Parachute Hackles

Most ordinary dry flies can be adapted to the parachute style of hackling, if desired. A parachute hackle is wound on horizontally around a tied-on vertical support (made of wire, nylon, or the stalk of the hackle itself) which is attached to the hook shank. The advantages of this tying method are that larger-than-normal hackles can be used, and that the fly always lands right side up if tied properly.

It is also possible to tie winged parachute flies; bunched hair wings are the easiest. The hackle is simply wound around the base of the wing and the hackle tip tied off as usual on the shank.

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  • Prepare the hook shank by winding turns of foundation thread to the tail position. (S)
  • For a dubbed body. Wind the dubbing halfway along the shank (see "Dubbed Bodies" in Chapter 4). (S)

For a yarn body, as shown: Tie in the yarn, then wind the tying thread halfway along the hook shank. (S)

  • Choose a hackle of the correct size: when the hackle stalk is held vertically against the hook shank, in line with the secured tying thread, the fibers should extend a little beyond the total length of the hook, as shown.
  • Securely tie in one end of a length of flytying wire, halfway along the shank. (S)
  • Using the simple dry-fly hackle method described earlier in the chapter, prepare and tie in the hackle at the same place as the wire. (S)
  • Form a fairly large loop in the wire, as shown, and tie its free side down with one or two turns of tying thread, adjacent to where the wire was first tied in. There must be no gap between the two sides where the loop is tied in; this is the anchor point.
  • Note: The loop is tied in last to minimize the resistance (from the secured tying thread) when it is later pulled through.
  • Grip the hackle tip with a small pair of hackle pliers.
  • Working clockwise (viewed from above), wind the first turn of hackle - outside surface uppermost - around the base of the wire loop. The loop should be stiff enough not to need much support.
  • Wind further turns of hackle around the wire loop, each turn going under the preceding one. This gradually pushes the first turn of hackle up the loop.
  • On the final turn, stop winding on the near side of the hook.
  • Maintaining a light tension, guide the hackle pliers (held in your right hand) as far as possible through the loop.
  • With your left-hand thumb and index finger on either side of the base of the loop, grip the hackle tip.
  • Release the hackle tip from the hackle pliers, then regrip the tip from the far side of the loop, as shown.
  • Swap the hackle pliers to your left hand, and maintain a light tension on the hackle tip.
  • With your right hand, gently draw down the wire, trapping the hackle tip with the diminishing wire loop. If the loop threatens to kink, stop pulling immediately; straighten the loop, then continue as before.
  • The photograph shows the hackle tip trapped by the loop, which has been completely pulled through.
  • Remove the hackle pliers.
  • Tie off the pulled-through wire underneath the hackle, with two turns of tying thread. (S) Cut off the surplus wire.
  • For a dubbed body. Complete the dubbed body and go to the second point in step 9.

For a yarn body. Take the tying thread to the hook eye. (S)

  • Wind the yarn all along the shank, using the dubbing needle to prevent the hackles being trapped.
  • Tie off the yarn with two turns of tying thread. (S) Cut off the surplus yarn.
  • Finish off the fly with a wrap knot.
  • Regrip the hackle tip with the hackle pliers and trim off the surplus hackle (but not too closely).
  • For extra durability, add a spot of lacquer on top of the wire loop.

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