The text is taken from my book "Flies from the Flyleaves of my Diaries’ issued in 1995.
I am very orthodox – I taught myself fly tying through books and thus I am under great influence from the former masters in the Art – C.A. Hassam and after him G.E.M. Skues, my great idol. Hassam’s way of tying is described in details in Skues’ »Side-Lights, Side-Lines & Reflections«. Part V. Chapter IV "After Hassam", and Skues’ own way is fully described by himself in F.M. Halford’s "Dry Fly Entomology…". 1897. Page 248-257: "Mr. Skues’ Method of Dressing an upright-winged Quill-bodied Fly".
To illustrate my way of tying I will describe how I tie one of my own favorites ‘Light Ollie’.
24. May 1963.
Hook: Hardy no. 0 or substitute Mustad no. 72709 size 15.
Tying silk: Primrose Gossamer (Pearsall’s no. 3).
Front-hackle: Very light Honey Dun cock.
Palmer-hackle: Blue Dun cock - very henny in the fibres - turned palmer-fashioned down over the body.
Tails: Buff Orpington cock hackle fibres.
Rib: Thin silver wire.
Body: 4 grey heron herls dyed in picric acid and twisted around the tying silk.
Originally the fly had no name until as late as 1971, when my friend Ove Nielsen in remembrance of the late Oliver Kite christened it ‘Light Ollie’.
I tied it for my son intending to make it easier for him to get his fly back should it be caught in the vegetation..
Beside that it has been a really trustworthy pattern to be used, when olives are on the water - and it floats high.
I tie the silk - Pearsall’s Gossamer - well waxed - down just behind the eye 5-6 turns. Tie down the hackles - one after the other on top of the hook with the ‘best side’ upwards. Continue with three turns of silk and cut surplus silk & hackle-stalks one-by-one – so that I get a sort of taper and not an abrupt ending. Back to the bend, where the hackle fibres for the tails are tied down, and I use two ways - either I place them a little bit down on the side of the hook towards me and with the first turn over them press them up and spread them out in a fan - or I tie them down on top, place one turn of silk close up under and behind them and then the next turn over and just so much forward, that it’s placed on top of the two preceding turns. Thus they will spread nicely out.
The silver wire I give a little squeeze between the jaws of a forceps to serrate the end and get a safe base for tying it down. Then the body-materials are tied down - here it’s Heron herls dyed olive in picric acid. This I turn around the silk - anti clock-wise (If one holds the silk towards oneself! Last year I found out, that in the U.S.A. they call it clock-wise) - and then turn silk and herls up over the hook - loosen the herls and tie them down and cut surplus. Then I turn the rear hackle as a palmer-hackle in wide turns down over the body - tie the tip down with the silver wire and turn this up over the body - moving it in zigzags, so that as few fibres of the hackle as possible will be tied down. The wire is tied down and wriggled until it breaks and thus gets a little ‘handle’ at the end. The front-hackle is turned backwards and the point tied down behind the wound hackle. Then I press the fibres forward and place one turn of silk close up behind and against the hackle. Wind the silk carefully through the hackle and make a few turns close up in front and against the hackle and finish with a whip-finish knot.
The turns close up against the hackle - to the rear and in front - can be of great help, if ones hackle-feather is not the easiest to wind. I learned it years ago, when I found an old German dry fly equipped with a ‘rubber-shirt’ on both sides of the hackle to support it!
Another way to better the floatability of a fly - if you don’t have the best of hackles - is to use a so called support-hackle. The French call it ‘Hackle de Sustensation’. I saw it years ago on some of their Spider-flies, where they ‘supported’ the long-fibred hackle with a short one - often with cut fibres - and by winding it through the other hackle - but doing it in opposite direction around the hook - the fibres will cross each other on many points and thus make a sort of support. The old English firm of Allcock used it on some of the first dry-flies I bought - the so called Blue Wickham series, and the Irish author T.J. Hanna mentions the method in his book »Fly Fishing in Ireland« from 1933.