A Wonder Wing Early Season Stonefly - By Bob Adams

A Wonder Wing Early Season Stonefly - By Bob Adams

Back in the mid 1970s, I was just getting into fly tying.  The Internet did not exist, and the information about fly tying came from books, magazines and/or word of mouth.  Since nobody in my family was a fly tyer, I relied on a few books but mostly on magazine articles.  I looked forward each month to the Pennsylvania Angler magazine.  It was there in Chauncy K. Lively’s article Tying the Little Black Stonefly, that I first saw a pattern for a Wonder Wing stonefly.  The fly looked, as they said back in the 70s, ”cool.”  Being a beginner fly tyer, I tried to tie a few of these stoneflies, got frustrated and the pattern ended up in the file where I kept all the other magazine articles on fly tying.  Just recently, I was going through this file and saw the pattern again.  I thought it would be the perfect time to revisit this pattern, since my fly tying skills have improved and like many fly fishermen this time of year, I’m tired of fishing nymphs and streamers. I would like to catch a fish on a dry fly!  This pattern might just make that happen.  

This pattern is a good match for the Little Black Stoneflies of the genus Taeniopteryx, which begin hatching in the Catskills about the fourth week in February, and the Little Brown Stoneflies of the genus Strophopteryx, which begin hatching in the Catskills about the second week in March. There are genera of stoneflies that hatch even earlier in the season, but these earlier hatches are best imitated by nymphs and are not likely to produce dry fly action.1  They crawl out of the water to emerge.1 Some do not even have functional wings and those that do are not active fliers.1  Although, like many stoneflies, Taeniopteryx and Strophopteryx emerge by crawling out of the water, these two genera can also hatch in the river, resulting in adults on the surface.1 They are also clumsy fliers which fall into and/or are blown into the river. Depending on the water temperature and the abundance of these flies on the surface, dry fly action is a possibility. 

Although the Wonder Wing style seems to have come from Europe, Chauncy K. Lively and Al Beatty were two American anglers that often used this style in their fly patterns.  The wing is formed by reversing the barbs of a large hackle.  The section of the hackle used for the wing should be taken from above all the fluff and have very little web. The stem is cut out of the butt end of the hackle, and the barbs are stroked backwards past where the stem was removed. Head cement is applied and after drying a kind of veined teardrop is formed.  The length of the wing should be the length of the hook from the eye to the bend. Lively’s original version was tied on a # 20 up eyed hook.  It was once thought that up eyed hooks on small flies resulted in better hookups by providing better gap clearance.  This debate, however, is best left for another article. The fly tied in this article was tied on a #16 Mustad 94842 up eyed hook keeping with the style of the original pattern.  Any dry fly hook could be used.  Lively recommends placing the wing in a hackle plier as it dries.  I had trouble getting it in the hackle plier.  One side kept coming out.  I held the wing between my fingers until tacky then squeezed the ends of the fibers together.  I gently laid it on my tying desk to finish drying.  The fly has a front and rear hackle with a dubbed body in between.  Because the rear hackle supports the bend, no tail is required.  The rear hackle also represents the rear legs of the natural.  Lively recommends mounting the rear hackle shiny side forward and the front hackle dull side forward.  Be careful not to crowd the eye with the front hackle. There needs to be space to tie in the wing.  The hackle is notched on top so the wing can be placed flat, downwing style. The hackle is also notched on the bottom so the fly sits flat and horizontal like the natural. Trimming the notch in the bottom also prevents the rear hackle fibers from blocking the hook gap which could result in a missed fish.


The wing is the “secret” to the fly.  It keeps its shape while casting even after it gets wet. The flat downwing style of the Wonder Wing, with its rounded end and vein pattern, make the fly look very much like the natural.  The rear and front hackles do a good job of mimicking the legs of natural insect and allow you to add movement to the fly.  We’ve all seen stoneflies skittering across the surface. There is, however, one downfall to this style of wing.  I would consider this a one fish fly.  The teeth of a hooked fish are likely to pull the wing apart.  I wouldn’t let that stop you from fishing the fly.  One fish on a dry fly at this time of the year, especially if it’s a large fish, is in my opinion worth it.             


Material List:

Hook: #12-16 Dry Fly Hook

Thread: Black 6/0 or 8/0

Hackle: Dark Brown 

Body: Ruddy Brown Dubbing

Wing: Large Black Hackle (Reversed - Wonder Wing Style)



1) Paul Weamer, Pocketguide to New York Hatches, pp. 134-139

2) Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer, Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference to Techniques and Dressing Styles, p. 260