Fly Friday #177 The Dusty Miller by Paul Little

Hook: Partridge Bartleet 2/0.
Silk: Primrose and black (head only)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel and apple green floss.
Tail: Golden Pheasant topping.
Butt: Black Ostrich herl.
Body: Silver embossed tinsel.
Rib: Medium gold tinsel.
Throat: Green hackle and Guinea Fowl.
Wing: Claret and green Swan and Golden Pheasant tail, with cheeks of Teal and Jungle with topping over.
Horns: Blue and Gold Macaw.

Tips and tricks for the dressing

The Dusty Miller

Hooks and gut

  • Always place a hook protector in the vice when mounting the hook; this prevents the enamel from being removed.
  • Only add enough gut to the shank that can be covered by the throat hackle(s); this is most important with a tinsel or floss bodied fly.

Floss tags

  • Use primrose or other light coloured silk where light coloured materials such as floss (preferably rayon floss), hackles are being used; if black were used there is a real chance of the thread showing through or dulling the silk.
  • When forming the floss part of the tag split the floss, this will form a much neater floss tag; remember to wind the floss in slightly overlapping turns and very lightly. Lightness will allow the floss to move while burnishing to a smooth finish.

The tail

  • Choice of the tail is paramount; it governs the whole shape of the fly. The mounting technique used for the wing will determine the height of the wing tips and hence determines how high the initial tail should be.

The butt

  • The secret to a nice (solid) butt is the use of soft fibred Ostrich herl. Make sure that the thread base for the butt is flat (no ridges) and use WELL waxed thread. Wind the herl with the “bare stem” leading and slightly overlapping wraps; the waxed base allows the herl stem to be overlapped. It may be prudent to steam the herl to get rid of twisted fibres. Remember a short flue is required , too long a fibre length is not desirable.

The tinsel body and rib

  • Tinsel bodies are usually formed by winding from the eye to the bitt and returning in touching turns. It is important to “but” each turn to obtain a flat body without any bumps. Be careful with metallic tinsel in that it can form “knots” in the tinsel. A good tip is to whip finish and then remove the bobbin holder. On returning to the eye suspend the waste end of the tinsel with hackle pliers, re-attach the thread and secure the waste end of the tinsel. These extra turns of thread will be covered by the throat without adding additional bulk under the base for the wing.
  • The rib is best secured at the butt and the waste end taken all the way to the point at which the flat embossed tinsel is secured. Once the embossed body is formed wind the rib, 5 turns is usual but don’t worry if there are 6 or 7, just don’t wrap too close turns it will look too busy. It is important that the hands wind the tinsel in the same plane all the time for even wraps all the way round. There is a tendency to revert to a right angle turn when the hands reach the back side of the hook.

Throat hackles

  • Here we are looking for a balanced fly a heavy throat looks better if the wing looks heavy; it can be an advantage to marry the main wing first and use it to assess the bulk of the throat. Throat hackles NO greater than half the boy length is a good guide. In the Dunkeld pictured here, the green throat is a soft hen saddle hackle which tends to marry together when pulled underneath again helping to stay in position and also provide a depth of colour. A couple or three turns of the Guinea Fowl is about right.

The married wing

  • When dressing a salmon fly like the Dunkeld, marrying the wing first has its advantages. Firstly, if dressing a time consuming fly, tiredness can be a problem and so the worst thing to do at this point would be to marry the wing especially if it is complex. Marry the wing first. For a 2/0 hook, approximately 24 to 26 fibres will be sufficient; remember that the thickness of each set of fibres may be from different birds and so may have different widths. Hence do not get hung up on the specific number of fibres just the width of the wing.
  • Remember when selecting the fibres; marry lefts to lefts and right to rights, no matter what the bird species.  Selecting the fibres from the feather of the near and far sides of the wing is easy. Hold the “bad” side of a feather to the front of the eye and face the good side; then for a right-handed tier the left hand fibres are for the near side wing and the right hand fibres for the far side wing; for a left-handed tier the opposite is true; the right hand fibres form the near side wing and the right hand fibres form the far side wing.
  • Each wing is married by commencing with the bottom fibre strip and placing the next strip tip to tip placing it just longer than the previous strip and stroking them in position; tip to tip and butt to butt. Repeat the process until the wing is completed. Repeat the process for the other wing. Remember the good sides of each feather strip must be on the outside of “each wing”

The cheeks

  • The cheeks on this fly comprise two whole feathers. They look nice although the Teal may have originally been sides comprising of longer slips.  Select small Teal (Pintail or Widgeon will be O.K.). Shorten the feathers by removing some of flue and some of the fibres until they “fit” the front of the wing. Hold the feather to the wing (the rachis is flat and so should lie flat against the wing) and secure with waxed thread, Repeat the process with the far side wing.
  • Select two Jungle nails slightly shorter in length than the Teal. Strip the flue away and using the white enamel as the mount point, secure to the side of the wing. If the nail sticks outwards a little then there is a technique that may help; remove each nail in turn and using ones thumb and first finger nail stroke the reverse side of the feather into a curve. Hold the reverse side to the wing and secure. It should be flush at this point. Repeat with the far side cheeks if needed.

The topping

Preparation of toppings requires soaking a selection for both the tail and the wing. Pluck a number from a Golden Pheasant head and soak in warm water with a little washing up liquid added.  After a couple of hours, they will be ready to form around a round tube.  Select the tubes such that they are of smaller radius than the curve required for the tail and wing.

When fitting the topping to the top of the wing to touch the tail,  the fibres of the topping will cascade the over the wing as in the picture above.

Using fine pointed tweezers