Ian's Foam Post Parachutes

Flies With a Story


The Flytier:

Ian G. Forbes of British Columbia

Ian recently retired after 40 years in the forest industry. An outdoor writer and magazine and book illustrator, his paintings hang in galleries and homes across North America.  He is an active hunter and harvests his own fly tying materials.  Ian fishes over 100 days a year. His annual trips take him throughout North America, New Zealand and Asia.
Story by: Ian Forbes
Flies by: Ian
Ian's e-mail: iangforbes@hotmail.com

A note on photos:

The brown and green background photos were taken by me. The others are courtesy of Ian.

--Peter Frailey



A fine sample designed and tied by Ian Forbes.
Photo by Peter Frailey


The Story:

The Foam Post Parachute by Ian Forbes

There is no question that parachute hackled patterns have replaced many of the traditionally hackled dry flies. There are a number of reasons for this. The parachute hackle style uses less hackle for more support because each hackle fiber is spread on top of the meniscus. And, there are no hackle fibers poking holes in the meniscus. The meniscus is the surface tension on water that will support the weight of a needle, providing it doesn’t break through the meniscus. Parachute hackles will support a fly with the entire body either in the surface or hanging just below it. Such patterns are very attractive to trout because they imitate vulnerable emerging insects. Just about every traditionally hackled dry fly pattern can be copied with a parachute style hackle.

There are various methods of fastening parachute hackles to a stem or “post” base. The posts are made of various artificial or natural materials and tied vertically onto the hook shank. Deer or elk hair posts are common, as are hackle stems and synthetic yarn.

Commercial fishing floats, often found washed up on beaches, make excellent sources of closed cell foam.

However, I tie all my posts using closed cell foam that I cut from commercial fishing floats. There is a reason for this. Foam adds floatation and forms a stiff, but flexible base that makes wrapping hackle around it easy. The foam used in commercial fishing floats is very tough and almost impossible to tear. The foam is easy to see from the surface, but disappears from the trout’s sight under water. I can vary the thickness of the foam depending on what I want the pattern to do. I use thick foam and a heavy hackled fly if I want the pattern to support a trailing, lightly weighted nymph. But, if I want a sparse outline I use a thinner piece of foam.

Use a leather-punch tool to vary the thickness of your foam posts.

Although any tough, closed cell foam could be used as a post, I prefer cutting mine from the for-mentioned commercial fishing floats and I use a rotary head leather punch to do so. The leather punch forms little tubes in a variety of sizes for patterns starting at size 22 hooks up to and including size 6 or 8 hooks. As the leather punch cuts the foam it compresses it, leaving a little “foot” at either end. The flared “foot” is easy to catch with the tying thread. The little foam tubes can also be used as terrestrial bodies for various patterns such as ants and beetles; or, for strike indicators.

Lumberyard twine makes an excellent trailing shuck and can be "dyed"  with a waterproof maker.


My foam post parachute flies are a style of tying rather than any particular pattern. However, just about any dry fly pattern can be copied with a foam post parachute. I happen to like the Hans Van Klinken style, with a curved shank hook for my emergers. I use a synthetic plastic twine for the trailing shuck on emergers, but fine Antron or Zelon fibers can be used instead. I get my plastic twine from lumberyards and unravel it into fine sheets. Despite being very thin, the plastic holds its shape and is quite tough from side to side, but it splits easily lengthways. I use moose hair for tails on my adult duns and spinners. Because most mayflies have grey or dun coloured wings I use blue dun hackle for most of my patterns. The parachute hackle doubles as both the wing outline and the legs of a mayfly.


Tips on tying attaching a foam post:

Start with an appropriate foam tube for the size of hook needed.

Place the foam tube on top of the hook and about 1/3 of the way back from the hook eye. Catch the front of the little foam “foot” with the tying thread.

Come around the foam and catch the back part of the foam on the next wrap.

Continue with a series of figure eights and cross wraps and slowly compress the foam near the base.

Work on all sides of the foam and go around the base to run the thread in different directions.

Tip: It helps to use 8/0 thread and have a rotary tying vise so you can see all sides.

When the entire foam base is covered with thread it is time to tie the remainder of the fly: tail, body, and hackle.

The finished product. 


Note: After the biot body has been wrapped forward and tied off behind the post, the thorax is then dubbed.  Wrapping the hackle.



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