FLY OF THE MONTH- March – 2019


Noel Jetson’s Red Tag


(This photo was provided by Mike Stevens and was the photo on the front cover of Glenn Eggleton’s biography of Noel Jetson.)


This year Fly Lines will be returning to some of the classic flies fished by members. Thus, John Philbrick’s nymph was featured in the February issue.


There is no better example of this than the Red Tag, originally tied as a grayling fly. It has been adopted by Australian fly fishers like no other. And there is no better example of the Red Tag than the one tied by the late Noel Jetson. Noel’s version seems to differ from other Red Tags, particularly those tied commercially, for two reasons - the gold tinsel butt and the way Noel used peacock herl.


Thanks to the kindness of Glenn Eggleton, the author of Noel Jetson - Life and Flies, we are re-publishing Glenn’s detailed description of Noel’s Red Tag and how to tie it.




Noel’s favored hook was the Mustad 9578A in size 14. This is most closely matched today by Tiemco 102Y size 17. The Tiemco size 17 is ever so slightly larger, has a Limerick bend but is not slightly reversed. Noel believed that the off-setting of the hook point from the line of the shank on the Mustad 9578A offered a distinct advantage in setting the hook. Noel also tied his Red Tags in size 12 (Tiemco size 15) and sometimes in size 16 (Tiemco size 19). When he tied Red Tags in larger sizes (e.g. size 10) he usually employed a palmered hackle by way of variation.

Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, black.

Butt: Gold tinsel

Tag: Pearsall’s Marabou floss, scarlet.

Body: A single strand of peacock herl.

Tying Procedure:

  1. Wind the thread the full length of the shank, stopping at the bend. Noel laid this foundation on all his flies. Then tie in a length of flat gold tinsel at the bend of the hook. Wind the tinsel around and down the bend (two or three turns) and back over itself to the tie-in point. Tie down (two thread wraps are sufficient) and cut off the tinsel.
  2. Next, tie in the scarlet floss. Allow the floss to extend along the top of the shank nearly to the eye and secure it in place with the thread. By following this procedure a smooth foundation is created for the peacock herl. Cut the floss off leaving a tag equal in length to about two-thirds of the gape of the hook.
  3. Next, select the herl – use only A1 grade. Only herls close to the eye of the feather are suitable for dry flies. The selection should be made according to the size of the fly, as you do not want too much flue on a small fly. Note that there is less flue on those herls near the eye of the moon feather and more flue on those further away. Try to select herl that is green.
  4. Tie in a single strand of herl by the butt of the herl and not by the tip. Notice that those herls from the left-hand side of the moon feather (shiny side of the feather facing you) have flue on the right edge of the herl and those from the right-hand side of the feather have flue on the left-hand edge of the herl. This means that herls from the left-hand side of the feather need to be wound onto the hook in a clockwise direction and those from the right-hand side need to be wound on in an anti-clockwise direction. Notice also that you need to tie the herl onto the hook so that the flue that you are intending to form the body is at right angles to the shank of the hook. The dull side of the herl must face the hook eye.
  5. Wind on the herl so that each turn of herl slightly overlaps the previous one, resulting in the flue (which is on one side only) being as close as possible to the flue of the previous turn. The result should be a cone-shaped body that glows iridescent peacock green. When the body is formed, tie down and cut off the remaining herl.
  6. Next, hackle the fly. Select one or two (depending on their quality) hackle feathers. Let us assume two are used. Choose one from a cape that is ginger and one from a cape of a darker shade.
    (When choosing your hackles look at the underside of the feather to ascertain the true Colour.)
  7. Tie the hackle feathers in together onto the side of the hook shank with the undersides facing the hook eye. Take the thread back behind the hackle feathers to the point where the herl was tied off. Wind the rear hackle feather once in front of the other hackle feather and then to the rear making several turns and tie if off with one thread wrap. Wind the other hackle feather back through the first hackle and tie it off.
  8. Cut off any loose hackle points. Wind the threat carefully back through the hackle to the hook eye. This procedure strengthens the hackle. Use a see-sawing or weaving action when winding the thread forward through the hackle. This helps avoid trapping hackle fibres. This is the method Noel used for hackling all dry flies and is referred to as “securing the hackle".
  9. Whip finish and varnish a neat head.

(This Fly of the Month feature is from Noel Jetson - Life and Flies, author Glenn Eggleton, published by Stevens Publishing Tasmania.)