Fly Patterns - Pullover Hackle Flies

                  Pullover Hackle Fly


This month we’ll learn a tying technique called “pullover hackle” rather than tying a specific pattern. I’m not sure who originated the pullover-hackle technique for dry flies. I first learned it from the venerable Ned Long, who passed away a few years ago after a long and productive life. A long time fly tyer well-known in the tying community, Ned created many original (and very effective) fly patterns. The Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers named its coveted annual award to the “fly tyer of the year” after Ned (I was fortunate enough to have been selected for this prestigious award in 2009). Bob Quigley, another very creative fly designer, also uses this technique in some of his spring creek patterns.


There are several standard techniques for applying hackle to dry flies: the standard Catskill technique, whereby the hackle is wound on perpendicular to the hook shank; and the parachute technique, whereby a post is created for the wing, and the hackle is would around the post. The pullover-hackle technique is a third way to hackle a dry fly.


The pullover-hackle technique requires that a piece of material (typically 4x tippet material) be tied to the shank at some point in the tying steps, to be used as a post. I utilize this technique for “Bill’s Big Fish Fly” which can be found in the fly pattern archives on GBF’s web site. For dry flies, the post is typically (though not always) tied in at the front end of the abdomen. The hackle is wound around the post from the bottom up and then back down to the shank, where it is tied off, pulled back out of the way,  and remains until the final tying step. Once the thorax is dubbed (immediately in front of the hackle post) the post and hackle are pulled over the top of the thorax and tied off just behind the hook eye. Hence the name: “pullover-hackle.” As an alternative to inserting the post at the front of the abdomen, you can tie it in just ahead of the tail and then pull it over the entire fly—abdomen and thorax.


The beauty of this technique is that you can get a lot more hackle on the post and, when it is pulled over the top of the thorax, all of it stays on top of the fly. This creates a very buggy fly profile and a high-floating attitude. Pullover-hackle flies are one of my go-to pattern types for late afternoon and evening fishing on creeks and smaller rivers such as the North Yuba (small caddis patterns work well also—see July 2009 fly of the month, the Shambles Caddis).


Fly color/hue is limited only by your imagination. For example, you can try using two hackles (one brown and one grizzly) for an Adams pullover; or a cream colored hackle for a Light Cahill pullover. For purposes of this month’s fly, we’ll create a generic dry fly with a tan body and a grizzly hackle. You generally won’t find this combination in the fly bins at the shops—but don’t underestimate it. Also, we’ll tie in our pullover post at the rear of the fly, to be different (besides, it makes learning the technique a bit easier). You will need a gallows tool or some other method to secure the tippet material in an upright position so you can wind the hackle around it. If you don’t have a gallows tool for your vise, try attaching a pair of hackle pliers to your light.


Tying Instructions

1.       Crimp the hook barb and cover the rear half of the hook shank with thread; leave the bobbin hanging so that the thread intersects with the back of the barb.

2.       Cut a small section of well-marked wood duck flan feather barbules. Measure the tail fibers so that they equal the length of the shank. Tie the bunch right above the back of the barb, take a few winds forward to secure the tail, and leave the thread there. Clip the excess feather.

3.       At the same point, tie in a 8” section tippet material and wind back to where you tied in the tail to secure the tippet material. Place a tiny drop of superglue on the winds.




4a.   Secure the tippet material post in your gallows tool (or the hackle pliers you’ve attached to your light). Tie in a properly sized grizzly neck hackle at the base of the post. Wind the hackle clockwise around the post 3 times, moving upward in wide turns. Begin winding back down toward the shank, using very closely spaced turns so that you get most if not all of the feather’s hackle on the post. After the last wind, hang your hackle pliers over the shank, cut the tippet material about 2” above the top of the hackle, and tie the hackle down.

4b.  Avoid tying down any of the wound hackle. Once the feather is secured, you can pull the post and hackle rearward out of the way for the time being.

5.       Dub a sparse abdomen over the rear 2/3 of the shank, and then dub a fuller

      thorax, leaving room behind the eye for the final steps.

6a.   Grab the tip of the tippet material with your hackle pliers and pull the entire post forward over the top of the abdomen and thorax, keeping the post directly on top of the body.  At a point about one eye-width behind the eye, take 3 turns of thread over the post to secure it in position. Using your hackle pliers, pull the post tight to take any slack out of it and then tie it down securely.

6b.   Carefully trim the excess post and hackle and form a nice small head. Apply a

      drop of superglue to the head and the spot where the post was tied down.

      Whip finish.

Tying Tips

1.       Gallows tools are inexpensive and are made to fit the post on most vises. They are quite handy when it comes to making any type of posted wing.

2.       Keeping the completed fly in the vise, turn it over and clip off any stray hackle that protrudes below the shank. This fly pattern, like any post-style fly, is designed to float in the surface film.

Go crank some of these bugs, go fish them, and…




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