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Adventures in Fly Tying... October 2009


The Parmachene Belle

Featuring Mike Schmidt As Our Guest Fly Tyer

Article by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


Mike Schmidt is the owner of Angler's Choice flies.  He was been featured on this site tying the Katydid, and provided two installments of our popular Fly Box Porn series. Mike is a great fly fisherman and a talented fly tier.  We caught up with him at a local "Tie and Lie" event at Buffalo Mountain Coffee Shop in Cincinnati, where we filmed him tying some classic winged wets.  In this video Mike ties the challenging married wing Parmachene Belle..

This history of the Parmachene Belle is a nearly palpable thing.  Nick Karas wrote a fascinating book, Brook Trout (The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-58574-733-5), where he explored the ties to North American history and the life story of the most colorful of our cold water citizens.  In the book Karas tells the story of how Dr. Cook landed one of angling's most legendary record fish; a 14 pound brookie on the Nipigon River caught at the end of the 19th Century.  Karas cites Ray DuPuis, a gentleman who knew the guides who actually led Cook to the giant fish personally and interviewed them about the event years later.  He says "DuPuis's interview with Lexie [Ray Lexie, the Ojibway Indian who led the Cook party] revealed that the doctor and his friends - another physician as well as two dentists - were fishing with Parmachene Belle and Silver Doctor patterns.  Cook used an 8-ounce bamboo fly rod.  The fish was caught late in the evening at Rabbit Rapids, also known as McDonald Rapids.  It was tough fishing because the shore was lined with big boulders and the water along shore was shallow- only 1 to 2 feet deep until one reached the big circulating pool."

The Parmachene Belle, named for Parmachene Lake, continued to be popular through the years, having been a top pattern in the late 1800's.  Again from Karas; "Fly fishermen seek their own Holy Grail: the Perfect Fly, one tha will catch fish on every cast and under every condition.  to this end, thousands upon thousands of fly patterns evolved over the last centruy, yet the quest remains unsatisfied. One man did come close, at least for awhile. He was Henry P. Wells... Wells's favorite fly, and that of many of his contemporaries, was the Parmachene Belle."

More than half a century later, Ray Bergman wrote in his 1964 opus Trout (Alfred A. Knopf), "In my opinion it is the popular fly substituting for the colorful paired fins of the brook trout, which have always been a killing bit of bait...Often I have used it with good effect when the water has been high and slightly discolored."

The beautiful proportions and pleasant, contrasting colors of the Parmachene Belle have kept the pattern alive well past its 100th birthday, and it seems as though this fly will be with us for decades to come. The traditional wet flies have enjoyed a series of renaissance moments, most recently with the work of Dave Hughes and Don Bastian.  The lovely and classic Parmachene Belle nearly always makes the lists, and why shouldn't it?  The married quill wings are the very essence of tradition, reaching back to the salmon and sea trout roots of the British Isles.  The red and white color pattern is a still a standard fish killer found on everything from the Daredevel spoon to the MirroLure plug.  The sparse life of the fly is delivered by its smart use of materials that sparkle, glow and breathe.  This is a fly that catches as many fish today as it did in the days of the Westward Expansion. Tie a few and put them into your fly book, you'll be happy you did!


Hook: Daichi 1530 Wet Fly Hook, sizes 6 to 14

Butt:  Peacock herl
Thread: Black 70 denier, 8/0

Body: Yellow floss

Rib:  Small, flat silver tinsel.

TailMarried white over red duck quill

Hackle: Mixed red and white hackle fibers

Wing: Married white over red over white duck quill

Head: Black thread coated with a high-gloss finish consisting of three coats of black Pro-Lak head cement

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



Mount the hook in the vise.

Lay down a smooth thread base.

Select a duck quill.  Look at the feather and select a portion where the wing will be made of the thin, tapered section of the feather as shown in the photo
Select matched left and right feathers for a complimentary curve.  You'll need a pair of white and a pair of red wing quills for this pattern.
Cut a thin section of about 3 or 4 fibers from each color and "marry" them by aligning the tips and stroking the feather sections so they interlock
Take your matched pair and set them back to back so the tails splay out from eachother
Tie the tails down along the entire length of the hook shank so you maintain a smooth underbody for the floww.  The tails should be as long as the hook shank.
Keeping a smooth thread base by spinning the thread to be flat and making abutting turns to the head and back, tie in peacock herl for the butt.  Wrap a small, neat but with about 4 to 6 turns of peacock hurl.
Tie in the flat silver tinsel rib and the yellow floss for the body alongside the far side of the hook  Mike inverts the hook in the rotary vise to easily accomplish this.
Wrap a smooth floss body and tie off the floss.  Carefully trim the excess.
Make five turns of tinsel ribbing.  Tie off the tinsel and clip the excess.
Roll a sparse bit of red hackle fibers and a sparse bit of white hackle fibers, to make a bearded hackle.
Tie in the beard hackle so the fibers extend to the back of the butt, roughly to the hookpoint.
Cut and marry a strip of white duck quill, red duck quill and white duck quill and marry to form the wings. Remember to create matching left and right wings with mirror image characteristics.
Measure and tie in the wing material.
Use a loose pinch wrap and pull straight down on the tieing thread to force the wing quills to collapse vertically, forming a tough and neat wing.
Cut the excess materials away from the hook head.
Form a neat thread head and coat with cement and laquer.
The finished fly.


Tight lines and married-wing waters...

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