Yup, it’s called the Ray Charles because even a blind man can catch fish with it. This pattern also comes from the Bighorn River (also see the Soft Hackle Sowbug) and is another simple pattern that knocks the crap out of those poor Montana trout. Imitating a Sowbug, the Ray Charles can be tied in a variety of colors. Pink, tan, grey and white are all good colors for the ostrich herl, while the pearl flashback and red thread remain a constant. Twist ’em up, drive north, tie ’em on, reel ’em in. Do I have to explain everything??
Hook: TMC 3769 #14-18
Thread: Red 70 Denier
Shellback: Medium or large pearl tinsel
Body: Ostrich Herl, color of choice.
Start the thread about an eye length back from the hook eye. wrap an even thread base back to the bend, then return the thread to the starting point. The idea being to cover the shank with a nice layer of shiny red thread. This red thread underbody will show through the wet ostrich herl when you fish it.
Tie in a strip of pearl tinsel (not Flashabou…you want a wide strip of flash) just behind the index point. Try to trap the tinsel against the hook so it buckles around the shank. Use a loose wrap to catch the flash then tighten it up a bit as you wrap back over it.
Wrap all the way back over the tinsel to the bend of the hook. Keep that even layer of red thread going along the shank as you do this. Look closely at the bend of the hook in this picture and you can see that the tinsel is buckled around the shank.
Strip some of the herl off the base of two ostrich herls leaving the exposed stem as shown here. Tie the ostrich in at the bend of the hook with the stem side forward. Again, look closely at the picture and you will see that ostrich is oriented much like a hackle feather. The stem protrudes out further on the inside of the feather. Wrapping the ostrich with the stem forward will allow you to pack the wraps tightly together forming a full, bushy body. And you thought you already knew it all….
Bring the thread forward over the bare ostrich stem all the way up to the index point.
I shot this photo of the wrapping process to show the stem side leading the way as you wrap the ostrich. I spread the wraps out a bit to clarify my point. Can you see the center stem of the ostrich herls on the front side of the herl wraps? Wrapping the ostrich like this will allow you to butt the wraps tightly together without binding down any of the fibers, much like a dense hackle collar. Make sense?
I unwrapped the ostrich in the previous photo and re-wrapped it a bit more closely. wrap the ostrich in tight turns all the way up to the index point and tie it off with a couple firm wraps of thread. NOT eight or nine turns, just a couple of tight ones…don’t go getting carried away and crazy with the thread.
Clip the tip ends off the ostrich feather close against the shank (You DID tie it in by the butt end, right?) wet your fingers and stroke the ostrich back a bit so the fibers are clear of the head area on the hook.
Pull the tinsel strip forward over the top of the ostrich herl body, taking care to keep it centered. Tie the tinsel down at the index point with another couple tight wraps of thread. See how the buckled flash will fold tightly over the top of the body encapsulating (that’s right, I said ENCAPSULATING!) the ostrich. That’s why we tried to buckle it in the first place.
Clip the tinsel tight against the hook shank. Build a smooth but obvious red thread head (that red has some fish catching mojo) and whip finish the thread. Clip it too while you’re at it.