Traditional Tie With A Modern Style: Decoteau's Blue-Eared Bream
Let's admit it: We all love looking at beautiful, fully dressed fly patterns. Even more we love the heritage, the folklore and the minds behind well-developed, masterful pieces of tying art.
All too often, traditionally inspired tiers don't receive credit for the amount of effort that goes into completing a single and effective fly. If you could only witness the excitement and appreciation an angler feels after landing a fish on classic fly pattern, you'd realize it's the type of gratification many anglers may never feel in a lifetime.
In recent years I had the pleasure of witnessing the artwork and fly tying of Michael Decoteau. As a young man in Belfast, Maine, Michael learned the art and traditions of tying classic feather-wing streamers from his father. After spending several years tying flies and fishing the ponds, lakes and rivers of Western Maine, Michael soon found his calling and began his career in the fly-fishing industry with L.L. Bean, Patagonia and SS Flies.
Over the past year, Decoteau relocated from Maine to Ohio, and in so doing has inspired many classical, yet modern-style flies that catch everything from smallmouth and largemouth bass to steelhead, trout and salmon throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest.
I'll be the first to tell you that I'm not a classical fly tier. I'm more into new-age synthetic materials – lots of flash and lots of movement. But like some of you, I'm inspired by the traditional flies of the past.
The fly-pattern tutorial below is inspiring, and really gives us a sense of appreciation for all the classic fly tiers out there. Just knowing that fly designs such as this are still being created confirms that fly tying's alive and well.
For more information on Michael Decoteau's flies and artwork, please visit RedSpotFly at Facebook.com/redspotfly.
Thread: 6/0 White Uni-Thread
Rear hook: Size 8 Mustad 3366
Front hook: Size 4 Gamakatsu B10S
Tail: Green golden-pheasant body feather, flanked by yellow golden-pheasant rump feather
Connection: 19-Strand .018 Beadalon, three Size E rootbeer-color beads
Body: Gold-color yarn, grizzly-dyed-yellow schlappen, rainbow SF Blend, pale-orange bucktail, pale-green bucktail, olive bucktail, orange bucktail
Shoulder: Orange hen saddle, ringneck-pheasant body feather, Lady Amherst body feather
Topping: Grizzly-dyed-olive cape feathers, peacock herl
Cheek: Jungle cock
Step 1: With the size 8 Mustad 3366 in the vise, start the thread just behind the eye and tie in two iridescent green golden-pheasant body feathers (one on either side of the shank) to create a triangular-shaped tail. Tail should not be taller than 3/4".
Step 2: Select two small, yellow body feathers from a golden-pheasant skin and tie them in so they flank the iridescent green feathers. Whip finish and apply lacquer to the head (or Zap-A-Gap for faster drying time).
Step 3: Remove the hook from the vise and clip the business end of the 3366 to leave only the shank. Insert the B10S into the vise and create the connection point as shown above, with the Beadalon and beads. Be sure to leave the Beadalon loop open enough so that it doesn't limit the action of the tail. Leave plenty of space from the front of the thread wraps to the eye for the bucktail portion of the body.
Step 4: Tie in the gold-color yarn and the grizzly-dyed-yellow schlappen (you can also tie in copper wire at this point to reverse wrap over the body for added durability). Advance the tying thread and leave about 3/8"-plus before the eye of the hook. Wrap the yarn forward and tie off and trim the tag end. Fold and palmer the schlappen forward and tie off and trim the stem.
Step 5: Center-tie a small bunch of rainbow-color SF Blend. Make sure this material is spread all the way around the hook shank.
Step 6: Now comes the hollow-tied portion of the fly. If you're new to hollow tying, you may need to leave more room between the schlappen and the eye for the bunches of bucktail that'll be applied. Begin first with a small bunch of pale-orange bucktail tied forward.
Step 7: Push the bucktail back toward the rear of the fly and pull the thread through the fibers toward the front of the bunch. Take several wraps ahead of the bucktail (not on top of) to create a "thread dam." This will keep the hairs pushed back, but still open enough to give the fly the appearance of bulk.
Step 8: Repeat step 7 with pale-green bucktail.
Step 9: Tie in a small bunch of olive bucktail on top of the shank and a small bunch of orange bucktail on the bottom of the shank, deceiver style (not hollow-tied).
Step 10: The photo above illustrates how to build the shoulder. Use a bonding agent, like Anglers Corner Wet Cement, to glue the parts of the shoulder together (as in the Carrie Stevens method). On the left is the completed shoulder. From the jungle cock feather on the left to the orange hen saddle on the right, each feather is glued on top of the next, in order, to create the shoulder. You'll need to make a pair of shoulders – one for each side of the fly.
Step 11: Tie in the completed shoulders on each side of the fly. Select two grizzly-dyed-olive cape feathers for the first part of the topping and tie those in at the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock positions on the hook shank. This will leave room for the peacock herl to be tied in at the 12 o'clock position.
Step 12: Tie in five or six strands of peacock herl taken from a peacock tailfeather. Color the heads (at the head of the fly and the tail section of the fly) with Prismacolor markers or Sharpies. Apply lacquer or Zap-A-Gap to the head.