Project Description

Biot Parachute Adams

Pattern Description:

Taken from my article in Flyfisherman Magazine.

To me, one of the most compelling things about tying flies is that no matter how long you’ve done it or how many flies you’ve tied; there are always little tricks you learn as you go.  This phenomenon happens on your twentieth Elk Hair Caddis as well as your four thousandth and countless times in between.  A detailed tyer is always looking for those little tweaks that make a fly one step closer to perfect and to that end; I am now going to dive into tying the perfect parachute dry…even though I wrote an article on the same subject for this same magazine several years ago.  I’ve tied a few thousand more of them since then, demonstrated the fly a bunch of times and taught it in my classes over these intervening years and hopefully I can pass along some of the tweaks and tricks as well as some of the new teaching methods I’ve learned during that time.

A lot of folks are surprised when I mention that one of my favorite summer time dries is the venerable Parachute Adams.  I guess they’re expecting me to have some secret potion pattern up my sleeve instead, and I’m not saying I don’t, but I will admit I fish a size 14 or 16 Parachute Adams at some point almost every day during the summer.  No, it’s not the conventionally tied version and I do indeed have a few tweaks I’ve added over the years to improve the fishability, flotation and durability of the fly and that’s what I’m going to write about today.

Recognizing the liabilities in a given fly pattern is one of my strong points. I always want to make things better, no matter how good they are to begin with.  A conventionally tied Parachute Adams isn’t as visible, durable or buoyant as it could be and frankly, the dang thing is pretty plain looking, which I concede, is part of its charm.  The version I’ll present here is one that I have dialed in over the years to require less on the water maintenance, be more visible and hold up better than the original version as well as just be plain prettier…and pretty flies build confidence.  Through material selection and proper tying technique, I find this version to be more buoyant, stronger, faster to tie and way better looking than the originals.

Let’s start with the tail.  I don’t waver much from the standard here, using brown and grizzly rooster spade hackle fibers to create a stiff, web free tail.  Where I do vary is the application of those fibers.  To collect the tailing fibers into a neat, concise bunch I don’t trim the fibers and roll them in my fingertips to “mix” them together.  I find the resulting brush to be unkempt and too bushy to match up to the slender profile I try to create on the overall fly, so I tie one bunch in right on top of the other.  Tying the two different colors stacked one on top of the other allows me to align the curves of the fibers upward and keep a slim profile at the rear of the fly.

Next, the wing.  Most of the commercially tied Parachute Adams you’d buy today are tied with a calf tail or calf body hair wing.  Inherent troubles in using these materials is the bulk applied to the hook shank, the slickness and the short length of the hair (calf body).  Anchoring these non-compressible hairs to the shank creates bulk on top of the hook that makes for an uneven underbody later and often the difficulty in just working with the stuff is enough to make you question tying flies all together.  Rather than bowing to convention, I have gone to strictly using McFLylon, a heat treated polypropylene yarn, for all my parachute wings.  The heat treatment adds a bit of shine to the material which really makes it stand out on the water as well as making the material not adhere to itself and bind down into an ugly nub after a few minutes of fishing like conventional poly yarn.  Antron yarn has a very similar look to McFlylon, but is actually a bit absorbent and will hold water, so the McFlylon gets the nod here for these reasons.  Additionally, binding a synthetic material in for the wing as I’ll show here creates zero bulk on the hook shank and furthers my efforts toward a slender fly.  Finally, cutting the wing to length after the fact with a synthetic fiber wing versus having to tie it in at the proper length with a stacked, natural material makes the tying process essentially the same on a size 24 as it is on a size 16.  The only thing on this fly that gets smaller as the fly goes down in size and is not trimmed to length later is the tail.  Think about that statement.  The tail must be tied in at one shank length long, but during the tying process, the wing can be the same length on a #24, albeit more sparse, as a #16.  The biots don’t vary much in overall length, saddle hackles are plenty long even in the tiniest sizes and the dubbing is actually easier and quicker on a small fly than a larger version.  The days of being intimidated by small parachutes are over, my friends.

As far as hackle goes, I have gone to using saddle hackles on all my parachutes these days as well.  Quality genetic dry fly saddles are available in a complete range of sizes, from 12’s down to 24’s and are commonly available in a host of colors.  Saddle hackles are also much more densely barbed than neck/cape feathers and thereby create more radiating hackle fibers per turn of feather.  The astounding length of these feathers allows me to tie eight to twelve flies per feather, making them extremely economical as well as efficient.  In the case of a Parachute Adams, I’ll size two matching brown and grizzly feathers and tie up to a dozen flies before having to do it a second time, where with neck hackles I’d be matching the shorter feathers up every few flies, at best.

The biggest epiphany I’ve found in creating effective, buoyant parachutes is making the abdomens out of goose biots.  In the case of the Para Adams, I use natural colored Canada goose biots that I get from a friend who is a rabid goose hunter.  In my left handedness, I requested that he save me the first feather off of the right wing from the birds he harvests and last year he presented me with a grocery bag overflowing with them.  The reason I want the right wing is because tying left handed, the biots from the right wing allow me to tie them in by their tip and wrap them with their natural curve to create a smoothly tapered, telescoping body.  The familiar stand up edge of a biot body is not wanted, or accurate, in the case of an adult mayfly imitation, but by wrapping these feathers with the standup edge leading the turns, I am able to overlap that edge with the next turn and end up with a beautifully darkly ribbed smooth body that creates its own taper.  Not only are smooth biot bodies hard to argue with in the beauty department, biot bodies just plain float better.  This is not because the biot is inherently buoyant, but rather, when compared to the alternative of dubbing the entire body, biots hold less water and fish slime and therefore are easier to maintain and keep dry during fast paced fishing.  Dubbing is absorbent and is easily wetted, particularly with fish slime and it’s hard to quickly clean from the fly to get back in on the action.  Biots are easily swiped clean with a Wonder Cloth and hold up surprisingly well when wrapped over a thin layer of Zap-a-Gap CA adhesive.  Unfortunately, I have not found a way around dubbing the thorax to finish my parachutes and therefore have selected Superfine Dubbing for this application as I can dub it down very tightly and find it easiest to shape the thorax with.

Finally, the exact method of the hackle tie in and tie off is of paramount importance in creating beautifully constructed parachutes. Thread selection becomes important here as any extra bulk can disrupt the hackle wraps when they’re tied off, and to that end I opt for the smallest thread I can get away with.  The old Tiemco 16/0, now unavailable, is my first choice, but in lieu of that, something small and flat like Veevus 14/0 will fit the bill nicely.   The old method of tying the hackle in behind the hook eye, dragging the feather back and around the post a few times and then tying them off against the hook shank at the eye is both cumbersome and outdated at this point in the tying game.  The method I’ll show here uses the hackle stems to help stiffen the wing post, orients the hackle properly against the wing and enables the turns to work from the top of the post neatly to the bottom without crisscrossing or wrapping back though the wrapped portion of the feathers.  It results in a neat, tidy collar and can be equally utilized with the feathers in either the curve up or curve down position, although I vehemently and now famously prefer the inside curve of the feathers to face up.  Wrapping the feathers down the post with the inside curvature of the feathers facing skyward creates a clear path for the feathers to wrap smoothly from the top of the thread post to the bottom.  There are many proponents of facing the inside downward as you wrap the feathers reasoning that the slight curve of the hackle fiber tips protruding below the hook allow the fly to sit a tad higher on the water, supported on these tips and more accurately portraying the natural, and for fishing flat water I can see where they’re coming from.  In my case, I want a more tightly packed, dense hackle on my parachutes to create surface area and floatability for fishing faster, broken water, and wrapping with the insides of the hackles facing up allows me to do this much more cleanly.

Materials Needed:

Hook:  TMC 100SP-BL #12-20

Thread:  Veevus 14/0 Gray

Tail:  Mixed Brown and Grizzly Spade Hackle Fibers

Wing:  White (or color of choice) McFlylon

Hackle:  Mixed Brown and Grizzly Rooster Neck or Saddle

Abdomen:  Natural Canada Goose Biot

Thorax:  Adams Gray Superfine Dubbing

Zap-A-Gap and Head Cement

Step 1

Start by laying a thread base from the eighty percent point back to the bend. Even the tips of a half dozen brown spade hackle fibers and tie them in curve up at the bend with a single wrap of thread. Even a like-sized clump of grizzly spade fibers and lay them in on top of the brown so they match up in length and curvature. Hold onto the tips of both the brown and grizzly fibers with your material hand and unwrap the single turn of thread holding the brown ones in place. That first turn of thread is merely used to hold the brown fibers in place while you prep and measure the grizzly. Measure the stacked bunch to one shank length long and bind it firmly atop the shank at the bend. Bring the thread forward in smooth, even turns all the way to the hook eye and then back again to the eighty percent point.

Step 2

Cut a two inch long section of McFlylon from the hank. Divide this clump in half and place the center of its length on top of the hook at the eighty percent point. Make two stacked turns of thread over the McFlylon right at its center.

Step 3

Pull the front end of the McFlylon back toward the near side of the hook and the back end out to the far side. Doing this will set the two previous thread wraps at a diagonal angle. Hold tight to the near side wing with your material hand and hold it in place.

Step 4

While holding the wing in place on the near side of the hook, make two more tight, stacked wraps at the opposite diagonal angle from front to back, near to far across the center of the wing. Make sure these wraps are stacked on top of each other and don’t spread out. Finish up with an additional very tight wrap or two in each direction.

Step 5

The wing tie down should look like this; a neat, clean X-wrap across the center of the wing. Making these wraps as tight as possible will assure the wing doesn’t flop around on the shank later.

Step 6

Step 7

Now pull both wings up to the top of the hook together into a single bunch. Reach over the vise from the rear and pick up the bobbin and begin to wrap around the base of the wing. In my case, tying left handed, I make these wraps clockwise, but if you’re tying right handed, make these wraps counter-clockwise.

Step 8

Make two or three turns around the base of thee wing to bundle it together then take a single turn of thread in the conventional manner around the shank at the front of the wing. Notice that the posting wraps are not right at the very base of the wing but instead are ever so slightly up off the hook shank. This is to accommodate the extra bulk where the material is folded along the tie down on the shank.

Step 9

Select, size and pair up a brown and grizzly rooster saddle feather.  I try to make sure that both feathers are not only the right size for the hook, but also that they match each other perfectly in barb length.

Step 10

Lay one feather on top of the other with the inside of the top feather facing the outside of the bottom feather and no, it doesn’t matter which one is on top. Strip the bases of both feathers down to bare stem for a distance of about a half shank length.

Step 11

Lay the two stripped feathers stems in behind the hook eye and capture them with a few tight wraps of thread up to the base of the wing. Make sure the insides of both feathers are facing down or toward the hook shank at this point.

Step 12

Lift the feathers upright as one unit so they lie along the front or far side of the wing with their insides facing it.

Step 13

Pick up the bobbin in your material hand and invert it so the tube is pointing straight down.  You should only have two or three inches of thread between the end of the bobbin tube and the base of the wing.  Make clockwise for left or CCW for right handed turns up the base of the wing post over the stripped hackle stems to just short of the end of the stripped portion of the hackle feathers.   By inverting the bobbin you will be able to wrap tightly around the base of the wing and control the thread placement and tension better than using hand to hand wraps.   You only need about three double turns of hackle here so the post needn’t be very tall.  I usually shoot for 20-25% of the shank length.

Step 14

Now wrap back down the post to the base in increasingly tight turns all the way down to the shank.

Step 15

Make a single conventional turn of thread around the hook shank at the base of the wing to lock everything in place. Check to make sure that there is about a quarter to half turn of bare stem still exposed beyond the end of the thread wraps at the top of the post.

Step 16

Select a correct side goose biot and tie it in with the inside of its natural curvature toward the hook shank at the base of the tail. In this case, the feather is tied in notch down and the tip extends all the way up to the base of the wing. Don’t be fooled into tying biots in by their very tip. This portion of the biot is quite fragile and will likely break and, being very thin, will require us to make very closely overlapped turns at the back of the abdomen to create a smooth body. A bit of width to the feather at the base of the tail is what we are looking for.

Step 17

Wrap forward over the tip of the biot all the way up to the wing, forming a smooth, level thread base. Add a light coating of Zap-A-Gap adhesive the thread base as well as to the bottom of the wing post. Grasp the butt end of the biot in your hackle tweezers and stand the feather up at the bend of the hook folding the base as shown here. The stand-up edge of the biot should be toward the wing.

Step 18

Make the first turn of biot right at the base of the tail being careful not to disrupt the tail placement. Notice that the stand-up, fringed edge of the biot is leading the way on the front (wing) side of the turn. Make the next turn slightly overlapping this first turn so the smooth, rear edge of the biot covers the fringed leading edge of the previous turn.

Step 19

Continue in overlapping turns forward to the base of the wing and tie the biot off. If you look closely here, you can still see some of the fringe peeking out of the first few turns at the bend of the hook perfectly displaying why we wanted a bit of width back there. Had that first turn been just slightly more overlapped and upright it would have covered that bit of fringe. Biots are always a balancing act of playing the amount of overlap against the length of the biot itself and making sure you have enough feather to reach the wing. Tie the biot off at the base of the wing with several tight turns of thread and clip the excess.

Step 20

Dub the thread with a very tight, thin layer of Superfine dubbing. Start the dubbing just behind the hook eye and dub a taper up to the base of the wing, then cross on the bottom of the shank to the back of the wing and cover the biot tie off with a layer of dubbing. Dub back up to the base of the wing and by crossing back and forth from the front to the back of the wing, complete the thorax shape.

Step 21

As you run out of dubbing for the thorax, finish with a perfectly spaced and timed wrap of bare thread going around the base of the wing and drop the thread on the far side of the hook.

Step 22

Pull both hackle feathers down as one unit along the far side of the hook with their insides oriented skyward. Note the bare stems at the top of the post have allowed for about a half turn before the fibers begin to play out. Stack the feathers neatly inside to outside and grab the tips in your hackle pliers.

Step 23

Make the first turn of hackle at the very top of the post, again, clockwise for lefties and CCW for you normies.

Step 24

Make the next turn directly under and tightly up against the first turn.

Step 25

Finish with a third turn right at the base of the wing post. Don’t be tempted to pack an extra turn in there; it’ll just displace the previous wraps and look like hell.

Step 26

Finish the last turn by pulling down on the hackle pliers/feather tips along the near side of the hook shank. Reach over the vise with your material hand and pick up the bobbin, inverting it as you lift. Make three very tight horizontal turns of thread in the same direction you’ve wrapped the feathers around the base of the wing between the dubbed thorax and the wrapped hackle.

Step 27

When the third turn of thread completes its revolution and reaches out over the hook eye, push the bobbin tube down, guiding the thread over the far side of the hook, under the hook eye and up again on the near side. The thread should now be going around the hook in the conventional manner behind the hook eye.

Step 28

Reach in with the tips of your finest scissors and clip the hackle stems as close to the base of the wing post as you can. Clean up any stray hackle fibers that aren’t horizontally aligned with the rest.

Step 29

Whip finish behind the hook eye, drawing the knot up from the bottom so you don’t trap any hackle fibers in the knot. Clip the thread.

Step 30

Rotate the hook and trim the wing to one shank length long.

Step 31

Add a drop of thinned head cement to the base of the wing post from the side. Place a small drop right on the radiating hackle fibers and it will run right down them to the base of the wing and soak into the thread post/hackle stems, locking everything securely in place.