Tying Video – Gartside Sparrow

If you have been tying flies for any length of time and fishing them longer you have probably run across a Jack Gartside fly. Jack Gartside developed a number of patterns in the later half of the 20th century for coldwater, warmwater and even saltwater species. He was very innovative and focused on keeping his patterns simple but effective. His Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer (which I did a video on a while back) has become a classic and is one of the simplest of streamers to tie and fish. The Gartside Sparrow has also become a “classic” fly over the years due to how well it catches fish and it’s versatility at catching many species. I first ran across the Sparrow as a fly for fishing for Steelhead in Michigan about 12 – 13 years ago. I was heading up to the Ludington area to try my hand at catching a Steelhead, my first, and a guide friend picked out a few flies for me to try and the Sparrow was one of them. I became interested in the pattern because when I looked at the fly it seemed to me it could catch just about anything in freshwater. I have since taught the fly in numerous “Steelhead Fly” tying classes as it became a favorite at the vise. I was very much attracted to the idea that all of the materials, except the dubbing, come from the skin of a Ringneck Pheasant. I did not catch any Steelhead on the Sparrow on that trip, in fact it was many trips before I ever even caught a Steelhead but it has produced many trout, bass and panfish for me. It can be fished as a nymph whether you drift it under an indicator or high stick it and it can be swung like a streamer.

In regards to tying the fly it is pretty straight forward. The tail can be made from any of the soft fluffy feather off the Ringneck Pheasant skin or even regular Marabou. Jack Gartside, on his website, also mentioned using Grizzly Marabou for the tail. He liked to use a custom blended dubbing for the body. It was two parts Gray Squirrel fur, one part Natural Rabbit fur and one part Antron. The Antron gives the body some sparkle as well as color. You can also use a Life Cycle dubbing or even an SLF dubbing if you prefer. The hackle collar is made from a blueish green rump feather. Keep it sparse but long, often past the tail. The most interesting part of the fly is the head. It is made from a part of the rump feather called an Aftershaft. Because it looks like a feather most people refer to it as an Aftershaft feather but it is really just another part of the whole feather. Many people also call it a Filoplume but that is also incorrect. A Filoplume is a different feather all together that not all bird have. Most birds, at least that I have run across (even startling) have Aftershaft components to various feathers they grow. Filoplume’s are more of a decorative feather. The Aftershaft is wound around in front of the hackle collar to form the head. However, that is easier said than done as the Aftershaft is VERY delicate and will most often break while attempting to wrap it on. Plus, not all Aftershaft feathers are long enough or broad enough to make the desired head. Often you have to hunt around the skin to find a good one but there are plenty. You can also tie in a second Aftershaft to get the desired head if needed. It does present a challenge but it is worth it in the end. Since you can get Ringneck Pheasant skins dyed, or you can dye the individual feathers, you can tie this in various other colors. I have not tried it in bright colors but the more natural browns, olive, and blacks do very well. I am certain if you tie up a dozen Sparrow it will become one of your favorites as well. – Enjoy.

Hook:Mustad R73-9671, #4 – #14
Thread:UTC Ultra Thread 70 Denier, Olive
Tail:Ringneck Pheasant Marabou or Grizzly Marabou
Body:Gray Squirrel, Rabbit and Olive Antron Dubbing or Life Cycle Olive Dubbing
Collar:Ringneck Pheasant Rump feather
Head:Ringneck Pheasant Aftershaft
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If you would like to purchase some Gartside Sparrow flies there are a number for sale (while supplies last).

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As always, if you have any questions about this fly (or any other) you can leave a comment on Dressed Irons or any of the videos I have produced and I will help in anyway I can. Enjoy!

Remember….. It’s Fly tying….. If you’re not having fun, You’re Doin’ It Wrong.

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