March Brown Pattern

As described by T. Pryce-Tannatt in his book: How to Dress Salmon Flies; A Handbook for Amateurs.

Here's the second fly, the March Brown. Whereas the Grub pattern was all about putting a body on a hook, this one is all about mounting a featherwing. There is a body with this fly, of course, but it's secondary to the tail and the wing, both of which use the same techniques for mounting in this pattern.

I'm using a Partridge Bartleet CS10/1 hook in #6 for this tie. I was planning on using a #4, but the hen pheasant wing that I have isn't sized for that large a hook. Always choose your hook based on the size of your most limiting material; in most cases this will turn out to be the length of your wing barbs.

1. Thread the hook with the white thread; don't forget to keep your thread flat.

2. Tie in the flat tinsel as Tom shows on p. 119, Fig. 41, then wind it back about 5-6 turns and then forward again (try to butt the foil as you wind it; both going toward the bend and back toward the eye). When you get back to the tie in point, unwrap the thread so that the foil is holding itself in place. then take 3 flattened wraps to bind down both ends and cut off the waste. What you form in this step is call the "tag".

3. To form the tail, first select a good unbarred wood duck feather. Then cut the stem at a point that will give you barbs that are just a little longer than what you want for the tail.

4. Cut the stem again at a point that's equal to the size that you want the wing to be (not the length of the tail, but the thickness of the tail). This will give you a piece shaped like the letter "V". What's on both sides of the stem will be what you use for forming the tail.

5. Since feathers tend to have a habit of wanting to move around on you, you need to do all that you can to limit this movement. One of the best things that you can do is to make sure that at least one of the ends of the feather will stay in place. You do this by cutting the stem vertically with a pair of sharp scissors or an x-acto knife, so that each side has 1/2 of the stem attached to it (sounds tough, but it's really not).

6. Now it's time to mount the tail. Take the two tail halves and align them together so that the dull surfaces are facing each other (this is because you want the shiny surfaces facing outside when you mount the tail). There are many ways to do this and it's really up to the tyer how you want to do it. I put one on top of the other, hold them in place with the index finger of my left hand and slide them one on top of the other to the edge of my table. Then I grab them between the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, so that I've got the paired tail sections held by the area closest to the stem.

Place the paired tail on the hook, size it and then transfer your grip to the thumb and forefinger of the left hand (I'm assuming that you're all right handers; if left, then simply reverse what I say to do). Place these fingers holding the paired wing so that the right-most edges are just ahead of the front of the tag.

Now, what you have in this tail is a feather stack. Think of it as accordion stretched out. Your job is now to compress this feather stack so that you end up with something that looks like a closed accordion. To do this, follow Tom's instructions on pps 122-124. Essentially you use your right thumb and forefinger to compress the tail fibers before you tie them in using 4-5 flat wraps.

Once completed, the tail will look something like the below, with the ends that are still attached to the stem facing the eye of the hook.

7. Now tie in the flat ribbing tinsel on the bottom of the hook being sure that is is wrapped back to the point where the tail is tied in; which is at the front end of the tag.

8. Now it's time to form the body. Dub the thread (I used direct dubbing, but you can use any dubbing technique that you want). The pattern should have a full dubbed body. I kept mine very thin so that you could see the wing easily. Tie off the dubbed body about 1 1/2 hook eye lengths from the eye.

9. Next, wind the flat tinsel rib up the body to the end of the dubbing and tie it off.

10. Tie off the white thread with a 3 whip finish.

11. Switch to black thread and thread the head back to where you want to tie in the throat. Now, Tom tied his throat as a collar and didn't pull it down into a throat, so I did the same thing. But, feel free to pull the collar down into a throat or to form a throat using whatever technique you like to use. Wind the thread forward 3-4 flat wraps.

12. Prepare a hackle from one of the long-fibered, brown spotted rump feathers from a Hungarian Partridge. Fold the hackle as we did for the palmered hackle on the Grub pattern; don't forget to form the anchor at the tip. Tie in the hackle by the tip anchor and take 3-4 wraps of hackle forward toward the eye. Tie off the hackle with 3 flat wraps and cut the remaining stem off. Wind the thread back to the point where the throat ends.

13. Now it's time to mount the wing. The concept here is exactly the same as it was for the tail. What you want is two feather halves; paired with their shiny sides facing out. Here's how to do that.

Start with a good hen pheasant tail feather (or whatever you decide to form your wing with). I made a short post on how to generate good tailing feathers. It works for feathers of all kinds and it's worth the effort. Cut it as you did for the tail.

14. Now make a second cut at a point that's about 1 hook gap in length from the original cut (in my tie, I used a smaller sized wing to make it easier to see the wing in the collar hackle, but if I were not using a collar, I would have increased the width of my wings to just about one hook gap).

15. Now, do just as you did for the tail; cut the "V" wing section into two halves; keeping 1/2 of the stem attached to the base of each half.

16. Now it's time to mount the wing. You do it just the same way that you did for the tail. One of the keys here is to be sure that you compress the wing with your fingers before you tie it in with flattened thread. This allows you to control the set of the wing and prevents the barbs from separating and splaying out when you apply pressure with the thread. Essentially, you're using a pinch wrap to attach the wing to the hook. It helps a great deal if the surface where you mount the wing is flat; not lumpy; one of the reasons for keeping your thread flat. Once the wing is tied in, take 4-5 flattened wraps toward the head to hold it in place.

17. Next trim off the butt ends of the wing halves. In order to do this grab the wing again, firmly, with the thumb and forefinger of the left hand (if you try to cut the feather butts off without holding the wing in place, it will move on you). So, hold the wing in place while you cut off the butts. You want them to taper down nicely toward the head, so that when you form the head, it will have a nice shape to it.

18. Form the head as you like, whip finish and hit it with 3 coats of SHHAN (or whatever other coating/head cement you like to use).

And that's it; you've just tied up the March Brown Salmon fly pattern.

You now have the two key elements of all Salmon flies under your belt; the body and the wing. From this point on, it's all variations on the same theme. Granted they are sophisticated and detailed variations, but they are nonetheless simply variations.

I tied this pattern with top mounted up wings (wings attached on the top of the hook and angled up). There are also 3 other ways to mount the wing on a March Brown; one with a top mounted down wing, one with a horizontal mounted up wing and the last with a horizontal mounted down wing. Pick whichever one you like or tie them all.

Have fun with it!