L'orange Lagopède

L'orange Lagopède

t.z. | Friday, 2 February 2018

L'orange Lagopède (no worries, I made up the name - so you can stop googling) .... There is a little story around this fly. The feather is from a Lagopus I "met" in northern Norway a few years ago. I always wanted to do something with these feathers, but didn't know quite what. As things progressed I have decided to make 2018 a wetfly year. North Country wets to be exact and add Scotsman W.C. Stewart's spiders into the mix as well.


I got the feathers in summer, which is rare as the Lagopus is not be hunted during the summer month. This is how I got those feathers anyway. It was summer, as previously mentioned. In summer it’s all eat, sleep fish … and some. I got totally sucked in and even more addicted. I love Scandinavian summers, specifically the Norwegian summer is my favourite day of the year …. is one of the more cynic jokes about the weather here, but when it’s right, it’s paradise.

 I was fishing in Majavatn when I was invited by Per Ivar Skåle to fish Skålestrømmen, which is on the other side of the mountains from where I was. You know you are in different art of the world when the villages, waters and people share the same name. To come over the mountains I had to follow a 150km long, partly very small one lane road. It is an amazing scenery along the way. The weather was superb and I really enjoyed the trip. I arrived at my campground quite late and pitch te traditional reindeerherders tent I had at that time. The Sami call it Lavvo. After I had done that and fixed my camp, I reached for my rod.

My rod my one and only rod at that time. It was a 7,6ft bamboo rod for a 5wt line …. Well, I could not find it as it had magically disappeared.

I was crushed. It dawned on me that I must have left it on the other side of the mountains. I had not other choice than to drive back 3 hours, while constantly scanning the side of the road for the rod. Just as I arrived by the boat-ramp where I previously had packed the car, I jumped out l searched every square meter of the area … nothing. 

I then walked several kilometres each side of the highway. Nothing.

Crushed and devastated I gave up around 4am and found myself a place to crash. After 3 hours of all to light sleep the sunlight woke me up. I was tired and had almost given up hope but decided to give it another shot … and bingo. The impossible … the rod was lying right by the highway, just a few inches where countless big trucks had rushed by the last 16 hours since it was lying there. A small wonder. I put the rod on my dashboard so I could see it and drove back over the mountains to my campsite in Lierne.

The trip back was wonderful. Bright sunlight and blue sky with a scenery to match. I was more like flying back than driving. Looking at my treasure on the dashboard I could not believe my luck. 

Not all were that lucky that day. The Lagopus (it´s a wild bird of the chicken family - brown in summer and white in winter) crossing the road was not having a good day at all. It turned out to be her last. She made a short and fatal acquaintance with the front grill of my car, a red Renault Kangoo formerly servicing in the Norwegian Postal service. 

The french vehicle was definitely stronger than the bird of the grouse subfamily. The chicken just exploded, in a way. I first thought I had driven through a pillow. Feathers snowing down slowly in a way too peaceful a manner. I finally stopped about 30 meters later and got out of the car to investigate the scene. I really want to spare you the bloody and brutal details, but can’t stop mentioning that I ended up with loads of tying material and a super nice dinner. Lagopus filet is some of the most delicious meat you can have. My car had performed a butchers job the french makers would have been proud of of. The bird was sort of unharmed, but cut straight off it’s feet and the chest skin blown off. The breast fillets just needed to be taken out and the feathers saved in a bag.


So now you know how I got this feathers. I hope the other materials are easier to get hold of. To commence the NC wets project I had ordered and organised more "stuff" (hello Mr. Carlin) and things keep coming in. The first little package had 4 spools of Pearsall's Gossamer silk in burnt orange. It's getting difficult to obtain, so I'm  very happy I got hold of a few spools. The macro picture shows clearly why this silk is such a supreme body material for small flies

Next was to find a hook that matches the a little longer fibres of the Lagopus feathers. Many years ago I was given some original Partridge K12 hooks from Christian Mohr. He was one of my early mentors and has taught me a lot about fly tying. These hooks aren't barbless, but that's OK in this case. They have a very nice dark finish and the proportions are perfect.

The fly is tied like a traditional spider the way I learned it from Mike Connor. He showed me to tie the tip of the feather in first. The trick is to not lay a therad base. The feather is fixed with the silk right from the beginning. It helps to wax the thread with cobblers wax. Do not use the modern sticky wax. It might change the colour of the silk. 

The technique is not unlike holding chopsticks, where thump, index and middle finger of the same hand are used. You start by holding the prepped feather with the stem pointing forwards over the eye. Prepping means that one strips away all unwanted fibres and only has left what should go on the fly. The pattern shown is heavily dressed by the way. Spiders often have much less hackle. I just found that this flies proportions called for more hackle as this well could work as an emerger. Here the hackle forms more of a bubble round the body. Certainly a more modern, but hopefully not too wrong approach to this type of fly. Let's see what the fish say next season.  

OK, back to the dressing. With thumb and forefinger the feather's tip is held against the hook just behind the eye. While holding feather and hook, the silk is than held in between the index finger and the middle-finger (of the same hand). Shoud you find this to uncomfortable or trickky you can wind the thread around your middle finger's last segment and than take care of the feather.

Then take the thread and fix the feather onto the hook and continue with touching wraps until reaching the spot opposite the hook point. Snip of waste somewhere in between. Wind again forward to about 4 to 5 turns short of where the hackle feather is tied in. Apply a small amount of dubbing, I chose olive hare mixed with tad bit of siman peacock dubbing, and wind on the the dubbed thread towards the feather. Clean the excess dubbing off the thread wna dbirng it in front of the hackle.

Pinch the root of the feather in your hackel pliers and wind the feather around the hook stem. 3 to 4 turn is plenty. Than fix the stem with your silk and whip fnish. All left to do is to snipp off the remains and apply a tiny drop of varnish.

Bon apétit ... L'orange Lagopède


L'orange Lagopède 2 copy  

picture by Al Pyke 

Thomas Züllich, or - “t.z.” as most call him - is a German flyfisher & flytier living in Norway. His flydressing is based on old traditions as well as very modern and innovative methods of creating flies. 

Thomas is the author of "Fly Tying - Modern Classics for Trout and Grayling which is availbale on iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1333532292

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