Article and images Tom Sutcliffe - It always struck me that the way squirrel tail fibres are tied in on Philip Meyer's Para-RAB is at best haphazard and arbitrary. Most of us tie in a small bunch near the post or between the post and the eye of the hook, Then, before or after we've tied off at the head, we 'arrange' the squirrel tail fibres using thumb and finger nail pressure to force the fibres into place. Not that it doesn't sort of work. The success of this remarkable pattern pays ample testimony to that. And I guess the method is easy enough to appeal to most.
Then I got to thinking what if I spun the squirrel tail fibres in a dubbing loop and then palmered them down the post like a parachute pattern. I tried it a few times, and strangely enough, my first attempt worked, although the pattern was hugely over-dressed with squirrel tail fibres. I could have done with a quarter of what I used.
The pattern was hugely over-dressed with squirrel tail fibres
Click in images to enlarge
But subsequent attempts were frustrating for one or other reason. Sometimes the fibres fell out of the loop in transferring them from the clip, or when I spun them they just clumped into an amorphous mass.
Too many fibres in the clip - big mistake.
Subsequent attempts have been better. Firstly I've used fewer squirrel tail fibres and then I also waxed the thread to add some 'grip'. Whatever, this is all still work in progress and many better tiers than I am may yet take up the idea and conquer its host of aberrant little nuances and challenges. Or else, nobody will see any merit in the idea at all and we can all just go back to the 'thumb-nail-fibre-shove' routine. The original method at least has an attractively quick simplicity about it, but even in the best of hands, the end result remains a little messy.
What I used for the Spun Squirrel Hair Para-RAB
Hook: Grip 14122 BL size 16 or 14 (or equivalent hook.)
Thread: Veevus D01 black 10/0
Tail: Six to eight Coq de Leon hackle fibres. (Some will say that's too many, but they don't look over-crowded to my eye.)
Body: Peacock herl from the eye of the feather.
Rib: Fine copper wire.
Thorax: Hareline rabbit and Antron dubbing in black.
Hackle: Spun squirrel tail fibres above and genetic cock hackle (grizzly, brown, dun, whatever) below. In this case I used a grizzly.
Peacock herl from the eye of the feather is wonderful because it's here that the herl has the lovely pale cream and dark, two-toned colouration. But to strip the herl from the flue off the eye of a peacock eye feather with your nails is hard work, so I use a rubber eraser, stroking it going against the grain of the fibre, an idea Mike Valla recounts in his book, Tying Catskill-Style Dry Flies.
The use of a rubber eraser to remove the flue from a peacock herl Mike ascribes to a famous Catskill tier, Ray Smith. Rube Cross used a razor blade held at an angle and Art Flick apparently used household bleach. At least according to Valla. I've tried it, but the resulting herls ended up very brittle.
So here's the dressing of this experimental, prototype pattern:
Dress the hook with thread and tie in the tail fibres and copper wire.
Now tie in the peacock herl by its tip.
Tie in a Poly Yarn post just a few millimetres back from the eye of the hook. Leave it at least 2 cm long for good purchase when you wrap in the squirrel hair and the parachute hackle.
Wind the herl forward in a clockwise direction and tie off behind the post.
Rib the body with copper wire in an counter-clockwise direction and tie off at the post.
Build up a base of thread a few millimetres high – I call it an 'anchor' – around the base of the post to stabilize it to support the parachute hackles and squirrel hair. See below.
Tie in the grizzly hackle stalk against the post, tip facing downwards, shinny side facing towards you.
Take the thread to the top of the post's 'anchor' and throw in a loop of tying thread here. Thereafter bringing the thread back to the base of the post again. Add a thorax of Antron dubbing in figure of eight wraps around the post.
Select around a dozen fibres from the squirrel tail and trap then in a paper clamp with a few millimetres of their butt ends protruding. Insert these butts into the thread loop, tighten the loop and then spin it! Good luck here! I needed lots.
Wrap the spun squirrel hair down the post, anchor and secure it on the shank with wraps of thread. Trim off the end bit. Lift up the squirrel hair fibres with your left hand – as many fibres as you can – and then wrap two turns of the grizzly hackle under them, secure the grizzly tip and tie off in the usual manner. The grizzly hackle seems to help to keep the squirrel hair in place in line with and above the hook shank.
Whip finish and add a drop of head cement.
Pretty buggy looking pattern and note the tail does not look too dense at all.
As I said this is work in progress and the next step is to see if a Jay Smit's Jvice Brush Maker wouldn't be a better solution than using a tying loop. I'm certain it would.