This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Wonder Wing Drake.
Al and Gretchen Beatty graciously provided the information below from their new eBook entitled Wonder Wing Flies.
While they didn’t invent the Wonder Wing, they have refined the technique used to drastically remove the possibility of the fly twisting while being cast due to the stiffness of the wing.
The Wonder Wing technique can also be used for delta wings, down wings, as well as the upright wing shown below.
Here is an excerpt from an article from the 2005 issue of Salmon Trout Steelheader magazine where the story began.
“Al first saw Wonder Wings on a trip to Europe in the late 80s where he was a demonstration fly tier at FlyFair in Holland. Dutch friend Wim Ter Harr asked if Al would like to see his “Germany” fly box. Ever curious to see other people’s secret patterns Al replied, “You bet!” He was stunned when Wim opened the box to row after row of exquisitely tied dry flies with the most incredible, natural looking wings. “What are the wings?” he asked. “Wonder Wings,” was Wim’s reply. Long story short Al had Wim at a vise in very short order learning how to tie those beauties. What Wim demonstrated for Al was a method of sweeping hackle fibers back along the feather’s stems to construct a set of wings. Not only were the wings incredibly natural looking but also they made use of something Al had a lot of, rooster capes with all the small dry fly hackle missing and only the large end of the pelt remaining.
He returned to his home in north Idaho ready to revamp his complete supply of dry flies with this new wing design. It happened to be spring and the green drakes were hatching. What a perfect bug on which to test the new wings so he tied several W. W. Green Drakes.”
Here is Chapter 2 from their eBook – Wonder Wing Flies. The chapter shares their first attempts at dealing with the stiffness in the wings discussed in Chapter 1.
“As we already stated, it didn’t take us long to find out the stiff Wonder Wings caused our leaders to twist. We had long known that stiff, perpendicular wings on a fly will cause leader problems. Getting rid of it seemed like an easy solution. We just had to make the wings softer.
Our first thought was to only use the part of the feather close to the tip because the wing stem there was much finer. That really did help and we used that solution for most of one summer. However, we discovered anytime the fishing situation demanded a lighter 6X or 7X tippet the twisted leader problem was back with a vengeance. We were soon back at the drawing board.
Looping the wings by not tying down the hackle stem to the shank was the next thing we tried and it worked just fine with one exception. Torque from the tightening thread wraps tended to cause the feather fibers to twist over each other. We could only get about one successfully tied, looped Wonder Wing fly out of every several tries. When we got a successful wing application, the fly worked great but getting a completed fly just took to darned long.
Then Gretchen came up with the solution we’ll share with you in this chapter. She suggested we tie a regular Wonder Wing then use fine-pointed scissors to trim away a short section of stem at the base of each wing. It worked great most of the time. Unfortunately, if we didn’t use caution trimming the stem we could easily cut off more of the wing than we wanted. We just lived with that possibility for the next years and ended up tying many “clipped, looped” Wonder Wing flies. We even sold a few to local fly shops plus supplying many of regular customers with them. We never told anyone about the “quick snip” we used to tie the wings until years later when we were regularly demonstrating the wing style at fly-fishing shows.
WW Drake Materials List
Hook: Size 20 to 8, TMC 100, Mustad 94840 or similar
Thread: Olive green, 70 denier (6/0) in size
Tail: Whiting Tailing Pack fibers, dun color
Wings: Large dun feathers, looped-clipped Wonder Wings
Rib: Copper wire or strand of yellow floss
Body: Olive muskrat dubbing
Step 1: This isn’t really a step but rather an illustration of the mess thread torque can make of a looped Wonder Wing when you try to tie it straight on the hook without the stem to help control the fibers. If we completed the fly using these wings, it would still be attractive to the fish but we hated the way those messed up wings looked to us. We had to do better!
Step 2: Here we have completed a fly up to the same point as we did in step 2 in the previous pattern except we have not trimmed the waste fibers at the severe angle. Instead, we are clipping off a short section of stem adjacent to the tie-down point, one wing at a time. Through trial and error, we found trimming the stem off before trimming the excess fibers was a better solution. Starting a new wing over in case we had a “major clipping accident” was much easier before trimming those fibers than at a future point in the fly’s construction.
Step 3: Trim the waste feather ends at a severe angle then wrap over them to shape the underbody. Build a thread dam in front of the wings forcing them to stand up, add a couple of crisscross wraps between them and trim off the excess feather tips.
Step 4: Attach the rib material, apply olive green dubbing and wrap the rib forward to complete the fly’s body. An application of dun hackle, a whip-finish and a drop of head cement will complete the fly. Constructing looped wings with no imperfections was difficult but they were good enough for our purposes and sure fixed the twisted leader problem.”
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