Parmacheene Belle – Revisited

Here is another Parmacheene Belle wet fly. This dressing is correct according to the original recipe written by the originator, Henry P. Wells, in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly, co-authored by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney.

One of the commenters on my last post of this pattern on, of several weeks ago now, correctly observed that the hackle was a little full, and perhaps too long. (That fly was posted here a couple-three weeks ago). It may have been, especially a tad long, but generally, in the traditional tying style of the period (19th century), hackles were longer rather than shorter, and they were more full, rather than sparse. Tying styles and preferences can change over time, but I am a firm believer in tying and replicating flies in their original dressings and style if possible.

For example, many tiers use goose shoulder for wet fly wings, particularly married wings. My belief is: you have to use goose shoulder, but only for married wings in patterns that also call for turkey. Technically, this does not change the pattern correctness, but in actuality, goose shoulder was not used much for primary wing construction on commercially-tied wet flies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Otherwise, the Parmacheene Belle, for example, and nearly all other married wing wet fly patterns use goose or duck wing quills for the wing. There were some exceptions, as in a married wing pattern like the Munro, Silver Doctor, Lake Edward, and Ferguson, because these patterns also use turkey, which does not marry well to duck or goose wing quill sections. Hence my comment above about marrying goose shoulder to turkey. This is the Prime Directive of Married Wings – “always maintain uniformity of texture as much as possible.” The 19th century “married” wing, or more correctly named, “mixed wing” version of these patterns was generally tied with a full wing of turkey mounted first, then followed with “splits” of other colors; usually of goose shoulder, laid over the wing.

My thought is this: A Black Prince Lake Fly, for example, is properly tied and historically correct with a wing of goose wing quill. When tied with a wing of black goose shoulder, it may look good, but it (goose shoulder) generally gives the fly a “too-low” wing profile, at least when considering it as an accurate representation or rendition of a 19th century classic pattern. The low-swept wing makes it look more like a contemporary  steelhead or salmon pattern, rather than a 19th century fly, which would have the wing at a sharp upward angle of forty-to-fifty degrees. A quick glance at the color plates of the Lake Flies, Bass Flies, and Trout Flies in Marbuy’s book confirms this.

So in my case, until just a few years ago, my personal representation and tying of wet flies was in the 20th century style, with wing-tips up, melded with the divided wing style (formerly my favorite) preferred by J. Edson Leonard, author of Flies, 1950, and opposing Bergman’s method (and the generally accepted traditional method) of mounting wet fly wings with concave sides together. My 2010 wet fly article in Hatches Magazine presented the four different methods or styles of setting wet fly wings. All are correct in my view. More recently I have been somewhat converted to the older looking, more traditional, and more historically correct method of setting the wings with the tip down, giving the wing a slightly lower profile, and a perhaps more pleasing to the eye, sweeping natural curve that starts right at the base of the wing at the tie-in point. This is the result of my observation and study of the display flies from the 1893 Orvis Exhibition in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, and my good fortune to have been granted access to, and held (while wearing white cotton gloves), examined, and photographed the “holy grail” of the thirty-one actual fly plates that were used for the artist’s paintings for Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 epic book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. There were thirty-two original plates in Marbury’s book, but Plate Z is missing from the museum collection.

The angle and mounting style of the wings was also different in the 19th century. Nearly all wet flies, whether using single or married quill feather sections, whole “spoon wing” feathers, or tips of gray mallard, barred wood duck, bronze mallard, or quill wings with splits, were all tied “reverse-winged.” That is, with the wing tied down, butt ends to the rear, tips pointing forward over the front of the fly, then pulled back over and lashed in place with a half dozen or so wraps. The bulky head of the fly included the visible folded-over butts of the stems or quill sections. This also gave the wings a higher angle relative to the body. This technique was used on blind-eye and eyed hooks, that became increasingly more popular just one year after Marbury’s book was written. John Betts wrote an article about the reverse-wing method in a 1996 article in The American Flyfisher, the magazine of the American Museum of fly Fishing. Well, I’m getting carried away, or free-lancing my thoughts on this topic…

More of this type information will be in my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, which includes all 291 of the patterns published in M. O. Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, plus more than 200 additional patterns from the Orvis archives.

Here is the Parmacheene Belle, original pattern version; this is tied on a  size #2, vintage Mustad 3399 wet fly hook.

Parmacheene Belle -

Parmacheene Belle – this version is tied divided wing, “tip-up.” The yellow rabbit dubbing substituted for the original yellow mohair does a reasonable job of imitating the original material. Some later 20th century commercial versions of the Parmacheene Belle eliminated the silver tinsel tag, and changed the butt to black ostrich herl, and the body to yellow floss.

The only recipe change I made is I used yellow rabbit dubbing in place of Wells’ original yellow mohair specified on the body.

In March of this year, I taught an extended weekend fly tying class for Wilson’s Fly Shop of Toronto and Fergus, at a Bed and Breakfast in the lovely town of Fergus. We covered traditional wet flies, Carrie Stevens streamers using her proprietary methods, and on Sunday morning, flies from Marbury’s book. When the subject of reverse wings came up, it was unanimous that the students wanted to try this. The only problem was that the instructor, yours truly, had never done it. Their desires prevailed against my hesitation, so it was agreed that attempting the reverse-wing tying method would be a learning experience for everyone. We tied at least three patterns using this method, and everyone did fairly well with the process, despite it being a totally new experience for everyone.

One of my Canadian friends, John Hoffmann, of Fergus, tied a few patterns for my book. John works part-time for the Fergus location of Wilson’s, and also guides and does some teaching of fly tying and fly fishing for the shop. Besides the bed and breakfast stay where the class was held, John, his wife Cathy, and their Airedale, Gracie, were my hosts for a few extra days. Thanks John, Cathy, and Gracie!

I intend to make the posting of those patterns, my first effort at reverse-winged flies next on my blog – hopefully later this week. Thanks to everyone for your subscriptions and devotion to my writings!


Bergman Fontinalis – Classic Wet Fly

The Bergman Fontinalis and the Fontinalis Fin were the first two brook trout fin wet fly patterns that I ever saw. I’ve written about this before, but at age twelve, my brother, Larry, and I fished with flies for the first time at a farm pond near our cabin in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. We caught lots of bluegills that day. I don’t recall what Larry used, but I fished a Yellow Sally. We became hooked on fly fishing, and when we returned to the farm house that served as our cabin, my dad showed me his copy of Trout. It’s a first edition, 9th printing of the 1938 classic. I still have it with his signature in ink inside the front cover, penciled notations in the margins with the pattern recipes in the back, like “sizes 8-10-12, good for brookies,” and I treasure it. I remember him saying it was a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle.

Recently I tied up six classic wet flies as part of an order for a customer in Alberta, Canada. The Bergman Fontinalis posted here is the fourth pattern in that series, following the Parmacheene Belle, Fletcher, and Golden Doctor. I have five more classic wet flies, mostly Lake Fly patterns, that were tied last Wednesday, July 10th, during a private fly tying lesson with a student from south-eastern Pennsylvania. I have already photographed all those patterns and plan to post them here as well.

One highlight of Dave’s visit was that he wanted to learn how to fish wet flies. Since my area had received more rainfall and storms than normal, I informed him a week or so in advance that we’d have to play any fishing by ear. On Thursday morning July 11th, I took him over the hill to nearby Lycoming Creek. The water level was falling from recent thundershowers, and it was up quite a bit and off color, but you could see bottom in three feet of water. I gave Dave a crash-course in wet fly fishing, demonstrating casting, mending of line, tending of the drift, rod-tip position, and the hand-twist retrieve. I had rigged him up with two flies from his personal box; a #14 Partridge and Yellow in hand position, and a #12 Royal Coachman on the point, both tied on 3x tippet. He got a couple hits, and then after about a half hour, he hooked a trout. It turned out to be a decent brown, and the fish aggressively had taken the Royal Coachman. That made our day.

Getting back to the brook fin wet flies, there are six historic trout fin wet fly patterns that I am aware of; The Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, Brook Fin, Trout Fin, Brookie Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis. I listed them in the order in which I personally learned of each pattern. Somewhere here in my blog archives there is an article dealing with those patterns. Three of these flies, the Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis were all created by Michigan angler and fly tier, Phil Armstrong. The Brook Fin was published in H. J. Noll’s Guide to Trout Flies; the Brookie Fin debuted in Helen Shaw’s, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989; and the Trout Fin was presented in Ray Bergman’s final book, With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, sent to him by fly tier Bert Quimby, of South Windham, Maine, as being a favored brook trout wet fly pattern for fishing in Maine. It does not list who created that fly, but there is a strong possibility it was originated by Quimby. The Armstrong Fontinalis was the last of these patterns that I learned about, a rather johnny-come-lately fly for me, around 2006. It was published in the book by William Blades, Fishing Flies and Fly Tying, 1951.

I have fished several of these patterns and caught trout and land-locked salmon on them in Maine, and also in a lake right here in Pennsylvania. As an aside, the Parmacheene Belle, according to originator Henry P. Wells’ writings, the brook trout fin was the concept for his fly design. I have always disagreed with that a bit, because there is no orange in his pattern, and that fly has a yellow body, there’s no yellow in a brook trout fin. Nevertheless, that pattern, the Kineo, and perhaps the King of the Woods could be considered as possible brook trout fin wet flies. Here is a photo of the Bergman Fontinalis:

Bergman Fontinalis -

Bergman Fontinalis – #4 Mustad 3399 wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Bergman Fontinalis

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #10

Tail: White, natural dark gray, married to and topping slightly wider section of orange, duck or goose quill may be used, in two sections (left and right side)

Body: Alternate ribs of dark gray and orange wool

Hackle: Dark gray

Wing: White, dark gray, married to and topping wider section of orange

Head: Black

I used goose wing quill sections to make the tail and wing on this fly. Two barbs each of the white and gray for the tail; three barbs of orange. In the wing, I used three barbs each of white and gray. The natural dark gray quill sections are best obtained from Canada goose feathers. The hackle was tied as a throat, wound collar style, from the tip end of a gray schlappen feather. The ends of schlappen feathers make great wet fly hackles in larger hook sizes; the stems are very soft, supple, and very small in diameter, so they wrap nicely, and build no bulk at the tie-in point of the wing. The barb density is low so I generally make five to six wraps when using schlappen in this fashion.

The Bergman Fontinalis was obviously created to honor Ray Bergman. At the time Trout was published in 1938, Bergman was the preeminent angling author in the country, having served as angling editor of Outdoor Life magazine since 1934. It was a position he held for thirty-four years.

If you are looking for some enjoyable tying with a bit of a challenge, or want to experiment fishing with some new fly patterns, give the Bergman Fontinalis a try.

Golden Doctor – Classic Wet Fly

The first time I ever saw or heard of the Golden Doctor wet fly was in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. Along with the Silver Doctor it was an attractor pattern, and like the recently posted Fletcher wet fly, it has a three-color married tail. Between that fancy tail and the red and blue goose shoulder “splits” over the gray mallard wing, the Golden Doctor is another beautiful, yet little known classic wet fly. I recently discovered in doing research for my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, that the Golden Doctor is an older pattern than I previously realized. Reading through Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, I found some text where Mary mentions the Golden Doctor, so that means it dates at least to the early 1890’s. My guess is that the pattern is even older than that. I have always liked the Golden Doctor, it is another very beautiful wet fly. The color combinations of materials, the claret hackle and the red head, all make for a dashing pattern. Here is a photo and recipe for the Golden Doctor:

Golden Doctor wet fly -

Golden Doctor wet fly – dressed on a Mustad #4 – 3906 standard wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Golden Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Tail: Red, yellow, green – married

Body: Flat gold tinsel

Hackle: Claret

Wing: Gray mallard flank, with splits of red and blue goose shoulder

Head: Red

I used two full mallard flank feathers, paired, that is, a left and a right, and cut opposing sections from each feather, then I mounted the slips with the tip down, the wing curving downward in the traditional 19th century style. The claret hackle was wound from the tip of a schlappen feather, several turns. These feathers make great collar hackles, because the stems are so fine and flexible.

This is yet another pattern I confess to having never fished, but how could you not? Just look at it, the colors and form are perfect for brook trout and land-locked salmon.

Fletcher – Classic Wet Fly

One of the little-known wet fly patterns from Trout, by Ray Bergman, is the Fletcher. It is not a particularly complicated pattern to tie, except for step two: the tail. It has a married tail consisting of three components. This element gives the Fletcher a special attractiveness and eye-appeal. I admit to never fishing the Fletcher, but I have tied a good number of them over the last fifteen years. I think that is something I should rectify – fish this fly. I’m sure it would take trout and land-locked salmon.

This fly is one of six that is part of an order for a customer in Alberta, Canada. He has ordered five dozen wet flies for fishing, and six wet fly patterns, tied on #4 hooks, mounted, boxed, and signed for his collection. The Fletcher is the second pattern in this series of six, the Parmacheene Belle from the other day was the first pattern in this six-pack. I also intend to post the photos of the fishing flies on this order.

Here’s the photo of the Fletcher:

Fletcher wet fly -

Fletcher wet fly – dressed on a Mustad #4 – 3906 standard wet fly hook. Tied and photogrpahed by Don Bastian.


Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, #2 to #10

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red, yellow, and guinea fowl – married

Hackle: Grizzly tied palmer

Body: Black floss

Wing: Brown mottled turkey

The recipe in Bergman’s Trout calls for a gray hackle, tied palmer, but study of the color plate, recognizing artist Dr. Edgar Burke’s attention to detail, and the fact all the flies for the color plates in Trout were painted from actual samples, the hackle on the plate image is clearly painted as grizzly. I married the tail with duck wing quill and guinea fowl wing quill. Wet flies with a palmer hackle have plenty of action in the water. I need to tie some of these to fish with.

Split Ibis Wet Fly

Here is another old wet fly pattern that historically was a part of our fly fishing heritage in the form of the traditional Lake Flies and smaller sizes of trout flies. I present the Split Ibis – both my tied version from the recipes of Ray Bergman’s Trout, 1938, and also another antique fly from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester,Vermont.

The Bergman recipe for the wing reads, “white, scarlet, white, scarlet, married,” while visual inspection of the Orvis pattern starts with the scarlet on top. Normally in written married wing recipes, the order of components is written from the top down.

Here’s my version:

Split Ibis wet fly, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Split Ibis wet fly, tied and photographed by Don Bastian. Note the tail of golden pheasant tippet fibers, in comparison to the married tail on the Orvis version. The hook is a Mustad vintage 3399 Sproat Bend.

Split Ibis:

Hook: Standard wet fly hook #1 to #10

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Tail: Golden pheasant tippet

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel – addition of ribbing is my personal variation to reinforce the body and provide more flash

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Brown

Wing: White, scarlet, white, scarlet – married

Head: Black

I apply four or five coats of head cement, finishing off with black Pro Lak on most of my wet flies and streamers.

The Split Ibis is included among the Lake Fly pattern in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892. It is pattern number 78. Here is my photo of the Split Ibis from the 1893 Orvis Display.

Split Ibis from the 1893 Orvis fly display.

Split Ibis Lake Fly from the 1893 Orvis fly display. The hook is approximately a No. 1 or 1/0. Note the body of oval silver tinsel, and the yellow part of the married tail is severely faded.

Split Ibis – Orvis Version

Tag: Flat gold tinsel – not visible on this pattern, but it can be seen on the Plate Fly image, plus I have my photo of the original plate fly; there is a tag of flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet and yellow, married

Body: Oval silver tinsel

Hackle: Brown

Wing: Scarlet, white, scarlet, white – married

Historically the Split Ibis was a favorite Lake Fly pattern, successfully used for native brook trout and landlocked salmon. My niece, Emily, tied this pattern and has caught brook trout and salmon with it in Maine’s Moose and Roach Rivers.

Fitz-Maurice Lake Fly

This pattern as represented in Trout by Ray Bergman is a little different than the old, original 19th century version I discovered on the 1893 Orvis Display Plates at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. Bergman’s book obviously includes the Fitzmaurice as a trout pattern, while as represented in size on the Orvis display, it could be a either a Lake Fly, intended for brook trout and landlocked salmon, or a Bass Fly, or perhaps both.

Here is the version replicated from the recipe of Trout:

Fitzmaurice wet fly, recipe from Trout by Ray Bergman.

Fitzmaurice wet fly, recipe from Trout by Ray Bergman.

Fitzmaurice, Trout version:

Tag: Oval gold tinsel – the addition of the tinsel tag is mine, note the flat gold tinsel tag on the Orvis version

Tail: Peacock sword fibers

Butt: Black chenille

Body: Red chenille

Wing: Bronze mallard

Hackle: Yellow

Head: Black

Following is my photo of the Fitz-Maurice from the 1893 Orvis Display:


Fitz-Maurice from 1893 Orvis Display, hook size is approximately a #1/0. The Lake Flies were traditionally tied in sizes this large, as were the Bass Flies.

Fitz-Maurice – Orvis Dressing:

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Peacock sword fibers

Body: Rear 1/2 red chenille, front 1/2 black chenille

Hackle: Golden yellow, wound full over front 1/5 of hook shank

Wing: Gray mallard, two whole feathers; this could be classed as a spoon wing. The stems were tied reverse-wing.

This pattern has a gut loop eye, often referred to back in the day as a snood. The chenille is very dense, most likely a fine grade of silk chenille. The Fitz-Maurice is not listed in Mary Orvis Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, but as you can see it is on the 1893 Orvis Display, and it will be among more than 200 additional 19th century fly patterns, beyond the 291 in Marbury’s book, that will be listed by name with the accurate recipe, determined by visual inspection of actual flies, and from study of my collection of fly photos, in my upcoming book in progress, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. The additional fly patterns from the 1893 display include flies in all categories of Marbury’s book: Hackles, Lake Flies, Trout Flies, Salmon Flies, and Bass Flies.

Sulphur MayflyDuns – Four-pack Selection

These four patterns were just added yesterday to as part of my product page. Here is the link:

I have made a few recent posts about some of these sulphur dun patterns and their fishing effectiveness, both on Spring Creek, and in the article on Muddy Creek in York County, Pennsylvania. Sulphurs occur on most trout streams across the country. This Four-pack Selection of Sulphur Duns presents together; mayfly dun patterns in the following styles: Thorax Dun, Parachute Dun, Comparadun, and Quill-body Comparadun.

If you have read these previous posts you are aware that I’ve written several articles about the synthetic, elastic, and translucent material made by DuPont, but called by different names depending on the fly tying material company that sells it. For those of you who haven’t seen these posts, once more, here we go again: Sexi-Floss, Dyna-Floss, Flexi-Floss, and the former Orvis name, Super-Floss (discontinued).

Here is a product review from The Beaverkill Angler Fly Shop in Roscoe, New York:

“Flexi-Floss / Floss Flex is a crinkly spandex material that is stretchable yet handles like floss (better and easier than floss – DB). Great for ribbing, wiggly legs, antennae, segmented wrapped midge bodies, and more. Flexi-Floss / Floss Flex is easy to use and adds a little extra shine to your flies. Best of all it doesn’t break down like rubber legs, so your flies will last longer.” Here is the page to the product:

The same product, Sexi-Floss, from Montana Fly Company, is available from Chris Helm at Whitetail Fly Tieing Supplies, in Toledo, Ohio. The bonus of ordering from Chris is you speak directly to him, he is an experienced and knowledgeable fly tier, he knows fly tying materials, and he personally receives and processes your order. Here is his phone number: 419-843-2106. Chris also has some of the best deer hair available, sorted and graded for specific fly tying uses. Here is a photo of the four pattern styles; all flies are tied by me, and all photos are mine as well:

Sulphur Dun Patterns, left to right:

Sulphur Dun Patterns, left to right: Thorax Dun, Parachute Dun, Comparadun, and Quill-body Comparadun. All except the Comparadun are tied with a synthetic quill body, made of Sulphur Orange (or amber) Sexi-Floss, Flexi-Floss, etc. Notice how slim, smooth, and as A. K. Best describes mayfly bodies, “waxy looking” they are. Highly imitative and this material floats. Nice!

This collection of four sulphur dun patterns is representative of the mayfly Ephemerella invaria. The “sulphurs” are a very eagerly anticipated hatch on many streams, particularly in the Eastern US. These mayflies occur with variations in color and size. This offering of four different pattern types and hook sizes is intended to increase the anglers chances of success when fishing a sulphur hatch. Trout can be selective to pattern types, particularly on flat water so it is beneficial to the angler to have more than one style and size of dun pattern when fishing this hatch. This proven collection of Sulphur Duns helps solve the difficulties of fishing sulphur drys to finicky trout. All four duns are tied with split tails.

On the tying recipes, all materials are listed in the order that they are tied in.


#14 Sulphur Comparadun. This pattern uses rabbit dubbing for the body, but the abdomen is reverse-dubbed and ribbed with the tying thread. You can see how this procedure adds realism to the fly, and it also tightens up the abdomen. For a video of my Reverse-Dubbing technique, check out my March Brown Comparadun youtube video.

Sulphur Comparadun

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, #14 – #18

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #7 Orange

Wing: Bleached deer hair

Tails: Yellow Microfibetts, six fibers split 3/3

Abdomen: Amber rabbit dubbing, reverse-dubbed and ribbed with the tying thread

Thorax: Amber rabbit dubbing, more robust than the abdomen

Head: Orange

You can see that the thorax is more robust than the abdomen, this is an imitative design feature, but it  also is part of the tying process because you are building the thorax over the butt ends of the clipped deer hair wing. Because of the color variations of the Ephemerella invaria duns across their range, similar but different thread and dubbing colors can be used. Alternate threads to use would include Danville #2 Cream, #4 Pale Yellow, #8 Yellow, and #61 Light Olive.

#14 Sulphur Parachute Dun.

#14 Sulphur Parachute Dun. Note the Sexi-Floss abdomen and dubbed thorax. The parachute hackle helps the fly land right side up, and this design presents a different silhouette to the trout. In fact, while each of these patterns represents the same mayfly, each style presents a similar but different silhouette to the trout. Being prepared with multiple pattern styles can be your ace-in-the-hole when confronted with a sulphur hatch. In fact, this is true of most mayfly species.

The Sulphur Parachute Dun is made with the same abdomen of synthetic quill material as the Quill-body Comparadun, and has a dubbed thorax, but it has a poly-post wing and a parachute hackle. The advantage of parachute duns provides a highly-visible, low-floating, imitative design. It is generally considered a better dry fly pattern for fishing riffles, runs, and typically rougher pocket water than the no-hackle Comparadun.

Sulphur Parachute Dun

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, #14 – 18

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #7 Orange

Wing: Light dun polypropylene post

Hackle: Light ginger

Tails: Yellow Microfibetts

Abdomen: Sulphur orange Flexi-Floss

Thorax: Amber rabbit dubbing

Head: Orange

While I have used this material for years, I recently started using the polypropylene as a wing post, rather than the E. P. Fibers as posted on some of my recent flies. This was done for ease of use and less preparation time. More flies per hour means a raise in pay. I also found out that the crinkly nature of the polypropylene is much easier to wrap around, or post, at the base of the wing. The E. P. Fibers are very slippery, while the kinky nature of the poly yarn seems to grab and hold the thread, eliminating a point of (sometimes) fly tying exasperation. Check the photo, you can see the zig-zags in the wing material.

#14 Quill-body Sulphur Comparadun

#14 Quill-body Sulphur Comparadun. This design features the abdomen of Flexi-Sexi-Dyna Floss.

The Sulphur Quill-body Comparadun is a personal pattern design variation that has a more realistic body silhouette with a slim, waxy-smooth abdomen that contrasts with the more robust fur-dubbed thorax. The abdomen is made from a synthetic quill material that is highly translucent, and it also floats, thereby adding increased flotation to this pattern.

Sulphur Quill-body Comparadun

Hook: Standard dry fly hook #14 – #18

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #7 Orange

Wing: Bleached deer hair

Tails: Yellow Microfibetts

Abdomen: Orange Flexi-floss

Thorax: Amber rabbit dubbing

Head: Orange

#14 Sulphur Thorax Dun.

#14 Sulphur Thorax Dun. I call this the Poly-wing Thorax Dun.

The Sulphur Thorax Dun offers yet another pattern variation that helps fool trout. The wing is placed a little farther from the hook eye than the Parachute Dun, and the hackle is wound conventionally, but clipped on the bottom. Like all the patterns in this set, the Sulphur Thorax Dun features a split tail with the synthetic, translucent quill abdomen and a fur-dubbed thorax. Like each pattern in this collection, the Thorax Dun offers a different silhouette on the surface. This is an asset to the angler who is prepared with multiple fly designs for any mayfly hatch.

As far as I know, Barry Beck created the Poly-wing Thorax Dun as an alternate style of making the Marinaro Thorax Dun, a fly design using the broad, webby part of neck hackles, created by Pennsylvania author and fly tier, Vincent C. Marinaro. Through personal correspondence, Vince’s Thorax Dun debuted among the New Dry Flies, in Ray Bergman’s second edition of Trout, 1952, with this comment: “I think it to be an outstanding development in fly construction.” And Ray adds, “Mr. Marinaro tells me he is working on a book concerning this and other flies. It should prove very interesting.” Modern Fly Fly Code was published in 1950, while I happen to know that the correspondence between Ray Bergman and Vince Marinaro took place in 1948-49. Ray saved every letter, and during my research for the Ray Bergman biography I wrote for Forgotten Flies, 1999, I was privileged to meet with Ray’s niece and nephew, Norma and Buddy Christian, of Nyack, New York. Ray hand-copied every letter into his own hand, in pencil, onto a tablet not unlike those we used to get in grade school. He did that for his wife, Grace, whom I believe typed all his manuscripts. It was a honor and a privilege to have access to this material. Getting back to Barry Beck’s Poly-wing Thorax Dun, along with Jim Smethers, one of the other fly shop tiers, I used to occasionally tie the pattern for them in the early 1990’s. Any mayfly dun can be imitated with this pattern design style.

Sulphur Thorax Dun

Hook: Standard dry fly hook #14 – #18

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #7 Orange

Wing: Light dun polypropylene yarn

Tails: Yellow Mivrofibetts

Abdomen: Sulphur Orange Flexi-Floss

Hackle: Light ginger

Thorax: Amber rabbit dubbing

Head: Orange

On the hackled patterns, alternate colors of hackle would be medium ginger, and various shades of light, medium, and sandy dun. I have a beautiful bleached grizzly cape from Bill Keough that would also make some great-looking sulphur dun patterns, considering the cream and light-ginger mottled coloration.

Here are a couple Spring Creek brown trout that were fooled by these flies:

Spring Creek Brown - Sulphur

Spring Creek Brown – taken on a #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun.

Spring Creek Brown - Sulphur Thorax Dun.

Spring Creek Brown – taken on #14 Sulphur Thorax Dun.

These four patterns are also being offered together in an attractive boxed set. The set is identified with a printed label, a signature card, the flies are mounted on foam strips, and they are beautifully packaged in a clear plastic case. This attention to detail and quality of the flies in a boxed set makes this a tasteful gift. The set includes three each of the four patterns: Sulphur Comparadun, Sulphur Quill-body Comparadun,  Sulphur Parachute Dun, and Sulphur Thorax Dun. Available hook sizes are #14, #16, and #18. Individual flies are available in all three hook sizes, while the sets contain all patterns of the same hook size.

Don Bastian's Sulphur Dun Selection.

Don Bastian’s Boxed Sulphur Dun Selection.

What it imitates:  Ephmerella invaria mayfly sub-imago (dun)

When to fish it:  Depending on locale: mid-April in the southern Appalachians, late April through June in the northeastern US

Where to fish it:  Sulphurs inhabit most of the freestone and limestone creeks, streams, and rivers in the eastern and mid-western United States and Canada. They are also present in some tailwater fisheries such as the Delaware River.

How to fish it:  Sulphur dun patterns should generally be fished on 5x tippet, in some cases 6x, but only with smaller hook sizes and smooth water. My personal experience fishing sulphurs is always with 5x, using a leader of ten to fourteen feet.

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