How to Tie the Superfine Sulphur Spinner
The sulphur hatch this season on many rivers in Northwest New Jersey was the best it’s been in recent years. Watching the number of egg-layers come back to deposit their little yellow egg sacks gives me hope that next year will be a banner year as well. Here, most of the activity, whether it’s emergence, egg-laying or the spinner fall, happens right toward dark, which can present some challenges, both in terms of fishing and getting good video of hatch details. But during fishing, observing and filming, a few things have become obvious in terms of what trout like to take from the water’s surface. Although high-riding duns are fairly regular targets, it’s the cripples and spinners that they most often go after. Let’s face it, they’re just an easier meal that’s still loaded with protein. A good spinner fall, in particular, can trigger an absolute feeding frenzy.
This fly I call the Superfine Sulphur Spinner seems to cover the egg-layer, spent spinner, cripple and maybe even emerger phases of the hatch quite well, and accounted for the large majority of surface takes I got during this year’s sulphurs. The fly starts with a Fulling Mill 5050 dry fly hook in size 14. Now, toward the end of the hatch, I’ve dropped down to 16’s.
For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of rusty brown UTC 70, I’ve given up trying to correctly say the “D” word. Get the thread started on the hook shank, leaving just a little space behind the eye and, after taking a few wraps rearward, snip off the excess tag.
The tail of the fly, which might even resemble a trailing shuck, is made from only a few fibers from a wood duck flank feather. Don’t use one of your very good ones, save them for Catskill Dry wings. You can use nearly any feather with decent markings and easily aligned tips. Two, three, four, five fibers, it doesn’t really matter. Just strip them free from the stem and try to keep their tips reasonably aligned. Measure to form a tail a little more than a full hook in length, as the spinners and egg-layers do have long tails and the extra length also helps to support the fly on the water’s surface. Begin by taking wraps with your tying thread to bind the fibers down on top of the hook shank, all the way back to the start of the hook bend. End with your tying thread hanging at about the hook point. You can splay the fibers if you want, but I really don’t think it’s necessary.
The abdomen of the fly is created using pale yellow Superfine dubbing, which closely matches the color of many of the sulphurs on the rivers I regularly fish. Pull down on your bobbin to expose about 4” of bare thread. Pull up on the dubbing with the fingers of your right hand, while tightly pinching the clump of dubbing in the fingers of your left. This will align the fibers parallel to your tying thread and make it easy to twist the fibers into a very thin noodle. Do try to keep the noodle very, very slender. It should be about 3” in length. Start taking wraps with the noodle to build up a slender abdomen on the fly that thickens just a little as you approach the 2/3rds point up the hook shank. It should look something like this.
White polypropylene floating yarn is used for the wings of the fly. A card-width segment is all you need. Use a fine-tipped bodkin to gently tease the fibers apart if they’re bound together at any point. Then, separate the fibers lengthwise into two equal clumps, saving one for the next fly. Find the midpoint of the other one and place it on top of the hook shank above your tying thread. Take a few nice tight thread wraps to begin binding the material down then pull the near-side wing back and build a little thread dam in front of it to hold it back. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
For the fly’s thorax, get hold of some slightly darker Superfine dubbing than you used for the abdomen, in this case, amber, and once again pluck a small clump free. Use the dubbing to create a similar-sized noodle as you did for the abdomen, maybe just a bit shorter in length. Begin taking cross wraps with the dubbing noodle, like so, to build up a fuzzy little thorax on the fly, then end with your tying thread just behind the hook eye. I like to keep the wings pinned slightly back as opposed to perpendicular to the hook shank.
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. Pull straight up on both wings simultaneously and trim them off to about a hook shank in length. Swept back, they should look something like this. The shimmer and transparency really do a remarkable job of imitating the wings of both a cripple or a spent spinner. A drop of head cement, here Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, applied to the exposed thread wraps and allowed to sink in and dry, will ensure they don’t come unraveled.
Once you get going, this fly becomes fairly easy and quick to tie. They aren’t exactly high floaters and can be a little hard to see on the water’s surface. Here’s how I like to fish the pattern. Pretty much a standard 9’5 wt rod, Scientific Anglers weight-forward, textured floating line, also in 5 weight, a 9’ tapered leader down to 5x to really which I attach to a size 14 sulphur parachute. Think of it as a strike indicator with a bad attitude. Off the hook bend of that fly, I’ll run 16-18” of 6x mono which then attaches to the Superfine Sulphur Spinner. And that’s about it. The rig has worked great during just about every phase of this year’s sulphur hatch. I’m already looking forward to next year.