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How to Tie a Douglas Salmon Camp Swinger

Producer: Tim Flagler

Over the last several years, I’ve had the privilege of attending Douglas Outdoors annual salmon camp on the Salmon River in Pulaski, New York. It’s a great place to meet and chat with others in the fly fishing industry, test out new gear and wrestle some truly giant king salmon. This year, with the help of Douglas Pro Guides Jay Peck and George Zervos, I tried to put together a fly that, although specifically designed to be swung for kings, might also work on cohos, steelhead and brown trout. The result is the Douglas Salmon Camp Swinger. It includes bright pink for sunny, clear days as well as some black for darker days or stained water conditions. We decided to include just a little flash to go along with a ton of material movement. Swinging is always a bit tougher than indicator fishing but this fly resulted in two properly hooked fish over a 2 day stay, a success in my book.

The foundation of the Swinger is a 25 mm intruder shank. Begin by getting the shank firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of UTC 140 Denier in black. Get the thread started on the shank behind the turned-up eye, and after 10 or so wraps rearward, snip off the excess tag. Continue taking thread wraps down the shank to bind the two legs together. Then, use tight wraps to close down the loop at the rear of the shank. End with your tying thread at the base of the loop.

For a hook, I’m going to use a Partridge Z4 size 6 intruder. It’s big enough to stand up to a large Chinook salmon, yet still small enough to effectively hook a Coho, brown or a steelhead, all very real possibilities on New York’s Salmon River in the fall.

Black Senyo’s Thin Intruder Trailer Hook Wire is used to connect the shank to the hook. A 6” length is just about perfect for this hook and shank combination. Align the ends of the wire and insert them from back to front through the hook eye then pull the hook up through the formed loop. This will create a nice handshake junction between the wire and the hook. Place the wire on top of the shank, leaving a little less than a shank-length of wire back to the trailing hook. This allows the hook to be changed if it gets dull, or flipped over to a hook point down orientation, if that’s preferred. Continue binding the wire to the top of the shank with tight wraps of tying thread. Feed the ends of the wire down through the eye, then around to the underside of the shank and secure them there. If the wire’s a little too long, just snip it off. Securing the wire in this manner absolutely ensures that it won’t pull free. Take thread wraps down the shank one more time to really lock everything in place, then return your thread back up to behind the eye.

So as not to hook yourself while tying, and you most certainly will, either remove the hook from the wire loop or figure out a way to corral it. Rotate your vise or flip the shank over, so its underside is facing up.

A pair of black, medium-sized bead chain eyes, although rather light in weight, will help the fly to run true and provide a nice look to the front of the fly. Secure the eyes to the underside of the shank behind the eye with cross wraps of tying thread. Superglue, here Fly Tyer’s Z-Ment, applied to the thread wraps holding the eyes and to those covering the shank, will help to increase the fly’s durability. After the adhesive is applied, the pressure of wrapping over top of it will ensure it sets. End with your tying thread at the base of the rear eye, with the shank in the upright position.

Pull down on your thread to form a loop about 4” in length. Take a wrap around both legs of the loop at the shank, to close it down to a point, then take a few more wraps around the shank for insurance. Place the very tip of your left hand middle finger into the bottom of the loop. A light skim of sticky dubbing wax applied to both legs of the loop will make the next step much easier.

Hot pink angora goat is used to create a hot spot butt on the fly. Pull an ample clump free from the packet or dispenser. Open the thread loop and place the clump of dubbing between the two strands. The dubbing wax will really help to temporarily hold it. Sandwich the dubbing between the two strands by pinching them together with the thumb and index finger of your left hand. Pick up a dubbing whirl and insert it into the bottom of the loop, then pull your middle finger out. Give the whirl a clockwise spin, as if you’re looking straight down on it. This will twist the dubbing into a fuzzy little rope.

Plunger-style hackle pliers, firmly secured at the bottom of the dubbing, will make wrapping it much easier than it would be with the dubbing whirl attached. Advance your tying thread to in front of the rear return, then start taking wraps with the dubbing noodle to build up a bulbous, little hot spot. When you’re done, anchor the end of the noodle with tight wraps of tying thread, then snip the excess off close.

A single feather from a black hen neck gets tied in next. Pluck the feather free from the skin and strip off the lower, fuzzy fibers from both sides of the stem. With the shiny or front side of the feather facing you, get hold of its very tip and gently preen down the lower fibers to expose the tip. Snip it off to form a small triangular tie-in anchor. Place the anchor at the location of your tying thread and take tight wraps to secure it to the shank. The anchor will definitely help to stop the slippery stem from pulling free. Advance your tying thread a little ways up the shank, to get it out of the way, then get hold of the feather’s bare stem with hackle pliers. Bend the stem down and through the thumb and index finger of your left hand to fold the fibers rearward on either side of the stem. Take touching wraps with the feather to build up a neat little collar in front of the pink butt. When you reach bare stem, use wraps of tying thread to secure it, and snip the excess off close. The dubbing ball helps to support the hackle collar while the black collar makes the pink dubbing really pop.

Select a single, well-formed black marabou feather, and strip off all the fibers from both sides of the lower, thicker portion of the stem. On this feather, the fibers are just a little too long and extend beyond the back edge of the hook, so I’m going to wrap the feather further up the shank to shorten them. To do this, isolate the tip of the feather by pulling down the lower fibers, advance your tying thread to halfway between the hackle and the eyes, and begin securing the marabou there.

After snipping off the excess tip, get hold of the stem and, as you did with the hen hackle, use your fingers to fold the fibers rearward or alternatively, run the back edge of your scissors along the stem to fold them. Take touching wraps forward with the folded feather to produce a fluffy collar on the fly. When you reach bare stem, use wraps of tying thread to secure it to the shank, then snip the excess butt end off close.

Now pull back and distribute the marabou evenly around the shank. Take thread wraps rearward to bind the marabou down and compress it against the wraps of hen hackle. The hen hackle will act as a prop to keep the marabou flared when fished. You can see here the marabou tips now extend to the hook eye rather than its back edge. Take wraps of tying thread up the shank to behind the bead chain eyes.

Silver sparkle braid is used to fill in the area between the rear and front stations of the fly. A 2 card-width length is just enough to cover this 25 mm shank. Place one end above your tying thread and take wraps to anchor it to the top of the shank. Wrap all the way back to the marabou then forward to the eyes. Take slightly overlapping wraps with the sparkle braid to completely cover the black thread beneath. At the eyes, secure the braid with tight wraps of tying thread and snip the excess off close.

To start the front station, as before, create a loop with your tying thread but this time anchor it rearward to a point about 1/4” back from the eyes. Repeat the same procedure as you did at the rear station with the hot pink angora dubbing. Once again, plunger-style hackle pliers make wrapping the dubbing noodle much easier. The created dubbing ball should be roughly the same size as the one at the rear station. When you’re done, snip the excess thread off close and take thread wraps to smooth out the area immediately behind the eyes.

On this front station, instead of hen hackle, we’re going to use a pink and black Guinea fowl feather to create a collar. After stripping away all the lower fuzzy stuff, preen down the fibers to expose the feather’s tip and snip it off to form a tie-in anchor. Place the anchor against the near side of the shank and take tight wraps to secure it. Here again, fold the fibers rearward then wrap the feather to form a collar. Anchor the stem with thread wraps and snip the excess off close. Take additional thread wraps rearward to brace and flare the Guinea fowl fibers against the dubbing.

Hot pink barred ostrich herl is the material that really makes this fly stand out but just plain pink will work as well. Snip or strip a dozen or so fibers free from the stem. You want them to be as long as possible. Once tied in, these will extend beyond the bend of the hook, which is what we’re looking for. There are many ways to tie in the ostrich, but I prefer to tie in each herl individually, behind the bead chain eyes. Yes, it’s time consuming but it ensures you get an even distribution of herls all the way around the shank. Make sure the herls are bound down very well. Notice the Guinea fowl beneath acts as a brace to support the herls, proviiding the illusion of bulk.

A scant 3 strands of small Flashabou are used to add a little shimmer to the fly. Lay the midpoint of the strands against the near side of the shank and take thread wraps to secure it. Then fold the material over and secure it against the far side. Trim the Flashabou on both sides so it extends just beyond the bend of the hook.

For the next step, it’s helpful to hold the already tied-in materials back and out of the way. A hair clip works exceptionally well.

An inch-long segment of fluorescent pink, cross-cut rabbit zonker strip is used to form the front collar of the fly. Small chip clips make the task of separating the fur from the hide an absolute breeze. Grip the hide side of the strip with one clip then clamp the fur side in a second clip, so the two are touching. Pull the clips apart ever so slightly then release the hide-side clip. This will allow you to snip the hide off cleanly, leaving a small amount of fur extending beyond the jaws of the clip. Set this clip aside within easy reach.

For the final time, create a dubbing loop with your tying thread just as you’ve done twice before. Don’t forget the dubbing wax. Carefully insert the snipped off ends of the rabbit fur between the two legs of the loop and close it down with the thumb and index finger of your left hand, so it looks something like this. Place your dubbing whirl into the loop and give it a clockwise spin. Although this looks ok, picking out the fur with a dubbing needle will make the collar much fuller. Again, hackle pliers really help when it comes to wrapping. Wet your fingers and preen the fur rearward. Advance your tying thread to in front of the eyes and start taking wraps to create a fuzzy yet extremely durable collar. Anchor the thread loop with wraps of tying thread then snip the excess off close. Preen the fur back and take a few wraps behind the shank eye to neaten things up. Reach for your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn, back to front, whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.

A drop of UV cure resin, head cement or here, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to the thread wraps will ensure nothing comes unraveled. Once the adhesive sinks in and dries, you can safely remove all the gear that’s holding parts of the fly back. Give everything a good fluff and blow dry and your Douglas Salmon Camp Swinger is ready for battle. Just remember to hang on tight, keep your knuckles away from the reel handle and be prepared to climb the bank and sprint downstream.