Hair Wing Coachman
By Bruce Schneck
Ask anyone remotely involved in fly fishing to name one fly and the chances are that it will be a Fan Wing Royal Coachman. A well-known fly but unfortunately one of the most delicate of all flies. I believe these can actually be destroyed while being transported in a good fly box. A substitution that is much tougher and actually preferred by fish is the Hair wing Coachman. On the Fan Wing Royal Coachman the wings made of white wood duck breast feathers are very delicate and can be bent out of shape very easily, the same can be said for the golden pheasant tippet fibers that compose the tail. Changing to the Hair wing Coachman gives us a tough fly that is actually a very good attractor pattern. With the white wings and tail it is easy for both fishermen and fish to see.
Commonly tied in sizes from number 10 down to number 18 and at times in sizes 20 to 24. Being a heavily hackled fly it floats very well in rough water.
Hook is normally a standard dry fly hook such as a Mustad 94840 or a Daiichi 1100 in any of the sizes mentioned above.
Thread can be any black thread usually in sizes 8/0 or 10/10
Tail will be white usually made of either calf tail or calf body hair
Wings will be white in color usually of calf body or tail hair, a substitute especially in smaller sizes is turkey flats
Body will be peacock herl and red yarn. The herl will be divided in the middle by a red chenille segment.
Hackle Quality hackle probably best provided by a saddle hackle. Standard color is brown but the color Coachman Brown did not get its name by accident. Dark Ginger can also be used. This shall be a heavily hackled fly, put one extra wrap both in front of and behind the wings in addition to what you would normally use.
Many pattern books will suggest using wire or something like crystal flash for the mid body band. The red chenille becomes a darker color when exposed to water or fly dope such as Gink or Aquel and combining this with the peacock herl seems to be what the fish like.
One change some tiers prefer, especially on smaller sizes is to go to a 2x long shank hook. This makes it easier because of more room to tie the segmented body. Examples of these hooks would be a Partridge HiA, a Mustad 94831 or a Daiichi 1280 or something of that type.
For the hackle use a quality item because this is meant to be a high and long floating bug. On a good day the fish will pound the snot out of it so go with quality. I like either a Whiting or Keough Master Tier saddle hackle.
The Hair wing Coachman matches no insect in particular but just looks buggy and brings the fish up while being easy to see. On some hot summer days when nothing seems to be really wanted by the fish this will at times be the ticket. An assortment of sizes of these guys will be an important addition to your fly box. In addition to being productive they certainly look good mixed in with more somber flies. Possibly because of the segmented body they work well when ants are on the menu.
An added bonus is that it is not a heavily used pattern so on water that gets pounded you, may be presenting something different.
A changeup that works well sometimes is to substitute a chartreuse band between the peacock herl sections. Just something a bit different.