Pinch Hitter: One Fly, Multiple Species
From Phil Rowley's Fly-Tying Column
I was fortunate to meet Rob Texmo earlier this year. Rob is a talented tyer with a love for traditional Atlantic salmon and spey patterns, adapting the tying techniques and disciplines these flies require with great success for Pacific salmon and steelhead. Rob’s tying skill and attention to detail on patterns such as his Pinch Hitter, a simple fly offering clean lines coupled with a splash of elegance, is impressive.
The body of the Pinch Hitter consists of a holographic silver Mylar body reinforced with an oval tinsel rib. As the rib is the last material to be wound forward over the body, always tie it in first. Rob ties all of his ribbing materials, no matter the fly, along the underside of the shank. This practice lends itself to other ribbed patterns ensuring that the first wrap is partially hidden.
Mylar bodies add an important element of attraction while suggesting the flash of a baitfish. Properties that often trigger a take. Most Mylar bodies are formed using two techniques, overwrapping or bonding. Overwrapping involves securing the Mylar just back from the hook eye and winding it down to the bend then back up to the original tie in point. This technique allows you to cover any gaps created during the initial trip down the shank while adding durability as during the return trip the Mylar overwraps itself. Once overwrapped, it is difficult for the Mylar to unravel when exposed to any sort of toothy abuse.
Bonding involves the use of super glue and overlapping wraps to achieve the same result as overwrapping. Secure the Mylar just back from the hook eye along the underside of the shank down to the bend. Apply a thin coat of brushable superglue along the shank. Let the glue sit for a few seconds and allow it to ‘kick’. Using slightly overlapping wraps, wind the Mylar forward. The overlapping wraps address any cosmetic concerns of having small gaps appear between the wraps. Allowing the super glue to sit lets it become tacky so it bonds the Mylar to the hook. Should your fingers slip as you wind the Mylar forward there is a reduced chance of slippage or having the body unravel before your eyes. This technique also works well for creating durable chironomid larva and pupa bodies.
Hair wing flies have replaced traditional quill wings due to their durability, ease of tying and movement they provide to the finished fly. Arctic fox fur is an excellent mobile alternative to bucktail or calf tail, two common wing materials.
Proper wing preparation ensures the fly swims properly. For his Pinch Hitter Rob begins by trimming a pencil diameter clump of fox fur. Once trimmed pinch the butts and gently pluck and pull any long guards hairs to even the tips. Next, to improve wing stability, brush and blend the underfur and longer fibers using a toothbrush. Finally, re-grip the blended fur clump at the mid point and carefully remove any short underfur between your fingers and the butts. The prepared fur clump is ready for tie-in.
With the wing prepped and secured in place a swept back hackle completes the fly. As with the wing, hackle plays a key role ensuring the finished fly performs properly. After selecting the appropriate hackle, strip the stem at the tie in point. Tie the hackle in front of the wing, wet fly style, shiny side facing out. To avoid the individual fibers radiating out of control they must be tamed so they flow back properly. Using a scissor blade, Rob lightly scrapes both sides of the hackle stem to break the feather’s spine allowing him to train and flow the individual fibers backward.
Once wound, tie off but do not trim the excess hackle feather. Rob adds further reinforcement while creating a clean tie off point by folding the remaining feather back over the hackle locking it in place with two to three thread wraps. This is a technique that works in a variety of hackling scenarios including soft hackles and dry flies.
Most patterns designed for returning salmon and steelhead fall into three general themes. Loud attractors intended to elicit a territorial aggressive response. Natural patterns intended to stir a latent feeding stimulus or a combination of both. Rob Texmo’s Pinch Hitter contains all of these attributes creating a graceful blend of attraction and food that performs under a variety of water conditions. The next time you pursue, salmon, steelhead even trout on the fly give Rob’s Pinch Hitter a swing.
How to Tie the Pinch Hitter
Designed by Rob Texmo
Hook: Atlantic Salmon Bomber, #2
Thread: White 8/0 or 70 Denier
Butt: Oval Tinsel, Silver, Small
Rib: Oval Tinsel, Silver, Small
Body: Holographic Mylar, Silver
Wing: Arctic Fox, Dark Blue, mixed with a single strand of UV Pearl Crystal Flash tied along each side of the wing
Hackle: Saddle, Dark Blue
Facing Hackle: Grizzly saddle, chartreuse
Head: Chartreuse tying thread or #12 chartreuse Glo Brite Floss
- Attach the tying thread just back from the hook eye. Cover the shank with smooth even wraps to the bend. Return the tying thread to the original tie in point. Secure a length of small silver oval tinsel along the underside of the shank to the hook bend. Place four touching turns of oval tinsel against the tying thread advancing it forward in the process to form the butt. Using a minimum of thread wraps, three is ideal, tie off the oval tinsel on the underside of the hook. Do not trim the excess. Advance the tying thread forward just back from the hook eye.
- Secure the holographic Mylar body material back along the underside of the shank to the front of the butt. Advance the tying thread forward so it hangs approximately one eye width back from the hook eye. Coat the shank with superglue. Using slightly overwrapping turns, create the body by winding the holographic Mylar forward over the coated shank. Tie off the excess Mylar a hook eye length back from the hook eye. Add two more adjacent wraps to the butt to mask the initial body wraps. Wind the balance of the oval tinsel forward using open wraps forming an even balanced rib. Tie off the excess tinsel rib at the same spot as the oval tinsel. Trim the remaining rib and tinsel together to avoid bulk.
- Trim a pencil-sized clump of Arctic fox from the hide. Pinch the butt of the fox fur and carefully pull out the guard hairs to even up the tips. While still pinching the butts, use a toothbrush to blend the under fur with the balance of the wing. Re-grip the fur clump at the midpoint. While maintaining a tight grip, carefully pull out any short under-fur fibers below the pinch point. Place the prepared fox fur wing on top of the shank so the tips extend back to the hook bend. Trim the butt ends even. Secure the wing in place using firm minimal thread wraps.
- With the wing in place, secure a single strand of UV Pearl Crystal Flash along the front side of the wing. Fold the remaining UV Crystal Flash back along the back side of the wing and secure in place. Trim the ends of the UV Crystal Flash even with the tips of the wing being careful not to nip the tips of the fox fur.
- Select a dark blue saddle feather. At roughly the mid-point of the feather, where the fibers are webby and the stem is thin, strip the fibers from a section of the stem back to the butt. Using three wraps of thread secure the prepared feather so the tip points back along the front side of the hook. Fold the stem back over the tip section. Secure in place using three thread wraps. Trim the excess butt section. This tie in process ensures the feather won’t pull out.
- Using a scissors blade gently scrape both sides of the stem to break the feather’s spine folding the fibers back in the process. Sweeping the fibers back, wrap the feather directly in front of the body three times. Tie off the feather on the underside of the shank and carefully trim the excess. Prepare, and tie in a dyed chartreuse grizzly saddle feather in the same fashion as the dark blue saddle. Using close touching turns, wind and sweep back the dyed grizzly saddle in front of the blue saddle two times. As with the dark blue saddle, tie off the feather along the underside of the shank. Trim the excess grizzly saddle. Build up a neat tapered undersized head whip finish and remove the tying thread.
- Attach chartreuse tying thread or Glo Brite floss at the hook eye. Cover the white thread head to form a neat, tapered, contrasting chartreuse head. Whip finish and remove the excess tying thread or floss. Coat the head with one coat of superglue. After allowing enough time for the superglue to cure, coat the chartreuse head with two coats of high gloss lacquer or nail polish.