Roberts Drake
"Robert's Drake"
Photos by Jim Birkholm

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

This fly is one we featured back in 1998. We are re-running it especially for those who will be attending the Michigan Fish-In, held in early July 2007 near Grayling, Michigan. The fly is timeless. Tie some up and remember to pack your flashlight, this is a night-hatching insect. ~ DLB

This fly was originated by Clarence Roberts, a former Michigan Conservation Officer who lived in Grayling. It is considered by many who fish the AuSable & Manistee River region to be a general purpose fly at the point in the season when the light-colored-body flies begin to appear.

In smaller sizes [#16-18] Roberts Drake works well for sulphurs or pale-evening duns and in larger sizes [#10-12] for the brown drakes. When tied on size #6-8, 3xl hooks, it is considered the top all around fly during the Hexagenia emergence; it is occasionally tied and fished on #4 or even #2 hooks during "blanket" 'Hex' hatches after dark.

I've even fished this effective parachute as small as size #22 with great success on western spring creeks. It is my experience that it is indeed a most effective pattern for nearly any light bodied mayfly in any region or environment. ~ Steve Southard

Materials List:

    Hook: Tied size #6-18, occasionally larger as noted above; smaller sizes on standard hook, size #6-12 on 3xl hooks for brown drakes and Hex.

    Thread: Yellow, size 3/0 down to # 12 hooks; size 6/0 or 8/0 #14 hooks and smaller.

    Tail: Pheasant tail fibers [may substitute moose body hair].

    Body: Light tan hair [preferably from young deer for the smaller sized flies]; yellow thread is "crosshatched" when wrapping the body.

    Wing: Upright tuft of white deer belly fur [preferably from young deer for the smaller sized flies]; occasionally substituted with good quality calftail for larger sizes and good quality calf body for smaller sizes.

    Hackle: Medium ginger tied parachute; frequently substituted with "red" [brown].

Tying Instructions:


Flies tied by Sam Surre [4-step flies] and Josh Nethers [full-bodied sample].

1. Wrap the hook with thread and tie in pheasant tail fibers [or moose body hair substitute]. Generally, several fibers are tied in; for larger flies, 4 or 5 tail fibers may be tied-in. After securing the tail fibers, wrap the thread forward to near the eye of the hook.

Step One

2. Select light colored deer body hair, longer than the length of the hook shank [though darker hair may be selected for darker bodied mayflies, like the brown drake]. Do not stack the hair. Place the hair along the hook with the tips of the hair extended about the size of the gap beyond the bend of the hook; trim to length [just behind the eye of the hook] and secure the hair firmly at the 'head'.

Step Two

3. Holding the hair firmly along hook, wrap the body from the front back to the bend of the hook. While securing the deerhair at the bend of the hook, give the thread a firm tug so as to make the deerhair that extends back beyond the hook to flair slightly. Wrap the thread forward to the front of the hook, cross-hatching the wraps already made, then half-hitch.

Step Three

4. Measure and cut white deer-hair to approximately length of the shank of the hook [may be slightly longer for after-dark fishing to increase visibility]. Tie-in white hair for the parachute post [wing].

Step Four

5. Hackle in the parachute style, using two ginger [or red-brown] hackles. Tie in and wrap down the post, 3 or 4 wraps. Half-hitch to secure.

6. Wrap the head and conclude with a whip-finish knot.

7. NOTE: Particularly for fishing at or after dark, when fishing for bigger browns, many fly-fishers prefer a very full bodied Roberts Drake pattern, with an ample amount of deerhair for the body. These fuller deer-hair bodied are especially buoyant, an important factor when using x-heavy wire hooks.

Fuller Bodier Variation

For more information on Michigan flies we recommend that you also check out the Gates Lodge website.

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