Illawarra Flyfishers Club

Red Tag (version 1)

Text and Photos by Steve Chatterton

Hook #12 - #16
Thread Black
Tag Red Poly Yarn
Body Peacock herl
Hackle Red cock

The red tag is as relevant today as when it was first invented some 140 years ago. It is perhaps the quintessential beetle imitation and is popular worldwide.

Tying Procedure

1) Wind the thread from the 95% position in touching turns to the bend of the hook.

2) Tie in a tag of red Poly Yarn that is about as long as the gape of the hook.

3) Tie in several strands of peacock herl. It is best to tie in an equal number of herl and to tie half in from the butt end after trimming of the white butt section and the other half by the tip/s. By doing this you avoid a situation, particularly with poorer quality herl, of the finished body showing nice wide flue (Flue = the small individual fibres on the Peacock herl or Ostrich herl) at one end of the body and poor thin flue at the other end of the body.

4) Wind the herls around the silk to form a herl rope.  

5) Tie in 1 or 2 red cock hackles depending on their length and quality. The barbs on the hackle should be around 1 times the gape of the hook.
6) Build up the head whip finish & varnish. Wind the hackle forward in touching turns but stopping short of the eye of the hook so as to leave room for the head. Tie the hackle off and trim the loose end.

Tied with a couple of turns of hen hackle rather than the cock hackle it is also formidable wet fly. 

Note: You can also add lead wire under the body if a faster sinking fly is required.

Red Tag (version 2)

Text and Photos by Andrew Susani and Andrew Wheeler

Hook #10 - #18 (usually #12)
Thread Black or Brown 6/0
Body 3 strands of peacock herl, twisted
Tail Red wool or red poly yarn (synthetic)
Hackle Brown or ginger cock

The Red Tag is an English pattern, designed around 150 years ago. It has become a popular dry fly pattern in both Australia and New Zealand as a general beetle imitation. It can be tied in a variety of sizes and styles and proves effective in a wide range of situations, from small streams to large impoundments. This is definitely a must have pattern for trout fishermen

Tying Procedure

1.  Start thread at the hook bend. Tie in a short piece of red wool or poly yarn. You can trim it short now if you wish (so it extends 2-3mm past the hook bend), but we prefer to leave it long and trim it at the end once you know what the body will look like.  

2. Tie in the 3 peacock herls at the bend. Gently stroke the herls against the fibres so they become furry, then twist the 3 herls together and clamp the ends with some small hackle pliers.  

3. Gently wind the twisted herls forward to form a fat little body. Tie the herls down so there is about 4-5 mm of bare hook shank between the body and the hook eye.

4. Select a dry fly (cock) hackle feather whose fibres are roughly 1 to 1.5 times the width of the hook gape, and tie it in by the butt.

5. Wind the hackle forward, making sure that all the fibres are perpendicular to the hook shank. Tie off and trim. 
6. Build up a small head of thread, then whip finish and varnish head. Trim the tail if you haven't already done so.


Poly yarn won’t absorb water like wool will, so it might be an advantage to use it instead so your flies float for longer.

Be gentle with the peacock herls – take a few wraps of the thread over the formed body if you want to make the fly longer lasting.

Stroke the hackle backwards as it is wound so that you don’t get fibres sticking out towards the front of the fly that will get in the way when you are trying to make the head.

Remember that the less weight you have on the fly, the better it will float, so keep thread work to a minimum and use nice stiff hackles.

For fast water, you might want to have a few flies tied up using 2 hackle feathers instead of one so the fly is more buoyant and won’t get dragged under by the turbulent water.

For slow water, it is better to have flies tied with a sparser hackle so the fly sits in the surface film. It may be harder to see from an anglers point of view, but the fish will always find it more easily if it is partly submerged in the film.

For all the original instructions and methods, see: "Fur and Feather" by Peter Leuver