The Two-Feather Fly or Hatchmaster
by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
Shaping and snipping the first feather can be tricky
There’s something about delicate dry flies and tenkara that go together. A sensitive tenkara rod allows for a light, drift-free presentation. When you couple that with a super-light dry fly, you really have something.
One dry fly that probably doesn’t receive the love it deserves is the Two-Feather Fly, often called the Hatchmaster. The story goes that it was developed by Harry Darbee in New York State back in the 1950’s. It’s tied in the Catskill tradition, which usually includes upright wings and a longish tail. Catskill flies are also known for their pleasing proportions. As the original name suggests, the fly is tied with only two feathers, so it floats to the water with the faintest of whispers.
The photos above show the tying process better than I can explain. You can use either mallard flank feathers or lemon wood duck feathers for the first part. Just make sure to use captive-reared mallards to stay legal. (Farm raised mallard flank feathers are readily available at fly-tying shops.) You can see how well this pattern imitates an adult mayfly.
It’s not a durable fly, and it can be tricky for the novice to tie, but it’s worth the effort. There aren’t many things more exciting than seeing a fish explode on the surface, engulfing a dry fly that you’ve tied yourself.
I strongly suggest that interested anglers go online to see several excellent videos about how to shape the first feather—the mallard or wood duck. That’s by far the hardest part of the fly. And, if you’re anything like I am, you’re going to ruin several feathers before you get it right. The second feather, the dry fly hackle, goes on easily.
The Two-Feather Fly fits well with tenkara, given its simple, yet ingenious design. We owe Mr. Darbee a debt of gratitude for developing this beautiful pattern. Winter is the time for fly tying—why not give it a go and see what happens?
“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” – Benjamin Franklin
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma