Tying The Dry Fly
By: Don Shipp
Dry Flies: Dry flies are simply bug imitations that float on top of the water. They are intended to be a representation of a fully emerged adult insect in the final stage of its life cycle. Most are tied with Rooster neck or saddle hackles, as opposed to Hen hackle, due to its stiffness and strength. The stiffness insures that the fly will ride high on the water. We will talk more about Hackle in a future series. Some patterns are tied with naturally buoyant material such as Cul-de-Canard (CDC) feathers. Still other dry flies are tied with synthetic material like closed-cell foam to help them float. An important element in tying the dry fly is to avoid using water absorbing materials. Dry flies will float for a very long time due to surface tension of the water. Floatants will help but it is far more important to use proper proportions and techniques in tying the dry fly. Most floatants attract and trap dirt from the surface film and result in undesired presentation and sinking. You might be better off switching to a fresh fly when not satisfied with it's ability to float properly.
"The great point, then, in fly
dressing, is to make the artificial fly resemble the natural insect in shape,
and the great characteristic of all river insects is extreme lightness and
neatness of form."
~ W.C. Stewart ~
B = Body Length = 2/3 Hook length or 2 G
W= Wing Height = 1 B to 1 1/2 B
T= Tail Length = from 1 B to 1 1/2 B
G= Hook Gape = size of Hook
H= Hackle Length = 1 1/2 G
Dry Fly proportions:
The Tail (T), while not in every dry fly recipe, should extend from 1 to 1 1/2 times the Body length (B). The Body (B) is usually 2/3 the hook length or 2 times the hook gape and should be tapered --- smaller at the rear to larger at the wing --- to simulate a natural insect's abdomen. The Wing (W), if present, is usually 1 1/2 times the body length. On many dry flies, the wing is only for eye appeal to the angler and makes the fly more visible on the water and really serves no other purpose. The Hackle (H), used to simulate fluttering wings and/or legs, should be 1 1/2 times the Hook Gape (G) and make up the other 1/3 of the hook length. The Hackle should be wound so that the barbules are curving towards the eye of the hook. This is done to prevent the fly from tipping over on the its' face. Care should be taken to allow enough room at the eye in order to form a Head and to finish the fly with head cement. The Rib, though not in every recipe, should be spiral-wrapped 4 to 10 turns depending on the size of the hook.
As mentioned in the previous section on Hooks, hooks come in a wide array of sizes and shapes depending on several factors. Different manufacturers have their own nomenclature for different uses. Dry fly hooks can have a curved or a straight shank, depending on their intended use. Hook length is dictated by the profile of the insect that you are trying to create. Again, most recipes will designate, size, type and length. All manufacturers will have similar hooks so it will be up to you to decide your preference. As previously referenced, hooks come in all sizes but generally, for most dry fly patterns, hooks will range in size from 4 to size 26. Some patterns, especially midge patterns, may go down to size 32, while some larger terrestrials or giant stoneflies may go up to size 1 or 2.
Mustad 94840 - Dry Fly Hook