Mayfly Emerger – a step by step tying guide

This is the ED Emerger, I discovered it on the absorbing and inspiring  Hans Weilenmann website,   I think it is one of his own designs, with a slight modification by me, maybe not for the better, but how I’ve tied it here gives me a lot of confidence whenever I tie one on.   I first tried this fly last season, just tied up half a dozen, and they proved to be excellent, taking fish right through the summer.  It floats all day, is durable enough to withstand the teeth of several catches, but of most relevance is that it has the trigger features that I think are more important when fly tying to catch fish.  I’m not as sure these days that a very close replication of a specific natural insect is as valid as GISS.  This concept is partially borne out of my experiences of fishing into late dusk and night time, when the fish become less cautious, they can’t see colour, just silhouette and surface movement.    During the daytime, the Muskrat guard hairs possibly cause light refraction and surface distortion that indicates a struggling emerger, so to the fish it looks a healthy mouthful thats well worth the effort of briefly leaving the protective underbanking in order to snatch it.  For the coming season I’ve tied this fly in a modified colour tones and sizes from #12 to #16.   

At first I was cautious about these GRIP hooks, fearing I might lose a good fish because the gape looked quite wide, but I have to say they haven’t distorted once either in tying or whilst playing a fish, and this season I’ve bought more of them in different styles and sizes, so thats a vote of confidence.  At some time I intend to make another posting about hooks, but my favourites for the past couple of seasons have been TMC and HANAK. 

Using Brown Uni 6/0 Thread, tie a bed from eye to round the bend, it doesn't have to be perfect for this fly. Leave a trailing loop for the rib, shown in next picture.

When you come to the end of the thread base, – just around the bend of the hook, pull out a few inches of thread and then tie in again, leaving this trailing loop of thread. This loop of thread will later be twisted and then wound up the abdomen to make a visible rib that also makes the fly more durable when fishing.



The dubbing I’m using here is Orvis Spectrablend, I’ve used others, and mixed some materials together, you need to make slight colour variations to suit your own locality.   One method I used successfully last season is to tie in a long whitish\cream CDC feather by the tip, or two twisted two together (cream\fawn) and then wound the CDC rope up to form the abdomen.  Try experimenting with a few once you’ve got a few standard ones already in your box.                                                    

Wind the dubbing rope up the body, forming the natural shape taper as you go, keep twisting the dubbing just before you wind it, it keeps it tight and more easily to shape and form the abdomen.   Next is to wind the rib up in even-ish turns, heres the picture. 

The loop of thread left earlier is now twistedspun, and I hold it in a crochet hook to prevent it untwisting. Wind the rib up the body a few times, to be prominent at end of abdomen, tie it down, and snip off. Next is the Muskrat guard hairs.

Muskrat is quite a popular fly tying product, it is naturally water shedding, will float forever, but what makes it one of my favourite materials is its versatility, – on the surface there are a lot of glassy rigid guard hairs, if you get a good piece, then they are long and can be used for a variety of purposes, they grow out of the main fur which is a lovely creamy brown colour, (think of the colour of warm milk with some cocoa stirred in) and best of all, is that the underfur is a sublime shade of blue and grey that can be dubbed onto thread as easily as rabbit, and can be blended to make a number of shades.

Take a pinch of the long guard hairs, cut as close to the pelt as you can, and then comb out the unwanted underfur.    Place on the long hairs on the shank of the hook so they extend over the bend, and tie in, tie down, quite firmly.  I tend to do a final half hitch and then dab the knot with a touch of Sally Hansen Hard as Nails on the point of  a dubbing needle.

It wasn’t in the original tying, but at this stage, I give the thread a quick rub of wax, and lightly dub onto the  thread some chopped Hare, wind on for a couple of turns – it gives a prickly leggy effect which I feel is another of the triggers that makes this fly so successful.

Hope this isn’t going to make this look too long winded for you to try yourself.




Now you have to tie in the Deer Hair wing, cut and stack in the usual manner, it doesn’t have to be a large bunch.  It helps with floatation, I think light passing through the hairs creates a lifelike movement.  Deer Hair will always flair, well, it does for me, so once securely tied in, begin the task of cutting the unwanted butts as close as possible.  If it looks a bit spiky, dub on another small pinch of Hares mask onto the thread and tie on directly in front of the wing, you can see it in the picture  – but leaving room for a clean tidy head immediately before the eye.

Just snip the tying thread, touch of varnish on the head, - tie another two or three, go fishing.

The close up picture shows a few straggly hairs, these can be teased or cut out when finished.  The good thing about this fly is that it isn’t like slim bodied Duns – it can be a bit scruffy, we all know about flies still taking fish, well after they’ve been chewed and slimed a few times, so perfection isn’t a requirement on this fly. 

Finish by whipping on a head, add a blob of Sally Hansen or similar, do half a dozen and get out onto the river, – season for me doesn’t begin until April 15th ! 


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