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Adventures in Fly Tying... March 2009

The Brassie
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


The dimpled ball sits on a tuft of healthy green, 195 yards from the bright flag shimmering in the soft summer breeze.  The breath of wind is quartering towards your gaily dressed party as you look to the caddy, here a young boy but on the continent a trained and serious professional, and ask for your brassie.  A century ago a brassie was a golf club; a precursor to today's fairway woods.

Today the brassie is gone from golf.  More than a century after it began it's evolution from brass-faced wood club to the modern 3-wood, the brassie moniker again surfaced, unrelated, in the sport of fly fishing.  A western pattern with its roots in Colorado, the Brassie has been fooling trout since the dawn of disco.  From its plain wire body and simple construction have come bushels of variations, the most famous of these the Copper John.

Today the traditional two-part Brassie is as effective as ever.  At its most basic, this is a blindingly brilliant imitation of a caddis larva, midge larva or aquatic beetle larva.  These aquatic insects are so common, in both cold water and warm water flows, as to be considered the first important step in the food chain of game fish.  Beyond simple imitation, the enduring strength of the Brassie is its endemic mass, the dense tie veritably plummets to the bottom.  As we all know, trout spend 90% of their time living, eating and hiding on the bottom.

The Brassie was originally tied with thin brass wire.  But brass is quick to tarnish and it wasn't long before copper wire took its place. Copper, too, will tarnish, but at a slower rate.  And varnished copper, common in electrical parts, is even better protected and slower to dull.  Copper quickly became the material of choice and bead heads, rubber legs, wing cases and exotic hackles quickly found their way into the design.  Some materials made the fly fish better some of the time (glass and brass beads), but most only made it look a bit different. Today you won't see the simple version shown here in as many fly boxes. 

Excellent variations to carry include those tied with different colors of wire.  I like red and chartreuse best of all.  I carry copper, red and chartreuse, in both bead head and standard thread-head versions in sizes from 10 to 18 and I've done very well presenting them to bluegills in lakes, smallmouth in creeks and trout in clear, cold flows.  In red the Brassie is an amazing carp fly, one you should carry if you intend to dance with the big, golden fish.  And I've heard the brighter colors are absolute bad news for steelhead, so much so that a few fellows I know wouldn't head to Steelhead Alley without them.

This is a simple fly, productive and effective. It's a fast tie and a good choice for a beginning tier to practice with.  It's almost impossible to make one that won't catch a fish.  And that's saying something...


Hook: Standard wet fly or curved "scud style" as desired, size 10 to as small as you can tie them!
Thread: 8/0, 70 denier, black

Body: Thin copper, brass or colored wire.

Thorax: Peacock herl.  Also try dubbing in various colors

Head: Thread head or bead head as desired.

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



The Brassie is about as simple as a fly can get.  Two materials, thread and a hook are all that is needed. Tie this fly in sizes from 10 to 20, or even smaller.  And don't overlook this pattern for carp!

Getting the correct wire to tie this pattern is easy and inexpensive.  A number of wire sizes and colors are available at any modestly stocked fly shop.
Lay a foundation of thread along the hook.  If you're tying a bead head pattern the bead will be at the front of the hook at this point.  Tie the wire smoothly along the length of the shank.  This will prevent a bump where it's tied in.
Wrap the wire in close, touching wraps along the shank.
Tie off the wire at the 3/4 point of the shank, where the thorax will begin.  You can break off or snip off the remaining wire.  Burnish the cut end with the side of a half-hitch tool or with a thumbnail to keep it from cutting the tying thread.
Tie in two peacock herls by the tips.  I didn't do it in the video, but I should have wound the thread back to the herls and spun the herls around the thread to reinforce the fly. When so wrapped the fly will last for several fish.
Wrap the peacock herls to the eye of the hook and tie off.
Form a neat thread head and whip finish.
Fast, easy and deadly.


Tight lines and clear waters...

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