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Halfback
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Halfback
By Phillip Rowley

The Halfback is a charter member of the fly fishing football team along with the 1/4 Back and Fullback. Art Lingren, author of Fly Patterns of British Columbia, credits John Dexheimer as the originator of the Halfback. The Halfback has a strong, loyal following in British Columbia. During my travels through western North America, I have yet to run across many anglers who are aware of or use the Halfback on a regular basis.

The Halfback is a superb multi-demensional fly. Depending upon the size of the pattern and the presentation skills of the angler, the Halfback's impressionistic look can suggest a dragon, damsel, mayfly nymph or a Chironomid. During a Callibaetis hatch a skinny Halfback is dynamite. During the fall season, a size 8 Halfback, tied with a white wingcase is one of my go-to patterns. I believe trout take this version as an immature dragon nymph. Immature climbing nymphs in some lakes have a dark olive body and head coupled with a bright green thorax. The white wingcase does a great job imitating this trait.

Orginally the Halfback was dressed using peacock herl for the body and groundhog or marmot hair hair the tail and beard. Today the groundhog has been replaced in favor of the softer action of pleasant tail or rump feathers. Many anglers customize their Halfbacks.

Materials: Halfback

    Hook:  Tiemco 5262, #6 - #14.

    Thread  Black or olive 6/0 or 8/0.

    Tails:   Pheasant tail or rump fibers.

    Body:   Peacock herl spun in a dubbing loop of fine copper wire.

    Wingcase:   Pheasant tail or rump fibers.

    Thorax:   Peacock herl.

    Legs:   Tips from wingcase material.

Tying Steps:

1. Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Select a clump of either pheasant tail or pheasant rump fibers. Align the tips and tie the tail in place so it is half the shank length long.

2. Take in a length of fine copper wire and double it end to end to form a loop. Tie in the copper wire loop by tag ends.

3. Select 4 to 6 strands of peacock herl for the body. The larger the fly the more strands. For a size 8 to 10 fly use 5 or 6 strands. Tie in the peacock herl strands together by the tips. Carry the tying thread forwards to the midpoint of the hook. Select another clump of pheasant rump or pheasant tail for the wingcase and legs. Measure the wingcase material so it is slightly longer thank the hook shank. Tie the wingcase in place at the halfway point. Keep in mind the wingcase material also froms the legs of the fly so the proper measurement is important.


4. Stroke the peacock herl together and lay them along one side of the wire dubbing loop. Grap both the wire and herl using a pair of electrician's pliers.

5. Spin the copper wire loop and peacock tightly together.

6. Wind the twisted peacock body material forwards to the eye of the hook. Taper the abdomen to the wingcase tie-in point.

7. Carry the body material in front of the wingcase and form the thorax. Overlap the wraps as necessary so the thorax is larger than the abdomen. Tie off and trim the excess material, be careful not to crowd the head area.

8. Gather the wingcase material and pull it over the top of the thorax. Holding the wingcase with the right hand for (right-handed tiers), secure the wingcase in place using the left hand. Use 3 or 4 wraps only. Do not trim the tips.

9. The legs can be tied under as a beard, semi-circular underneath the thorax or divided along each side of the fly. I prefer a beard or semi-circular hackle for my Halfbacks. Gather the tips of the wingcase material and sweep them directly under the thorax. Hold them in place using the left thumb and forefinger. Secure the legs using a minimum number of thread wraps. Build a neat head, whip finish and apply head cement.

Fishing Tip:

Fly Patterns for Stillwaters
Try using this version around weed beds using an intermediate line and a methodical hand-twist retrieve. Legendary Kamloops fly-fisher, the late Hebe Smith, said if the fish were on scuds, tie on a Halfback. Scuds are a prominent menu item during the fall as trout fatten up for winter. But don't be limited to using this fly during the latter part of the season. I can't think of a better searching pattern than a Halfback. ~ Philip Rowley


Credits: From the terrific book Fly Patterns for Stillwaters by Philip Rowley, published by Frank Amato Publications. We greatly appreciate use permission.

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


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