For fly fisherman, the Ken Lockwood Gorge on the South Branch of the Raritan River may be one of New Jersey’s greatest treasures and it’s hard to beat the fall for sheer beauty and angling opportunities. You need to watch your step as it’s spawning season for rainbows and if you’re lucky you might even see an occupied redd. Trout of all sizes actively feed at this time of year in preparation for the coming winter. For many of us, fall’s the best time to enjoy all the gorge has to offer. |r
A good friend of mine Bill Silvia knows these waters better than just about anyone and always seems to do exceptionally well even during tough conditions. One of Bill’s secrets, as you can see here in his immaculately organized fly box, is to go small. And a favorite pattern of his is a micro pheasant tail with a hot spot thorax. Although I tie the pattern a bit differently than Bill does, the result is pretty much the same. And, wow, do these tasty-looking little nuggets ever produce.|r
I start with a size 18 Dai-Riki #125 emerger hook. The finished fly will actually be a bit smaller, like a 20 or a 22 but with a good sized hook gap. Hackle pliers make handling small hooks easy when you’re mashing the barb or getting them secured in your tying vise.|r
For tying thread, good old olive 6/0 Danville is really tough to beat. Get your thread started about 1/3 of the way down the hook shank and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.|r
Pheasant tail fibers are used to form much of this pattern. Natural-colored looks great but here I’m using a feather that’s been dyed dark brown. While keeping the tips aligned, pull down and strip off 3 fibers. I like to snip off the curlies from the butt ends so they don’t get hooked on things. Measure to form a tail a hook gap in length and, using a pinch wrap, secure the fibers to the top of the hook shank and take thread wraps rearward and down into the bend. Then, return your tying thread all the way back to the initial tie-in point.|r
Get hold of the butt ends of the pheasant tail fibers. I like to use hackle pliers but your fingers will work just fine. Start taking wraps with the fibers, kind of pushing the hanging tying thread rearward as you go. The pressure from the thread will help keep the fibers together as you wrap. When you reach the base of the tail, begin making open spiral thread wraps forward, effectively counter-wrapping and segmenting the abdomen of the fly. When you get to bare shank, let go of the tying thread, pick up your scissors and snip the butt ends of the fibers off close.|r
Go back to your pheasant tail feather and this time strip off about 6 fibers and snip the curlies off, if you like. Place the fibers on top of the hook shank with the tips extending a good bit rearward of the tie-in point. Take nice firm thread wraps to secure them to the shank all the way up to the eye. Then reach in with your tying scissors and snip the tips off close.
You can experiment with different colors, but UV pink Ice Dub is a good place to start for building up a hot spot thorax. The smallest of wisps is all you need. Dub a very sparse noodle on your tying thread, no more than an inch in length. Then take wraps to build up a plump little thorax.|r
Pull the pheasant tail fibers back and down to form a wing case over top of the thorax. Take 2 firm thread wraps to really pin the fibers down then get hold of your whip finish tool and do a 3 or 4 turn whip finish. Try to get your tying thread to end up on top of the hook rather than alongside it, you’ll see why in a minute. When you’re done, snip or cut your tying thread free. You can then use your scissors to snip off the excess pheasant tail, being careful not to cut the thread wraps in the process. Doing a reversed wing case like this helps to keep fibers from extending forward and blocking the hook eye.|r
Although not essential, I like to add a little UV cure resin to the wing case to build it up, give it some shine and increase the durability of the fly. If you need to, use a bodkin to pull a bit of the resin onto the whip finish behind the wing case to ensure it doesn’t come unraveled. Finally, give the wing case a good shot of UV light to cure it so it’s dry and non-tacky to the touch.|r
As I’m sure you already know, this cool little pattern will work outside of the Ken Lockwood Gorge as well. We can only hope Bill will open that fly box of his in the near future and give us a peek at some of the other secret weapons inside.