What Are Parachute Flies? Plus Our Six Favorite Patterns

Parachute flies are simply flies with the hackle tied horizontally around a vertical post rather than around the hook shank (as in a conventionally hackled fly). The picture below makes …

Parachute flies are simply flies with the hackle tied horizontally around a vertical post rather than around the hook shank (as in a conventionally hackled fly). The picture below makes this a bit clearer.

This shows the hackle wrapped in the horizontal plane (parachute) and then in the vertical plane (conventional)

Some of the advantages of a parachute hackled fly are:

  • They sit more neatly on the water as the body can lie flat on the surface
  • They never land upside down, on their sides or any other form of bad presentation
  • They present a more realistic profile and some of the hackle fibres can resemble legs
  • They tend to float down to the water more delicately when you stop the cast than conventionally hackled dry flies

Parachute patterns have become very popular in recent times for these reasons.

There are many parachute mayfly patterns, some parachute caddis patterns and even some terrestrial patterns such as ants and even hoppers. I think the parachute style works better for almost all dry flies, with the possible exception of beetles where I believe the fibres of the conventional hackle protruding through the surface film make a better representation of legs.

Our Favorite Parachute Dry Flies

We’ve gone through some of our favorite parachute hackled flies in this article.

1. Parachute Adams

Probably the most famous parachute dry fly out there is the Parachute Adams. It is a mayfly imitation tied with a bright calf tail or Hi-Vis post.

It’s best tied on a standard Tiemco 100 dry fly hook (or 100BL if you like to fish barbless).

As well as white posts, we tie ours with fluoro pink or green posts for fishing faster glides and black posts for fishing into the twilight (they really stand out in the silver mirror water) and always have a range of colors in the fly box. See here for step by step tying instructions and or view the video below.

2. Parachute Hopper

There are a range of parachute fly patterns tied to represent grasshoppers. The typical parachute hopper has a white post and is tied on a long hook (say Tiemco 5212) with a relatively bulky body. The parachute hackle helps the fly float correctly and the white post stands out nicely in rapids, pocket water and other spots where a fly can get buffeted around.

3. Parachute Ant

Ants flies, in my opinion, are one of the most underused dry fly styles out there. I still have fond memories of catching a big white-spotted char in Japan (see here for info on Japanese trout species) on a tiny ant pattern on a local guides recommendations despite the water teeming with big mayflies. I figure an ant just tastes nice to trout – kind of like a chocolate after dinner. I have always got a range of dry fly ants in my fly box year round.

4. Klinkhammer patterns

Close up macro arty shot of a Bassano Klinkhammer on a nice angle

Klinkhammer patterns are usually tied on curved hooks with the tail dipping down beneath the water surface to present like an emerging dun. This type of fly needs to be tied parachute style as the collar of the hackle helps align the fly and keeps the thorax above the water. Here’s one of our favorite parachute dry flies – The Bassano Klimkhammer.

See here for detailed tying instructions or the video below.

5. Parachute Pale Morning Dun (PMD)

These deadly little dry flies are tied on small sized hooks (#16 and #18 often) and are much better tied as parachute flies. This makes for a more realistic presentation and ensures the fly sits right on the water. The highly visible post also makes the fly easier to spot in low light, which is often when you will reach for this fly.

6.Yellow Sally

This is the Parachute Yellow Sally pattern that I use

The Yellow Sally is a great little caddis fly pattern with an orange hot spot and some CDC (depending on the pattern) that is not usually tied as a parachute dry. I reckon it is better tied parachute style though and I use a lot of para Yellow Sallies on small streams in my area and the trout just love them.

Things To Watch for With Parachute Fly Patterns

These tips apply whether you are tying your own parachute flies with some simple materials or buying patterns from a store.

  • Make the proportions are right – if the post is too long then the fly can tend to topple over on the water.
  • Don’t be afraid to go with a variety of different post colors. White isn’t always right. It is hard to see in white water that you’ll find in pockets and fast flowing glides. A fluoro pink or green post will stand out much better in these environments and does put the trout off in this type of water.
  • Practice makes perfect with tying – don’t be afraid to put the time in at the vise and the tying desk. There’s no getting away from it – parachute flies are harder to tie. It’s much simpler to tie the hackle around a solid hook shank that’s clamped and held still than a flexible post on a parachute dry. But you’ll get the hang of it eventually if you are tying your own
  • Make sure you do a loop of thread both under and over the hackle wraps to anchor them securely before tying off. You can also use a dab of UV glue or head cement to ensure the hackle doesn’t detach from the post.
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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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