The Silver Nurse – Step-by-Step - The Wing
OK, you’ve got the body completed, time to move on to the wing. Here are the steps for making and mounting and wing for the Silver Nurse:
1. The first step is to make the “Underwing”. This is a vestige of the full Golden Pheasant tippet wing that you just tied on the Parson #1 and the Black Ranger. Also known as the “Irish Wing”, the concept of an underwing is something that’s going to be common to the next 3 flies that we tie up.
So, to start, select a Golden Pheasant tippet and; as Tom says in his book: “twitch off” about ¼” of barbs from each side of the stem. When you do this twitch, some of the side of the stem will come with the barbs; this is a good thing, as it keeps the barbs attached to each other before you tie them in. Here is the tippet and the twitched off barbs:
2. Now, pair the tippet barbs; back to back, and tie them in on the top of the hook so that the back black band is right above the wool butt on the body.
3. Now it’s time to build the primary wing, which for this fly is a combination of three different feathers: a Bustard (Kori), a royal blue-dyed Goose shoulder and a natural white Goose shoulder. Bustard often times comes as a center feather, which is nice, since you can get the front wing (also called the left wing; looking straight down the hook from the eye to the bend) and the back wing (also called the right wing) from the same feather.
[Note: when you’re building a wing by marrying strips from different feathers, you’ll notice that some feathers are centers; whereas others are distinctly either left or right feathers. For building a married wing, you’ll only need one central feather, but you’ll need one each of the feathers that come as rights and lefts. More on this as we go along.]
Here’s a pic of the feathers that you’ll use for building the married wing. Don’t pay any attention to the Golden Pheasant tail that’s at the top of this pic; I decided not to use it since the Bustard worked fine by itself.
4. You’ll want to get a left and right strip of each of these 3 feathers. I went for about 12-15 barbs on each strip (you can count them using the tip of a needle). Here’s how they look for the Bustard:
[Again, ignore the Golden Pheasant tail feather at the top of this pic.]
5. Goose is a sided feather; distinct right and left feathers. So, you’ll need a left and a right feather and you’ll need to get one strip out of each feather. Go for 12-15 barbs on each strip, again.
Here it is for the blue-dyed Goose shoulder:
Here it is for the natural white Goose shoulder:
And here are the 3 strips; one right side and one left side, that you’ll need to start building the married wing:
6. This is good place to stop and consider what comes next.
What you’re going to be doing is re-constructing a strip wing for you salmon fly.
This re-construction is accomplished by “marrying” separate strips from different feathers together. The reason that this works is because the sides of the individual barbs have “Velcro-like” structures attached to them, the full length of the barb. So, just as the barbs on a single feather stick together, the barbs on different feathers also do the same thing. You can convince yourself that this is the case, by pulling apart the barbs on any feather, as you do it, you’ll see that they “unzip” themselves as you pull them apart; this is because of the Velcro-like side structures. When you place them next to each other and marry them together by using your thumb and forefinger to smooth them togeher, they simply “re-zip”.
So, start by making up the right wing (also called by some Salmon fly tyers the “sheath”). To do this start with the right Bustard strip. Place it on the top and marry the right white Goose strip to its bottom edge by smoothing the edges of the two feathers together with your thumb and forefinger (hold the different strips by their bases and smooth them out toward the tips), like this:
Now, with a pin, insert it into the Bustard barbs at a point that’s 4 barbs above where you married the Bustard to the white Goose, like this:
Separate the top 8-11 barbs from the married feather, leaving 4 Bustard barbs attached to the white Goose.
Now, do the same thing with the white Goose. Insert the pin just below the 4th barb and separate the bottom 8-11 barbs from the top 4 barbs; which are still married to the Bustard. Here’s what it looks like:
Now, marry the right blue-dyed Goose strip to the bottom of the married white Goose strip. Then insert the pin just below the 4th barb of the blue Goose shoulder and separate the bottom 8-11 barbs from the top 4 barbs; which remain married to the white Goose, which remain married to the Bustard.
Now you’re building a married wing:
Repeat the last two marrying steps; the first with the right white Goose, the next with the right blue Goose and the final one with the right white Goose (so, 3 more marrying steps in all). Use the pin trick to get the strips to be the size that you want them after you’ve married them to the strip above. Here’s that you finished married wing looks like:
Now, do the exact same thing with the left side wing; marrying and using the pin trick to size you strips once you marry them together. Here’s the finished married wing pair:
Don’t worry about the fact that the married strips are of different lengths, you’re going to tie them in so that there’s enough of each strip to make up your mounted wing.
7. Whatever you do to celebrate – go do it now – you’ve earned it!
8. Next , you want to tie the married wing onto the hook. You do this just the same way that you did for the March Brown pattern; remember that one; seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? But, a married wing is just a fancy strip wing, so you tie it in the same way. Remember to tie it in on the top of the hook and use your right thumb and forefinger to compress it as much as possible on top of the hook before using a soft wrap to tie in the married wing. Be sure to loop your soft wrap completely around the wing and the bottom of the hook and compress the wing by pulling up. Also, don’t forget to use flattened wraps for tying in this wing; they won’t “knife” your wing like a twisted thread will sometimes do.
[Note: these married wings are sturdier than you might think. It took me about an hour to mount my wing; I tied it on at least 10 times, took it off, smoothed the wing back into shape, etc. So, they can take a pretty good amount of manipulation and still come out looking reasonably well. Above all, be patient!]
Here’s the married wing tied in on the body:
[Note: when you place the married wing on the hook you’ll need to place it over the Golden Pheasant tippet underwing. The best way to do this is to grasp the married wing pair (paired back to back) at the top (where the Bustard strip is located). This will open up the bottom of the wing and you can simply slide the wing down over the underwing and the tie it in with 3 flattened wraps. Check the set of the wing and if you like it, then finish tying it in with 3 more tight flattened wraps. If you don’t like it, then take it off, smooth your married wing and have another go at it.]
9. Now it’s time to put on what’s called a “Mallard roof”. This is nothing special; in fact it’s just a modification of the wing that Spey fly tyers use for the wing on their flies. You want it to lie about 1/3-1/2 of the way back from the married wing tie-in point.
Mallard flank is also a sided feather, so you’ll need to get one strip each out of a left and a right feather. I leave a little stem on the strips, so that they stay together better during the tie-in process. Here’s what it looks like:
Tie it in by placing one strip on each side of the married wing, adjusting the set with your fingers (you want the tip of the mallard roof just touching the top of the married wing) and tying it in with 3-5 flattened wraps.
10. Now it’s time to add the Golden Pheasant crest topping, as you’ve done for the last two flies (the Parson #1 and the Black Ranger).
11. Then, hold the entire wing assembly firmly with your left thumb and forefinger, trim off the feather butts at an angle and start to form the head of your fly.
Before you complete it, don’t forget to tie in the wool collar; use the same procedure that you did for the wool butt for dubbing the collar.
Some people will run the wool collar all the way to the eye of the hook, but I like to leave some space to finish the fly off with thread and couple coats of SHHAN. Here’s the completed fly:
Overall, I was OK with the body on my fly, but the mounted married wing didn’t come out the way that I had hoped. I really needed to hump the wing and it didn’t want to behave for me. So, on this tie, you have a relatively flat married wing and a humped mallard roof.