Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer H. Jefferson.
Although the emerging stage takes up a very small portion of the mayfly’s life cycle it is a time when they are extremely vulnerable to fish. Trout know this, and when nymphs are breaking through the surface of water to unfurl their adult wings it can be an all you can eat buffet for fish. This makes it an exciting time to fish, but wary trout will scorn full adults and prefer to take the helpless emergers. Here is a basic emerger pattern that can be fished in all sorts of colors and sizes to imitate this stage in the life cycle. This is a fly I learned from a friend and a bastardization of the classic parachute klinkhammer.
- hook: scud hook (size 14 pictured)
- Thread: Black 8/0
- Tail: Sage grouse (pheasant tail or hackle fibers will also do)
- Body: Squirrel or your preferred dubbing
- Wing post: craft foam
- Wing: your preferred dry fly hackle
- The first step is to tie in some tail fibers on the hook behind the barb where the hook starts to bend. In theory these fibers will sit under the film dangling in the water. For larger hook sizes (12 and up) I will often use a few strands of marabou to help the fly sit correctly in the water and to impart some motion.
- Next I will tie in the parachute post. Some fly shops sell rounded cylinders of foam specifically for this purpose but to save money I buy foam from a craft store and cut it into little, narrow strips. Make sure not to crowd the eye and to securely wrap the foam down to lie flush with the hook.
- Next attach the feather parallel to the foam post and tightly tie into place. For a standard parachute it is important to make sure the barbs are facing away from the post, but for this fly it does not matter. For variety sometimes I will tie the hackle in backwards, facing the post, to give it a different sort of effect.
- Next tie off the thread and wrap the hackle a few times around the post to give it the parachute effect. This can be tricky to tie off after it is wrapped and I often find myself wishing for the extra arms of Vishnu to tie this fly cleanly. I wrap my thread over the end piece of feather but underneath the parachute and around the post a few times before breaking off the tip of the feather. Don’t worry about manhandling the parachute too much with this bug since natural emergers look sloppy.
- Here I will pull the entire parachute back and give about two wraps of dubbing between the eye of the hook and the post of the parachute to give it proper figure.
- Lastly pull the entire parachute forward and tie down into the dubbing. This will give you an effect similar to a comparadun but with soft hackle fibers instead of deer hair. The foam will help the fly ride upright.
- Cut the tag of foam off the front of the fly, add a dab of glue, and whip finish. When dry this fly is ready to fish.
I will often fish this during a hatch of adult bugs when I don’t see emergers because I believe that the helplessness of this insect stage makes trout more willing to risk going to the surface for it, and when a dun is emerging from the husk it will always look hairy, and this is when bugs most often become crippled. This means the trout won’t care as much about ugly, disproportioned bugs that don’t exactly line up to the natural.