Hackle Stacker step-by-step

My favorite mayfly pattern tends to vary on the conditions and the bug. Still, if I had one dry fly pattern to fish any of the common, medium to smaller mayfly hatches (PMD, BWO, callibaetis, mahogany, etc), it would probably be the hackle stacker. It’s such a versatile fly. It can imitate an emerger, a freshly hatched dun or a spinner depending on how it’s dressed.  It fishes well in the flats and the glides where most of the fish looking up are at, but it can also fish in riffley or broken surface water, where a lot of fish can be as well. This version is kind of my spin-off of Ned Longs version (the man many people attribute to creating this style of dressing). I wrap some of the floss behind the tails to prop them up a bit, a minor difference that’s not necessarily needed, I mostly just like the look. There is a much older style called a paraloop, that creates a similar effect to the hackle stacker, but is tied with a different procedure. The hackle stacker is a bit of a simplified version of the paraloop, and once you get used to the tying process, its a fairly quick fly to tie as well.

Materials – For this size 16 blue winged olive version, I’m using brown thread, yellow flexi-floss, light olive dry fly dubbing, dark coq de leon fibers and some dark dun hackle. Your favorite standard dry fly hooks should be fine. I like Tiemco 900BLs, 101s and 100s, but I’ll use almost any standard dry fly hook as long as the wire doesn’t suck. ImagePut the hook in the vise and start the thread a little behind the eye. Image

Next you’ll want your tailing fibers. I’m a big fan of coq de leon, but spade fibers from the side and bottom of a neck or Betts’ micro fibetts work fine too. Fine paint brush bristles are also a good supply for tails. For feather fibers, line them up at a right angle from the feather stem before you cut and your tips will be nice and aligned. Image

Compress with your thumb and index finger.

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Now you have aligned tips. Measure to length.

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Switch hands and pinch them onto the top of the hook at a slight downward angle. Image

Wrap a few turns of thread back towards the bend, and the fibers will spin onto the top of the hook. Image

hold the fibers in position so they don’t adjust, and now trim the excess. Then return your thread back forward to the starting point.

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Pinch some flexi-floss on the bottom of the hook, and pinch it with your fingernail so it doesn’t rotate onto the top of the hook like the tails did, but instead stays in place more on the lower part of the side when you tighten down the thread. Image

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Once you get a few wraps of thread in place, pull the floss low and tight, towards the tail. Wrap touching turns towards the bend, making sure the floss and tail fibers don’t move. If they adjust a little, just push them back in place with your finger. Image

Once you have the tail fibers and floss lashed down to a point just above where the hook barb would be, wrap the thread neatly forward to a point a little behind the eye.

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Next take one wrap of floss behind the tail fibres,

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Then put a wrap in front of them. This should prop them up a bit. You don’t want them going straight up, so I usually push them down hard with my thumb so they splay in a fan shape. Sometimes they can take a little primping, but they will usually give.

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Next, wrap the floss forward and catch near the front with a few turns of thread near the top of the hook.Image

Next pull the floss back, this will be what the hackle will be wrapped around. Tie back down to about the 1/3rd point on the hook shank.

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For hackle stackers I like hackles on the longish side, right about 2 hooks gaps in width. If you’re not sure, just measure it against the hook.

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You should have an area about one third of the hook shank near the front. That will be the thorax. Strip hackle off the bottom of your feather so you have bare stem, about two thoraxes in length.Image

Tie down the lower half of the stem onto the thorax. Now pinch the floss and feather together with your thumb and index finger. You’re going to start wrapping the thread upwards, around them both like a parachute. With the bobbin in your left hand, pass it around behind the feather and floss combination.

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Next, while youre still holding the hackle/floss with your thumb and index finger, catch the bobbin with your ring finger and pinky.

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Now hand off to your left hand and keep wrapping the thread up the hackle/floss. Once it is roughly the length of the thorax in height, start wrapping back down.

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Once you have a post of thread wrapped around the hackle and floss, its time to wrap the hackle down around it. If you were looking down on the fly from above, you’re going to be wrapping the hackle counter clockwise. I pull the floss up and tight, with my index and middle finger. I wrap the hackle in front with my left hand,

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and hand it off to my ring finger and thumb on my right hand.

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I reach around with my left hand, pass it off and repeat the procedure. Wrap down until you get to the hook.

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Once you get to the bottom, hold the hackle out to the right and stroke all the fibres back. Pinch and tie down the hackle.

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After around 3 good wraps to secure it, pull the hackle a little tighter with your right hand, then while you’re holding it tight, tighten down the thread with the left hand, then do a few more thread wraps for good measure, just passing the bobbin over while you hold the hackle.

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Trim the feather, and clean up any rampant fibers.

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Now pull out a very small amount of dubbing, just enough to tint the thread.

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Dub the thorax, in a tight, elongated oval.

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Pull the flexi floss forward and tie down with 3 wraps behind the hook eye.

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Then pull the floss tight, pull back and do 2 more wraps.

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Whip finish, cut off the excess floss and cement.

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Make sure to pull the floss a little tight when you trim. While you’re at it, trim any rampant hackle fibers and clean up the finished fly.

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Apply the head cement and let some seep into the hackle wraps a little.

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Apply a little glue along the abdomen. Don’t use too much, it adds weight and inhibits floatation. Still, the durability is usually worth at least a little.

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Finished fly – underneath from a trouts perspective

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Side view

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Above

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Let me know how they do for you,

cheers,

Dan

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