The Pheasant-Winged March Brown Dun - By Bob Adams
The Pheasant-Winged March Brown Dun is a pattern developed by Chauncy K. Lively. The pattern appeared in the “Fly of the Month” column of the May 1975 Pennsylvania Angler in which he talked about and gave a step-by-step tutorial on how to tie the fly. The fly imitates Maccaffertium vicarium the March Brown Mayfly formerly known to us old-timers as Stenonema vicarium, which hatches in the Catskills around the third week in May. The fly is quite large and can be imitated on hook sizes #10 and 12. March Brown nymphs are clingers that live and hatch in fast pocket water and riffles. The full palmer hackling on this fly makes it a good choice for fishing such water. The duns stay on the water for quite a while and are known for their “wing flutter” as they drift through runs and pools. It seems as soon as the wings flutter the fish grabs the fly. This fly, because of the palmer hackle and impressionistic coloration, suggests life and movement and would be a good choice for imitating the fluttering wings of a March Brown as it drifts through a run or pool. The fly is also very “buggy” looking and would be a good searching pattern when there are no bugs hatching.
The fly can be quite challenging to tie. It involves Lively’s clipped palmer style of hackling, where the hackles are wound from front to rear and tied off at the rear of the fly. A V-shaped notch is then cut out from the bottom of the hackle. According to Lively, hackling the fly this way supports and balances the fly, requires no tail support and allows the use of soft lemon Wood Duck flank tails which can be angled upward for a more realistic posture of the natural insect. The wings are shaped from ringneck pheasant back feathers. Lively used scissors and toenail clippers, giving credit to Poul Jorgensen for this technique, to shape the wings. He mentions that Wing Cutters could also be used. The pattern shown here used a third option - Wing Burners. Regardless of the method used, it would be beneficial to first shape and size all the wings for the total number of flies that you are tying. Pheasant back was chosen for the wings because it matches the prominently mottled wing coloration of the natural insect. The wings must be flat, not twisted, and have the proper height and width or the fly might twist your tippet when casting. Using a stout 4X or even 3X leader, if the fish will let you get away with it, can also help reduce tippet twisting. The dubbing for this fly is “Fawn” colored which could be described as slightly darker than cream and lighter than brown. Natural furs mentioned by Lively were Australian Opossum and Cross Fox. He also gives the option for using a synthetic dubbing which was used in the fly shown. While the original pattern ties in the tail first, the pattern shown tied in the wings first and then the tail to avoid constantly repositioning the soft tail fibers.
The Pheasant-Winged March Brown Dun was a fun challenge to tie. Its unique style adds an aesthetic look and new arsenal to any fly box. Giving it a try on the water might just catch you a good fish.
Hook: #12 Dry Fly
Thread: Brown 8/0 or 6/0
Dubbing: Fly-Rite #30 March Brown or any tan substitute