Fly of the Month: Parachute Adams

The Parachute Adams is an amazing fly. How else to explain that every person voting in ETU’s poll for the top dozen Colorado “must have” flies included the Parachute Adams.

In many ways, it is the ideal fly, especially from the angler’s point of view. It is a beautiful dry fly to cast, making for those classic “A River Runs Through It” casts to a rising fish. And it is a fly you can see, with its bright white post and dark body making it easily visible in most all light conditions.

Oh, and it catches fish on both streams and lakes with elegant and often quick rises that make for some of the most exciting fly fishing anyone could wish for.

For the fish, the Parachute Adams imitates an adult Mayfly, which means it imitates an awful lot of small flies. In Colorado, it is possible to find some Mayfly action almost year round, but serious Mayfly action is from around the end of February until runoff and then from around the first of September until it just gets too darn cold.

Even during a typical day, when it gets too hot, expect the hatches to slow down. But if it’s too cool in the mornings, the hatches will also wait until the sun warms things up a bit.

The Parachute Adams is a versatile fly. If you skitter it across the water, it can even imitate a Caddis. When spinners are falling, it will work for that, too.

To tie this fly, we turned to the person in ETU known as perhaps the best of a lot of good tiers, Len Wheaton. Len uses many classic patterns along with his own touches developed over many years. His flies are real beauties.

You can find other patterns in other places on the Web, but the one Len ties here is about as easy as any, and I can guarantee you that it works. I’ve seen it in action.

Hook: #16 Dai-Riki 310, though the fly shown here is tied on a #16 Saber 7013 from
Thread: 14/0 gray
Tail: Brown Hackle Barbules
Body: Superfine Adams Gray Dubbing
Parachute Post: Polypropylene Cord, combed out
Hackle: 1 Brown, 1 Grizzly
Tying Instructions

Once the hook is in the vise and the barb crimped down, start your thread at midpoint and wrap back to just short of the bend of the hook. Here tie in 5 or 6 barbules of brown hackle to create a tail that is as long as the fly body.

You should be able to tie in the tail with about three snug wraps, stopping the thread right at the start of the bend of the hook and almost directly above where the barb was.


Now dub a very tiny bit of the Superfine dubbing onto your thread and wind forward to create a thinly tapered abdomen. Stop barely beyond midpoint. Notice in the photo how thin the body is.

At this point, you are going to tie in the polypro post. (Lots of other materials can be used for the post and work quite well.) Len gets his polypro from an old piece of rope he got at the hardware store. Tim took a photo of a small piece just so you could get an idea. He placed it along side what used to be a quarter just for reference. By the time Tim took the photo, the quarter had turned into a dime.

Whatever you choose, pick a thin clump of material about 1 inch long and bind it on top of the hook at the front edge of the abdomen with the parachute portion facing toward the rear of the hook.

Notice that it kind of leans right up against the front of the abdomen for your tie-in. The idea is to keep the tie-in forward and its bulk off the abdomen. Once you have made the tie-in, trim any excess butt ends that push out toward the eye of the hook.

Assuming you are right handed, hold your polypro post up with the fingers of your left hand and wrap the thread up the post with the bobbin in your right hand, making sure the wraps don’t slide back down over each other. This may require using one finger of your left hand to apply some pressure to the wraps while continuing to wrap with the right hand. It’s a little tricky, but it can be done with a little practice.

You want to make 6 to 8 wraps, depending on the size of your post.

Now wrap back down the post in 3 or 4 wraps.

At the base of the post, make a couple of quick wraps of the thread forward of and then behind of the post to lock down everything and then really secure the base of the post with a drop of cement. These wraps will be the base later on for your hackle.

Next apply the tiniest bit of Superfine dubbing to your thread and build the thorax so that you also obscure the parachute tie-in. Look at the photo to see how the dubbing covers the bottom of the parachute and then tapers down toward the eye of the hook. Everything is kept very sparse.

The last big step is the hackle on the parachute. For this you want 1 brown and 1 grizzly hackle of equal lengths and with barb lengths that are about 1 ½ times the gap of the hook. Put them one on top of the other, with the barbs curved up.

Before tying them in, strip some of the barbs off the base of the quills so there will be a bare base for tying down.

Tie the two hackles in together at the base of the post with the barbs facing up and then wind the two simultaneously twice around the base of the post, wrapping from top to bottom. This is best done using hackle pliers. This yields 4 winds of hackle since you are working with a double strand, and will be plenty.

Now tie down the hackle in front of your thorax, being careful to stay under the wound hackles. You don’t want your thread to trap any of the wound hackle. Make widely spaced wraps up to behind the eye of the hook, then make a small head with a few wraps and you’re almost done.

All that’s left is to tie off your fly with a whip finish, and maybe a final touch of glue. Just be sure to push those hackles back out of the way so you don’t trap them with your whip finish.

NB: Len notes that he recently saw a tier who used Zap-A-Gap or some similar version of Super Glue to finish his flies. If there ever was a fly where you might want to try it, this might be the one. Len said that when the tier finished the hackle wraps, he just applied the zap-a-gap to his thread, made two or three quick wraps and was done. Neither of us has ever tried it, but maybe one of you has, or will, and could let us know how well it works for you.

by John Haile. Tied by Len Wheaton. Photos by Tim Stechert