Campeche Tarpon

April 2019

Patagonia Rainbow

January 2020

Florida Largemouth Bass

April 2020

The Balsam Mountain Yellowhammer

The Yellowhammer is a historic fly pattern that originates in the Great Smokey Mountains. Available references document that the pattern has been tied both dry and wet and in many variations of both. A common characteristicyou will find among all variations of the pattern though, is that all were historically tied with a split half of the yellow and black flight primary feather of the yellow-shafted flicker. The bird is a relatively large woodpecker common to the hardwood forests of the Smokeys that the locals long ago nicknamed the “Yellowhammer”, thus the pattern name. The flicker is a migratory bird, of course, and is protected from any form of “take”, including using its feathers for fly tying, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. That law was enacted in 1918 to protect migratory birds from unregulated take. Therefore, it would be a violation of federal law to tie the patter with the original material. Alternative materials do exist, and the “Balsam Mountain Yellowhammer” is a modern variation that I designed as a “Signature Pattern” for the “Balsam Mountain Preserve” near Silva, North Carolina. The pattern is tied with readily available materials that are legal to posess and use for fly tying. Most importainly, this pattern is just as effective for taking fish as its historic relatives. I’ve fished the pattern successfully in theSmokeys, Rocky Mountains and Sierras for trout,and our southern bream will certainly rise to take it on the surface,especially in the spring. It is an easy pattern to tie but it also is one that incorporates a number of tying techniques that can be applied to many other patterns, whether dry or wet. It is easy pattern to see on the surface with its predominantly yellow appearance.

  • Hook: Daiichi 1110 in size 10-16
  • Thread: Yellow 6/0 or Gudebrod 8/0
  • Wing: Lemon wood duck flank feather
  • Tail: Two moose hairs
  • Body: Peacock herl
  • Head: Whiting Farmsyellow or golden straw rooster saddle or cape

Tie the Balsam Mountain Yellowhammer as Follows:

1. Bend the barb down as the hook is placed in the vise and start the thread at mid-shank with a reverse jam knot. Wrap the thread to eye, counter spinning the thread to flatten and lay each thread wrap side-by-side or touching; don’t overlap thread wraps to maintain a flat thread base. Wrap thread 2/3 back from eye towards tie-in point of thread or mid-shank. The thread will hang 1/3 of shank back from the eye as the tie-in point for the wing. I find laying the initial thread base on half the hook shank allows me to visually judge proportions and the tie-in point for the wing more accurately.

2. Select a lemon colored wood duck flank feather. Hold feather face down and by base of shaft with left thumb and opposing middle finger. Grasp feather barb tips between right thumb and middle finger. All barb tips being held by right fingers should be approximately the same length. Stroke loose barbs towards base of the feather shaft in left fingers while holding barb tips between right fingers. Strip all loose barbs from shaft, leaving only the barbs of the feather tip of same length. Hold shaft in left fingers and stroke barbs forward into a round bunch with right fingers.Hold bunch between left fingers on top of hook shank at tie-in point, with tips equal to shank length extending forward and over the eye, and tie-in where thread hangs in step 1. Hold bunch on top of shank, make two thread wraps side-by-side and towards hook bend and pull thread up to tighten hair bunch down on top of shank. Continue thread wraps half way towards hook bend, tightening thread upward with each wrap. Cut remaining base of feather and wrap thread, always side-by-side to keep thread base flat, to tie-in point of wing, wrap thread in front of wing to eye and back to wing, holding wing upward to force thread wraps under front of wing base to hold wing upward. Make one thread wrap behind wings and leave thread hanging.

3. Post and divide the feather barb wing equally by pushing thumb nail at front of wing base towards rear of hook. Rock thumb nail slightly from side-to-side and the barbs will separate perfectly into two equal portions on each side of hook. Make five figure eights to post and separate wings and finish with thread wrap behind wing bases. Make three thread wraps around far wing base and finish with thread behind wing to finish posting the far wing. Make three thread wraps around base of near wing, finishing with thread behind wing base to finish posting wings. Wrap thread to hook bend, above barb, and leave hanging.

4. Select two moose hairs for split tail and even tips. Tail should be approximately twice shank length. Hold hair between thumb and opposing finger of left hand, and tie in tail on top of shank. Hold tail up to keep on top of shank and wrap thread forward to butt ends of wing material and back to tie-in point of tail. Make one thread wrap behind tie-in point and tighten upward. This will cause the two hairs to split. Make another wrap under tail to hold up slightly and make one wrap over tail at tie-in point. Leave thread hanging at hook bend.

5. Select on peacock herl barb and tie in under the hook shank at tie-in point of tail. Warp herl forward as abdomen in side-by-side or touching turns to half- way point on shank, just forward of where tail and wing butts touch. Tie off herl on underside of hook shank by wrapping thread forward to base of wings and back to tie-in point of herl (i.e. front of abdomen). Leave thread hanging at front of abdomen.

6. Select Whiting rooster hackle appropriate for size 14 hook (approximately 1.5 gap width). Remove barbs from approximately 1/8 inch of feather shaft, hold hackle at 90 degree angle to shaft on underside of shank at tie-in point of abdomen, with top of hackle forward. Tie-in hackle shaft on underside of shank by wrapping thread in side-by-side wraps to eye. Make three wraps rearward from eye to what will be the forward tie-in point of hackle and rear of fly head. Wrap hackle forward, being sure to place one wrap in front of another as with thread wraps and tie in at forward tie-in point or rear of head. Tie-in by making three thread wraps towards eye and three more thread wraps rearward to back of head. Hold threadfirmly upward with left hand and snap hackle off with right hand under the shank and just behind the eye. This will leave the hackle shaft under the thread wraps with no exposed butt requiring cover. Continue to hold thread upwards firmly and remove barbs at front of head with needle-nose pliers. Whip finish thread in side-by-side wraps from rear of head to hook eye, clip thread with one scissor blade and apply preferred head cement to finish.

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Articles written and published by Tom Logan and other expert fly fishermen. Includes fly tying and casting tips.

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