PUBLISHED: 2:32 PM on Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Tying the Golden Darter
Here's a real elegant pattern from the past. It's a great looking fly that pleases both fisherman and fish.

This particular family of feather wings, however, has pretty well been replaced by more modern patterns that use marabou feathers, synthetic hair and even - heaven help us - molded plastic heads.

To be honest, I rarely fish with a feather-wing streamer these days. So, to tie a Golden Darter is to pay homage to a by-gone era.

Like all the streamers we've tied recently, the Golden Darter is part of a family of flies that incorporates the same materials but in differing color combinations.

Therefore, mastering the Golden Darter virtually adds several other classic streamers to your fly-tying resume. Let's take a stab at one, okay?

1. I've clamped in a #8 limerick-bend streamer hook in my trusty vise. Go bigger or smaller, depending on the game fish you're chasing and forage fish they're feeding on. Cover the entire shank with black thread, keeping in mind that the smoother your base thread is, the smoother the completed body will be. Cut out a matching set of turkey wing segments for your tail. Sound familiar? It should be. This is just like a Muddler Minnow tail. Use the pinch method and secure it in place at the hook bend. Trim away the excess.

2. Tie in flat gold tinsel along the shank and secure it in front of the tail, leaving a couple of inches dangling off the hook. This fly has a yellow floss body, which you should start just behind the eye. If your floss is not on a bobbin, you'll need several inches to cover the shank twice. In any case, wrap the floss down to the tail, and then back up again, completely covering the black thread as you go. Now, take your tinsel and make several evenly spaced wraps over the floss. Secure the tinsel behind the eye and trim away the excess.

3. Now for the wing. From a badger cape, pluck out a matched pair of hackle feathers. If your feathers have a curve to them, get one feather from each side of the cape. Align the stems and tips with the dull sides facing in. Trim away the butt fibers and tie down the two feathers just like they were one single feather, again using the pinch method just behind the eye. After one pinch wrap, check feather alignment. If you're happy, tie the feather down securely and trim away the butt stems.

4. Our fly favors a beard over hackle and incorporates "cheeks" just behind the eye; we've worked with beards, but the cheeks are new. For the beard, cut out a clump of fibers from a teal feather and tie the clump underneath and just behind the hook eye. Now take two imitation Jungle Cock eyes - available at any fly shop - and tie each along the fly's cheeks, aligning the cheek "eye" with the wing stripe. Tie the cheeks in one at a time, tying down the butt stems on each side just behind the hook eye. Trim the excess, build up the head and whip finish your fly.

Lew Oatman designed this fly about 80 years ago to imitate the baitfish he encountered on his beloved Battenkill River in New York. It has since become a true classic, and, when tied with tender-loving care, is simply gorgeous - just the thing for that shadow box display you've been laboring over.

Of course, if you can stand to see your creation get wet, these beautiful feather wings can still fool the fish. Happy tying!

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