I haven’t done much on fly patterns. I’ve shown a lot of flies here, but not so much how the sausage gets made. So this will be the first in a semi-regular series of posts about fly patterns that I like to tie for a variety of purposes. I won’t claim they are greatly original or inspiring, but simply stuff that I like, that works.
I’ll also strive to give credit where credit is due. I hesitate to name flies, since I often feel the naming process attempts to identify the fly as your own personal, unique creation, when in reality most “new” flies are derivations of what has come before. At the same time I realize that naming conventions helps distinguish any given fly from another. Such is the case with the fly in question today, the Dark Vader. It is, at the end of the day, a variation on the standard American pheasant tail, but the technique I use to tie it is a bit different than the standard method, and it incorporates a bead-body to add additional weight. The way the legs flare out over the bead body reminds me a bit of the cowl on the helmet of a famous sci-fi villain. That and the dark colors give the fly its name.Let’s get started:
Hook: Beadhead nymph, size 14-20
Thread: Black, 6/0, 8/0, or 12/0
Tail: Black pheasant tail*
Abdomen: Black pheasant tail*
Thorax: UV Dub Black
Bead: 5/64″, brass or tungsten
Wingcase: Black pheasant tail*
Legs: Black pheasant tail*
Ribbing: Red copper wire, small
*Quick note about materials: unlike the standard pheasant tail, a single set of pheasant tail fibers is used for the tail, abdomen, wingcase, and legs. This requires the longest possible fibers you can find. Be sure to check the length of any fibers you buy at the local shop. The longest fibers will be found at the base of the feather. Use shorter fibers for tying smaller flies.
Before I start, I like to visually break down the shank of the hook (i.e. the straight part) into thirds. This helps set up some of the key proportional aspects of the fly.
1. Place bead onto the hook and set it in the jaws of the vise. Begin wrapping thread one-third the way down the shank from the hook eye. Looks like I nicked the thread here a bit while wrapping it. Oh well.
2. Tie in the copper wire. Wrap all the way back to the end of the hook shank (where the hook begins to bend).
3. Select 6-8 pheasant tail fibers. Make sure the ends of the fibers align. The tail should be about 2/3 the length of the hook shank. Tie in the fibers with 2-3 nice, tight wraps. Begin wrapping the fibers forward, about 2/3 the length of the hook shank (about where you began your thread to start the fly).
4. At this point, with an American Pheasant Tail, you’d cut away the excess fibers. Don’t! We’re gonna continue to use thes fibers to build our wingcase and legs.
5. Bring the copper wire forward with a series of loosely spaced wraps. I like to do one wrap just ahead of the standing fibers before tying off the wire. Now push the bead back until it sits snugly next to the fibers. Bring the thread ahead of the bead and make several wraps to hold it in place.
6. Grab a pinch (you need only a tiny amount!) of black UV dubbing, work in onto the thread, and make a coupe of wraps ahead of the bead to fill out the thorax. Bring the thread back to where you want to the thorax to end (leave space to finish the head).
7. Bring the pheasant tail fibers over the thorax and tie down. Wrap forward until you reach the hook eye.
8. Gently spread the fibers apart until you have about an equal amount on both sides of the head of the fly (this view is from the top down, showing them spread apart). Since we started with 6-8 fibers, you want 3 or 4 per side.
9. Using the index and thumb of your left hand, stroke the fibers back along the sides of the body and hold them securely in place. Begin wrapping the fibers in, starting at the hook eye and working your way back until you reach the thorax.
10. Trim the legs to length. I like to have the legs extend just beyond the end of the thorax, but your mileage may vary.
11. Go Fish!
This fly will appeal to the Dark Side of the Fish, I guarantee it!**
**This guarantee not proven by science or Star Wars canon.