How to Tie a BWO Parachute – Size 24
“This is a size 24, Blue-winged Olive parachute. It’s meant to imitate numerous baetis species, particularly the really tiny ones we get throughout the fall here in Eastern Pennsylvania and Northern New Jersey. As small as this fly is, the naturals are oftentimes even smaller. With a little practice, this pattern is actually fairly easy to tie.
The fly starts with a size 24 TMC 100 dry fly hook. Get the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise. Then, load a bobbin with a spool of fine, light gray or blue dun thread, here, UTC 70 Denier. Get the thread started on the hook shank, leaving a little space behind the eye, and after taking a few wraps rearward, snip off the excess tag.
On a medium dun-colored dry fly cape, select a single feather from the outside edge of the skin. You’re looking for one with long, straight fibers. Pull down and strip away the lower, webby fibers from both sides of the stem. Then, preen down 6-8 fibers perpendicular to the stem, grip them tight and pull the stem away. If the butts remain aligned, the tips should as well.
Measure to form a tail a hook shank in length and transfer that measurement rearward to the start of the hook bend. Use a pinch wrap to begin securing the fibers to the top of the hook shank. Pull up and toward you on the fibers as you take thread wraps rearward. This will help them to land on top of the shank as opposed to being pushed down the far side. End with your tying thread at about the midpoint of the hook shank. Lift the butt ends up and snip them off close. Cover up the snipped-off ends with wraps of tying thread, then leave your thread 2 eye-lengths back from the back edge of the hook eye.
Light gray polypropylene floating yarn is used to create the wing post of the fly. Snip a card-width length free from the card, then separate that lengthwise into four equal pieces, and get hold of one of them. With about 1/4” of the material pointing rearward, lay the yarn on top of the hook shank and take a few rearward thread wraps to secure it. Lift the excess rearward-pointing yarn up and snip it off at a shallow angle. Pull the forward-pointing portion up and back to inspect the tie-down point. If you need to, wrap forward so that point is exactly two eye-lengths behind the back edge of the hook eye. When you’re satisfied with the distance, take a few wraps in front of the material to begin holding it up and back.
Twist the yarn in a clockwise direction as if you’re looking down on it. Twist it up nice and tight then fold it over to form a loop that furls on itself. Pinch the folded-over portion tightly against the hook shank, as you take rearward thread wraps to anchor it to the hook. Lift the excess forward-pointing portion up and snip it off close. If necessary, take a few thread wraps to cover up the snipped-off ends then wrap rearward to behind the wing. Begin taking clockwise wraps up the furled post for about 1/8” then wrap back down, leaving a nice tight and smooth base for hackle wraps. End with your tying thread hanging at about the hook point.
Olive-colored Super Fine dubbing is used to form the body of the fly. Pull just the smallest of wisps free from the packet. Use the dubbing to create a super slender inch-and-a-half long noodle on your tying thread. It’s almost impossible to make this noodle too thin. When you’re happy with how the noodle looks, start taking wraps with it around the hook shank so the dubbing begins right at the base of the tail. Continue taking touching wraps forward to form a nicely tapered body on the fly, both in back and in front of the wing post. End by taking a full wrap or two of bare thread around the base of the post.
To hackle the fly, locate a single well-formed feather on the same cape as you used for the tail of the fly. Measure the feather to ensure the fibers are in the size 20-22 range. Once you’re satisfied with the fiber length, pluck the feather free from the skin. After stripping away most of the lower webby fibers from both sides of the stem, snip it off leaving an 1/8” or so of bare stem. With the shiny side of the feather facing you, strip a few more fibers off of just the top side of the stem.
Still with the shiny side of the feather facing you, lay the bare stem against the near side of the fly, like so, and begin taking thread wraps up the post to secure it. Once the stem is well-secured, take thread wraps back down to the base of the post. Flip the fly 90 degrees in your tying vise so the post is roughly parallel with the surface of your tying bench. If there’s any excess bare stem protruding beyond the posting wraps, snip it off close.
Pick up your hackle pliers and use them to get hold of the feather’s very tip. Start taking wraps with the feather around the post, behind your tying thread. After 3 or 4 turns, anchor the feather’s tip to the post with 3 or 4 tight wraps of tying thread. Reach in with your tying scissors and carefully snip the excess tip off close. If there are any wayward, trapped fibers, now’s a good time to get rid of them. Pick up your whip finish tool and use it to do a delicate 3-4 turn whip finish on the post, above the hackle. Make sure to seat the knot really well before snipping or cutting your tying thread free.
As a final step, flip the fly back to its normal orientation in your tying vise and trim the post off to about a hook shank in length.
And that’s a size 24 Blue-winged Olive parachute. This tying method generally results in a very clean body on the fly as well as a fairly substantial parachute hackle that will easily support the fly on the water’s surface.”