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A Most Versatile Fly, the Adams

Most dry fly fishers would agree that if one had to choose only 3 flies for the season then that selection would undoubtedly include the Adams. 

It is so versatile because in varying sizes it can emulate the olives, caddis, stoneflies and, well, pretty much everything - It is all things to all fish. It is a go to killer pattern, and can also be used as a searching fly when trout are not rising and you need to fish the river. 

The history of the fly is thought to have been dated to 1922 and a dressing made by a local fly dresser and friend of Charles Adams, who sought to match the hatch on a particular outing. 

His friend produced a general pattern with a grey body and mixed hackled wings, likely to emulate a dun, its wings in motion, either landing on or taking off the surface. The pattern was an instant success and has certainly stood the test of time. It is initially thought to include a golden tail, grey body and mixed brown and grizzly hackle.

Over the years the fly has been adapted to it’s current standard tying which is as follows:

The Dressing

Hook: #8 or #14 (larger sizes useful mayfly imitations)

Thread: Grey

Tail: Golden pheasant tippets

Body: Grey yarn (I prefer grey moleskin)

Rib: None

Wings: Grizzly hackle tips

Hackle: One grizzly and one brown hackle

Note: The fly can also be tied with a parachute hackle, as shown in the picture above, which generally has greater success on smooth glides and when the trout are being more selective.

Tying the Adams

Step 1 - With the hook fixed in the vice run the silk from the eye to about 1/3rd down the shank (pre-wax the thread if it is unwaxed).

Step 2 - Strip the stems of 2 grizzly hackles (as wings) and tie in facing to the rear just behind the eye, leaving sufficient room for the head, and using the tying thread part the wing tips, and secure in an upright position, finishing the thread behind the wings. Then clip off the excess stems.

Step 3 - Run the thread down the shank and tie in the tail tippets forming the tail.

Step 4 - Dub the thread using the grey yarn or moleskin and work the dubbed section back towards the eye and behind the upright wings to form the body.

Step 5 - Catch in one brown and one grizzly hackle behind the eye and make a couple of turns behind and in front of upright wings, making sure to not displace the wing tips in winding. My preference is that the hackles are not longer than the grizzly wing tips, and only slightly longer than the hook shank. The fly should look balanced and this will also ensure it sits upright on the water.

Step 6 - Tie in the hackles and whip finish, and apply a small amount of varnish to form the head and secure the tying.

Step 7 - For the parachute version, on tying in the grizzly wing tips these should not be cut off but left in situ. At the stage when the hackles are tied in the stems can be pulled upright with the grizzly tips and the brown hackles wound around the stems & wings such that the hackle is parallel and not perpendicular to the shank of the hook. Once 2-3 turns have been made the hackle can be secured, and the stems tied down over the hackle towards the eye and then a whip finish to form the head.

Step 8 - A touch of varnish should be applied to the silk head to finish.

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