SPLIT-CANE FLY RODS
The CFF was born of frustration.
Barry Mitchell and I stopped at Shirley and Bill Sara’s, proprietors
of the Bedside Manor on the Crowsnest River, to get permission to
fish the loop south of the house. Bill and Shirley’s daughter Dexine
spotted us from the basement. Heading up the stairs and rounding
the house, she called "Can I come too"? Dexine was 11 that
summer and an accomplished fisherman. Barry tied on a Stimulator
for her and she did well on Barry’s side of the river but it wasn’t
long before she joined me on my side, the Stimulator gone.
Recalling another great Fly Fishing gal Iona Bengry, I tied Iona’s
favorite dry fly the Western Coachman to Dexine’s leader. Dexine
caught fish, lots of fish. Wasn’t long before Barry and I were both
casting the Western. But they don’t last. Five fish or so and they
are sinking, the herl broken or the hackle loose. My tie of the
Western needed some upgrading.
Back at camp that night, supper over, dishes done, Scotch poured, I
pondered what options I might use on the Western. For several years
I had been using Macramé yarn as strike indicators so I decided to
incorporate macramé as a wing plus some other tying tricks to make
the Western last longer. The CFF was born that night. The name came
- Hook: Tiemco TMC 100 or equivalent in sizes 12>16
- Thread: Black Danville’s 6/0 prewaxed
- Tail: Brown Zylon or brown Macramé yarn
- Body: 3 strands of peacock herl for size 12 hook
- Wing: White Macramé yarn
- Hackle: Grade # 3 or worse Hoffman or Metz Grizzly Cock Hackle
- Glue: Thinned flex glues
- Tail installation and trimming: use about ½ of a wooden match
volume for the tail. Cut the tail off to about 3/8" in length for
a size 12 hook. Trim the tail to a arrow point.
- Body construction: Peacock herl tied and wrapped by itself
will fall apart after a few fish. Trim about 3/4" of weaker herl
from the tip end and tie it in at the hook bend. Make a loop of
tying thread. Capture the herl and thread with your hackle pliers
and twist into a rope. Wrap the herl up the hook. The herl
MUST form a small bump at the tie off point [wing installation
point] to force the wing upwards. I use a Griffin Rotary Hackle
Pliers. It allows the herl/thread to be twisted readily.
- Wing Construction: Use less than a wooden match volume for
the wing tied in at the bump of herl. I use a 1 1/2" length and
trim away the excess later.
- Hackle is tied in the normal dry fly position 3 turns only.
- Wing Trimming: press the wing down so that it lays parallel
with the body of the fly and trim the wing to the same length as
the tail. The wing then should be pulled upward to 35-45 degrees
- Make several cuts from the tip of the wing towards the
tie in point. This is to thin out the wing.
- Glues: very thin flex type glues are needed for this fly.
Place a drop on the top at the hackle/wing junction after the wing
is trimmed. Separate and pull fibers of the macramé wing
upwards and sideways keep the wing material fluffy. Don’t let
the glue bind the wing into a solid mass. The fly will not float.
With a tail of Zylon, wing of macramé, loop twisted herl and some
glue the basic fly was complete. On a trip later that summer,
Mike Dell and I fished some cutthroat creeks. After fishing the
same fly for 2 full days, I finally lost it in a cutthroat. That was
after 115 trout. So the fly had a name C [Roman numeral for 100]
F [fish] F [fly].
- As the wing floats the fly, good quality hackle is a waste and
reduces hooking due to the stiff hackle forcing the fly out of the
fish’s mouth. Poorer quality hackle is webby and doesn’t cause this
problem. I use Hoffman or Metz Grade # 3 at 3 turns only.
- Macramé yarns are now out of favor but are still available in
limited colors from some craft shops. One hundred yard balls of yarn
are available for less than $10.00. Other yarns might work as well,
but macramé yarn’s denier lends itself to the capture of air bubbles
plus it has enough strength to support the fly
- This fly is meant to float. The use of paste floatants will cause
the fly’s wing to adhere to itself making the wing unable to capture
the air bubbles. If you must use floatant, use it sparingly and rub
it so the wing still stands fluffy and upright.
- I have tried a number of colors for the wing and body but have
always returned to white wing, herl body and brown tail. The white
wing allows us older folks to readily see the fly. Herl has some
type of magic quality that catches fish and the brown tail seems
to represent a trailing husk of some type.
- I have tried both Grizzly and Coachman Brown hackle colors
- This fly is meant to be tied "soft". There are no stiff wings,
tails or hackle that will reduce the ability of the fly’s hook to
get into the fish’s mouth.
- For hook sizes 16-20 , I have left the hackle and tail off
the fly. The fly still works.
- If you want your CFF [or any fly for that matter] to last,
find a hook remover that doesn’t have serrated teeth and locking
jaws. I use needle nose pliers with the teeth filed off of them.
But the surprises didn’t end on its longevity.
It worked great as a dry fly on a dry/dropper combination. There
aren’t many dry flies that you can pull underwater, release the
tension and the fly pops to the surface. Although the CFF has
been only used for a couple of years, it has accounted for a lot
of fish by myself and others. It is now my "go to" fly.
(This article originally appeared in Barry Mitchell's Alberta
Fishing Guide 2001. Reproduced with permission.)