The Halfback is an old pattern popular throughout Colorado and Wyoming. It is one of the best stonefly nymph imitations I’ve ever come across and even crosses over for still water use as a dragonfly nymph. I used to get orders for hundreds of these back when I was a kid. Guys used to order Halfbacks, Hornbergs and Platte River Special by the dozens in preparation for their yearly excursion to Wyoming’s Miracle Mile. They must have worked well as they’d all be back with their friends ordering more upon their return. I learned to both love and hate this fly over the years. I mean, how many can you tie before you’ve just had enough?
It seems as though this pattern has fallen out of favor in the past few years but it is indeed a great pattern to this day. It works amazingly well on our freestone streams like the Colorado River and Roaring Fork as well as the Poudre. This is really a simple pattern and a great, quick alternative stonefly nymph that doesn’t require ten materials. Tie a few up and see if you’re not taken back to the good old days.
Hook: TMC 5262 #4-12
Thread: UTC 70 Denier, black
Weight: Lead wire, sized to hook.
Tail: Natural Ringneck Pheasant Tail Fibers
Backstrap: Natural Ringneck Pheasant Tail Fibers
Rib: Small Copper Wire
Abdomen: Peacock Herl
Body Hackle: Brown Rooster Saddle, look for something that is relatively soft, but still long enough to palmer over the body. On smaller flies, you can even get away with a good quality hen neck.
Thorax Hackle: Same as body hackle
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Wrap ten to twenty turns of lead wire on the front half of the shank. Be sure to keep the front end of the lead at least two eye lengths back from the hook eye.
Attach the tying thread and build a taper up from the bare shank to the top of the lead on either end. Form a thread base all the way back to the hook bend.
Tie in a heavy clump of pheasant tail fibers at the bend of the hook forming the tail. These fibers should extend past the bend one hook gap width. Wrap forward over the butts to the front of the lead wraps. Clip the excess butt ends.
Tie in another heavy clump of pheasant tail for the backstrap, only this time tie the pheasant tail fibers in by their tips at the base of the tail.
Move the thread forward to the midpoint of the shank and tie in the copper wire rib. Wrap the thread back over the rib to the bend.
Select eight to ten full, bushy peacock herls from an eyed quill and trim the tips square. Tie the herls in at the bend of the hook and wrap forward over the protruding tips. Be sure to tie these herls in by the tips as it will help to form the body taper in the next step.
Wrap the peacock herl forward to the sixty-five to seventy percent point on the shank forming a bushy, tapered abdomen.
Select a hackle feather that has barbs equal to about one and a half hook gaps. Strip a few fibers from the base of the feather exposing the quill. Tie the feather in at the front edge of the abdomen with the inside of the feather toward the body of the fly.
Palmer the feather to the rear of the hook with six to eight turns.
Once at the bend, catch the feather with the wire rib you tied in earlier and continue forward with the wire, through the hackle and over the abdomen. Tie the wire off with the tying thread at the front of the body and break off the excess. Snap the remaining hackle tip off as well.
Fold the backstrap forward over the abdomen and tie it down at the front of the body.
Wrap forward over the backstrap butts to just behind the hook eye and clip off the excess. This will help build bulk and a taper on the front of the fly.
Prepare and tie in another hackle feather by its butt end at the front edge of the abdomen.
Tie in another batch of peacock herl at the front edge of the abdomen as well. Again, be sure to tie them in by their tips. Wrap the thread forward to the rear edge of the index point.
Wrap the peacock herl forward to the index point forming a robust thorax. Tie off the herl at the index and clip the excess. Make a few wraps of thread to smooth the shank in preparation for the hackle tie off in the next step.
Pull the hackle feather up and stroke all the hackle fibers to the backside of the quill. This is like folding a wet fly hackle although not quite so swept back.
Palmer the folded hackle feather forward over the thorax with four or five turns and tie it off at the index point. Clip the remaining hackle tip.
Whip finish the thread at the head and add a drop of head cement. There you have it!