Tying the Hairwing Del Cooper

The Hairwing Del Cooper

In this fly tying tutorial, I will share with you how to construct a basic hairwing pattern for steelhead, as represented by one my all-time personal favorites, the traditional Del Cooper (a.k.a. the Surgeon General). A quintessential classic that's long proven deadly throughout not only the Pacific Northwest, but across the many tributaries of the eastern Great Lakes too; this simple yet beautiful fly works equally well for both summer and winter run steelhead alike.

Recipe / Materials List

  • Hook: Daiichi 2051 Alec Jackson Spey (or similar)
  • Thread: Wine Danville's 70-denier 6/0 Flymaster (or similar)
  • Tip: Flat Silver Tinsel
  • Tail: Red Dyed Golden Pheasant Crest
  • Body: Purple Uni-Wool Yarn (or dubbing)
  • Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel
  • Collar: Red Dyed Hen Neck (or similar)
  • Wing: White Kid Goat Hair or Bucktail

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Step 1 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 1: We'll begin the Del Cooper like we do most salmon/steelhead patterns, by installing a tight wound jam knot placed comfortably behind the tapered return loop eye like shown. Naturally, once snug, we'll then rid ourselves of the excess thread with a quick tug or a careful snip of our scissors.

Step 2 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 2: Next, we'll tie in just behind our jam knot, a comfortable working length of flat silver/gold mylar tinsel, positioned purposely with the silver side down (i.e. against the hook) and gold side facing out.

Once securely fastened, we'll then bind our tinsel neatly rearward towards the hook bend using smooth, evenly spaced thread wraps... continuing until we've reach a optimal stop located about a 1/4 of an inch or so in front of the hook point like shown.

Step 3 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 3: Next, to create the Del Cooper's silver metallic tip, we'll begin wrapping our flat mylar tinsel (silver side now facing out) smoothly rearwards towards the hook bend using steeply angled and notably tightly drawn turns... continuing until our metallic tip's trailing edge is approximately flush with our hook's sharpened point.

Once flush, we'll then simply wrap our silver tinsel tautly forward again (doubling back over top itself), advancing smoothly forward and well up along the shank like shown, where we'll neatly tie off our tinsel and trim the excess cleanly away.

Step 4 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 4: To create the Del Cooper's tail, we'll next tie in neatly along the hook shank's top, one or two nicely curved and neatly paired red-dyed golden pheasant crest feathers.

***Special Notes: For proportion's sake, I recommend taking a moment to briefly pre-measure your crest feathers against the hook shank before mounting, ensuring that your tail's end lines up approximately flush and even with the hook bend's trailing edge like shown!

Step 5 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 5: Next, to create our body, we'll tie in snugly forward towards the hook eye, a combination of purple wool Uni-Yarn and a serviceable working length of silver oval tinsel as well.

Once securely fastened, we'll next simultaneously bind both neatly rearwards along the hook shank using smooth evenly placed thread wraps, then forward again towards the hook eye like shown.

Step 6 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 6: Next, we'll begin wrapping forward our purple wool body, advancing smoothly and continuously along the hook shank's entirety, until we've reached our optimal stop, located well up towards, but comfortably behind our hook's up-turned eye, like shown.

Step 7 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 7: Next, using a firm grip and a notably steep angle of attack, we'll begin winding forward in counter-wound fashion (i.e. in the opposite direction of our wool yarn) our Silver Tinsel Rib.

***Special Notes: Remember, while steelhead cannot count, for tradition's sake, we want to arrive at our rib's end with 5 or so nice, evenly spaced wraps of silver oval tinsel!

Step 8 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 8: To create the first half of our Del Cooper's signature white wing, we'll next position a nice, sparse, and semi-even tipped bundle of fine straight hairs like Kid Goat or Bucktail, neatly along the hook shank's top. Once satisfied with its placement, we'll then tie the clump firmly in place using a few well-controlled, tight-drawn thread wraps.

***Special Notes: Again, for proportion's sake, I recommend taking a moment to briefly pre-measure your underwing against the hook shank before mounting, ensuring that your hair clump's end lines up approximately flush with your silver tip's trailing edge, like shown!

Step 9 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 9: Next, to create our collar, we'll tie in an appropriately-sized soft webby red-dyed hen neck feather neatly by its tip, and once snugly fastened, we'll then take 2 or 3 nice sparse turns around the hook with the hackle.

Once wound, we'll next firmly tie off our red hen feather using a few quick well-placed thread wraps, and once secured, we'll then cleanly trim away any excess forward-protruding stem.

Step 10 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 10: To complete our wing, we'll prepare another nice, sparse bundle of fine straight hairs (roughly equal in length and size to the first), and with the second clump positioned neatly along the hook shank's top, we'll then go ahead and tie our top wing firmly in place.

Step 11 - Tying the Hairwing Del CooperStep 11: After a gentle rolling twist or two with wet finger tips to settle our wing, and firm forceful pinch perhaps of the collar to help tame our hackle as well; once satisfied with our fly's overall appearance, we'll end the Del Cooper by whipping a nice, handsomely tapered thread head, followed of course by a quick careful application of clear glossy head cement drug smoothly and evenly around our finished wraps.

Summary / Closing Remarks: Well friends, there we have it! The traditional Del Cooper, tied start-to-finish. It's important to note as hinted in the intro, that the basic construction sequence detailed above can be applied quite universally to a wide number of other steelhead classics. By substituting in alternatively colored tinsels, bodies, collars and wings, we can now easily craft a variety of other hairwing favorites like the Black Skunk, Nightdancer, the Patricia, and more! As always, have fun with this one gang, and thanks to all for your continued patronage and support! Naturally, if we can prove of further help or assistance, please don't hesitate to call on us. Sincerely - Nate Harris