The Palmered Wet

So what is the palmered wet?

A palmered wet is a special thing, mystical almost.

I was going to deal with a famous old palmered wet for this weeks fly, in fact it had the possibility of being one of the best ever, groundbreaking, orgasmic even. However, I have decided to keep my excitement bottled up for now, saving it for the exciting climax of the beginner's section. I won't give too much away; lets just say you'll need a wet suit and a mining helmet.

Back to the point.

To palmer a fly is to employ a method of hackling whereby the feather is wound up (or down) the entire body of the fly. Fished dry this adds buoyancy and surface impression, when sunk the additional mobility comes into play, and if dapping is your cup of tea, then their level of wind resistance is near perfect. They can be tied either winged or wingless and can imitate a wide range of invertebrate species.

The palmered wets principle (imitatively) is no different to that of the spider or winged wet. Although flies such as this are generally more associated with loch style fishing than any previously discussed methods. A general selection of patterns most commonly related to this style would include examples such as Bumbles, Dabblers, Invictas and Zulus, to name but a few.

So what about this week, well if sexy red holographic tinsel is your thing then stick around. It is *the* killer of the new millennium (this week anyway). In fact it is so much of a killer I'm not even going to call it anything. It would be far too dangerous.

They can be altered to suit many situations but are at their best during still water midge hatches where they can be adapted in colour and size throughout the year to match seasonal variations. A benefit of a fly such as this is that isn't limited by situation, they can be fished in any way you please on both lake and river, whether it be in a team of three on the crest of a wave, or a single teaser probing marginal feeding lanes.

Simply effective in the truest sense of the word.

What you'll need

  • Hook - Any wet or dry fly hook in sizes 20 to 12.
  • Thread - black power silk on his occasion, suit the thread to the fly colour.
  • Body - Peacock herl
  • Under rib - Medium red holographic tinsel, fine for smaller flies. Red, black and green are also available for variations.
  • Over rib - Fine black thread or fine clear mono.
  • Hackle - Medium blue cock, again this is a matter for experimentation, I've had more success using the one I'm tying today with either red or green tinsel than any other variations thus far. However, any number of other colours may work just as well so have a play with it. Hen or cock can be used, although in the case of the latter stay away from genetics, the fibres are too stiff and dry fly like. Cheap and cheerful Indian or Chinese capes work fine; look for soft webby fibres to achieve the best results. Hen will obviously provide more in the way of webby hackles, but I like to tie this fly with cock, soft as I can find (now there's a sentence that could have gone horribly wrong). I like to think of this fly as a wet and three quarters, the cock hackle gives it that little extra floatability that keeps it in the meniscus, or as close to a possible.

The stairs

Step one

Start the thread and wind down to the bend. Tie in a good length of fine black tying thread or mono for the over rib, followed by an equally ample length of red holographic tinsel. Make a point of always selecting significantly more than you need. Winding on a short, stubby tag end is a pain beyond belief. Don't faff about, good flies result in more waste on the bench than materials on the hook. Fact.

Next, select three pieces of peacock herl (using more and less for larger and smaller hook sizes) and tie in by the tips.


Step two

Now select an appropriate hackle feather, i.e. one with barbs of approximately one and a half to one and a third times the gape width. To prepare the feather take hold of the very tip with thumb and forefinger, now with your other hand gently manipulate the fibres by running your fingers from tip to butt, causing them to point out at right angles from the central quill. As with previous hackles this is simply to make winding slightly easier by minimising the chances of trapped barbs.

Tie in the hackle at the tip, facing forward. Use the gap in between the backward and forward facing barbs as an attachment point.

To finish the cunningly titled "step two", wind over the butts of all four items stopping a couple of millimetres short of the eye, trimming off any additional waste in the process.


Step three

Take hold of the peacock herl, give it a little twist and wind forward in neat touching turns. Peacock herl is a wonderful material, but being rather fragile has a nasty habit of snapping during the most uncomfortable of moments. Twisting forms a semi-round cross section that is far stronger, easier to wind and provides a slightly bushier appearance. If you like that kind of thing.

Snip off the waste and begin winding on the tinsel in open spiralling turns up to the eye. In this case the tinsel is fairly wide so five turns are all that is needed, any more and the herl underbody becomes pointless. Tie down just behind the eye and snip off the waste


Step four

With the hackle facing forwards, wind up to the eye following the herl segments. Do not wind over the tinsel; it should remain firmly in view between the herl/hackle. To finish, tie down and snip off the waste.

Step five

Take hold of the thread or mono rib and wind it through the hackle in open turns, tying off at the eye. If using a coloured thread rib I follow the hackle and herl segments, it simply looks neater than criss-crossing over the tinsel. With a fine, *clear*, mono on the other hand you can criss-cross the hackle, or follow the tinsel, without any *major* aesthetic differences - If your concerned with such things that is (fish generally aren't). Mono is also more robust than most threads and will generally produce a slightly more durable end product. However, if you can get it, power silk tying thread is very tough, has a 4lb breaking strain (allegedly), is finer than comparable monos, and can produce a trimmer end result (in my opinion).

Before anybody jumps in, I know following the hackle rather than criss-crossing it can be considered less secure (arguably). Personally, I've never had any flies fall apart either way, but if you want to be padlock sure then use the mono wound in the opposite direction to the hackle (a la criss-crossed).

Depends how much of a perfectionist you are, have a go at both and see what you think.

Finally, whip finish and varnish to complete.


Further notes

Flies such as this can be tied in a number of ways. To some mine may seem normal, whilst to others it may seem positively backwards.

A more common method would have involved tying in the hackle at the head of the fly, winding it backwards and then winding a rib through the hackle in the opposite direction, thus trapping it in place.

For those who wind the hackle from the back, ignoring the secondary rib altogether and simply winding the tinsel through the hackle rather than underneath it may seem more appropriate. Whilst others might wind back through the hackle upon completion to whip finish at the bend.

Regarding the first point. I have never really liked winding the hackle front to back. It's not particularly awkward, it just feels weird, plus, the tip does come loose occasionally. The fly won't fall apart because of this; it just really bugs me to hell.

Secondly, winding fairly wide tinsel through a hackle is tricky at the best of times; in fact I'd go so far as to say it is infuriating. Honestly, if trapped barbs are the bain of your life stay away. Fine tinsels can be ok, give it a go, but as for the wider varieties don't even bother, you'll have more luck skydiving over Baghdad.

Whilst the majority of flies use the rib for both aesthetic value and security, in this case the responsibility is shared, tinsel for the former, thread for the latter. If on the other hand I were using a wire instead of tinsel the roles would be combined, as wire, like thread, is very much easier to wind through hackle than tinsel.

Finally, winding back through the hackle to whip finish at the bend is another tricky little manoeuvre I'm not too keen on, not getting predictable yet am I? Ok, the hackle you have just tied in will be pointing backwards to some degree, there will also be those dodgy little buggers that refused to stand to attention upon the first turn. To make matters worse you will also have the hook point to contend with. Now does a finish whip seem sensible given the situation? errrm

You would think winding backwards and whip finishing at the bend would be quicker, not so. If you're very good at it then they maybe, but generally, no. It is far easier to just wind a piece of thread through the hackle up to the eye and finish.

Was it good for you?

Well this is the end of wet flies, what can I say? It's been emotional.

Note well: no sheep or virgins were sacrificed in this article.


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?

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