Burned Wings

Mayfly - Imago-01

The perfect may fly imitation has haunted fly fishers, probably since the dawn of fly fishing. At least we know that as modern dry fly fishing evolved on the chalk streams of southern England in the late 1800s (with Marryat, Halford et al.) the development has never seized.

Mayfly - Dun-Newly hatched

There are several different styles of imitations: The traditional tail-body-fronthackle, the same with added wings of either feather slips or hackle tips, parachutes, no-hackles duns, extended body duns, foot print duns, (and probably a few I’ve forgotten) and then there are the burned wing duns.

I first read about these in Lennart Bergqvist’s now classic book, Flugbinding – på mitt sätt (Fly tying – my way). I really liked the look of them and I tied up so many the first winter after I got the book. I was primarily fishing parachutes at that time, and I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed to begin with. Because it has to be said: These flies have one major draw back: If cast with too high a line speed, most will twist the leader in a few casts. Especially the bigger ones and especially in windy conditions. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have them in the box and fish them under the right circumstances.

A perfect profile is needed every now and then to fool the fish. Fly and photo by Håkan Karsnäser.

Because they also have some advantages. They’re quite easy to tie. The offer a very fine profile, both from the side, from below and seen from in front.

A fine profile from below that gives the impression of legs and two, distinct wings. Fly and photo by Håkan Karsnäser.

There are basically two ways of tying them. One is to burn two separate wings (typically from feathers) and tie them in. These can then be equipped with a standard hackle or a parachute hackle.

The individual wings are tied it and from here, you decide whether the fly becomes a parachute or a standard hackles fly.

Another allows for the use of other materials, and was introduced to me many years ago by Danish fly tier, Dennis Jensen and his father, Richard Jensen. Dennis and Richard (Richard unfortunately not with us any more) are creative fly tiers with many novel ideas. This technique of their’s allows for the use of synthetic sheets. Here you burn the two wings in one piece. Richard and Dennis were/are aware of the leader-twist-issue and when they showed it to me, they said that choosing a material that allowed air to pass through seemed to reduce the problem a little.

A nice profile, good float ability and fast to tie, what’s not to like?

Tiemco makes a special wing burner that’s perfect for this purpose. Place the material in the “clip”, trim relatively close to the edge of the “clip” and burn the edges to seal them and prevent from unravelling. The Tiemco is fast to use and burns a nice profile.

The lower of the two, the “traditional” wing burner, is used for individual wings, but can also be used to burn the one-pioece-symmetrical wings. Cut a piece of sheet a little larger than the wing burner. Fold over the sheet and place a small piece of paper into the crease. Place the wing in the wing burner, grease down, and burn the edges. The paper prevents the wings from melting together.

Whether you use the Tiemco wing burners or the “classic” ones to create this one-piece, symmetrical wing, it’s easy to tie the fly. Tie in tail and abdomen as usual and now make a loop of thread exactly on top of the hook shank. Tie in hackle, dub thorax and wind the hackle forwards and tie off. Now fold the wing around the thread loop and carefully pull it down, exactly on top of the thorax, keeping the thread loop tight, and secure at the hook eye. The tiniest dab of super glue secures the wing to the thread.

Front view. I typically tie these flies with a standard hackle over the thorax, but I always clip the underside off. This not only gives a more credible foot print on the surface, it also helps prevent the fly from tipping on its side. And sometimes I fool myself to believe that the clear split wing profile makes a difference every now and then.
One of the great things about this technique is that it allows for the use of many different materials for them wing. From left to right: A used tea bag (some tea bags are synthetic), the two in the middle are made with a product called “Thin Wing” and on the far right, a trimmed and burned organza ribbon from the craft store. No. three from the left is made with a standard wing burner, the rest with Tiemco’s model. You can see the profile is a little broader, and I cut the bottom corner off and sealed the edges to give the wing a little more shape.All flies are tied on the standard Ahrex 501 #16.

Tie some and cast slow – I’m sure they’ll perform well for you some day.

Christmas Tree by Markus Hoffman-02a

From the entire Ahrex Team, a very Merry Christmas to all of you!

Christmas Tree by Markus Hoffman-01
Christmas Tree by Markus Hoffman.