Tying the Sheepfly

Created by Newland Saunders from Lenoir, North Carolina in the late 1950’s, the Sheep fly has found a home in the fly box of every prominent trout fisherman that has ever walked the streams of the Southeast.  The Sheepfly has produced more and bigger fish than a lot of other good flies combined, and is a hard fly to fish incorrectly.  I have caught fish while dead drifting the fly, swinging the fly, and on one crazy day I even caught some fish stripping it like a wooly bugger.

Materials Needed for the Sheepfly:

Hook:  Mustad 9671 or 79580 or equivalent size 4-16

Thread:  Black 6/0 uni-thread

Tail:  Soft brown rooster or hen hackle fibers

Body:  Dubbing as described below.

Hackle:  Soft brown rooster or hen

Wings:  Dark cast grizzly hackle tips

Wire:  .010 to .055 lead wire

Step 1: Insert the hook in the vise and wrap the hook shank with a thread base then with desired amount of lead wire.

Step 2: Wrap lead with thread and coat with head cement.

Step 3: Wind thread to the bend of the hook and select approximately twelve to fourteen brown hackle fibers for the tail.  For appearance and balance, the tail should be the same length as the shank of the hook and angle slightly down. Tie in the hackle fibers.

Step 4:  Trim the fur from the back of a muskrat pelt and from a charcoal colored rabbit hide.  Be sure to leave guard hairs in the fur.  Place the fur in a blender and blend the fur and guard hairs together.  An alternate fur for muskrat is woodchuck.  The spikier and rougher the dubbing the better the fly will produce.

Step 5: Wind thread to the base of the tail and wax the thread thoroughly with a good quality tacky dubbing wax*.  To improve durability, some tiers use rubber cement as dubbing wax.  Spin the blended fur from step 4 onto the waxed thread.  (If you prefer, you can form a loop and spin the dubbing between the threads of the loop.)

Step 6: Build an oversized body with the dubbing material.  Body must be tapered on both ends.  In order for the wings to lay on the fly properly, the body must be tapered in the front as well as the rear (it should be tapered like a football).  After forming the body, use your dubbing needle to pick the body, creating a fuzzy appearance (the fuzzier the better).

Step 7: Tie in a slightly oversized (about one size larger than normal) brown hackle** in front of the body.  Make approximately six turns of the hackle, tie off and clip excess.  With your fingers, pull all hackle fibers back over and under the body.  Wrap over the base of the hackle with the tying thread.  When the hackle fibers are released, they should continue to lay over the fly’s body, collar style.

Step 8: Select two small grizzly hackles to be used as wings.  Once the hackles have been pulled from the cape, you will notice that they have a natural curve.  Place the curves back to back and lay them on top of the fly, making sure they extend to the rear of the body.  Tie the wings off, clip excess and build a neat head with the thread.  Cement and allow drying.


NOTE:  When the wings are tied in properly, they should lay almost flat on the back of the fly.  If they stand up, it’s an indication that the front of the body does not have enough taper.

*High tack Swax is the best commercial wax for this application

**The hackle can be rooster saddle or neck or hen saddle but should be webby in texture.