Parachute Adams

The Parachute Adams is a great variation of one of the greatest and most popular dry fly patterns ever created. I presently have a custom order for eight dozen trout flies for a client in eastern Pennsylvania, and the Parachute Adams, a dozen in size #12, was the first pattern on his list. The fellow has been buying flies from me every year, for at least ten years. It’s nice to have customers who give you repeat business! He fishes the Beaverkill and Delaware a lot, plus makes trips to Colorado.

The Parachute Adams is a great attractor pattern, it is also a good searching pattern, especially in broken water on big rivers and smaller freestone streams of both east and west. It is effective in sizes from #8 to #18 or even #20, though I personally prefer not to tie them smaller than a #16. An excellent variation of the Parachute Adams is to substitute olive dubbing for the usual gray body. As I tied these flies this morning, I was inspired to take some photo sequences, sort of a tying tutorial of sorts. And I also want to add a little fly tying diversification to the posts I make here. Keeping more on topic than stories and photos of white-tailed deer fawns, this dry fly pattern post is an effort in that direction. Also, be on the lookout soon, maybe even later today, for two of my original Rangeley style streamers, as promised: Carrie’s Killer and Carrie’s Ghost. (Hope you folks are not tiring of my spate of recent posts).

I still have seven more dozen flies to tie to finish this order – all drys – likely they’ll end up here too – plus I plan to knock off later this afternoon to head to Spring Creek near Bellefonte, because I figure this hot weather will produce a heavy sulphur spinner fall this evening. Among the tying and fishing yet to come today, I also need to squeeze in a little time with the mower on the yard. OK, tying the Parachute Adams:

#12 standard dry fly hook, the wing is attached but not yet posted around the base.

#12 standard dry fly hook, the wing is attached but not yet posted around the base. The wing is calf body hair – presently it’s kind of like a calf-hair Comparadun. The next step will be to post around the base of the hair fibers to gather the wing together.

I tie on a regal Stainless steel C-clamp vise. One advantage on the non-true rotary feature of the Regal vise is that when inverted, it presents the upright wing in this angle.

I tie on a Regal Stainless steel C-clamp vise. One advantage on the non-true rotary feature of the Regal vise is that when inverted, it presents the upright wing in this angle. This allows me to post the base of the wing while keeping my right arm and elbow comfortably and more naturally low at my side, instead of having to raise my elbow high if I had to post the base of the wing when in a vertical position. Calf body hair has no underfur and it is very slippery. What I call a Balanced Thread Wrap is required to post the base of the hair without having your thread slip off.

A Balanced Thread Wrap is when you balance the thread tension according to match the material being tied in, or wrapped around. In this case it is a taut, but not tight tension. You can also add a bit of head cement to the base of the wing before starting your wraps, this helps prevent the thread from slipping off.

Attach the hackles

Attaching the hackles: Once I get eight to twelve wraps around the base of the hair and have wound the thread to the base of the wing, I make one wrap over the hook shank – this helps prevent the thread from slipping off the wing during the next step – attaching the hackles. Take two previously prepared, clipped hackles and hold them with your right hand to the base of the post. Using your left hand for the bobbin, make a few balanced thread wraps over the hackle stem butts. Then wind back to the top (or bottom since this is inverted), of the wraps and grasp the wing post with my right hand then apply a few tight tension thread wraps to secure the thread around the hackle stems. Then switch the bobbin to your right hand and make a few more tight wraps. Return vise jaws to upright position and advance thread to hook point.

The hackle stem butts are comparable to a phrase associated with a Martini at this stage, shaken, not stirred, but in this case they should be clipped, not stripped. This leaves little butt ends of hackle barbs that help the thread bite into the feather stems more securely.

For production purposes, all 24 hackles for these flies were sizes, selected, and prepared in advance.

Vise jaws returned to upright position, ready to attach the tail fibers.

Vise jaws returned to upright position, ready to attach the tail fibers. Advance the thread to the hook point.

A mix of brown and grizzly spade hackle fibers (spade hackles comes from the outer edges of dry fly necks or capes.

A mix of brown and grizzly spade hackle fibers is used for the tail. Tail length should equal hook shank length, minus the eye. Spade hackles come from the outer edges of dry fly necks or capes, and is free of barbules or webbing. The fibers are attached at the hook point, then wound over the butt ends toward the wing post, then back to base of tail, with the end of the body vertically positioned slightly ahead of the hook barb.

Tail fibers wrapped over and secured, ready for dubbing.

Tail fibers wrapped over and secured, ready for application of dubbing. No need to make a solid winding of thread; tight, palmer wraps can be used to lock ‘er down. Saves time.

Hareline Dark Gray rabbit dubbing applied. Originally the Adams was tied with natural gray muskrat dubbing.

Note: you could wait until after the tail is attached to mount the hackles around the base of the wing post. But that means a forward advance of the thread, then back to the tail to apply the dubbing. Extra time. I always attach the hackles right after posting the wing. But in this case I forgot. Senior moment? Apologies for the less-than-sharp images, I hand held the camera and did all these images in “one take.”

Hareline Dark Gray rabbit dubbing applied. Originally the Adams was tied with matural gray muskrat fur.

Hareline Dark Gray rabbit dubbing applied. Originally the Adams was tied with natural gray muskrat fur.

The finished fly.

The finished Parachute Adams.

Very important tip here: From my fellow tier and friend, Tom Baltz of Mt. Holly Springs, Pennsylvania, for you right-handed tiers, wind the hackles counter-clockwise. This changes the angle of the barbs when wound to point away from you when you finish the thread wraps to lock the stem in after being wound. No more trapped hackle fibers! The tying thread can be wound almost normally, because the hackles fibers, now pointing away from the direction of your thread wraps, simply slide out of the way. Left-handed tiers, you would wind clockwise if you tie in normal left-handed fashion.

I still prefer to use a finishing technique that I perfected years back when I wound the hackles clockwise, and needed to get fibers out of the way to wind off the head. I use the little finger on my left hand to hold the tube of the bobbin. Holding the bobbin back out of the way, I load my Materelli whip finisher while having the use of my left thumb and all three remaining fingers to pull the hackle fibers out of the way. I then use the Matarelli, making 5 – 6 turns. Clip thread off, add a small drop of head cement for extra durability,  and you’re done.

A "studio shot" of the Parachute Adams.

A “studio shot” of the Parachute Adams.

Parachute Adams:

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes #8 to #16

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #31 Gray or Uni-Thread 8/0 Gray , brown thread could also be used

Wing: White calf body hair

Hackle: Brown and grizzly mixed

Tail: Brown and grizzly mixed

Body: Dark gray rabbit or muskrat dubbing

Head: Gray

If you have never fished the Parachute Adams, I suggest it’s high-time you tie some and give them a try!

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6 comments on “Parachute Adams

  1. Jon Rozhon says:

    This is a great fly, a pattern I love because it is so easy to see on the water (much easier than the Adams). It also seems to represent a lot of different stuff — at least it seems to work a lot of the time.

    Nice work on this fly, Don, and thanks for the counter-clockwise tip that I will have to try.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Jon;
      Right you are about the visibility of the Parachute Adams. And that clockwise hackle winding tip; you’ll love it. A variance of dubbing colors and hackles could make the Parachute Adams style of fly a generic substitute for many mayfly patterns. Thanks for your comment! I also appreciate your compliment of my “nice work” on this pattern. Appreciate it! Tight threads! :mrgreen:

  2. Kelly L says:

    Don, I never tire of your blogs. This is an outstanding looking pattern. Love it!

  3. Al Aasman says:

    Good post Don. I don’t know where you find the time, but I do love to see “Don Bastian Wet Flies” come up on my email. Sometimes, I’m just too busy — and sometimes there are just too many posts! But overall, they give a little lift to my day. Even the deer ones.
    I used the #14 Para Adams just last week, standing on 2-foot thick ice shelves on the edge of a beautiful, remote Yukon river in 85° heat. Days are long now, light at 4:00 am with fishing for Arctic Grayling in the upper reaches below the waterfall every morning, a nice afternoon nap in the shade of my tent, then big aggressive rainbows in the lower river, until 11:00 pm. Unbelievable bird life 24 hours a day, from Eagles and Trumpeter swans down to migrating warblers and finches.
    I tried the Adams on some grayling riffle water that had only been raising dinks on other dry flies. Small grayling of 8-12 inches have an interesting strategy for taking down a dry fly: they go airborne about 6 inches from the fly, and porpoise down just beside it. Once it’s drowned, they come back and hit it. You got to know that so when you see that kind of action, you do not strike and pull the fly out of reach. Once your fly is submerged, one little strip and it’s fish on! Actually, dink on, I guess.
    Anyhoo, I dropped the Para Adams onto some activity and hooked into a fat 18″ grayling, no jumping-porpoising-drowning fooling around stuff, just a big hit and game on. Ten minutes later, repeat!
    Once again, confirmation that I can rely on what is probably the best all-around dry fly going.
    Thanks for the two tips: counter clockwise hackles and olive dubbing variant. I’ll be trying those.
    I look forward to the rest of your tying order…

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Al;
      Thanks for your comment! You have practically written a blog post by yourself, 😉 ! I really appreciate the time you took and the detail used to explain your unique fishing experiences! Wow! Cool to catch Grayling under the conditions you described. Sounds like it would be an absolute blast! Wish I could join you!
      I’m glad my posts lift your day, thanks for that compliment!
      That Grayling habit of dive-bombing the fly first, would be hard to get used to…and would take some nerve not to react too soon.
      I have only ever caught two Grayling myself, got them on back-to-back casts, in Montana, and they were both about 17″ – 18″. I was really surprised. Won’t say where, other than somewhere in the Madison drainage. And my camera was not in hand… ;-(
      Thanks again for sharing your experiences! And yes I agree, though the Ausable Wulff is probably my all-time favorite dry fly, the Parachute Adams would have to be a very, very close second.
      Have you ever seen the older post I did showing that photo of (now extinct) native Michigan Grayling? The picture was taken about 1896 or 1897.
      Tight lines, and thanks again!

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