This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Atherton No. 6 dry fly.

Atherton No 6 Flies |

John Atherton (1900 – 1952) was an artist by trade and incorporated his impressionistic art into the flies he tied.

Interestingly, he didn’t name the flies, choosing instead to number his dry flies from 1 to 7, representing lighter to darker shades of mayflies. He also created wet flies and nymphs with the same naming convention and impressionistic characteristics.

His flies were created with “the appearance of life” as a central theme for the flies he developed to replicate colors and tones, textures, and light reflections combined in natural insects. Take a closer look at the flies and you’ll see the mixture of materials making the body and a round tinsel. For hackle, Atherton used mixtures of cree or brown, dun, and ginger mixed with grizzly to create the life-life image of the real insect. For a wing, he liked wood duck because of the “speckled look” created lifelike appearance.

This Amazon link is to Atherton’s book, The Fly and the Fish, re-issued in 2016. The original book was published in 1951.

Here is a link to Mike Valla’s book The Founding Flies where he dedicates a chapter to John Atherton. It was my original source to learn about John Atherton, his life, and flies.

If you’d like more information about John Atherton, I encourage you to read Robert Smith’s John Atherton Dry Flies post on his website, The Sliding Stream. Smith is the author of an excellent book about the history of soft hackles, North Country Flies (2015), a resource I return to often. (Link to The Rogue Angler, where I purchased this book.)

The Atherton No. 6 is the last of a series of dry flies I’ve highlighted. Notice how the flies change color from light to dark as the numbers increase. Here are the links to other Atherton TBT flies:

Atherton No 6 |
Atherton No 6

Fly Pattern


Dark rusty dun hackle


Bronze mallard flank


Dark muskrat mixed with red-brown fur, such as dyed seal fur


Narrow oval gold tinsel


Rusty dun or dark natural dun and red-brown mixed

Personal tying notes:

  • Mustad 94840, size 12
  • Collins Barred Rusty Dun hackle

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

(John Kreft is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.