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“Bill’s Simple Parachute Drake”


In preparation for my Brook Trout quest this last July to a remote part of Labrador, I poured over my tying books and articles looking for a good drake pattern. My research revealed that my trip could coincide with the massive drake hatches that occur on Labrador lakes and rivers, so I eagerly sought a simple, elegant drake pattern that would float well under windy conditions and in choppy water. No way was I going to show up without the “right” fly to match the highly touted hatch of Hexagenias and green, brown, and grey drakes. I was, to say the least, disappointed in the results of my search, which led me to some fancy, over-tied, and ineffective looking creatures.


Then I remembered that in my research I had stumbled across a couple of articles by Lee Wulff, who “discovered” the treasure of fly fishing in Labrador. Lee had created a series of large, beautiful surface flies constructed with materials designed for high flotation. They worked well for the giant Brookies he wrote about so enthusiastically, so I selected a few that looked promising and simple to tie. But after tying a few, I decided I didn’t like the standard wing and hackle arrangement, which seemed to result in flies that would roll rather than stand up straight, and, because of their large size, could spin during the cast causing kinked tippets.


Why not try using the same materials in a parachute wing style fly? I did, and the resulting flies were both aesthetically pleasing and very functional during subsequent “test runs.” They sat low in the surface film and refused to sink; the wing profile was perfect; and there was no rolling on the water or tippet twisting. So I took the plunge and mass produced parachute drakes in size 4 (when is the last time you tied a #4 dry fly?) and 6; I selected moose body hair for the wing and tail (Lee used it on several of his patterns), sparkly antron dubbing in olive, brown, and grey for the drakes, and cream dubbing for the Hex imitation.


Luckily, the hatch was just beginning when we arrived at the remote lodge in the float plane. Green and grey drakes were hatching profusely, right along with Hexagenias—all huge, elegant, juicy trout meals. For the next nine days the paradrake took many hefty Brook Trout. My largest fish were two seven pound specimens—and I’ve got the pictures to prove it! So, I thought I’d share this simple pattern with you. For our normal fishing you won’t, of course, need to tie them in #4 sizes—except for upcoming Hex hatches. Tie a few and give them a try.


One final note: this pattern cannot, in any way, be considered new or an “original.” Rather, it is a blend taken from existing patterns and constructed using standard techniques for parachute style flies. It’s simply the arrangement and selection of materials that are important.


Tie these babies in several different colors and you are ready for those vicious rises when fish are on the drakes.




Standard dry fly hook, sizes 4-14


140 denier thread, color to match body color


Moose body hair—shiny and dark


Moose body hair—shiny and dark


Sparkly antron dubbing in selected color


Sparkly antron dubbing in selected color


Neck or saddle (for smaller sizes) of dry fly quality



Tying instructions


1. Smash the hook barb (if there is one). Cover the shank with thread. Wind the thread back to a point just above the back end of the barb.

2. Cut, clean, and stack a small bunch of moose body hair for the tail. The size of the bunch will vary depending on hook size. Experiment with this and with the wing bunch a bit; the key is to balance form and mass to achieve the “right” proportion. This takes some practice and experience, but it will soon become one of those “I know it when I see it” things.

3. After measuring for length (same as shank length), tie in the stacked hair just above the back end of the now-smashed barb. Hint: before tying the hair to the shank, take one wrap around the hair at the exact point where it will be tied down; this will help keep the hair from rolling around to the far side of the hook. Wrap the butts of the hair down securely and apply a drop of Flexament.

4. Move the thread forward to a point about 1/3 down the shank behind the eye. Cut, clean, and stack another bunch of moose body hair for the wing. Measure it so that it is just slightly longer than the shank, and tie it down at that point with the tips out over the hook eye, taking care to secure the butts. Apply a drop of Flexament.  Lift the hair to the vertical position and take a few wraps around the base. To stand the wing up permanently, take another wrap around the base; when you bring the thread around to the back of the wing, catch the thread in the butts that you earlier trimmed and then wrap around the shank. Repeat this process several times. If this step is done correctly, the wing will not move.

5. Return the thread to the tail tie-in point. Dub a cigar shaped abdomen forward to the rear base of the wing. For the larger sizes, you will need to use a dubbing loop.

6. Select and prepare two suitably sized olive dry fly hackles. I prefer grizzly dyed olive, but plain olive is fine. Tie these feathers in behind the wing with the tips pointing away from you, and the shiny side up.

7. Dub a thorax, covering the wing base area along with the area in front of the wing. Leave enough bare hook to form a nice head.

8. Wrap the first hackle up the wing with 3 wraps, and then down the wing to its base, with each wrap beneath the previous one. I choose to wrap clockwise; others wrap counter-clockwise. It’s a matter of what feels right to you. On the final wrap, bring the hackle around the wing base and pull it to the rear with your hackle pliers. Wrap the thread around and over it several times and trim the excess. Repeat this process with the second hackle.

9. Form a nice, small head behind the hook eye and whip finish. Suggestion: when you have tied a bunch of these flies, apply silicone to them before putting them in your fly box. This will allow the silicone to dry thoroughly and they will be ready to fish.

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Copyright 2005 by Granite Bay Flycasters unless otherwise noted.