Early summer here in the Northeast US is Light Cahill time, and this parachute pattern has really been getting the job done of late. A few of the tying techniques used in its construction are somewhat less than traditional but make for a high-floating, durable and easy-to-tie fly.
For a hook, a Dai-Riki #300 in a size 14 is spot-on in terms of size, and results in a fly that’s both well balanced and proportioned. Begin by mashing the barb and getting the hook firmly secured in your tying vise.
I'm going to use UTC 70 Denier thread in yellow which looks nice, but cream, tan and olive will also work. Start your thread on the hook shank, leaving some space behind the eye and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. End with your thread at about the 1/4 point on the shank.
For the parachute post, it’s hard to go wrong with white polypropylene floating yarn. A card-width segment is plenty and even that should be split in half lengthwise so you end up with enough to tie 2 flies. Give your thread a clockwise spin to cord it up, this adds strength and bite during tie-down. Lay one of the lengths of polypro on top of the hook shank with the majority of it sticking out over the eye. Take 3 firm wraps of thread to secure it and then pull back to confirm its location. You want the fibers tied down right at that 1/4 point. Taking a few wraps around just the hook shank, and then more around both the hook and fibers, will help to keep the things from spinning. Once the clump is bound down, lift the back end up and snip it off at a shallow angle. This should allow you to create a gentle ramp down to the bare hook. Finish with your tying thread at about the hook point.
Light Cahill colored Super Fine dubbing is used to make the entire body of the fly. For this step, only the tiniest wisp is needed to create a little ball at the rear end. To achieve this, you want to make the smallest and thinnest dubbing noodle possible on your tying thread. The ball is really important, but remember to keep its size to a bare minimum. Once it’s produced, return your thread to a little ways in front of the hook point.
Coq de Leon fibers are used to form the tails of the fly. They’re well-marked, long and fine, and super tough. After stripping off the webby stuff, pull down anywhere from, let’s say, 5 to 10 fibers, the count just isn’t that important. While keeping the tips aligned, strip the fibers free from the stem and then place the butt ends on top of the hook shank at the thread location. I’m going to pause here to say that, for me, the length of the tails doesn’t really matter but generally the longer you can make them, the better. Anyway, start taking wraps rearward, binding the fibers down as you approach the dubbing ball. Before you get there, split a few fibers on either side of the ball. Don’t worry about getting equal amounts on each side. Give your bobbin a clockwise spin to cord up the thread and then continue taking wraps rearward to pin and flare the fibers against the leading edge of the dubbing ball. They should splay out at an approximately 90 degree angle to each other. Then, return your thread to just in front of the hook point.
Go back to your dubbing, and this time pull out enough to create a thin dubbing noodle about 3” in length on your tying thread. Take wraps rearward so the beginning of the dubbing noodle lands right at the base of the tail. Keep wrapping forward to make a thin, evenly tapered body. Notice how the yellow thread shows through a little bit, this is what you want. When you reach the post, pull it back and take wraps in front of it, around just the hook shank. You can leave multiple tails on each side if you like but I’ve gotten to prefer just one per side. Snip away any fibers that point either too far up or too far down. It’s nice to be able to choose which ones look good and then get rid of the rest.
Now, here’s where things start to get a little weird. Bondic, a UV cure plastic, works extremely well for this part. Apply just a single drop to only the base of the wing post. Give the fibers a hard twist with your right hand, then pass them to your left and hold them in a vertical position. This will allow you to pick up the UV torch with your right and cure the Bondic in just a few seconds. It’s a good idea to give the backside of the post a shot of light as well. Once this is done, the bottom of the post should be extremely rigid and well secured to the hook shank.
For the hackle, I’m using a single feather taken from a high quality white-colored neck. I like to make sure the fibers are the appropriate length before plucking the feather free from the skin. Strip off the lower fuzzy fibers and snip the butt end off, leaving an 1/8” or so of bare stem below the first fibers. With the shiny or front side of the feather facing up, lay the stem against the near side of the hook and take good firm thread wraps to secure it all the way back to the base of the post. Pull another small wisp of dubbing from the packet and create a short thin noodle on your tying thread. Use this to fill in the space in front of the post so it tapers naturally down to the hook eye.
Now, believe it or not, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and then snip or cut your tying thread free. Things are just about to get weirder still. Once again, pick up the Bondic and this time apply a single drop 1/8” up the wing post. Get hold of your hackle and begin making touching wraps up the post. Because the base of the post is so rigid, this is much easier to do than it is with conventional tying techniques. After 5 or 6 wraps, maintain the grip on the hackle with your left hand and pick up the torch with your right. Give the area a real good shot of UV to cure the Bondic. Once cured, the hackle is permanently affixed all the way around and all the way up the post. Reach in with the tips of your tying scissors and snip the excess hackle off close. With the scissors still in hand, snip the post off as well so it’s about a hook shank length tall.
This method leaves a nice, clean underbody, and an even and supportive parachute. As I said earlier, it also makes for a very durable fly. I'm sure by now you've realized these techniques can be employed on other patterns besides a Light Cahill. I, for one, may never go back to tying parachute-style flies with more traditional methods ever again. And the long, widely-splayed Coq de Leon tails, I’ve been sold on them for a while now.