Fly Of The Week

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

Olive Quill Baetis Dun
By A.K. Best

A long-standing assumptions is that dry flies must be hackled with stiff dry-fly hackle. If that's so why are the No Hackles, Comparaduns, and Hen Wing Spinner patterns so effective? Granted, these three patterns were designed to be fished in relatively smooth water, where stiff hackle fibers aren't required to keep the fly suspended on the surface. But what about the absence of legs? Mayflies have legs, but only six of them, and they're not as thin as spider silk.

Stiff, expensive hackle simply isn't needed on small flies fished in skinny water or on glass-smooth runs near shady banks. In fact, hackling flies in the traditional manner for these situations may inhibit success. I've been hackling flies for this kind of fishing with only two turns of hen hackle for the past four or five years. Some of my #18 and smaller Baetis are hackled with two turns of cream hen hackle, as are all of my Trico Duns and Black Midge Emergers. I clip the hackle flush with the bottom of the thorax on these flies. Flotation isn't a problem due to today's modern dry-fly dressing. The hen hackle fibers are a little thicker - which I think more accurately matches the diameter of the insects' legs - and since the fibers of a hen hackle are softer, there's some movement. I've noticed that many insects' legs move a little as they struggle for balance while drifting downstream. In consideration of these observations, I offer the following patterns, which have made my experiences fishing skinny water much more successful and enjoyable.

Materials List Olive Quill Baetis Dun:

    Hook: Your favorite dry-fly hook, #20 through 24.

    Thread: Light green 8/0.

    Tail: Medium dun spade hackle fibers, length to equal hook length.

    Body: One stripped and light green dyed rooster neck quill.

    Wings: Pair of medium dun hen hackle tips.

    Hackle: Two turns of light ginger or cream hen hackle.

Instructions - Olive Quill Baetis Dun:

1. Attach the tying thread at midshank and wrap to the beginning of the bend, taking two turns of thread on top of the last turn of thread to create a tiny thread bump.

2. Clip five or six spade hackle fibers and tie them onto the hook immediately in front of the tiny thread bump to cock the tails up slightly. Lash the tailing butts to the hook shank to within three hook-eye spaces of the hook eye, lift the butts, and clip them off. This spot will become the shoulder of the body.

3. Select one stripped and light green dyed rooster neck hackle quill and clip off the tip at a point where the diameter of the remaining quill will be equal to the diameter of the hook, tailing butts, and thread. Place the clipped end of the quill on the hook to be lined up with the clipped tailing butts and lash it to the hook by wrapping the tying thread toward the hook bend.

4. Bring the tying thread forward to the shoulder and wrap the quill forward in tightly nested wraps. Tie down the quill butt on the top of the hook and clip off the excess. Cover the clipped butt with tying thread until it's smooth.

5. Select two medium dun hackle tips, whose width should equal the hook gap. Measure them to be as long as the entire hook plus one hook-eye space and clip off the butts. Place the wings on the hook (tips to the rear), and tie them on the hook immediately in front of the shoulder. Figure-eight the tying thread through the wings to seperate, leaving the tying thread hanging immediately in front of the wings.

6. Select one light ginger or cream hen hackle feather from near the tip of the neck. The hackle fiber length should be one and a half times the hook-gap distance.

7. Trim the maraboulike fibers from near the butt of the feather and tie the butt to the hook immediately in front of the wings, dull-side up.

8. Attach your hackle pliers to the tip of the feather and make the first turn of hackle straight away from you down in front of the far wing and under the hook to come around behind the wings.

The hackle feather should twist, making the hackle fibers point to the rear of the fly. Continue wrapping the backle by bringing the feather down on the far side of the hook and forward under the hook to come up in front of the wings.

The feather will twist again, causing the hackle fibers to lean forward. Take one complete turn of hackle in front on the wings, tie down the tip, and clip away the excess.

9. Whip-finish, trim all the hackle from the bottom of the fly even with the thorax area, and apply a tiny drop of head lacquer to the head.

Delicate Flies for Skinny Water

Keep in mind that trout couldn't care less whether or not you like to tie tiny flies. When #24 BWOs are on the water, that's all they're interest in eating. The difference between the length of a #24 hook and a #26 hook is only about 2/1000 inch. I fished the South Platte recently with Mike Clark during a hatch of tiny BWOs. I cast a #24 Olive Quill Dun to a rising fish for nearly half an hour without success. I was hesitant to change flies because I had been catching fish on the same fly. There were still duns on the water, and I could see my trout eat them. In desperation, I tied on a tiny #26 - and the trout ate it on the first cast. It was only then that I netted the water and discovered that the hatch had changed. Remember what I said earlier about "iron-clad" ideas? I was so convinced that I had on the right-sized fly that I didn't bother to check.

Here's a tip for fishing tiny flies: Tie on a #16 Blond Caddis, then tie an 18-inch dropper off the bend of the Caddis and tie a tiny fly to the end of the dropper. The larger Caddis will help you "find" your tiny fly. You may even discover that one or two trout will attack your Caddis. Always use 7X when fishing any fly smaller than a #20 so the fly will float more freely. ~ AK

Excerpt from Advanced Fly Tying, by A.K. Best, published by The Lyons Press. Thanks AK!

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

[ HOME ]

[ Search ] [ Contact FAOL ] [ Media Kit ] © Notice