This is a Brahma Bugger made almost entirely of feathers found on a Whiting Farms Brahma Hen Soft Hackle with Chickabou Pelt. They’re a little more time consuming to tie than a standard Woolly Bugger, but to me, are well worth the effort.
For a hook, I’m going to use a size 10 Dai-Riki #710 nymph hook. Start by mashing the barb and getting the hook firmly secured in your tying vise.
There’s no need to worry about bulk on this pattern, so you can use a heavier tying thread, like UTC 140 in brown olive. Get your thread started on the hook shank just behind the eye and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.
The soft hackle neck and chickabou pelt combo is available in a range of colors. For this pattern, I particularly like the golden olive, pale yellow and the tan. Each skin has enough feathers on it to make dozens and dozens of flies. Here I’m going to use the golden olive.
First locate the fluffy chickabou pelt. It’s easiest to pull feathers from the skin side. For the tail, pull 2 feathers free from the skin. Orient them so their back sides are facing and their tips are aligned. Strip the lower off-colored fibers free from the stem. Measure to form a tail about a full hook in length and transfer that measurement rearward to just above the barb. Begin binding down the stems with wraps of tying thread. Try to keep the feathers roughly on top of the hook shank as you work your way rearward to the bend. End with your tying thread a short distance from the base of the tail. Pick up your tying scissors then lift the excess butts up and snip them off close.
For the rest of the fly we’re going to use feathers from the top, soft hackle portion, of the pelt. Pull a single feather free from the skin. As you did with the Chickabou, strip the lower irregular fibers free from the stem. Reorient the feather and get hold of it’s very tip so you can pull down the remaining fibers. With just the tip exposed, snip it off to form a small triangle that will act as a tie-in anchor. With the backside of the feather facing away from you, lay the triangle against the near side of the hook shank and take thread wraps to secure it. Advance your tying thread forward to give yourself a little room.
Get hold of the stem with hackle pliers and start preening the fibers back and down to gently fold them around the stem. With the fibers pointing roughly rearward, begin making wraps with the soft hackle, preening the fibers rearward as you go. Try to keep the wraps fairly close together. When you get to bare stem, secure it to the hook shank with several nice tight wraps of tying thread and then snip the end off close. It’s a good idea to take a few more covering wraps to ensure the stem doesn’t work free.
Repeat the same feather prep, tie-in, folding and wrapping sequence several more times, progressing up the hook shank as you go. It may seem like slow-going at first, but once you get the hang of it you can really move right along. When you reach the eye, tie off the stem with nice, tight wraps of tying thread and then snip it off close. Sweep the soft hackle fibers back and build up a small thread head. You can then pick up your whip finish tool and do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish before cutting or snipping the thread free.
A drop of head cement applied all around to completely cover the thread wraps will ensure nothing comes unraveled. It’s actually a fairly durable pattern because the abundance of fibers protects the stems wrapped around the shank. You can add weight if you like but I prefer to add it later. Inline weights like Boss Tin Stix work exceptionally well. Just place the desired weight about a foot up the tippet from the fly. The red mono is just for demonstration purposes. Give it a little squeeze and it’s there to stay. The added clamping length really helps. With the fly separated from the weight, it’s free to move around and to me looks more natural in the water. Tying a non-slip loop knot is also helpful when it comes to letting the fly move freely. If you want to remove the weight, forceps or hemostats with a triangular wedge make the job of freeing the weight from the tippet a breeze. And most of the time, allow you to keep and reuse the weight. I believe much of this pattern’s appeal comes from the subtle barring in the soft hackle feathers, which make it closely resemble a Darter of which there are about 150 different species in North America. Whatever the Brahma Bugger looks like, it works.