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Adventures in Fly Tying... April 2010

The Mrs. Simpson
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


The Mrs. Simpson streamer originated on New Zealand's North Island sometime in the first half of the 20th Century.  One manifestation of a style of tying known as "Killer" patterns, the unusual Mrs. Simpson is as effective on American bass and panfish as it is on the trout from the 'Land of the Long White Cloud'. According to Peter Cockwill, in his World Fly Finder (ISBN 1-85585-077-7), the Mrs.Simpson is "A pattern not to be ignored wherever trout swim.  It is a first choice fly in New Zealand, Australia and Africa.

No one could ever have guessed in June of 1896, when Bessie Wallis Warfield was born, what amazing adventures would befall her.  Entering the world as a member a family of moderate privilege, Bessie would be divorced twice by the age of 40.  Despite such a scandalous (for the time) history, her charisma was enough to cost one man a kingdom.  King Edward abdicated his throne to marry the intriguing siren.  In the aftermath, his brother King George VI, named him Duke of Windsor.  Bessie Simpson would forever be remembered as the Duchess of Windsor and lived a life of leisure until Prince Edward's death in 1972.  From 1972 until her own passing in April of 1986, Wallis lived a life of seclusion.  Taken in the context of such amazing celebrity, having a fly named after her seems almost inconsequential. But the name makes for a great aura, best described by Alan Shepherd in his article on the fly published on Fly Anglers On-Line: "[during her time] the 'Killer' style trout fly was developed and a name was required. To a trout, the fly is very attractive; it's a fly worth having; a fly that would merit a trout giving up its kingdom for, hence the 'Mrs. Simpson' trout fly was christened."

The 'Killer' style fly is characterized by two or more pairs of game-bird feathers tied parallel with the hook's shank, each pair of feathers separated by a short body.  Excellent examples of the pattern style include the American "Hornberg" streamer and New Zealand's "Kilwell" and "Hammill's Killer" patterns.  Categorized as a streamer, or "lure", these are flies that were originally intended to imitate a bully ( from the family Eleotridae, a small, bottom-oriented tropical Indo-Pacific fish similar to the gobies that have invaded the Great Lakes).  It is also an effective imitation of a crayfish, dragonfly nymph or darter.

The body of  the Mrs. Simpson pattern is traditionally tied using red, green or yellow chenille or wool yarn.  I've also used copper tinsel chenille and even dubbing to create subtle, but useful, variations.  The Killer is a style of tying, like the Deceiver, that simply begs for creative interpretation.  The feathers used on this pattern come from the cape of the cock Ringneck pheasant, a bird that's nearly irreplaceable in the fly tying arts.  Typically tied with the 'church window' feathers, the Mrs. Simpson can also feature the softer green feathers found adjacent to the boldly marked church window plumes.  In an upcoming installment of "Adventures In Fly Tying" we'll be sharing the Chili Pepper, another Killer-style fly, with you.  This is a fly profile that can be very effective under diverse conditions, but is rarely employed by most American anglers. One secret to success is to show them something different!

The Mrs. Simpson should be fished on a fluorocarbon tippet, and a longer tippet will give the fly much better depth penetration. The right place for this fly is along the bottom or near weedlines and fallen wood.  For water deeper than four feet, consider using a sinking line or sink-tip.  A loop knot helps maximize the fly's action. Fish the fly using a series of short, staccato strips. Finally, there are so many interesting colors and color patterns in a pheasant (or ruffed grouse, or partridge, or quail) that the total number of variations in fly coloration and texture is nearly unlimited. Get creative!


Hook:  Mustad 9674, Daiichi 1750 or similar 4XL ring-eye streamer hook, sizes 10 to 2
Thread: Black, brown or olive 140 Denier (6/0) to match

Body: Chenille or yarn. Traditional colors include red, green or yellow.

Tail: Traditionally black squirrel tail or kip (calf tail).  You could also use fox, coyote or any other soft fur

Wings Matched pairs of cape or breast feathers, three pairs on most flies and two pairs on the smallest hooks.

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 


New High Definition - 720p!

High Definition Windows Media File



The feathers used for the Mrs Simpson are the "church window" feathers for the back of a cock ringneck pheasant.  The feathers immediately below the brown church window plumes are a bit softer and are also commonly used.  Select matched pairs.

A ring-eye hook in sizes 10 to 2 that matched the size and density of the chosen feathers makes a great platform for this fly.

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.

Lay down a smooth thread base and tie on a tail about the same length as the shank of the hook.  About half the tail should extend beyond the veiling feahers.

Advance the thread to the one-third point on the shank. Tie on the chenille or yarn and wrap a smooth body. Tie off and clip the excess body material.

Tie on the first matched pair of feathers along the side of the hook shank so they conceal the body.

Advance the thread to the 2/3 point of the shank and repeat the previous step with a second pair of feathers.

Advance the thread to the hook eye and repeat the body/wing assembly.

Trim the tie-in points and wrap a neat thread head.

Coat the head with Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails or a similar tying lacquer.

Many different interesting color combinations and markings can create a rich pallet of flies from this simple tie!


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 bully bites...

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