This fly is an old favorite and has a well-deserved reputation in Maine. It has a double wing; the inside feathers are yellow and the outside ones are grizzly. I’ve always felt that this two color arrangement gives a three dimensional look when the feathers twitch in the current. Color, size and action are all important attributes of a good fly and this fly’s method of displaying color is a unique one. Add the signature collar hackle that I’m sure creates water turbulence and you get even more effect. The turbulence becomes sound and big fish key in on this. The turbulence also causes the wings to flutter more and this adds to the baitfish action you want a streamer to have. There’s a lot going on with this fly.
Recipe for the Barnes Special
Thread – Red
Hook – Streamer, size 6
Body – Silver Mylar
Throat – White hackle collar
Wing – Yellow saddle, flanked by grizzly saddle
Start this streamer by choosing your hook. I use Mustad 94720 size 6. This hook is 8x long and is a standard that can be trolled or cast. If I want a shorter hook shank that will be a lighter fly for casting I switch to a 6x shank. The original recipe called for a tail of Jungle Cock body feather. This bird became protected in the 1970’s and the feathers became hard to acquire. Yankee fly tiers being what they are, the tail became optional. The tailless streamer continues to perform well so the tail is rarely seen these days, even though Jungle Cock is available.
The body is silver Mylar and a silver oval rib is optional. Start the Mylar just behind the eye, wind to the bend in the hook and then return to the starting point. Tying two layers of Mylar is a good habit; your bodies will look much better if you do this. Not your body, the fly’s body. There are four components to the wing-two layers of bucktail for an under wing and two pairs of saddle hackles for the feather wing. The under wing starts with a small bunch of red bucktail. This should be as long as the bend of the hook on the 8x shank. Don’t use too much material here; a small bunch is all you need. On top of that tie in a smaller bunch of white bucktail. This bunch should be about the same length as the red bucktail. This is a good time to put a drop of cement where you tied in the bucktail.
The saddle hackle wing starts with a pair of yellow saddle hackles. You’ll notice that the feathers have a dull side and a glossy side. The dull sides of the feathers should face each other and the shiny sides should be to the outside of the fly. Outside of these feathers are the outermost wings, the barred grizzly saddle hackles. Yellow feathers inside, grizzly feathers outside. Tie them in and don’t be afraid to use your fingers to twist and turn the whole assembly until it looks right. As soon as the outer wings go on you can see the visual effect. This fly looks like a small yellow perch. If you disagree with that you’ll have to agree that the barred grizzly looks a lot like the parr markings on fingerling game fish.
Lastly, tie in a white saddle hackle and tie it full like a dry fly. If you tie a lot of streamers, this is going to feel strange. Let it, this collar is a trademark of the Barnes Special. After you’ve wound the hackle, tie it off and trim the excess. Use the fingers of your other hand to pull back on the white hackle you just wound on and wind your thread back to turn it into a collar style hackle. If you’ve ever wondered why the Barnes Special has such a big red head, this is why. It’s all the thread you use to wind back on the hackle to turn it into a collar. By the way, the original recipe did not use red thread. That came later. I think it’s just one more way this fly attracts big fish. Probably those Yankee fly tiers again.
Try this fly at Grand Lake Stream; it’s a favorite there. While you’re fishing it, take a moment to drag the fly through the water next to you and notice the action. Then take a minute and point out that action to a youngster.