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Adventures in Fly Tying... May 2010

The Chile Pepper
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


I love the Mickey Fin streamer fly.  Popularized by John Alden Knight in the early part of the 20th Century, the Mickey Fin started life with the simple moniker "Red and Yellow Streamer", but was renamed the Assassin by Knight.  Following the demise of Rudolph Valentino in August 1926 the Assassin was again renamed as the Mickey Fin, a colloquialism for a "spiked" drink.  Gossip had it that the great Valentino died from such a drink, though in truth it was complications from a bleeding ulcer.  Regardless of the convoluted path to its name, the simple truth is that a mostly yellow fly with a trace of red is powerful magic when tied to a tippet.

The Internet is a powerful tool.  An article on the Global Fly Fisher web site introduced me to Phil Strobel's version of the Chile Pepper fly well over a decade ago.    The fly is reported to have its origins in the trophy trout waters of Tierra del Fuego.  Being a unique tie featuring the strong yellow and red hues of the Mickey Fin, it was a forgone conclusion that it would end up in my fly box.  Serendipity is strong medicine.  The fly remains in my kit to this day.

If this fly looks suspiciously like the Mrs. Simpson featured in the last installment of Adventures In Fly Tying, that's because it's the same Killer style of pattern.  This is a simple tying style that can result in a fly with a strong profile, subtle action and rich, natural color.  I've found it to be particularly effective on largemouth and smallmouth bass in the algae-stained waters of late summer.  It's also a curiously effective pattern for tempting channel catfish.  Though I haven't fished it over trout, its pedigree tells me that autumn browns will find its colors and profile irresistable.

A golden pheasant pelt is an inexpensive and useful material for the adventurous fly tier.  Full skins are readily available at most fly shops for under $20, For your investment you'll geta few dozen of these pretty streamers and enough materials to tie several dozen Orange Nymphs and a host of other great flies.  Using just feathers and thread, the Chile Pepper is a fast, easy and effective pattern!


Hook:  Mustad 9674, Daiichi 1750 or similar 4XL ring-eye streamer hook, sizes 4 and 6
Thread: Red or orange 140 Denier (6/0) to match

Body: Tying thread

Tail: Golden pheasant yellow body feather

Wings Matched pairs of golden pheasant yellow body feathers, up to five pairs.

Cheeks:  Matched pair of golden pheasant red body feathers

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 


New High Definition - 720p!

High Definition Windows Media File



The feathers used for the Chile Pepper come from the cape of a golden pheasant.  These capes are readily available at a reasonable price both on-line and from local fly shops  There are a lot of great feathers used in classic patterns and plenty of opportunities to experiment with these colorful feathers.

Ring-eyed hooks in sizes 4 and 6 look best with the typical feathers from this smallish bird.  Feel free to use any 3xl to 6xl streamer hook to vary the sink rate and length of the baitfish profile to meet conditions.  I like a 3xl, with the final fly having a strong oval profile to match a shiner.  A 5xl or 6xl hook good gives a slimmer profile mimicking a smelt. The first step is to lay down a smooth thread base.

Tie on one yellow/gold pheasant feather from the saddle as a tail. I like to tie this in "flat" along the top of the shank with the length equal to 1.5 times hook gap.

Match three pairs of body feathers for markings and size to complement the hook length.  Stripping the fluff and preparing the feathers ahead of time makes for a very easy tie.  Advance the thread to the one-third point on the shank and tie on one feather per side.  This first pair cover about half the tail.  Half hitch and advance the thread.

Tie in a second pair of feathers at the 2/3 point on the hook shank.  Half hitch and advance the thread to within two hook-eye widths of the eye.  Tie in the final pair of veiling feathers.

Match a  pair of red cape feathers to be used as cheeks.

Mount the cheeks, tie off and clip excess.  Wrap a neat thread head.

A simple streamer of feathers and thread - uniquely beautiful and unusually productive. 


The YouTube video embedded below is a slightly truncated version of the full video offered for download.  To see the full video, please select the standard definition or high-definition 720p files offered in the links above.  Please note, the HD version is a BIG file and download times may be considerable if you're on a slow Internet connection.  It's worth the wait!


Tight lines and cool waters...

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