Leadwing Coachman - Step-by-Step
Here’s a pattern that dates back well over 100 years. According to several sources, it was originally tied by a man who served as a coachman to a nobleman in England. He apparently presented it to his lord, who aptly name it the "Coachman", after its designer.
The pattern is often times thought to represent a diving caddis or mayfly adult and is sometimes used as a searching pattern when there isn’t much happening on top.
It belongs to the group of feather winged wet flies. Ray Bergman, in his famous book: Trout,
showed picture plates and gave the recipes for over 500 winged wet flies; most of which are no longer seen today. Notable exceptions to this attrition are the Royal Coachman, arguably the most widely recognized fly in the world, and this week’s pattern; the Leadwing Coachman.
Here’s the step-by-step for this pattern:
1. These are the materials that you’ll need to tie up this pattern. Besides the tying thread, you’ll need: 1. Flat gold tinsel, x-sm., 2. Peacock herl, 3. A ginger or brown hackle, and 4. Paired mallard wing feathers.
2. Thread the hook starting at a point one hook eye length back from the eye; a place that I’ll call the "shoulder" of the fly; a useful reference point where a lot of materials will be tied in and tied off. When you get to a point mid-way between the hook point and the barb, tie in the flat gold tinsel [Note: if you’re using mylar gold/silver tinsel, then when you tie it in remember: gold up / wraps gold.]
3. Now, wind the flat gold tinsel forward to a point above the point. Use butt wraps with the tinsel to avoid bulk in the tag. Tie it off at the same point where you tied it in. This foil back is called a “tag”.
4. Cut off the tag waste ends and wind the tying thread back to the shoulder. [Note: I like to give the body of a winged wet some shape before I tie in the body materials. In the case of this pattern, I give it what I’d call a moderate cigar shape. This is done with flattened tying thread.]
5. Once you’ve shaped the body, it’s time to tie in the Peacock herl. [Note 1: Peacock herl is interesting in that the barbules (the fuzz on the barbs) curves back on itself at the tip. Because of this, you want to tie in the herl with the shiny, concave side facing you.] [ Note 2: Some people tie the body of this pattern by tying in several herl barbs at the back and winding them forward to the shoulder. I tie it with individual barbs; one at a time, because I like the effect better that way. The choice is yours.]
Tie in the first herl by the base end, with the shiny, concave side facing you.
6. Put the tip in your hackle pliers and wind the herl forward using butt wraps, until the width of the herl starts to decrease. Then tie it off.
7. Now, tie in the next herl the same way that you did the first and wind it forward from the tie-in point.
8. Continue this process until you have reached the shoulder. Tie off the last herl at this point and smooth up the head of the fly to get ready for the hackle.
9. Take a wet fly hackle; ginger, brown, furnace or coachman (I used medium ginger), fold it, prepare the tip as we did for the previous patterns, and tie it in at the shoulder; right up against the body.
10. Cut off the hackle tip and wrap the hackle 3-4 times around the hook, taking care to pull the hackle fibers back with each wind of hackle and wrapping each turn of hackle right up against the previous one. Tie it off in the space between the shoulder and the eye.
11. Now, use your left thumb and forefinger to pull the hackle barbs back and wind your thread back against the hackle; all the way back to the shoulder. This will give your hackle barbs a distinct rearward inclination; which is classic for winged wet flies. [Note: at this point, you have a herl-bodied Flymph, which is very fishable all by itself.]
12. Now, it’s time to mount the mallard wing. This is a picture of the back side of paired mallard primary flight feathers (it's the slate-colored back side of the feathers that will become the outside of the wing). It’s important to pair your feathers as closely as you can; based primarily on the length of the barbs that are present on the feathers. You need one left feather and one right feather, as shown below.
13. One thing that you’ll note about mallard wing primaries is that they have very “tight” barbs. They also have a thickened, somewhat solid webby inner portion that runs right to the stem of the feather. You don’t want to be tying in your wing by this webby inner portion, so size your wing to your hook, based on the usable portion of the barbs; that portion outside the web. Since the longest usable barbs are at the base of the feather, you’ll want to start with barbs that are in that area (see the bodkin pointing toward the longest barbs).
14. Next, you’ll want to select a group of barbs that are the right width for your hook. The rule of thumb for winged wets is that you want a group of barbs that are approx. one hook gap in width. To help standardize this, I simply insert a hook into the feather and let the point of the hook tell me when I’ve reached one hook gap in width.
15. Next, cut out the wing slips from each feather. At this point, I leave them attached to the stems for ease of handling.
In order to prep the wing slips for tying in, you’ll want to cut off the stems. Then put them one on top of the other, so that the concave sides (the brown-colored front side of the wing) are facing each other. [Note: The tension created by this pairing will help to keep the wings together when the fly is in the water.]
Now, place the paired slips on top of the hook and tie them in right at the point where you pushed the hackle back; just in front of the shoulder. Use a soft wrap around both slips and tighten the thread down by looping it back under the hook and slowly pulling up. As you pull, you’ll see and feel the barbs compressing between your fingers. Use a second soft wrap to further tighten the slips down. Then use 4-6 tight wraps to set the slips in place. [Note: Mallard primary wing strips are not as forgiving as goose or turkey, so be sure that you’re happy with the set of the wings after the two soft wraps; before you really tighten them into place. It’s harder to re-use Mallard wing strips, but it can be done.] If you ever use anything like Zap-a-Gap thin, then this is a good time to use a small drop on the wing tie-in thread.
16. Next, trim up the waste ends of the wing slips and shape them so that they taper down into the hook eye. Use your thread to build a head and coat it with whatever head cement you like to use. Winged wets are traditionally finished off with a high gloss on the head; I use SHHAN. Here’s the finished fly:
And that’s it for the Leadwing Coachman; the last of the wet flies.
You now have wet flies in three basic themes. The first (the Partridge and Orange) as a North Country spider; essentially hackled tying thread; the second (the Adams Flymph) as a wingless wet and the third (the Leadwing Coachman) as a winged wet. There’s really no limit to what you can do with these 3 basic groups of wet flies. Have some fun and experiment around a little, based on what you observe fish feeding on in your area.
Post or PM me with any comments or questions that you may have.