By Nick Simonson
Another great (but often unsung) feather you can get off of the back of a rooster pheasant is the “almond-heart” feather located on the shoulder of the bird. Akin to the church window, this rust-orange plume can be used to create a shimmering back wing on any caddisfly pattern. The most notable is today’s pattern, the Gartside Caddis; named for renowned fly angler Jack Gartside who was a big fan of our favorite upland game bird and utilized their plumes in many of his fly recipes.
Hook: Dry Fly Size 12-16
Thread: Tan 6/0
Underhackle: Brown Dry Hackle, Trimmed to Hook Gap Width
Wing: Varnished Almond Heart Feather
Collar: Brown Dry Hackle, full
Before you start this fly, take a number of almond-heart feathers from the shoulder of a rooster pheasant, strip off the non-orange fibers and gently coat the top of each with a varnish or flexament and let them dry (1). If you don’t have either of those lacquers, try stealing your wife or girlfriend’s clear nail polish, such as Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails. This treatment will help the fibers stick together and make the feather easier to “tent” over the back of the fly.
Start the fly by tying in a brown dry hackle at the bend of the hook (2). Then create a dubbing body that goes two-thirds of the way to the hook eye and allow your thread to hang there (3). Using hackle pliers, wrap the underbody hackle forward tightly and evenly until you reach the end of the dubbing. Tie off and trim the excess and then evenly trim the hackle down to one hook-gap in thickness around the hook (4). At that same point, tie in a varnished almond-heart feather, tent style over the body so that it extends about one-quarter of a hook length beyond the end of hook (5).
Next, tie in a brown hackle. (6) Advance your thread behind the hook eye and palmer the hackle tightly around the front of the hook shank to up near the eye, forming a dense hackle collar; when complete, tie off the excess and trim, then whip finish adding a small drop of cement for posterity (7). Put this fly out there with a little bit of floatant on the front hackle anytime you see caddisflies skittering on the surface – it does a great imitation and works well on summer bluegills, and trout anytime in June, when big, juicy caddisflies are buzzing around the surface of the lake.