Extended Body Mayflies

Extended Body Mayflies

Photo: Ted Fauceglia

Shortly after I moved to southcentral Pennsylvania I became fascinated with the large Drake (brown, yellow, and green) and Hexagenia extended-body mayflies that I found on many of the region's trout and bass rivers. I was impressed with the sheer numbers of these insects and the fact that the area's fish refused my large Wulff and deer-hair-winged patterns that worked on my previous home waters in northern New York.

Many of southcentral Pennsylvania's waters are calmer and smoother than those in northern New York — the Ausable River, for example — and the fish get a good look at an insect as it drifts overhead. The fish see a detailed profile, one that impressionistic attractor Wulff-style patterns don't provide.

At first, I modified my "New York" patterns, but the fish weren't interested. I needed a dry fly with better definition, a general pattern that could represent the dominant characteristic of the large mayflies — the abdomen. This quickly led to a variety of extended-body patterns, which I had read about but never had the need to learn to tie.

Most of the established extended-body patterns appeared complicated and didn't appeal to me for one reason or another. They either didn't float, cast, or feel the way I wanted. So I tried various methods of tying extended-body flies until I found one that worked.

The pattern I settled on uses some of the best qualities of my Catskill-style flies — the wings and the hackle — tied in front of an extended single- or multiple-colored deer-hair body. The fly sits deep in the surface film, giving the fish a good look at the realistic fly body, but still floats well because of the Catskill-style front end. It's a compromised blend of the fully-developed dun and the emerger.

It takes from 10 to 12 minutes to tie one fly, but when tied right, it holds its shape even after catching several fish. I developed six different extended-body flies to match the naturals I found in the area's water. I'm sure this tying style can be used to imitate other naturals.

Step 14

14. Whip-finish, trim any messy hairs, and put the body aside to dry. I usually make several dozen bodies at a time, then complete those flies after they dry. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 13

13. Bend the body of the fly slightly upward and apply Flexament to give the body a realistic mayfly curve. The Flexament helps maintain the curvature, secures the tying thread to the body, and makes the fly durable. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 12

12. Reverse the direction of the tying thread and retrace the path back to the beginning of the extended body. (Do not trim the tips of the hair bundles.) This method of wrapping puts the crosses or Xs under the body of the fly. Since the tying thread is close to the same color as the underside of the body, the crosses will be hidden. The segmentation will appear natural to you and the fish. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 11

11. Bring the tying thread behind the bend of the hook and continue to wrap the thread around the hair bundles. This motion will take some practice to do easily. During this process, your left hand should slide slowly toward the end of the hair bundles as the wraps continue with neat, even spacing. The last wrap should be 2mm or 3mm from the tips. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 10

9. and 10. Position the tail fibers in the center of the hair bundle and re-establish the backward tension on the tips of the body hair with your left hand. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 9

9. and 10. Position the tail fibers in the center of the hair bundle and re-establish the backward tension on the tips of the body hair with your left hand. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 8

8. Make three or four wraps over the hair bundles and the hook shank until you reach the hook bend. Space the wraps evenly and neatly to simulate the segmentation of the insect body. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 7

7. For the next step, position the head of the vise upward as much as possible. This will provide the room needed to wrap the body after it is extended beyond the hook bend. Place the thumb and index finger of your left hand (vice-versa for left-handers) underneath the forward end of the hook and tips of the hair bundles. With one motion, bring your thumb and index finger up and over the hook, grasping the hair bundles in the process. The hair bundles should be bent backward over the bend of the hook. Maintain backward tension on the tips of the hair bundles with your left hand. Use the thumbnail on your right hand to press the bundles together. This compresses the body and makes it easier to wrap. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 6

6. Tie in two fibers of moose mane directly behind the hair, on top of the covered butts. Secure only the very end of the butts of the tail fibers so the fibers can be positioned in the center of the extended body as it is formed. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 5

5. Secure the second bundle the same way you did the first, but don't post it. Note: The thickness of each hair bundle will vary, depending on the insect being imitated. The coloration of the naturals varies such that sometimes the color on the top of the body is the dominant color and other times the color underneath dominates. In the case of the Brown and Yellow Drakes, the body is mostly a single color and only one bundle is needed. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 4

4. Using different-colored hair, prepare a second bundle in the same way you did the first. This will be the underside of the fly body. Tie this bundle in directly over the first with the tips extending about 5mm beyond the first bundle's tips. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 3

3. Trim the butts in a tapered fashion and cover them with thread wraps. Post the bundle of hair as if posting a parachute hackle. This will keep it from spreading around the next bundle of hair and keep it on top of the body. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 2

2. Secure the hair first with several loose wraps (this helps keep the material on top of the hook shank), and then apply steady, even pressure to the thread to tighten the wraps. The pressure will cause the bundle of hair to flare (that's good). Secure the bundle further with several tight wraps until the bunch will not roll. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Step 1

1. Secure the thread to the hook 1/3 of the shank length behind the eye. Wrap thread to the bend, then back to the 1/3 mark. Cut a bundle of colored deer body hair for the back or top of the multicolored, extended body. (Use hair from the side of the animal, which is softer and more hollow than other parts.) Clean the underfur from the butts of the deer hair and use a hair stacker to align the tips. Remove the hair from the stacker with your left hand and measure the length of hair extending beyond your finger tips. Keep the length of this bundle to 17mm or 18mm for the bigger Coffin Fly, Green Drake, and the big Brown Hex. The total length of these big flies can reach 30mm — which will be achieved in the next steps. By maintaining the first bundle of deer hair around 17mm or 18mm, the fly should not extend beyond 30mm. Note: For the smaller Brown and Yellow Drakes, which are rarely larger than 20mm, I use a single-colored body with only one bundle of hair that I adjust accordingly for thickness. For these flies, I try to maintain the length of hair around 10mm to 12mm. Tie the first bundle of hair on the hook right where the tying thread was left, with the tips of the hair extending over the hook eye. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Drying Flies

To match a Hex, Drake, or other large mayfly, your fly must suggest the profile of the natural's long abdomen. The author ties several extended-bodies before finishing the flies with Catskill-style wings and hackles. Photo: David J. Siegfried

Improving Your Skills

For the rest of the fly, I employ typical Catskill-style wings made of duck flank feathers and hackles. The insects have large wings, and the pattern's wings should be longer than the conventional 3/4 length of the hook shank and have more bulk. I use two flank feathers for each set of wings to make them more pronounced. The longer, heavier wings are more than offset by the extended body, so the balance of the fly is not compromised.

Dub the front half of the hook shank with a dubbing that matches the color of the body (bottom color). The dubbing makes the diameter of the front half match more closely the diameter of the extended body.

To make the wings, strip away the fuzzy material at the bottom of the feather and cut the center stem out of the tip of the feather. Lay the two feathers over each other with their tips evenly aligned (concaved). Fold the feathers in half. The length of the wings should be a little longer than the entire hook shank. Secure the feathers in the center of the dubbed area on the front half of the hook. Add a little more dubbing in front of the wings to stand them up. Use your right thumbnail to press the wing bundle back over the dubbing and body. If done right, the body will separate the feather bundle into wings of equal size.

Use the tying thread to separate the wings with figure-eight wraps and then post each wing separately. By doing so, the wings can be left standing upright in a classical dun position, or you can easily reposition them onstream to a flat, spent-spinner angle.

Tie the hackles in behind the wings and wrap forward in a typical Catskill manner. Tie off the hackles and form a neat tapered head. Whip-finish and apply Flexament to the head.

Craig Hull works at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant. He lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

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