Black Ranger - Step-by Step - The Body

As described in T. Pryce-Tannatt's book: How to Dress Salmon Flies: A Handbook for Amateurs.

Well, we’re all warmed up on McKay’s Parson #1 pattern, so it’s on to the Black Ranger, a pattern that’s ascribed to James Wright; circa 1830. This pattern shares a lot in common with the Parson #1, including the “Irish Wing”; a back-to-back whole feather Golden Pheasant tippet. Like the Parson #1, this pattern belongs to the family of whole wing Salmon files. It’s tied many different ways today, but we’ll tie it as Pryce-Tannatt describes it in his book.

In a lot of ways, the Black Ranger is sort of "twice" what the Parson #1 was; the tail has two components rather than one (Golden Pheasant and Indian Crow), the rib has two components instead of one (flat and oval tinsel), the wing is two pairs of Golden Pheasant tippets instead of one and the wing itself is made from two different types of feathers (Jungle Cock and Golden Pheasant), rather than one. But the rest of the fly is pretty much the same theme as what you tied up for the Parson #1 pattern. If you focus on the similarities, it will help you a lot in tying up this pattern for the first time.

I’m using a Partridge Bartleet CS10/1 hook, #1/0 for this pattern. There’s more going on in this tie and the larger hook simply makes it easier to get all of the elements positioned properly on the hook. It can be tied in both larger and smaller sizes, but I probably wouldn’t try to go below a #4 for your first tie of this pattern.

1. Thread the hook. Stop just in front of the hook barb. Then tie in what Tom refers to as “silver thread”. This is an old reference to what’s called “twist”; a round tinsel. You can purchase this through Lagartun, who sells a small round tinsel. If you don’t want to use that, then you can use any silver metallic thread; sourced through a sewing online shop. I have 10,000 ft. of this stuff, so if you want some, send me a PM and I’ll send you a couple of yards. If you don’t want to use either the twist or the metallic thread, then a fine silver oval tinsel will do just fine. Unless you’re using the metallic thread, don’t forget to strip off the metal cover, so that you’re tying in the material by the thread core; which dramatically decreases the bulk.

2. Complete the silver tag by making 5 wraps and tying it off with 3-4 flattened wraps.

3. Advance the thread to a point just above the tip of the hook. Now, tie in the yellow floss just above the hook point. [I’m using a lemon yellow floss that comes from Alec Jackson, but any lemon yellow colored floss will do. Just be sure that the floss will flatten, so that you’re able to wrap a nice tight tag.] Use silk gloves if you have them (sounds a little odd, I know, but it’s worth it in the finish of the silk).

4. Wind the floss back to the silver tag in smooth non-overlapping winds, then wind it forward again to the tie-in point, with slightly overlapping winds. Tie off the floss with 3-4 wraps of flattened thread.

5. Now, tie in a Golden Pheasant crest feather (“topping”) to form the first part of the tail. Use a topping with enough upward curve to get a reasonable distance above the plane of the hook shank. Tie in the topping with 3 flattened wraps of thread.

6. Next, tie in the second part of the tail; an Indian Crow substitute feather. There are many substitutes for Indian Crow; it’s really your choice. I used subs that I source from John McLain at FeathersMC, but I also have ringneck pheasant that’s dyed Indian Crow color from Hareline and it also works fine. Tie this feather in on the flat; meaning that it’s tied in flat to the shank. Tie it in with 3-4 flattened wraps.

The picture below shows what it looks like tied in from the top of the hook, looking down.

7. Next tie in the butt; as you did for the Parson #1 pattern. Take a single black ostrich herl, hold it so that the barbules (the tiny barbs) point towards the left. Then strip off about ¼” of the barbules from the bottom of the barb. Now, put your forceps just below where the barbules emanate from the stripped barb and push the barb against your forceps to the right. This puts a 90 degree bend in the barb, which forms your tie-in point. Tie in the barb, pull it down below the hook (be sure that the barbules are all pointing to the left (towards the bend), then make 4-5 slightly overlapping winds with the herl and tie if off with 3-4 flattened wraps. Cut off the waste end.

8. Now, tie in the two tinsels that make up the rib. This pattern differs from the Parson #1 in several ways; the formation of the rib is one of them. The rib for this pattern is made from both flat and oval silver tinsel. The oval tinsel will be behind the flat tinsel as the two are wound up toward the eye, so be sure to mount the oval tinsel behind the flat tinsel. The best way to do this is to first tie in the oval silver tinsel. Use a medium oval silver tinsel and don’t forget to strip away the metal outer layer; just the same way that you did for the tag if you used round silver twist for your tag; this allows you to tie in the tinsel by the center core, which flattens out very nicely. Tie it in on the backside of the hook, right up against the forward edge of the herl butt. Tie it in with 4-5 flattened wraps.

Then tie in the flat silver tinsel on the bottom of the hook. I use silver/gold mylar tinsel. Remember, silver tied up wraps silver; gold tied up wraps gold. Tie this in with 4-5 flattened wraps moving towards the bend. Stop right at the forward end of the herl butt.

9. Now, advance your thread to about ¼ inch behind the eye. At this point, tie in the material that you’ll use to smooth out the body [With the double tail, the butt and the two tinsels tied in at the back of the hook, that end is now considerably larger than the forward end of the hook. You want to make the hook all one thickness; which means that the front part of the hook will need to be built up. I use Uni Stretch in white to do the leveling (same as for the Parson #1). Start the Stretch at the forward end of the hook and wind it back towards the tail, then go back and forth to get the smoothness that you want. [I was rushed for time and mine did not come out well – oh well, maybe next time].

10. As a result of the lumpy underbody, I used my burnisher as much as I could, but in the end, it still didn’t give me a good smooth shape. [Don’t rush any part of the tie – your flies will come out better for the extra time taken.]

11. Now, it’s time to mount the hackle. As with the Parson #1, the problem is that you don’t really know where to mount it. You want the hackle to emanate from the back of second full rib wrap. So, to find out where this will be on the fly, you need to pre-wrap both the flat and oval tinsel over the underbody. Tie both the flat and oval tinsels off at the front of the hook. [Don’t forget to pull the flat tinsel tight before you tie it off. Put a small ink mark on the underbody where the back of the second full rib wrap starts (do this on the bottom of the underbody).

12. Next, untie both the flat and the oval tinsels from the front of the hook and let them completely unwind. Find the ink mark and tie in a folded black hackle on the bottom of the underbody so that the hackle hangs from the point where you made the ink mark.

13. Advance the thread to the front of the fly and tie in the black floss.

14. Wind this floss in non-overlapping wraps to the back of the body; right up against the black ostrich herl and then back to the tie-in point, using slightly overlapping wraps. Be careful not to trap any of the black hackle fibers in the floss wrapping process. Also, use the silk gloves, If you can. Then, tie off the black floss at the head with 3-4 flattened wraps.

15. Now, wind the flat silver tinsel up the body. 5 turns of tinsel is standard, but I used 6. Be sure that the second full wrap of tinsel lies in front of the black hackle. Tie off the flat tinsel at the head with 4-5 flattened wraps.

16. Next, wind the oval silver tinsel up the body, just behind and touching the flat silver tinsel all the way up. Be sure that it lies just in front of and touching the black hackle on the second full turn. Tie off the oval tinsel with 4-5 flattened wraps.

17. Now, pull the folded black hackle down; be sure that the barbs are facing toward the bend. Then wind it up to the head, keeping it all the while just behind and touching the back of the oval silver tinsel. Stroke the barbs back with each turn of the hackle. Tie off the hackle with 3-4 flattened wraps and cut off the waste end.

18. Next, tie in a folded medium blue hackle [a lot of tyers will use a silver doctor blue hackle because it matches better with the blue chatterer cheeks which are part of the wing, but Tom called for medium blue, so that’s what I used]. You can use whatever color blue hackle you want. Try to get the barbs of the blue hackle to be about the same size as that last wind of the black hackle [mine was not quite long enough in the fibers, so the pulled down hackle will look a little different on my tie]. Tie off the blue hackle with 4-5 flattened wraps.

19. Make a 3-whip finish with the white thread, cut it off and tie in the black thread. Bring it back to the end of the blue hackle and you’re ready to start on the wing.

That’s it for the body.

I’ll try to get the wing step-by-step done tomorrow or early next week.