Ed Gallop photo

Charles Cotton’s Unbarbed Fly

Hook:                         Mustad 94842 or 94840 (sizes 14 - 20)
Thread:                      Waxed silk or 6/0 color to match natural
Tail:                            Any fibers from a waterfowl, upland bird, or chicken                                        feather. Use whatever looks like the tails of an insect
                                    you want to replicate.
Wing Hackle:            Any game bird or chicken feather. Try to match the color
                                   of the natural insect’s wings.
Body Hackle:            A rooster or hen feather long enough to let you
                                   reverse-palmer it over the body
Body:                         The tying thread, or very sparse dubbing. If you use
                                   dubbing, it should let the color of the thread show.

1.               Tie on near the rear of the hook shank. We are tying a mayfly so we tie in tails, in this case wood duck fiber tails. On a pattern without tails, attach the thread one eye length behind the eye of the hook.

2.               Wind the thread forward to a point one eye length behind the eye. Tie in the wing hackle on top of the hook shank. The hackle feather has slightly more fibers stripped off of what will be the bottom edge of the feather and is tied in with a short section of bare stem between the feather fibers and the thread wraps. Preparing the feather in this way makes for a neat first turn. Try to match the color of the natural insect’s wings. The barbs should be considerably longer than those of a dry-fly hackle you’d normally use.

3.               Wind three to five close turns of hackle toward the bend of the hook. Catch the tip of the feather with a couple of wraps of thread.

4.               Attach the body hackle immediately behind the wing. The glossy side (top side) of the feather faces you. Leave a little bare stem between the thread wraps and the first barbs.

5.               Apply dubbing very sparsely to the thread, if you are using dubbing. Wrap the dubbed thread rearward, stopping just before the last wrap of the tail windings. Strip any excess dubbing from the thread.

6.               Wind the body hackle to the rear in a spiral. Catch the tip of the feather with the thread.

7.               Spiral the thread forward through the body and wing hackles, making a rib while reinforcing the hackle stems. Wind a small head and tie off the thread.

8.               Trim the fibers on the bottom of the fly.

9.               You can also trim the fibers on top of the body, and a few along the sides. If the fibers of the wing hackle are too long, you can trim them, too.

10.            On a small fly, one feather can serve as wing and hackle. Make three or four close turns at the front, then spiral the hackle back over the body.


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Copyright © 1997 - 2006 Bruce E. Harang
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Last modified: January 04, 2006