The Autumn Splendor was developed by Tim Heng, a long time guide in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado. I’ve taken considerable liberties in terms of materials and colors, as compared to Tim’s original pattern, but I think I’ve stayed fairly true to his autumnal theme.
I’m going to use a Dai-Riki #700 streamer hook in a size 8. Start by mashing the barb. Get hold of a 4.5 mm gold cone head, I believe the original recipe called for copper. Insert the hook point into the cone, small hole first and slide it around to the hook eye. Then, get the hook and cone assembly firmly secured in your tying vise.
To add weight and stabilize the head, .02 lead-free wire works well. Get the wire started on the hook shank and begin making touching wraps forward. Although 16 turns may sound like a lot, you’ll see in a moment when the wraps are compressed, it really isn’t. Helicopter to break the wire off close. Push the wraps up into the cone to pin it against the hook eye and clean up the end of the wrap with your thumbnail.
This isn’t an especially delicate pattern so heavier 140 Denier thread is a good choice. I’m using yellow to blend in with the body color of the fly. Start your thread on the hook shank immediately behind the wire and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Advance the thread up and over top of the wire and take thread wraps back and forth to bind it down really well.
For the tail, I’m going to use a single yellow marabou plume. The original recipe called for 2 in rusty brown. Strip the lower, shorter, off-colored fibers free from the stem and then lightly dampen the feather to make it more manageable. Measure to form a tail about a full hook in length and transfer that measurement rearward to above the hook barb. Get hold of the feather immediately behind the wire wraps and snip it off right there. Doing this helps to level the transition down from the wire. Pulling slightly upward on the tail, take thread wraps to anchor the marabou to the top of the hook shank, all the way back to the start of the bend. Then take a few open wraps forward up the shank.
Snip 2 or 3 strands of gold Krystal flash free from the hank. I think the original pattern called for copper. At their midpoint, fold the strands around your tying thread and take wraps to secure them to the shank, all the way back to the base of the tail. Snip the excess off so the strands and tail are roughly the same length.
In a somewhat wild departure from the original pattern, I’ve chosen yellow pearl chenille, which is similar to Estaz for the body of the fly, 5-6 inches should be enough. Strip off some of the material to expose a bit of the string core. Anchor the string to the hook at the base of the tail and then take thread wraps forward to 1/3 of the way up the hook shank.
Medium sized round rubber legs are used to add motion to the fly. I like to leave 2 strands stuck together. Snip 2 equal segments a little longer than a full hook in length. Pick up one of the segments and lay it diagonally across the top of the hook. Carefully take cross wraps to get the strands firmly secured perpendicular to the shank. They should also be level with the surface of your tying bench. Advance the thread forward another third, pick up the 2nd rubber leg segment and repeat the same tie-in procedure as before. Once you have both sets of rubber legs secured and correctly aligned, advance your tying thread forward to the back edge of the cone.
Get hold of the chenille and, right at the base of the tail, begin making slightly open wraps forward, up the hook shank. You’ll need to do a bit of navigating in order to keep the chenille from pushing the rubber legs out of whack. At least 4 are easier to get around than 8. When you reach the cone, anchor the chenille with a few tight wraps of tying thread and then snip the small amount of excess off close.
Although the original recipe called for 2 webby saddle hackles, an orange grizzly and a yellow grizzly, I’m going to go with just a single orange grizzly. Trim the base of the hackle to leave a small triangular tie-in anchor. Lay the anchor against the near side of the hook at the back edge of the cone and take thread wraps to lock it down. Weave your thread through the chenille fibers and around the rubber legs all the way back to the base of the tail. While coaxing the hackle fibers rearward, begin taking wraps with the feather. Try to get 2 full wraps right up by the cone and then start angling back and make open spiral wraps down the hook shank, dodging the rubber legs and embedding the hackle in the chenille as you go. When you reach the base of the tail, take 2 or 3 good, firm wraps of tying thread to secure the hackle tip. You can then let go of it and, once again, advance your thread forward cross wrapping the hackle stem as you go. A little zig-zagging is all it usually takes to keep from pinning down materials along the way.
When you get to the back edge of the cone, secure your tying thread with a 4 or 5 turn whip finish and then snip or cut the thread off close. Carefully reach in with the tips of your scissors and trim away the excess hackle tip.
Although the fly looks pretty good right now, there are still a few more details to take care of. Pull up and snap a few times to separate the co-joined Siamese rubber legs. This should turn 4 strands into 8. If they look too long or uneven, now’s the time to give them a little trim. Finally, apply your favorite head cement down over the back edge of the cone so it seeps into the thread wraps and whip finish, adding to the fly’s durability.
You can look up the original recipe for this pattern online and tie it just as Mr. Heng did, or maybe go with the materials you have on hand and come up with your own custom version of the Autumn Splendor.