Tying a Blacknose Dace Fly

Eastern Blacknose Dace (Rhynichthus atratulus) is one of the most commonly found minnow species in brook trout waters throughout Appalachia and most of the Northeast. They have very similar water quality and habitat requirements as brook trout.

The appearance varies from tan with a strong black strip mid-body, to having a vibrant orange/red strip and fins depending on water and time of year.

By Brian Gratwicke – originally posted to Flickr as Blacknose dace – Rhinichthys atratulus, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8024902
(c) Emilio Concari, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC). Photo by Emilio Concari.

Since blacknose dace are so commonly found with brook trout, and since they’re much smaller than brook trout, they’re an important food source for the brookies.

There have been many fly patterns created to imitate the blacknose dace. I’ve had good success with the classic blacknose dace streamer. The classic fly is a very vague interpretation of the fish, and I wanted to come up with something a little more realistic.

I tie two different versions of this fly. A “fancy” version with Jungle Cock “eyes” and a simplier version with no “eyes” and wound pine squirrel for the collar instead of the more challenging dubbing style pine squirrel collar.

Recipe:

  • Hook: Size 8 Daiichi 1750 streamer hook
  • Weight: .010″ Lead Wire
  • Thread (body): UTC Ultra Thread 70D
  • Thread (head): Semperfli Nano Silk in Black 100D
  • Tail: Red micro crystal flash
  • Body: Red silk or poly yarn
  • Rib: Silver UTC ultra wire in Medium
  • Wing: Jungle Cock feathers (longer cape feathers)
  • Collar: Pine Squirrel strips (Rust)
  • Eyes: Jungle Cock

Step 1:

Note: You don’t have to have perfect touching wraps for the first layer of thread. Stop where your thread hangs even with about mid-point between the hook point and barb (Pinch your barb! I do this on the stream).

Step 2:

Note: Start your lead wraps about 2 eye lengths from where you stopped the thread base. I make about 40 wraps.

Step 3:

Note: Cover your lead wire with several fast wraps of thread forward and back again. Tie in your 2 strands of red crystal flash doubled over and cover between the back of the lead wraps and the rear of the fly. Then trim the crystal flash even with the end of the lead wraps.

Step 4:

Note: Tie in about a 4 inch long section of UTC silver wire stopping where the lead wire wraps stop.

Step 5:

Note: tie in about a 4 inch long section of Red poly or silk yarn. I used a fine red poly yarn doubled over 4 times (4 strands).

Step 6:

Note: Wrap your yarn forward using touching or overlapping wraps to make a clean body and secure the yarn with a few wraps of thread.

Step 7:

Note: Make evenly spaced wraps forward with the silver wire, tie it in with the thread and then whip finish the read thread and trim off.

Step 8:

Note: Start in your black nanosilk line and wrap back over the silver wire and red thread to clean up.

Step 9:

Note: Select 2 matching jungle cock feathers. Try to use the longest feathers you have. You can substitute a silver badger feather here but I like the pattern and color in jungle cock feathers.

Step 10:

Note: Tie in both feathers with one on either side on top of the hook. Double over the stems, tie in tightly and remove stems. At this point I apply a tiny drop of super glue at the stem thread wraps.

Step 11:

Note: Select 2 smaller jungle cock cape feathers and clean up the fluff to approximately the same length.

Step 12:

Note: Tie in the smaller feathers on both sides of the fly. For the alternate, simpler version, at this point you can skip the smaller feathers and tie in the pine squirrel strip.

Step 13:

Note: Split your tying thread and feed through the fur from the pine squirrel strip. Then trim off the leather and spin the yarn to trap the fur.

Step 14:

Note: Wrap down the fur brush while preening the fur back.

Step 15:

Note: Select two matching jungle cock eyes.

Step 16:

Note: Tie in the jungle cock eyes on either side, fold back the stems, tie in, and remove the stem waste.

Step 17:

Note: Whip finish the head, apply cement, super glue, and/or UV resin or varnish to finish the head.

Alternate:

Note: For the alternate version, tie in the pine squirrel strip and make about 2 wraps, then secure with the thread (this is where nanosilk or GSP helps) and wrench down the zonker strip to secure well. Then build up a thread head, whip finish, and lacquer/epoxy the head to finish.

Thoughts:

This has been an excellent fly for me for both brook trout and trout in general. It’s similar to “old-school” style feather wing flies and I don’t think trout see much stuff like this these days. In my opinion, it’s a pretty good dace representation while also looking somewhat like a sculpin in the water. The red body and silver wraps really stand out in the water. The fly looks much better wet than dry.

The weight seems to be just enough to keep it about mid water-column without sinking too quickly. I fish a lot of streams down and then back up again. I typically fish the streamer on my way down by holding it in the current near the tailout of the pool and then darting it up along the edges of the main current. Then I have lunch and fish back up with a dry or dry-dropper rig.

The fly also fishes well across current, or slightly up and across the current with a quick, jerky retrieve. I’ve also caught “other trout” swinging through a large pool.

As noted above, you could replace the jungle cock with silver badger or similar, but I like that the tips of jungle cock have a hint of orange to it. The rust pine squirrel further enhances the orange hue to the fly and it tends to really stand out in the water. While the pine squirrel lays down when wet, it undulates and “puffs” up in the water creating a bulkier head, which again, can imitate a sculpin.

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