The Picket Pin is one of those great older flies that no longer seems to get the attention it so richly deserves. It's a true classic. To tie it, I'm going to go back in time a bit and use some tools and materials given to me by a college friend after his father, Dr. John Green, passed away a couple of years ago. Dr. Green was an avid fly fisherman, duck hunter and conservationist and a highly respected professor at my alma mater St. Lawrence University.
I'm going to start out with a size 12 nymph and wet fly hook. My guess is this particular model is no longer in production so substitute your preference. Just securing the hook in Dr. Green's well worn Thompson vise feels like connecting to the past. A really unique looking older bobbin came spooled with 6/0 black Danville so I'm going to go with that for tying thread.
Start your thread on the hook shank leaving some space behind the eye and take several wraps rearward before snipping off the tag. Judging by the diminutive finger holes, the good doctor's tying scissors may have been liberated from his wife Janet's needlepoint kit, but they're still reasonably sharp and work quite well. Continue taking wraps rearward, all the way to about halfway between the hook point and the barb.
For the tail, a small clump of red squirrel tail or brown hackle fibers will do just fine. Measure so the tail is about a hook shank in length and then secure it to the top of the hook with a pinch wrap. Take wraps forward to bind the butts down on top of the hook. Snip the butts off close at about the 2/3rds point on the shank.
Gold wire apparently has a shelf life and will corrode and turn brittle over time, so I'm going to go with the modern stuff here, small UTC Ultra Wire. A 3-4 inch piece is all that's needed. Secure the wire to the near side of the hook and, as you take wraps rearward, push it to the far side.
Get hold of 3 or 4 peacock herls and snip the brittle tips off. Then tie the tips in at the base of the tail. Begin making wraps up the hook. If you leave your thread back by the herls it will help to keep them together as you wrap which will, in turn, create a fuller body on the fly. When you reach the 2/3rds point, secure the peacock with 2 or 3 good wraps of tying thread and then reach in with your scissors and snip the remainder off close.
I know Dr. Green wouldn't want me struggling with the old indian necks he used so, for the hackle, I'm going to go with a more modern equivalent. With the shiny side of the feather facing you, pull down the lower fibers on the stem and snip them off. With the less than desirable fibers removed, strip a few more from either side of the stem and then still more from the top of the stem. This extra little bit will help to insure the hackle wraps correctly. Keeping that orientation, tie in the hackle stem on the near side of the hook and bind it down with thread wraps all the way to the peacock herl. Get hold of the hackle and begin making open spiral wraps over top of the peacock toward the tail. When you reach the base of the tail, get hold of the gold wire and start making open spiral wraps forward. So what you've done here is counter wrapped the herl with hackle, and then counter wrapped the hackle with wire. Doing it this way really helps to strengthen what can be a fairly delicate fly. At the 2/3rds point, take wraps of tying thread over the wire to secure it. And then helicopter to break it off close. At this point you can either snip or break the excess hackle tip off.
Squirrel tail is used for the wing and it looks as though Dr. Green put his skills as a biologist to work and cleaned and cured this particular tail himself. Snip a small clump free from the hide and then strip out the short fibers from the butts. You can stack if you want but I really don't think it's necessary. A wing that extends about halfway down the tail just seems to look right. Bind the butts down really well, as they have a tendency to slip and spin. Once they're secured, lift the butts to vertical and snip them off close, being careful not to cut your tying thread in the process. Cover the butts with thread wraps and fill in any lumps and bumps.
The final ingredient is a single peacock herl, once again snip the brittle tip off before tie-in. Attach the herl to the near side of the hook and then make wraps to form a bushy little head on the fly. Secure the herl immediately behind the eye and then cut or break the remainder off close.
To me, a whip finish tool is one of the more personal items in a fly tier's kit. I don't know why I feel this way, I just do. And having Dr. Green's means a great deal. Do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish to secure the thread and build up a small head on the fly. And then snip or cut your tying thread free.
Collect a small drop of head cement on the tip of your dubbing needle and apply it to the thread wraps to ensure they don't come unraveled.
And that's the Picket Pin. You'll be amazed at how well they work. And thank you to the Green Family for the wonderful tools and materials, it's truly an honor to use them.