How to use a little glue and foam to make already proven patterns more buoyant and durable.
[Article and Photography by Scott Sanchez]
ONE OF MY BIGGEST JOYS IS finding simple solutions to common fly tying problems. Most of the time, the answer to a conundrum is right in front of us, but we realize it only through trial and error. The PFD Parawulff is a perfect example of how a little ingenuity can put a fun twist on essentially two already effective patterns.
I often participate in the Jackson Hole One Fly event, using the affair as a catalyst for improving fly design, and over the years I’ve found certain types of patterns consistently work. For example, in the event’s early days, traditional Wulff patterns were the hot ticket, though parachute-style flies have largely replaced them. There is no doubt that parachutes catch fish and are more visible to the angler, but in my experience, they’re not resilient enough to make it through a full day of fishing. I’ve used various methods to make them more durable-most involve adhesives, thread, or monofilament-though the right blend of all three came together when I created my PFD (Personal Flotation Device) Parachute.
I’d already used a similar tying style for my Mega Beetle and PFD Emerger, where I added a foam Chernobyl Ant-style indicator for a parachute post base, then a bundle of polypropylene fibers for the actual, more visible post. I originally used snowshoe rabbit for the center of the post, but polypropylene fibers like EP Fibers and Widows Web are available in more color varieties. The foam wedge locks the hackle and makes the fly more durable, buoyant, and easy to see, while the larger size makes it easier to incorporate more hackle without increasing bulk. Also, the wide polypropylene post is more visible than a narrower wing from both the side (if you’re wade fishing) and from the top (boat fishing).
Two Wings Are Better Than One
At the request of Dan Scully, a 2014 One Fly participant, I melded my PFD approach to parachutes with Jack Dennis’s Parawulff pattern. Already an extremely effective fly, the Parawulff is a great match-the-hatch variation of the classic Wulff-style patterns that can be tied in any number of sizes and colors. These flies float well in riffle water and are easy to see, even in small sizes.
The Parawulff’s split-wing parachute is more visible than a standard parachute post, and the wide profile of the wings adds air resistance so the fly lands on the water softer than a similar-sized, single-post imitation. Additionally, large drake mayflies frequently sit on the water with their wings slightly upright and split, so mimicking the behavior helps the fly stand out in a crowd of naturals.
To improve it, I added a foam base before adding the wings, separated the polypropylene into a distinct, separated set of wings, and then glued it all into place. What’s nice is polypropylene fibers like Widows Web or EP Fibers are soft enough to manipulate but firm enough to hold shape, more so than wings made of yarn, for example. You can also tie in the wings much longer than you need to make it easier on the eyes and hands and trim them to length after completing the rest of the pattern.
Slow-setting cyanoacrylate glues like Gorilla Glue brand superglue or arrow-fletching cements from Pine Ridge or Goat Tuff work the best for gluing split wings. Don’t apply glue directly to the fly directly from the nozzleit’s too tough to control the volume, and adding too much glue can make the pattern stiff and decrease its buoyancy. Instead, squirt a small amount on a scrap piece of paper or plastic and then use a toothpick to transfer small, controlled amounts to the fly.
What’s more, you can retrofit this same wing-tying method to any number of other fly patterns or even down-wing patterns like spent caddis or midges, wide Compara-Dun-style wings, or emerger posts. You can also split and glue natural hair like calftail or elk haira split-hair wing on a Stimulator makes a great cranefly patternbut it requires a little more effort, and the results aren’t so consistent as what you’ll find working with synthetic material.
PURPLE PFD PARAWULFF
HOOK: Standard dry fly, sizes 12 to 20.
THREAD: Purple 8/0.
TAIL: Dun Microfibetts,
one shank length long, split.
RIB: Pearl Krystal Flash.
BODY: Purple dubbing of choice.
WING: Gray foam strip two-thirds the
width of the hook gap, and white EP Fibers.
HACKLE: Grizzly and brown.
Attach the thread to the hook; then make a dubbing loop and pull it in the direction of the tail so it straddles the width of the hook before securing the thread back to the hook shank in front of the hook bend.