Mike Mercer’s Missing Link has been one of the hottest flies in the shop this past summer. Originally designed as a sort of crippled caddis pattern, it’s initial debut resulted in anglers fishing it under a variety of circumstances and hatch condition and lo and behold, the dang thing catches fish almost all the time! As usual among patterns from Mike Mercer, this fly is crafty and well thought out yet simple to tie. The Missing Link is tied in a variety of colors limited only by your imagination. You really ought to stop reading this and get out the hooks.
Hook: TMC 900BL #14-20
Thread: 8/0 UNI, color of choice, Olive Dun used here
Rib: Pearl Krystal flash
Thorax: Black or Black Peacock Ice Dub
Spent Wings: Dark Dun Z-Lon
Hackle: Grizzly, Dun, Brown, Cree, Ginger…whatever you have handy
Wing: Natural Yearling Elk Hair
Start the thread about a third of a shank length back from the hook eye and tie in a single strand of pearl krystal flash. Wrap the thread back over the flash to and slightly beyond the bend of the hook, then return the thread to the starting point building a slightly tapered abdomen as you go.
Spiral wrap the flash forward over the thread body to the front and tie it off and clip the excess. Make five to seven turns of ribbing, depending on the size of the hook.
Dub a short length of Ice Dubbing onto the thread and build a small ball at the front of the abdomen. This thorax should slightly overlap the front of the abdomen. Wrap the bare thread forward from the front of the thorax to the hook eye and back again forming a thread base for the wings to come.
Divide a strand of Z-Lon in half and pull a few strands from each half so you have just slightly less than half a strand. Tie the strand in at the middle of it’s length at the front of the thorax on the far side of the shank.
Pull the other end of the Z-Lon back on the near side of the hook and bind it in place with a few tight turns of thread. The wings should slope back, separated by the dubbed thorax.
Like this. Leave the wings long for the moment so you can more easily get them out of your way later.
Prep a hackle feather by stripping the barbs from about a half shank length of stem.
Tie the hackle feather in on the far side of the shank with the inside of the feather facing up.
Clean and stack a small clump of elk hair and measure it to a shank length long.
Tie the hair in with a pair of taut wraps to begin before you tighten the thread to flare the hair. The hair should be tied in slightly in front of the thorax so there is some bare thread on the shank between the dubbing and the base of the hair.
While holding onto the tips of the hair make a narrow band of thread to anchor it in place on the top of the hook.
Lift both the tips and the butt ends of the hair upright and make a single, tight turn of thread around the base of the wing and butt ends.
Begin to wrap the hackle feather around the base of the wing tips and butts together parachute style. Make the first turn high up on the base of the wing and each succeeding wrap should fall below this first turn.
Make four or five wraps of hackle working down the base of the wing to the hook shank.
Pull the tip of the hackle feather down on the far side of the hook and make three wraps of thread around the very bottom of the wing post, capturing the tip of the hackle feather as you wrap.
Clip the hackle tip. Preen the wrapped hackle back out of the way with your fingertips and whip finish behind the eye. Clip the thread.
Separate the butt ends of the elk hair wing from the tips (they ought to have been much longer than the tips ends to make this easier) and reach in with the tips of your scissors to slip them off into a short, Elk Hair Caddis style brush.
Clip the spent wings right at the bend of the hook. Preen the hackle back into place and adjust the wing agle so it slopes slightly back over the fly. I like the wing a bit more upright than a caddis style fly but not as vertical as a parachute post…sort of split the difference and shoot for something like what’s shown here.