Eccentric Para-RAB’s

The Para-Rab is an iconic South African dry fly that has inspired many changes in my tying and fishing. Aside from being a highly effective pattern, it’s a fun fly to fish and to tie. The fly presents like a dream with its large halo hackle and I reckon a large portion of its success is due to how delicately it presents and how visible it is to the fisherman. Philip Meyer, the original designer came up with a very innovative way to create a halo hackle. The halo hackle of squirrel tail hairs is the main trigger in this fly and is one of the really fun aspects of tying this fly. There are lots of different versions of the Para-Rab out there but they all have one thing in common, a large halo hackle and a slender body. 

As a keen follower of Tom Sutcliffes monthly news letter, it was a bit like dejavu to read about how he was trying to “redisign the wheel” in almost exactly the same way I was. Last month while I was couped up inside in a cold and rainy New Zealand, I was also trying to do a spilt thread dubbing of the hairs around the post to get a better distribution of the hairs around the post. I was short of some of my tying tools in NZ, so I never really progressed that far. Tom had a lot more success than I did in that regard. It was a frustrating exercise trying to do it without my bulldog clip which I left at home. When reading Tom’s news letter the other day, I thought I had to give it a bash again. 

You might well ask why I want to change such an effective design? Well in my opinion there is only one problem with the design, and that is the need to readjust the halo fibres while you fish. The often tend to end up facing forward or only surrounding the front half of the fly. I kept wondering how I could incorporate the halo into the hackle and have it coming out of the base of the post. I have come up with a few different ideas that come up with the same result. In the end I settled with something quite far removed from the original fly, with halo hackle coming out of the post, as opposed to from the head. 

Here follow a few different ways that I have fiddled around with the basic design. 

Method 1: (6 months ago)

6 months ago I tied this fly with a CDC halo rather than squirrel tail. Basically you leave a small space under the normal hackle and then make a few wraps at the base of the post with some CDC with nice long fibres. I used the spilt thread method for this.
This is the same fly as above, but with a normal halo hackle. You can see the fibres jammed against the head. They innitually stick straight upwards and they get massaged into place around the hackle to form a halo.

Method 2: (This week)

This method worked okay, but although the fibres were evenly spread around the post, they tended to stick up too much.
To get the squirrel fibres to stick outwards in a halo required me to force them down by pushing the top of the post flat. I then added a drop of varnish to hold them in place.

Then finally you tie in your standard hackle under the already in place halo.

Method 3:  

This morning I made myself a CDC tool for mixing the squirrel tail and CDC. I reckoned that CDC as a hackle is a lot easier than a standard hackle, and a lot better looking. All the material was mixed together, which was very fidgety with my “boer-maak-n-plan” tools. This mix of hair and CDC is put into either a dubbing loop or as in my case by using the split thread method. This mixture is then wound around the post. The end result was pretty close to what I was looking for.
I reckon this CDC  will add a lit of buggieness to the fly. To keep it buoyant you can add floatant to the squirrel fibres only, so so as not to disturb the CDC.

Method 4: My favoured method. 

It’s a bit of a challenge to get the materials distributed in the bulldog clip like this, but this gives the best result. This is wound onto the post using the split thread method. The CDC is wound on first from the top down, and then the squirrel hairs are wound around the base. They take a little securing in so that they don’t pull out, and this leaves a little bit of exposed thread at the base of the post. I then take a small CDC feather and put another few wraps of split thread dubbed CDC.
The final result tied in an emerger hook.
Another one tied using method 4. Also in an emerger style. I think that this will be how I will continue to tie my Para-Rabs. You can hardly call it a Para-Rab, but what ever it’s called it looks like it will do the job.

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