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The Peacock Parachute
By Peter Frailey

The Peacock Parachute is an attractor fly that has quickly become my staple summer fly for trout. Fish love peacock herl and the trout in the cold northern New England mountain streams I fish are no exception. They love this meaty fly in a size 12 or 14, and the hot pink post makes it easy to follow drifts through turbulent water without eye strain.

The streams I fish are typically not rich in nutrients, so when summer approaches aquatic insect hatches can be sparse. As a result, when the weather and water temperatures are right, the wild brookies and stocked rainbows will look upward for meaty land-based morsels falling from the sky. Various beetles, hoppers and ants can be effective solutions, but I always come back to the Peacock Parachute.

This fly is designed for function. The body rides low in the water like many terrestrial insects. The horizontal hackle keeps the fly upright and afloat, while at the same time the hackle barbs create a sense of motion, perhaps imitating a struggling or drowning insect.

You'll notice that the tail and hackle color are "borrowed" from a classic fly called a Coachman. I can't tell you that these materials work any better than basic grizzly hackle for the tail and parachute, but the pheasant tippet tail and brown hackle sure look sharp to me.

Regardless of how sharp the fly looks to the fisherman or how delectable it looks to the fish, for me it is the hot pink post that makes it so effective. That's because I can see it from the moment it hits the water to the very end of the drift. This high visibility feature means fewer missed strikes.

I like to fish the crosscurrents of small streams, targeting the currents and back eddies around exposed rocks and boulders, pocket water and plunge pools. Because a natural drift is difficult in this kind of water, I like to get as close to the fish as possible. At close range a 6-foot leader with an added 2-foot 5X tippet, plus about three feet of fly line hanging from the tip of the rod, is often all that is needed. A long rod will help keep line off the water and increase your hookup percentage. And, by holding the rod high you will be able to guide the fly through all the important nooks and crannies.

Have fun angling with this fly. The fish will hit it quickly, and rush for cover. Sometimes the trout will see it parachute from the sky, so be prepared for a splashy attack as soon as the fly lands on the water. That's why the hot pink post is so handy, because you will see it land too, and will be ready to set the hook.

Materials for Peacock Parachute:

    Hook: Dry Fly hook, Sizes 12 to 16.

    Thread: Black 6/0.

    Tail: Golden Pheasant tippet feather fibers.

    Body: Peacock Herl.

    Wing: Poly Yarn, hot pink or other highly visible color

    Hackle: Brown with dark center line, (furnace).

Tying Instructions:

Step 1

    Step #1: Prepare a thread base as shown. When the shank is covered I like the thread hanging between the barb and the hook point.

    Step 2

    Step #2: Tie in about eight pheasant tippet feather barbs with three snug wraps next to each other. Move the thread forward to the mid-point of the shank while also tying down the butts, with three or four open thread wraps.

    Step 3

    Step #3: At the mid-point, tie in four peacock herls by the butts, tips aimed rearward. The herls should be at least 4" long when tying a size 12. Using open thread wraps, spiral the thread to the rear. Then, reverse direction and spiral the thread forward to a point one-third back from the eye, as shown.

    Step 4

    Step #4: Double up a two-inch hank of poly-yarn and tie it to the top of the shank, one-third back from the eye. (Or, use less yarn for a thinner appearance.)

    Step 5

    Step #5: Snip the yarn loop with scissors and comb out any snarls in the yarn fibers. Apply wraps of thread in front of and behind the yarn. This wedges the fibers together, causes them to stand more upright, and creates a tighter connection with the shank. (Tip: Before pulling the two ends of the yarn upward and together in the next step, add a drop of thick head cement or nail polish to the center thread wraps for extra bonding and adding stiffness to the base of the post.)

    Step 6

    Step #6: Pull the two ends of the yarn upward and together to create the parachute post. Wrap a thread base around the bottom of the post. (Note: If you chose to use glue as suggested in the previous step, the thread base will absorb some of the glue and provide a bonding surface when the parachute hackle is wrapped over the thread.)

    Step 7

    Step #7: Strip about " of barbs off the base of the hackle stem. First, attach the bare stem to the near side of the shank and in front of the post, with the feather tip pointing rearward at a slight upward angle, concave side facing down. Three of four wraps of thread will do the trick. Now, bring the hackle nearly vertical, as shown, by tying the hackle stem against the thread base on the post.

    Step 8

    Step #8: With open and tight wraps spiral the thread to the rear of the hook.

    Step 9

    Step #9: Pinch the peacock herls together and wrap them forward as shown. You will want two or three wraps in front of the post.

    Step 10

    Step #10: Reverse direction with the peacock herl and wrap rearward to where the tying thread is waiting. Tie-off with two or three thread wraps. (Note: While wrapping rearward I like to use a figure-eight motion to place an extra wrap in front of and behind the post, to plump up the center of the body.)

    Step 11

    Step #11: Snip off the excess herl with scissors. Using two or three open thread wraps to create a reinforcing rib, move the thread to behind the post and let the weight of the bobbin hold things snug.

    Step 12

    Step #12: Wrap the hackle around the thread base of the post clockwise (when viewed from above), with each subsequent wrap placed under the prior wrap. After six hackle wraps, hold the hackle tip down and to the left as shown, with your left hand. With your right hand reach behind the fly and lift the bobbin up and to the right, as shown, while keeping the thread tight.

    Step 13

    Step #13: Using a technique from Al and Gretchen Beatty of Boise, Idaho, wrap the thread horizontally twice around the bottom of the post and under the hackle barbs. The first wrap will tie off the feather tip and free up your left hand. (Tip: Freeing up the left hand is helpful if you use a rotary vise, as I do. While wrapping the thread around the post with your right hand, use your left hand to "rock" the vise and fly back and forth between right-side up and upside down. Using this rotary vise feature you can see both sides of the fly as your eyes follow the thread, minimizing the risk of snagging the lower barbs.)

    Step 14

    Step #14: After two wraps of thread are completed, let the bobbin hang as shown. This will keep the thread snug while you snip off the unused hackle tip. (Tip: Hackle tips make great tails for woolly worms! I save mine in a snack-sized zip lock bag.)

    Step 15

    Step #15: Again, using a technique from Al and Gretchen, pull the bobbin up and to the right, thereby lifting the thread forward and horizontal. Move the bobbin to your left hand, and with a half-hitch tool in your right hand, slide three or four 2-turn half hitches onto the shank. The half-hitch tool does wonders in getting the thread wraps under the hackle barbs. A touch of head cement on the half hitches finishes the job.

    Step 16

    Back-lighted finished fly. ~ Peter Frailey

About Peter Frailey:

After spending his childhood as an avid warmwater fisherman, he was coaxed back into the sport by his older son, who wanted to attend a local United Fly Tyers meeting. Now, fly-fishing and fly-tying are year-round activities. During the three cold seasons he fishes for trout in the streams and rivers of Eastern and Central Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, with occasional trips into Vermont and Maine. But he still enjoys lazy days as a warmwater fly-fisher, float-tubing during the summer months on local farm ponds near his home in Eastern Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and three children. For other interesting flies and stories visit Peter's website:

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

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