The split wing, Double Hackle and maybe some other stuff dun, AKA, The Hair Wing Adams

The fishing in Michigan during the early twenties was, to be blunt, crap. The once prominent grayling had buggered off, whilst the supplementary rainbows included to counter this decline, along with the area's resident brook trout population, dwindled through habitat destruction and over fishing. Around this time a new quarry was introduced, the brown trout. Yippee! Unfortunately this enthusiasm was short lived as the locals soon realised their new European visitors were a little less than enthusiastic about taking their flies.

Something had to be done, so during the summer of 1922 a Mr L Hallady sat down at his vice and created what is now known as the Adams, named after his great friend, Judge Charles F. Adams. Man and fish alike met Mr Hallady's suggestion with great enthusiasm, firmly establishing itself as one of the most popular flies of its generation.

Even now, some eighty-one years later, its pedigree in the world of fly-fishing is unparalleled. It manages to imitate everything, without actually looking like anything; catches when all else fails, is easy to tie and looks great.

What more can I say? The hair wing Adams, it does exactly what it says on the tin.

What you'll need to tie the 'I was invented because the yanks couldn't catch fish' fly.

Hook - Standard dry in all workable sizes

Thread - Black, brown, dark dun etc

Tail - Mixture of grizzly and brown hackle fibres

Body - Grey dubbing. Muskrat or rabbit under fur primarily, although anything that suits the colour requirements will do.

Wing - White tipped yearling deer, calf or buck tail. I know it's not the original, but I like this one better, and yes, it does work just as well. Incidentally the original had grizzly hackle tip wings.

Hackle - Grizzly and brown mixed.

Jungle vines

Vine 1 - Start the thread and wind down to the bend, before returning back up to the middle of the thorax area.

Here we go all the way from the land of the buffalo

Vine 2 - The split wing

Choose your wing material, I'm using white tipped yearling deer, and cut a good clump from the skin.

White tipped yearling deer

As with various other forms of hair the tips must be aligned before tying. Unfortunately a hard, slightly crinkled material such as this will not stack in the same manner as coarser hairs such as coastal deer or elk. You could try it, but unless the hair is particularly stiff and straight you'll probably be tapping from now until your next birthday before you see any results.

The hair must therefore be hand stacked.

Note: Hand stacking is not to be confused with hand shandy.

The correct and safe method of hand stacking simply involves gently holding the bunch whilst slipping out some of the longer hairs and re aligning them with the shorter ones. Repeat this procedure a few times until all the longer hairs are roughly in line. Once complete the short hairs from further down the bunch must be given a little care and attention. The procedure is exactly the same as before except this time, grip the bunch by its newly aligned tips, slide out the shorter fibres and re-align as normal. Again, repeat the procedure as many times as necessary to get the desired effect.

This will be different from tier to tier so it's up to you: a long, roughly aligned wing can look very sexy indeed, conversely, so can a thick, hedge like one. I tend to look for the middle ground. Too wispy defeats the whole object of having a wing in the first place, whereas too perfect will have resulted from an hour's intense hair shuffling.

clever hand stacking technique

Back to the tying (Big cheer!). Take your nice new wing and line it up alongside the shank. The wing should be at least double in width that the hook gape is high, at *least*!


Around this time a couple of months ago I would have suggested tying in a hard hair wing by simply holding it in place whilst applying wrap after wrap of thread to secure. By doing it this way you'll notice very quickly that it takes a substantial number of heavy thread wraps to hold a bunch of hard hair in place on top of the hook shank. A less dense hair will fold and crush down with thread pressure (flare), which you'll have noticed whilst tying flies like the elk hair caddis. This reduces the number of thread wraps needed as the hair flattens and beds down on the hook. A solid, hard hair will not behave in this manner and is therefore more susceptible to movement.

The trick I'm going to suggest to remedy this is the hair loop. I saw this primarily in an article a couple of months back on an American website, but I didn't start using it until I saw it again as part of Lars 'Viking' Bentsen's tips section. It isn't vital, not many people use it for a wing that is going to be propped up and split anyway, but it takes no extra time and is a nice little manoeuvre that will help keep the bunch of hair on top of the shank as it is being tied down. Incidentally, whilst not being quite so essential for patterns such as the EH caddis, it is worth including on any hair winged pattern as it does make the tying a little easier and the fly a little more secure.

The Hair loop

Whilst holding your wing in place, slightly above the shank, take the thread over and around the bunch of hair, encircling it once, and then back down the other side of the hook shank. To clarify, what you are effectively doing is going over the hair as you would to tie in a standard wing, but instead of going down the other side of the shank you miss it and come back underneath the hair. From this position you go back over the hair for a second wrap, but this time you include the shank. Now just hold the hair in position and gradually tighten down, securing the bunch to the top of the hook. To finish take another few wraps (about 5 or 6) backwards over the whole lot to fix in place.

Tremendous artwork skills - that's what it takes to be a Sexyloops flytyer

Once satisfied that the hair is secure, hold up the wing and take several wraps in front to make it stand proud.

A clear ability to demonstrate any flytying technique with diagrams

The figure of eight

To divide and complete the wing a method called the figure of eight loop must be employed. This is a simple method that is used for a variety of fly tying methods such as splitting things and so on (detailed as ever).

Start with the thread hanging behind the wing on the far side of the shank (if you tie clock wise). Now separate the wing into two equal parts and whilst holding the bunch nearest to you, take the thread underneath the shank, diagonally towards the eye, up between the bunches and back to where the thread was previously hanging. Now take the thread under the shank, this time straight towards you and cross the wing in the opposite direction. The thread should now be hanging in front of the wing on the far side of the hook shank.

Ben says: By using my *tremendous artwork skills* I have finally captured the figure-of-8 flytying technique for the World. I don't think it's ever been done quite like this before.

From this position repeat the procedure about three times until the wing is neatly split into two equal bundles.

Dam busters


Vine 5 - one advantage of hair wings such as this is that the waste ends project back along the shank and can be sheared and used to create nice tapered underbodies. Simply trim the butts at a shallow enough angle so that the very longest remaining fibres extend up to the tail area of the fly. Now wind over the trimmed buts and voila! Le magnifico.

That's French that is.

I've been wondering about this vine thing...

Vine 6 - Tie in a tail of mixed grizzly and brown hackle fibres.

I'm sure it has some deeper significance

Vine 7 - Create a *fine* rope of dubbing (remember you already have a taper) and wind on stopping one third of a hook shank's distance from the eye.

Looking great - I hope yours looks this good at home (mine does)

Vine 8 -The multiple hackle

The multiple hackle is used for two reasons: increased buoyancy and colour variation. Doubling the hackle results in a denser, higher floating collar, which is especially useful in swift, choppy water and the second hackle offers endless colour variations that can prove both pleasing to the eye and very realistic from an imitation standpoint. Remember, most insects are not made of single colours see where I'm going? For example, a dark and light dun mix on your BWO looks far tastier than a standard medium.

How it's done

Take one brown hackle feather, strip off some of the base fibres for a tag, line it up against the body and apply one wrap of thread to secure. Now just do the same with the second (grizzly) hackle, before winding up the shank, firmly binding the two butts in place. The thread should now be hanging around 2mm back from the eye.

If you've sucessfully got this far then congratulations. Now for the hard bit.

Can you feel the tension building; this may be the defining moment of your life thus far.

Take hold of the second hackle you tied in, i.e. the grizzly one, and wind on up to the back of the wing. Now take hold of the wing, pull it back and make your first wrap in front. Make sure this wrap is as close and tight into the base of the wing as it is possible to be. Now just continue winding up to the eye and tie down. It is essential at this point that you don't snip off the waste, the fly isn't finished yet, if the hackle comes lose through one way or another the only thing you can do is start again. However, leave the tag in place and you can use it to simply re-wind, or grasp, before any major damage is done.

Hackle no1 in place

The second part of this procedure never fails to rack people off. It used to rack me off, and I didn't even know what racking off was. Needless to say it was a painful time. There is a simple trick to winding a double hackle. Firstly, if you attempt the diagonal crossing motion it won't work. Any conscious attempt at winding into the first hackle will fail, period. The trick is winding *through* the hackle, not *into* it. You must ignore the first one completely; it no longer exists. Just close your eyes and wind on as you would with any other dry. You do not need to do anything extra, the hackle will do the work for you. Once you are through the first turn you can bring that first hackle back into focus and continue winding on up to the eye.

Hackle no2 in place

Now simply tie down, before snipping off the waste and completing with a whip finish and coat of varnish.

The Adams - one of life's simple pleasures.


Further notes

This style of fly is an incredibly versatile one; you could literally fish with variations of this fly for the rest of your days in complete happiness. The obviously changeable things are body colour, hackle mix and wing material (elk is my favourite, what a surprise :-o). However, by delving a little deeper into the possibilities of the wing you may surprise yourself.

As discussed earlier, the primary purpose of the mixed hackle is to produce interesting, buggy, colour variations. So why stop there? Have a little fun with the wing too. You can mix hair to great effect, and I don't just mean with other hairs, my personal favourite is the hair/feather mix.

Why not have a go at an elk and partridge mix or a grouse and calf, or anything for that matter. I'll put up some pictures at later date, but for now just select say three hair winged flies that you either want to learn, or use already, and match the hair to a corresponding feather - something that will offer a little contrast.

Signing off

Plus, for one week only you can enjoy all the outstanding benefits of the Adams dry and B. Spinks hair wing on my new DVD, "finger skills, the way of the bobbin".

Order today and receive a free titanium coated 3- piece effigy of Paul and genuine made in China US FFF Master certificate.

Ben Spinks studies fishery science, "I have to complete 3 environmental survey reports, 2 netting operations, 4 exams and a seminar on lake restoration. This is insane, I only went to uni for sex, drugs, rock and roll and sex" and is our flytying moderator on the bulletin board. He also ties a mean fly... so what are you waiting for, ladies?

Return to whence you came
Return to home page