The Parachute Adams
One of our older and more productive dry fly patterns is The Adams. I may be biased, but I feel that it has a great name. And more than once I have told fishing friends that it was invented by a relative of mine. You know your storytelling material is getting low when you run out of “fishing lies” and have to start telling “fly tying lies”. But, in reality, a fellow by the name of Len Halladay is credited with the creation of The Adams back in 1922. So perhaps you are wondering why it is not called “The Halladay”? Well, one story goes that Halladay came up with the idea of the fly as a general purpose mayfly imitation. He tied the fly and then gave it to his friend Charles Adams who first fished it on the Boardman River in Michigan and spoke highly of the success he had with it. So instead of naming his creation after himself, Halladay chose to name it after his friend Adams. Another story says that Adams came up with the idea for the fly and had Halladay tie it to his specifications. Either way, as they say, the rest is history. Since 1922 The Adams has been one of the most effective and popular dry flies in the world.
The classic Adams fly is tied with a gray body, upright wings, and usually with both grizzly and brown hackles. It is said to be an impressionistic pattern that can represent many grayish and brownish mayflies as well as other insects. It is often a good searching fly to use. According to Scott Richmond in his book Fishing In Oregon’s Best Fly Waters, the Adams is seldom the exact “right” fly, but it is rarely the “wrong” fly to use.
The original Adams fly has been modified into a number of variations over the years, including the Adams Irresistible, the Adams Wulff, the Adams Loop Wing, the Adams Hairwing Dun, and the Adams Humpy. But the most popular variation is The Parachute Adams , the pattern that we will be tying at this month’s Fly Tying Night. The skills we practice in tying the Parachute Adams can translate to other parachute patterns. In his book Tying Dry Flies, Randall Kauffmann describes fifteen other parachute dry fly patterns, that includes the Parachute Ant, the Parachute Black Gnat, the Parachute Baetis, the Parachute PMD, the Parachute Green Drake, and others. So once you master the skill of tying the parachute wing of the Parachute Adams you will be ready to experiment with other parachute patterns.
Thanks to our club librarian, Carson Taylor, for forwarding some interesting information regarding parachute patterns and why they are so effective. Apparently, in author Gary Borger’s opinion, the Parachute Adams should be best considered as the ultimate emerger pattern, and not an adult dun or spinner pattern. The profile of the Parachute Adams, and other parachute patterns, sitting low in the water are viewed by the fish as insects struggling to emerge through the surface film. For more details regarding emerging insects see Carson for Gary Borger’s book Fishing The Film (2010).
The first parachute stye fly may have been tied by a Scottish lady named Helen Todd back in the early 1930’s. She is said to have used a boar’s bristle as a “mast” around which she wound the hackle. Her idea was taken further by others and special hooks with a built-in “mast” at a right angle to the hook shank were produced.
A patent was taken out in 1933 and the first parachute style flies were sold as “gyroflies”. Improvements were made over the years and today the unique horizontal hackle of the parachute is wound around an upright wing or “post”. The horizontal hackle allows the fly to land upright in the water and float in the surface film. The horizontal hackle fibers on the water apparently make a good imitation of the legs of an insect and also provide more buoyancy than hackle that is wound vertically. White calf tail was once the most common post material but today synthetic materials like poly yarn are often used. The post material really increases the visibility of the fly. As any angler knows, it is really easy to lose track of the location of a small fly on the water, especially in low light conditions. And that is especially true with an Adams fly that is mostly gray/brown in color. So the post of a parachute fly becomes a big asset in tracking the fly in the water. Despite the visibility to us, post materials don’t seem to deter fish from taking the flies. In fact some anglers prefer Parachute Adams flies tied with a post using hi-visability colors like pink, orange, or chartreuse.
Our next Fly Tying Night will be Wednesday, May 24th. We will be meeting at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn to tie up some Parachute Adams flies. This pattern would be suitable for tyers with at least a moderate amount of experience. It would not be a good fly for your first ever fly tying experience. Our Royal Treatment friends will have tools to loan out for the evening. We’ll be starting at 6pm. Hope to see you there!