Adams Parachute – From Nicholas’ 1960s Time Vault

I know the flies we fish these days are superb. Tied on the best hooks, with fine threads, bodies that are light and float when we want them to, but every once in a while I think about the way I tied flies for Norm Thompson in Portland, in the mid-1960s. At the time, I was a teenager looking to find a way to pay for a nice fly rod and line. I talked with Peter Alport and agreed to provide these parachute flies for 35-cents each. At the time, that made this fly the most expensive dry fly they offered, at a retail price of 70-cants. I revitalized this discussion of the old-style flies for your entertainment here, and offer my invitation to read-on and enjoy a look back.

This is a fly tied in about 1980, very much like I tied the Parachute in the 1960s.

This is a fly tied in about 1980, very much like I tied the Parachute in the 1960s.

Adams Parachute

Hook – Mustad 94840 #10 – 14
Thread – Grey Nymo
Tail – White Calf tail
Body – Grey Mohlon yarn
Head – Olive-green dubbing
Post – White calf tail
Hackle – Grizzly & brown saddle feathers, dense

My favorite dry flies when I fished the Metolius River during the 1960s and 1970s were the Adams, Female Adams, Floatin’ Fool, and Red Coachman Special, all tied parachute style with heavy hackling and bodies that would be judged by 2020 standards of fly-proportion.

I also fished a Caddis Parachute, and a Green Drake Parachute too, but the heart of my Metolius fly boxes in those days were the basic Adams Parachute.

From my first parachute to this day, I prefer to tie these flies with calf tail hair, carried clear though to form the hackle post. I learned this style from Lloyd Byerly and Audrey Joy, in Portland Oregon, back in the 1960s and have found no reason to stray from the style.

I will readily acknowledge that materials like Poly yarn and Parachute Post materials perform better in terms of floatation, but I try to use the calf tail whenever I can find suitable hair on a tail. Modern synthetic dubbing materials provide better floatation, and color shades can be purchased to match the subtle shades of insects in different streams or months of the year.

The Female Adams was a favorite dry fly, although I never knew if the little yellow color bump at the rear of the fly helped - my confidence always soared.

The Female Adams was a favorite dry fly, although I never knew if the little yellow color bump at the rear of the fly helped – my confidence always soared.

Nicholas’ Female Adams Parachute, circa 1980s

A Good Variation from the Adams Parachute is the fly I refer to as the Female Adams. This fly can be tied as traditional with hackle wound around the hook shank, or as shown here as parachute style.

Hook – Mustad 94840 #12 – 14
Thread – Grey Nymo
Tail – Grizzly & brown hackle
Butt – Yellow dubbing, bright is best
Head – Olive-green dubbing
Body – Grey muskrat or superfine
Hackle – Grizzly and brown saddle feathers

After fishing Adams parachutes for several years, I discovered the Female Adams. In theory, the yellow butt triggers the take for trout keyed in on female Mayflies with an egg sac. This fly is sometimes referred to as an Egg Sac Adams. I have fished this pattern with the traditional tie as well as the parachute-style for decades and consider it a must-have on any trout waters. I have taken to tying this fly using fluorescent chartreuse Ice Dub for the egg-sac, and this fly produces well also. I can’t say whether the bright butt makes a difference, but I love the fly. You can depend on it on any trout waters.

I fished the Metolius in those days with an Eagle Claw fly rod; probably about 7 ½ ft. long, with an SA floating Double Taper fly line. I think I joined line and leader with a Figure-8 knot, but on occasion, I used those little metal eyelets that we jammed into the end of the fly line, and was held in place with two or three tiny barbs on the shaft. My reel was either a Perrine No 80 Automatic, or a Pflueger 1495, but frankly, I’m not sure, because some of these details have become a little fuzzy over time.

My leaders at the time were the Gladding Gladyl, dark green, 9 ft. 6X tapers.

My floatant was a red metal tub of Mucilin paste, and I would squash a soggy parachute fly in a wad of paper towel to dry it, apply more Mucilin, and my fly would float high again.

In closing, I’d like to thank any of our readers for making it this far. These old fly-styles are fun to tie, and they still catch fish.

Jay Nicholas, December 2020

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