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How to Tie a Bird’s Nest Sulphur Emerger

Producer: Tim Flagler

This is a modified version of Cal Bird’s Bird’s Nest, tied to imitate an emerging sulphur. It’s an extremely versatile pattern that can be fished wet or dry, dead drifted or swung.

I start with a Dai-Riki #285, size 16, 3X long nymph hook. After mashing the barb, I get the hook firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 70 Denier in a color called wood duck, but any shade of yellow will work just fine. Get your thread started on the hook shank behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Leave your thread about an eye length behind the hook eye.

A single well-formed and marked wood duck flank feather is used to create both the tail and the collar of the fly. To prep the feather, strip off all the lower fuzzy fibers, leaving just the well-formed fibers that are almost straight across at their tips. Pull down the lower fibers to expose the very tip of the feather, only 8 or so fibers including the stem. With the tip isolated, snip it off and put it away for safekeeping.

Pick up the rest of the feather and squeeze the fibers together in the fingertips of your left hand. With the tips pointing to the right, measure so the fibers are about a hook shank in length. Transfer this measurement forward to the back edge of the eye. With a pinch wrap, begin securing the fibers to the top of the hook shank using tight turns of tying thread. Continue taking wraps rearward for about 2 eye lengths. Then, lift the butt ends of the fibers up and use your tying scissors to snip them off at a shallow angle. The fibers should be bound down all the way to the back edge of the hook eye.

Small copper Ultra wire is used for the rib. An 8-10” length will make numerous flies. Lay one end of the wire against the near side of the hook and take wraps of tying thread to secure it. Allow the wraps to push the wire to the far side of the hook as you wrap rearward all the way back to about the barb. Retrieve the wood duck feather tip and measure to form a short tail, approximately half a hook shank in length. Keeping that measurement, secure the fibers to the top of the shank and continue taking wraps to bind them down, almost all the way up the hook. Then return your tying thread to about the hook point.

Rusty brown Australian possum dubbing is used to create the abdomen of the fly. You’ll need a fairly ample pinch. Use the dubbing to build up a thin, lightly tapered noodle on your tying thread. When it’s complete, start taking wraps with it so the dubbing begins right at the base of the tail. Continue taking touching or slightly overlapping wraps forward to build up a nicely tapered body on the fly. End a full eye length behind the hook eye.

Get hold of the copper wire and start making open spiral wraps with it over top of the dubbed body to add segmentation and a bit of shine. When you reach your tying thread, use it to firmly anchor the wire. Then slide your bobbin nozzle up to brace the hook and helicopter the wire to break it off close.

Pick up your bodkin, half hitch tool or anything with a small cylindrical opening and push it over the hook eye as you give a little twist. The idea is to get the wood duck fibers evenly spread around the fly. Use the fingertips of your left hand to hold the fibers back as you take wraps of tying thread to lock them down. Ideally they should extend back to the about the base of the tail.

Yellow beaver dubbing is used to give the appearance of an adult mayfly just beginning to emerge from its nymphal shuck. A very small pinch is all you need here. Use the dubbing to form a short, thin noodle on your tying thread. Start taking wraps with the noodle to build up a somewhat conical-shaped thorax on the fly, about like this in length. Finally, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.

And that’s the Bird’s Nest Sulphur Emerger. I especially like to fish them dried out and dressed up right in the surface film.