:

IMG_2163

Here is a Silver Speal, with a view from underneath the fly, showing the width of the wing and how it envelops the body:

IMG_2167

An evening’s work…

An evening's work...

Posted in Salmon Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | 1 Comment »

Want to Tie Some Spey Flies?

Posted by nwflytyer on March 28, 2009

The notes for my Introduction to Spey Flies class are now available in the Tying Notes section and here.

Posted in Fly Patterns, Salmon Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tying Notes | Leave a Comment »

Working With Bronze Mallard

Posted by nwflytyer on February 25, 2009

A few thoughts on tying bronze mallard wings:

1. Get good quality bronze mallard.  Long fibers with grey roots (it’s a softer part of the feather and easier to mount) and tips that tend to stick together (you don’t want the tips to fray or splay out).  You must bind the mallard to the hook over the grey part of the feather to avoid it splitting and/or rolling out of position.

2. Use two matching quills when selecting your mallard slips.  Your slips will meld together much easier that way, and look good too.  Otherwise, it can be a battle to get them to work together.  Use fairly thin feather sections to start with (about ⅛” or so per section).  It will make the material less likely to bunch up or roll and ruin your wing.  This width of the mallard slips can be increased as you get more comfortable with your techniques, if desired.

3. Try to keep the head area free of any other materials where you will apply the wing.  It’s really tough to set mallard on top of another material.  Careful tying of the throat materials is important so as not to create a “bump” at the head that must be overcome when applying the wings.  You can create a nice flat platform with your (flattened) thread, if necessary.

4. One method of mounting is to use a left side slip for the near side, and a right side slip for the far side.  I align the ends and “hump” them together as a single unit (remember tip #2?).  Then apply it to the hook as one wing, using a soft loop to hold it in place and then tighter wraps to secure.  The key to this method is to have these slips of mallard hold against one another and retain the shape of your wing.

5.  You can also apply the wing slips one at a time.  I’ve started using this method more and more as of late where I apply the far side and hold it with a wrap or two.  Then apply the near side slip using that far side section as a brace.  You can slide the near side wing right up to your brace and then use your fingers to adjust the final position.  It’s amazing how you can sometimes just squeeze the wing sections into proper alignment after applying them in this manner.

6.  Both of the methods described will also work if you want to reverse the mallard slips and work with a right side feather section for the near side wing.  This will give a more downswept appearance to the wing.  I happen to prefer a little upswept appearance at the end of the wing, and the left side = near wing follows how I apply married strips on full dress salmon flies.  So it keeps it consistent for me.  But many tyers go with the right side = near wing, so feel free to experiment to see what looks good and works for you.

7. A final method of applying a bronze mallard wing is also probably the simplest:  using a single slip of feather and folding it in half before tying it on.  Select a ⅜” or so width of mallard. Pull it out so that it is perpendicular to the stem. Strip it off with a quick pull – do not cut it, as you want a bit of the stem to remain to help hold it together. Alternately, you can snip the section out with scissors, but then you will have to work around the stem stubs (sometimes a trying proposition, as they do tend to get in the way).

Fold the slip in half and give it a bit of a hump so that it will hug the body of your fly, and attach to the hook with a soft loop of thread to hold it.  Position it with your fingers and then follow with a couple of snug wraps to set your wing in final position.

So there are a few thoughts on the most intimidating aspect of dressing traditional Spey flies.  With a little practice, I think you will find that bronze mallard is not that difficult to work with.

lady-carolinelady-caroline-3

Posted in Salmon Flies, Steelhead Flies, Tips & Techniques, Tying Notes | Leave a Comment »