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Major Woody Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Major Woody
I call this fly the Major Woody. Other than a gold wire rib, everything on it is either wood duck or a material that’s colored wood duck. Although it doesn’t imitate a single mayfly species exactly, I think it represents a number of them roughly, including quill gordons, hendricksons, march browns and sulphurs. For me, it’s the fine markings on the wood duck that really sell the pattern because they look so much like those found on the naturals. They kind of say to the trout, “Hey, I’m over here and I’m a living thing, and not just a stick, a leaf or other piece of detritus”.

For a hook, I like to go with something barbless and a little sexy, like an Orvis tactical heavyweight. Here, a size 12, but a Major Woody can easily be tied on a 14 and a 16 as well. I begin by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 140 Denier and, yes, it’s a color called wood duck. You can drop down to 70 Denier if you like and if you have confidence in your split thread dubbing. Get your thread started on the hook shank leaving a bit of space behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.

Brassie or small sized gold Ultra wire is used for the rib. A 6” length is enough for numerous flies. Use your tying thread to secure one end of the wire to the hook shank and, as you take thread wraps rearward, push the wire to the far side of the hook. Continue taking thread wraps all the way to the start of the hook bend.

A single wood duck flank feather is used for both the tail and the wing of the fly. Strip the lower, shorter, fluffy fibers free from the stem then gingerly preen the remaining fibers down, leaving 8-10 fibers at the feather’s tip. Snip the tip off and, while keeping the fibers aligned, measure to form a tail a little more than a hook shank in length, then transfer that measurement to the start of the hook bend. Take wraps of tying thread to bind the wood duck fibers to the top of the shank. End with your tying thread at about the hook point. Stash what’s left of the feather in a safe place so it doesn’t get lost on your tying bench or end up on the floor.

Pull down on your bobbin to expose about 6” of thread. Rabbit fur dubbing in a color called, you guessed it, wood duck, is used to form the body of the fly. Take an ample pinch from the packet and use it to create a thin dubbing noodle about 4” in length. I like to twist the noodle up a bit so I start taking wraps until the dubbing makes a full turn around the hook shank right at the base of the tail. I’ll then give my bobbin a healthy clockwise spin to cord up the thread and dubbing into a tight little fuzzy rope. Take wraps with the rope to form the abdomen of the fly. Ideally, you want to end at least a full eye length behind the hook eye.

Get hold of the gold wire and start making open spiral wraps up the hook shank. Notice how the wire didn’t jostle the tail as you began wrapping. Continue segmenting the body of the fly with the wire all the way up to your tying thread. Then use it to firmly anchor the wire to the hook. You can then brace the hook with the nozzle of your bobbin and helicopter the wire to break it off close.

Retrieve the wood duck feather you stashed away and fold it around the stem so all the tips are roughly aligned. Measure to form a wing a full hook in length and transfer that measurement forward to the back edge of the hook eye. Using a pinch wrap, secure the fibers to the top of the hook shank and make sure they’re bound down really well. Lift the butt end of the feather up and snip the excess off as close as possible.

Wood duck colored rabbit is used once again, this time to create the thorax of the fly. You only need a small pinch, which should be temporarily set aside. Pull down on your bobbin to expose about 3” of tying thread then give the bobbin a gentle counterclockwise spin to uncord the thread. Use your bodkin to further flatten and floss the thread so it’s easy to split into two strands then insert the tip of your left hand index finger between them. Pick up that little clump of dubbing and slip it between the two strands, and remove your finger so the strands sandwich the dubbing. Now, give your bobbin an ample clockwise spin to cord up the thread and form a short, bushy dubbing noodle. Start taking wraps with the noodle to build up a somewhat wild looking thorax. End with your tying thread right at the back edge of the hook eye.

Get hold of your bodkin, half-hitch tool or any tube-like structure that will slip over the hook eye and use it to push the wood duck fibers rearward and fan them out. I like them to cover the top 180 degrees of the fly. Start taking wraps with your tying thread to build up a dam that forces the wood duck rearward at an angle. The fibers should end up looking something like this.

Locate your whip finish tool and do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish to secure your thread. Make sure to pull the knot tight before snipping or cutting your tying thread free. A dubbing brush or strip of velcro works wonders at loosening the fibers on the underside of the thorax. Honestly, the bushier the better. If any are too long, just snip them off so they extend down to about the hook point.

A good looking head really adds to the look of a Major Woody. A small drop of UV cure resin is all that’s needed and a fine dubbing needle does a masterful job of spreading it around. It’s much better to apply small amounts at a time as opposed to one big blob. When you’re happy with the look, make sure the hook eye is clear of adhesive then give the head a healthy shot of UV light to cure it.

And that’s the Major Woody. You can dead drift it, swing it, twitch it or even dust it up with desiccant and use it as a dry or cripple. There’s nothing quite like fishing – with a Major Woody.
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Video Transcript:

3X-heavy barbless nymph hook (e.g. Orvis 1P19), sizes 12-16
Wood duck, 6/0 or 140-denier
Gold Ultra Wire, brassie size
Wood-duck feather
Wood duck rabbit-fur dubbing
Wood-duck feather
Wood duck rabbit-fur dubbing
Tying thread
UV-cure resin
Bodkin, dubbing brush, dubbing needle