Fly of the Month: Bob Churchill's Sparkle Wing Emerger

Many Colorado fly fishermen will tell you that Rim Chung’s original RS II fly pattern was one of the best ever to come along, and they also will tell you that Bob Churchill’s Sparkle Wing Emerger was then the best improvement ever made to it. It’s hard to imagine anyone fishing the South Platte River without this fly in their arsenal.

For our purposes, as Bob shows this month, it’s also an easy fly to tie, even for beginners. It is the perfect fly to kick off our series on the top dozen flies you absolutely must have in your fly box at all times pretty much anywhere in Colorado. Count guide Pat Dorsey among those who calls this his favorite RS II pattern.

Bob is well known to many Evergreen Trout Unlimited members because he taught fly tying at the Blue Quill Angler for a long time. He also has sat in on some of our informal winter fly tying sessions there and you can find him tying at most of the big sports expos in the area.

The Sparkle Wing Emerger, created in 1996, is his trademark fly, but it has several variations, including a couple pictured here this month.

One is the “thorax style” Sparkle Wing Emerger, shown in the photos, which is tied with just a thread body and then a regular dubbed thorax.

Another is the “Extreme Emerger,” also shown here, which has a thread body ribbed with fine silver wire and then the dubbed thorax. It also has two wraps of hackle that are put in between the tying steps of the wing, with the top of the hackle trimmed off before the wing is looped back and tied down. (Details below)

Hook: Tiemco 101 or Dai Riki 310, # 16 – 24
Thread:Grey, 8/0 – 14/0
Tail: Hair fibers from an elk’s mane or neck
Body: Muskrat, grey rabbit fur or Adams grey dubbing
Emerger Wing Bubble: Opal metallic ribbon floss
Note: For Blue Wing Olive, PMD and Trico patterns, use olive, tan and black dubbing with the corresponding thread color. The tail and wing bubble material remain the same for all colors.
Tying Instructions

Before putting thread to hook, go ahead and clip your elk mane and use a hair stacker to even up the ends so that the elk mane is ready to tie in later. Also, cut a two- to three-inch strip of floss so that is also ready. If you don’t have the floss already, you can find it at the Blue Quill either in little packets or on a roll.

After de-barbing your hook and setting up the hook in the vise, start tying by putting in a thread base, starting at the eye of the hook and wrapping back to the bend. Keep it neat and thin. Now select your elk fibers for the tail.

Bob says that for tying sizes 22 and 24, he uses only three fibers, and for sizes 18 and 20, he uses four to six fibers. For a bigger size 16 hook, he will use as many as eight fibers. Tie in the fibers right at the top of the bend of the hook and wrap forward to just short of the halfway point. Trim off the butt ends.

The completed tail should be about the same length as the hook and slightly flared.


Next apply your dubbing in a very thin coat to your thread and, starting where you tied the tail in at the top of the bend, dub forward to form a tapered body. The body should end up just past the halfway point of the hook shank. Bob emphasizes that by keeping the dubbing thin on your thread, you will be able to control the shape of the fly body much better.


At this point, tie in the pre-cut section of floss with four to six wraps of your thread. As you make those wraps, move your thread back slightly up the front of the dubbed body. The photo shows the floss now hanging back over the back of the fly.


Now pick up that floss and bring it forward so that you form a loop or “bubble.” Bob recommends that right-handed tiers do this by pulling the floss over with their right hand and then pinching it down between the thumb and forefinger of their left hand, just as you would do when man-aging the tie-down of any other material. From above, the loop should be flat, like a wing. From the side, you should barely be able to see through the loop.


Once it is pinched down, you can size the loop so that, when pushed down, it extends about to the tail. I’ve seen some folks form the loop and then adjust it to its proper size, after securing it with just a couple of wraps, by using a bodkin or dubbing needle pushed through the loop and pulling on the tag end of the floss. This lets you adjust the loop back and forth while keeping everything nice and smooth.

Tie the floss down at the same point as your original tie-in point for the floss. Cut off the excess.

Bob offers a nice tip for those smaller flies that will keep that loop from getting too big: on the size 22s and 24s, remove six to eight fibers from the floss. You will see how easily this is done.

Now that the wing is done, the fly is just about finished. Just apply a small amount of dubbing to your thread and finish the thorax by tapering it from the front of the bubble to just behind the eye of the hook. Form a thread head and whip finish. You’re done and ready to fish one of the great flies of all times. - John Haile. Photos by Tim Stechert

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