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Red Tag Wet Fly Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Red Tag Wet Fly
Barbless, 3X-strong nymph hook (here, a Fulling Mill FM51 05), sizes 10 to 14
Black, 8/0 or 70-denier
Red Antron yarn.
Gold Ultra Wire, small.
2 peacock herls.
Brown hen hackle
Tying thread
Head cement
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Video Transcript:

This fly is a variation of a Red Tag. The original was a dry fly designed by Englishman Martyn Flynn in the 1850’s to catch grayling. I fish this version as a wet fly, swung down and across.

For a hook, I’m going with something modern, a Fulling Mill 5105 in size 14. I really like the look of modern hooks on older patterns. I begin by getting the already barbless hook firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise then load a bobbin with a spool of black UTC 70 Denier thread. Get the thread started on the hook shank leaving a little space behind the eye, and take a few wraps rearward before snipping the excess thread off close.

For the fly’s red tag, I’m also going to go a bit modern by using Antron yarn as opposed to the original wool. A 3 inch length will make numerous flies. Give your bobbin a good counterclockwise spin so it’ll jump slightly rearward and catch one end of the yarn at the front of the hook shank. While lifting the Antron slightly up, take thread wraps to secure it to the top of the hook all the way back to the start of the bend. You can then reach in with your tying scissors and snip the yarn off to form a tag about half a hook gap in length. So the remaining Antron segment doesn’t get lost on your tying bench and come apart, wet one end and secure it with plunger-style hackle pliers for later use.

Small, gold Ultra wire is used to rib and segment the fly as well as protect the delicate peacock herl body. An 8 inch length will make numerous flies. Get hold of one end of the wire and lay it against the near side of the hook like so and take thread wraps to secure it. Continue binding it down all the way up to the initial tie-in point.

Pull two strands of peacock herl free from the rest and snip an inch or so of their brittle tips off square. Again give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin so it jumps rearward to catch the peacock herl, then bind it down to the top of the hook shank, all the way to the base of the tag. Without moving your tying thread, start taking touching wraps with both herls up the hook shank but behind your tying thread. The thread will help to keep the herls sandwiched together as you wrap. When you reach the initial tie-in point, use your thread to firmly anchor the peacock herl then carefully snip the excess off close.

Get hold of the gold wire and start making open spiral counterwraps with it over top of the peacock herl. This will greatly increase the fly’s durability. Four or five turns usually looks pretty good. When you reach your tying thread, go around the wire with it to reverse its wrapping direction then counterwrap a few times to anchor the wire. Then, use the wire to change the direction of thread wrap once again, this time back to normal. With the wire secured you can helicopter to break the excess off close. Take a few more thread wraps to smooth out the head area of the fly.

Brown hen hackle is used to create kind of a soft hackle collar on the fly. Here I’m going to use a single feather from an old somewhat flea-bitten Indian neck. To prep the feather for tie-in, strip off any lower, fuzzy fibers from both sides of the stem. Then get hold of the feather by its very tip, with the shiny side facing you, and pull down on the lower fibers to isolate that tip. Trim the tip off to produce a small triangular tie-in anchor. Place the anchor against the near side of the hook, and after giving your bobbin a counterclockwise spin, secure the feather to the hook with several tight turns of tying thread. Bend the stem down through the fingertips of your left hand to fold the hackle fibers back then start taking wraps with the feather to create the collar of the fly. When you reach bare stem, take wraps of tying thread to secure it. Use the very tips of your tying scissors to snip the excess stem off close. If there are any wayward hackle fibers, either trim them off or preen them back and take thread wraps to hold them in place.

With a good looking collar established, reach for your whip finish tool and use it to complete a 4 or 5 turn whip finish. Try to keep the head fairly short. When you’re done you can snip or cut your tying thread free. A drop of head cement applied to the thread wraps, and allowed to sink in and harden, will help with durability.

And that’s the Red Tag, an oldie but definitely a goodie.