Welcome to Intermediate Fly Tying

Part Fifty-two



Intermediate Fly Tying:

Part 52 - Al's Classic (Salmon Fly)

Al's Classic

By Al Campbell


Unfortunately it's time for this series to come to an end. From the beginning of 'Beginning Fly Tying' to this point, we've taken fly tying one step at a time, learning new things based on the things we've already learned. If you've followed along with each lesson to this point, you have the skills to tie nearly every pattern in any fly tying pattern book you'll find.

Of course, there are a few advanced techniques and special weaves we didn't cover, but there has to be something new to learn when I hopefully finish my book on fly tying and decide to tackle 'Advanced Techniques.' Until that time, I'll be slaving away trying to finish a book similar to the series you've been following. Hopefully, you'll find enough new things in the book to make it worth your time and hard earned dollars.

For those of you who will discover this series later, I'm still available to answer questions and help you overcome difficult problems. A click on the link at the bottom of each section of the series will connect you to my e-mail for any help you need. I haven't gone away, just need to spend some concentrated time on a book that isn't progressing as fast as I'd like it to progress.

I can't think of any way to put a classic end to a fly tying series than ending it with a classic salmon fly. I call it 'Al's Classic' because it's more a combination of techniques rather than a real pattern you'd find in a fly tying book. If you learn the techniques shown in this final fly, you will be able to conquer nearly any classic salmon fly pattern with ease.

Classic salmon flies are a work of art. Golden pheasant crests, wood duck flank feathers, exotic plumage and jungle cock cheeks add up to some very pretty flies if you know how to attach them to a hook.

You can spend many hours working on just one fly if you want to. Tiny wisps of plumage added one-step-at-a-time can create a masterpiece you'd sooner die than fish with. Of all the beautiful flies we design and tie, the classic salmon fly has to be the most displayed and least fished of all the styles. Simply put, it's a work of art that results from a labor of love.

Again, I'm substituting a few common feathers for the more exotic feathers used on many salmon flies. The fly will have a similar visual effect to the master's flies, but the cost of the materials is kept low and the ease of finding them high.

Join me as we tie one last classic salmon fly.

List of materials: Tequila Sunrise

  • Hook: Classic salmon fly hook. Mustad 80500BL or equivalent. Sizes 2 to 6.

  • Thread: Black, 3/0.

  • Body: Fluorescent chartreuse and fluorescent pink flat waxed nylon. (You can use other bright colors if you want.)

  • Rib: Black holographic flash. (Other colors of wire or tinsel can be used.)

  • Tail: Lemon wood duck flank and soft, red saddle hackle.

  • Hackle: Red guinea fowl feather wrapped then tied down as a beard.

  • Wing : Pink guinea fowl, then white tipped lemon wood duck, then pink guinea foul, then yellow guinea fowl, then lemon wood duck flank, all married to form one wing.

  • Cheeks: Brown tipped, white feathers from the ring on the neck of a ringneck pheasant. (You can use other feathers that create the same effect.)

  • Tying steps:

  • 1. Create a tag of silver tinsel at the bend of the hook. Try to keep the thread wraps smooth.

  • 2. Use the chartreuse nylon to create a forward tag as shown. Keep the thread wraps as smooth as possible, this is part of the body. Whip finish the chartreuse nylon and trim.

  • 3. Start the pink nylon and use it to tie a wisp of lemon wood duck in as a tail. Try to keep the curvature of the fibers pointing upward and use the bump formed by the chartreuse nylon to push the fibers upward.

  • 4. Add a smaller wisp of red saddle hackle fibers in front of the wood duck, curvature also pointing upward. I like to use the pump style hair spray to help the fibers stick together and mold to the shape I want. Wax and very thin head cement will also do the same job but might detract from the color of the fly.

  • 5. Tie in the black holographic flash you'll use as a rib and finish forming a smooth body with the pink nylon.

  • 6. Rib the body with the black holographic flash and tie it off. Whip finish the nylon, then trim.

  • 7. Start the black thread and select a large, dyed red guinea fowl feather. Remove the fuzz from the bottom of the feather stem and fold the fibers of the feather against the grain as shown.

  • 8. Tie the feather in at the tip.

  • 9. As you wrap the feather as a hackle, pull the fibers toward the back of the hook as shown.

  • 10. Tie the guinea feather off and trim the stem. Your fly should now look like this.

  • 11. Pull the hackle down to the bottom of the hook and tie it down with the thread.

  • 12. You should now have a beard that looks something like this.

  • 13. Create a bump of thread in front of the beard as shown. This will serve to keep the wing above the hook.

  • 14. You now have to make a choice. You can create the wing then tie it to the hook, or you can create the wing by tying it to the hook one color at a time. I personally like to tie each color to the hook individually using a pinch wrap and only two or three wraps of thread on each material to keep the bulk down. In any case, each material should be tied to the hook with the curvature down and the length just past the tail. Marry all the wing materials together as you tie them in, working them so they almost blend in to each other at the seams. Hair spray will help hold them together and will help them hold their shape. Now, tie in some pink guinea feather fibers, followed by white tipped lemon wood duck flank feather fibers, then another layer of pink guinea. If you use a pinch wrap (described in an earlier pattern, Part 47), the wing won't want to spin on the hook.

  • 15. Add a wisp of yellow guinea fowl feather to the wing.

  • 16. Add another wisp of lemon wood duck flank feather to the wing.

  • 17. Add cheeks of brown tipped white feathers from the white ring of a pheasant's neck. This procedure was described in part 51 of this series. Pinch on both sides of the head as you slip the feathers forward to the desired location on the fly. This will prevent the feathers from bunching up too badly. Once the feathers are in place, tie them off with more wraps of thread and trim their stems.

  • 18. Build a smooth head, whip finish and cement thoroughly. Your finished fly should look similar to this.

    Any number of feathers and fibers can be used to create the wings and tails of classic salmon flies. Golden pheasant crests are extremely common and so are jungle cock cheeks. Experiment a little or go for broke and try to tackle some of the classics with the original materials if you like. It shouldn't be too difficult now that you have a few under your belt.

    I want to thank each and every one of you for joining me in this series. I hope you have achieved more than you thought you could. If you learned one thing from me, I hope you learned that each fly is your own, and yours to tie as you want to tie it. I hope you experiment a little and create some new and better patterns for the rest of us to try in the future.

    Al Campbell

    May your dry flies be dry, your wet flies wet, and your lines tight with fighting fish. God bless you, my friends. If you mention my name, please call me your friend.

    Remember, I'm always happy to answer your questions, feel free to email me. ~ Al Campbell

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