Extended Fly Tying Season

March 22, 2013 by  

By Nick Simonson


Does this extension of winter have you down?  Don’t let it bug you!  With a couple extra weeks of tying time, you’re sure to have an arsenal of flies ready to fling at whatever lurks under the surface of early spring waters when the melt does start.  Here are three more fly patterns (focusing on pheasant feathers) to get you through until spring finally decides to show up.

Red Midge Emerger

Red Midge Emerger

Red Midge Emerger

One of the earliest hatching insects is the midge.  Whether it’s a bloodworm or a black midge, these tiny creatures are a snack for hungry spring trout, and are the first flying insects to break the surface – triggering a trout feeding frenzy.  Have a bunch of these little guys ready for when the streams open up, or if you have a late-winter trout flow available to you.


Hook: Curved Size 18-22

Thread: 8/0 Red

Tail & Body: Red PT Fibers

Collar: Pink Dubbing

Wing: White Neck Ring Feather

For this fly, you can either dye a pheasant tail (PT) feather red, or go over just a few fibers at a time with a red permanent marker (1).  Select a number of fibers based on hook size (fewer for smaller hooks) and tie them in at the lower part of the hook bend, so that the tips of the fibers hang just a little ways out from the hook, and advance your thread to the top of the hook (2).

Gently wind the PT fibers up to the top of the hook, leaving none of the hook shank showing; secure both fibers with a couple turns of thread and trim off the excess (3).  Select a white feather from the collar of a rooster ringneck pheasant for the emerging wing of the midge and secure with a loop of thread; you can then adjust the height of the wing by pulling the feather down through the thread loop (4).  Trim off the excess and work the thread around the base of the wing once or twice so that it angles up toward the hook eye, putting your thread back behind the wing (5).

Coat the thread with a little dubbing wax and make a small segment of thin pink dubbing and dub one turn of it behind the wing and one turn in front of the wing (6).  From there you can whip finish the fly just between the dubbing and the hook eye (7).

Try to catch the biggest trout you can on the smallest hook at your disposal.  Many fly anglers make it a goal to join the “20/20 Club” – a 20-inch trout on a size 20 (or smaller!) midge imitator, you could do it with this midge!





This marabou version of the Matuka, a fly I’ve highlighted before in this column, is a great leech pattern for early season smallmouth and maybe even walleyes up shallow when they’re feeding before the spawn.  Using the darker marabou from the pheasant rump, you can give this pattern a flowing appearance in the water making it an easy mark for aggressive spring fish.


Hook: 3XL Streamer, Size 4-8

Thread: 6/0 Brown

Tail & Wing: Pheasant Marabou

Body: Brown Chenille

Collar: Saddle Hackle

Start the fly by securing a pinch of pheasant marabou for the tail at the bend of the hook.  It should be about 3/4 the hook shank in length (1).  Over this, tie in a strand of chenille, which we will use to make the body. Advance your thread forward a bit, wrap the chenille twice and secure with a couple thread wraps (2).

Next, tie in a second pinch of marabou so that its tips and those of the tail section line up when laid flat (3).  Again advance your thread forward and make two wraps of chenille.

Repeat this process until you near the hook eye. For every pinch of marabou, you should then wrap the chenille forward two times, securing each section of chenille with a couple of thread wraps. The tips of each new tuft of marabou should lie just a bit in front of the tips from the previous pinch (4).

After securing your last pinch of marabou behind the hook eye, tie in a brown saddle hackle (5). Form the collar of the fly by wrapping it around the shank three times leaving a little space behind the eye for a head (6).

Secure the hackle in place with a few thread wraps and trim off the excess.  Form a small thread head, whip finish, trim the thread and add a drop of cement for posterity.  Your matukabou is ready to hit the water (7)!  This is a great leech pattern and works best in still water, so you can wrap some .02-diameter lead wire around the hook shank in order to weight it down for fishing bass and trout in lake environments. Vary the colors and sizes to create matukabous to fit all occasions.

Peeking Caddis

Peeking Caddis

Peeking Caddis

Finally, a fun nymph to tie with pheasant tail fibers is one that imitates a crafty creature that can be found peeking out of its home – a caddisfly larva. These nymphs build small protective cases out of sand, bits of wood and other materials held together with excreted silk and stick their heads and legs out to move or grab food.  During the gold rush, some panners would take these insects out of their natural cases and put them in a small container with water and gold dust for the bugs to make a new case out of gold. Maybe this pattern will help you strike it rich!


Hook: Nymph, 2XL, Size 12-16

Thread: Brown 6/0

Case & Legs: 8-10 PT Fibers

Rib: Green Ultrawire

Body: Olive Dubbing

Head: Black Dubbing

Start your thread on the hook and tie in 8-10 PT fibers by the tips along with the wire, securing them down the shank of the hook to the bend, and then advance your thread 3/5 up the hook shank (1). Form the body of the nymph by wrapping the PT fibers evenly up to the thread, followed by the wire and secure with a few wraps and trim the wire (2).  With the PT fibers pointing forward, wrap them against the next 1/5 of the top of the hook shank and go back to where the case ends (3).

At that point, dub in the olive body up to where you tied down the PT fibers (4).  Fold the PT fibers back evenly on each side, to simulate the nymph’s legs and secure them in place with a couple of thread wraps (5).  Now dub in black dubbing to form the head of the nymph on the last open 1/5 of the hook (6). Whip finish and cement near the hook eye – your fly is complete (7). Modify this fly as you see fit, you can put lead wraps under the PT fibers for extra weight, vary the wire color or make the head out of a black bead to get the fly down.


This time is what you make of it, so make some more flies like these while you wait for the ice and snow to recede.  With a couple extra weeks, you’ll be even more ready for your open water adventures…in our outdoors.




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