Parachute style (horizontally tied) hackles take up several pages in Ted Leeson’s and Jim Schollmeyer’s  massive compendium of fly tying techniques as they discuss the varied ways of both tying in the parachute and tying it off so as to not trap too many fibres. Must admit, most of mine tended to look pretty scruffy until a tip from a tyer at last year’s British Fly Fair International. Looking forward to this year’s show next weekend at the Stafford Show Ground and learning even more from some world-class fly tyers. As for the tip, it’s the same approach expertly demonstrated by Barry Ord Clarke in his video.
The origin of the parachute style seems less certain, Paul Schullery  indicates it goes back to the 1920s and Alfred Courtney Williams , writing in 1949, suggests it may have originated with a “well known Scottish tackle firm” though notes that a Mr William Brush of Detroit applied for a patent for the idea in 1931, the patent was indeed granted in 1934 (US Patent #1973139). It is worth pointing out that the patent relates to a projection on the hook (the wing post), around which the hackle is wound, not the style itself, so a licensing fee might have been difficult to collect for other approaches to forming the wing post. Courtney Williams admits to being something of a purist and that his enthusiasm for the type of fly had never been that great – how times change, today it is one of the most widely used style of flies on both rivers and stillwaters. The tackle firm in question appears to have been the Glasgow firm Alexander Martin and one of their employees, Helen Todd, is credited with having come up with the concept of tying on the hackle horizontally. An example of an original Alex Martin parachute fly, with its UK patent slip still attached was donated to the American Museum of Fly Fishing by Joseph Spear Beck in 1980  who notes that Alex Martin’s 1938 catalog identifies the date of introduction of the style to the UK as 1933. However, finding solid historical references to the young female fly tyer who may have originated the style is decidedly problematic. Joseph Spear Beck  conjectures that William Brush only decided to pursue a patent once it was evident that the style was commercially successful since a note from the successor firm to Alexander Martin, John Dickinson and Son Ltd, from 1970 suggests an earlier attempt to market the style in the US in 1928 was unsuccessful.
- Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer The fly tier’s beachside reference to techniques and dressing styles (Portland, OR: Frank Amato Publications, 1998)
- Paul Schullery American Fly Fishing (New York: Lyons Press, 1987)
- Alfred Courtney-Williams, A dictionary of trout flies and of flies for sea-trout and grayling (London: A&C Black, 1949, 5th ed, 1973)
- Joseph Spear Beck Parachute Pioneers. American Flyfisher, 7, 21 (1980)