Water Walkers

These double parachutes land right and float forever. They’re just the ticket when fishing turbulent water.
article by Al & Gretchen Beatty
photography by David Klausmeyer

“Hey, Al, look at this!” shouted Rob Miner as he threw a fly high into the air. The unusual pattern hit the ceiling and settled to the floor upright. From a distance the fly looked like a regular hair-wing Wulff, but on closer inspection the hackle seemed a real mess. “It’s a double parachute Frank Johnson [a Missoula, Montana, fly-shop owner] sent me. It always lands upright, and look at the footprint." Rob, the owner of the Fly Fisher Shoppe in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in the mid-1980s, tossed the fly again, allowing it to land on the glass reel case in his shop. When viewed from underneath, it certainly did look more natural than other dry flies, whether tied with standard or parachute hackles. Finally, Al had to ask, “What’s its name, and how do you tie it?” Rob indicated he knew how to tie it as he sat down at his fly-tying bench, but he didn’t think Frank had yet named the pattern.

     As Rob showed Al how to tie the fly, the two friends discussed possible names: the Double Parachute, Footprint Wulff, and Tuff Wulff (meaning “difficult to tie”) were three considerations. Several weeks later, on a cold January day, Rob telephoned Al with the new fly’s name: the Water Walker.
By the time Al learned the fly’s name, he had one box filled with the flies in a full range of sizes and colors. He could hardly wait to give them a test drive, and when spring arrived, he wasn’t disappointed. Water Walkers caught fish like crazy and never fell on their sides, as some other dry flies often do.


Gray Water Walker
Hook: Standard dry-fly hook, sizes 22 to 8.
Thread: Gray 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0
    (140 denier).
Tail: Deer body hair.
Wings: Deer body hair.
Body: Gray dubbing or punch yarn. (Punch yarn is used for embroidery. Look for it in sewing and craft stores.)
Hackle: Grizzly or blue dun.

Green drake Walker
Hook: Standard dry-fly hook, sizes 22 to 8.
Thread: Dark olive 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0 (140 denier).
Tail: Deer body hair.
Wings: Deer body hair.
Body: Olive punch yarn or dubbing.
Rib: Single strand yellow floss.
Hackle: Blue dun or grizzly.

Royal Walker
Hook: Standard dry-fly hook, sizes 22 to 8.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0
    (140 denier).
Tail: Deer body hair.
Wings: Calftail hair.
Body: Peacock herl and red floss.
Hackle: Brown.

Problems Solved
Al loved the way Water Walkers caught fish, but they did have three little problems. The two hackles tied off at the hook eye tended to clog the eye, especially on smaller flies. The feathers also seemed more prone to break than on other dry flies. And finally, Water Walkers took more than twice as long to tie as standard Wulffs. Al didn’t tie very many Water Walkers on a commercial basis, because he could make more money tying other patterns. The diffi-culty in making this pattern is probably why they’ve never attained a prominent place in the bins at fly shops, but Al always had a box of them for his personal fishing.
     When we got married in the early 1990s, we spent our first years together tying flies on a full-time commercial basis. During that period, we solved those first two problems, and will share our solutions with you in the tying exercises. Unfortunately, we still haven’t found a faster way to tie Water Walkers, so they still have limited commercial appeal; if you want some, you’ll have to tie them yourself. Don’t let this fly intimidate you, however, because it’s really not that difficult to tie; just don’t expect to fill a fly box in one evening. One thing is definitely for sure: Water Walkers do catch trout!

Al and Gretchen Beatty are two of the most innovative tiers we know. Be sure to keep an eye peeled for Al’s new book about Gary LaFontaine’s unpublished trout patterns, which will be available later this summer. This important volume is one of the first in the new Fly Tyer library of tying books.

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