Tuesday Ties - Ray Charles – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Tuesday Ties - Ray Charles

Montana is best known, in the fly fishing world, for its large freestone rivers and streams that have escaped mans taming by steel and concrete. However, the Treasure State is also home to a good handful of very productive tailwaters. Perhaps the most well known tailwater in the world resides right here in Montana, the mighty Big Horn. Whether fishing Montana, or else where in the United States, or even around the world no tailwater assortment would be complete without a handful of Ray Charles and variations there on. Super simple to tie, extremely effective, and color variation is a breeze, this fly has it all. A practical tyer-fisherman’s dream!

Hook: Your favorite standard nymph hook. Usually in sizes 14-24
Thread: You want a hot head. I like to use UTC thread in Fluorescent Fire Orange.
Body: Ostrich herl
Back: Mylar tinsel

Click to enlarge images

Start out by tying in the Mylar tinsel and then the Ostrich herl on top of that. You want the underbody to stay as skinny and possible, so I like to start the thread near the head of the fly and then tie in the tinsel and ostrich together and secure them all the way down the hook on the bare shank. This is a size 14 I’m tying, so I’m using two pieces of Ostirch herl.

You don’t want the head to be very big on this fly, so bring the thread forward to about half the eye length away from the eye of the hook. This system of measuring works for me but hooks vary a lot so you might have to figure something else out. Now take you Ostrich herl (both pieces at the same time if you’re like me tying these bigger sizes) and wrap it forward. After each wrap stroke the ostrich fibers back and then make your next wrap. This helps to avoid many trapped fiber which will make the fly look patchy. Tie off the ostrich. Now take the tinsel and pull it right over the back of the fly. You may need to do some fiddling here to get the fiber to sit right on either side. Tie down the tinsel all the way to right behind the eye of the hook. Then take the tinsel and fold it back over itself and tie down again. This adds a lot more strength to fly since we are not using any wire to reinforce the materials. Just a few whip finishes now.

Ostrich is not the easiest material to control and it is common to have some random fiber sticking out near or in front of the head. Instead of using extra thread and bulking up the head to tame these errant fibers I like to use a lighter. This method works very well on many flies, but especially this one. Cover all the fiber which you do not wish to burn and quickly singe to head. All those pesky stray fiber are gone and the head on your fly is perfect!

For the Ray Charles sizes 14-24 are the most common, in colors like: pink, gray, orange and white. All use the same florescent fire orange colored thread. Some variations to try are dual ostrich colors, soft hackle heads, or both!