Video: How to Tie the Gallagher Special

The Gallagher Special is a bit of a mystery. In this great video from Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions, he calls it a secret pattern. I Googled the crap out of it and only found a few references, all from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, going back more than ten years. One forum post describes an “old timer” giving an angler a couple Gallagher Specials on the stream. So just how long this has been a secret is anyone’s guess. What everyone seems to agree on is that it works on trout.

In the video, author and blogger Matt Grobert shows just how easy it is to create a Gallagher Special. The real secret is in how you handle the hackles and the herl to ensure that everything comes out just right.

          Gallagher Special
          Hook: 3X-heavy, 2X-long nymph hook (here a Mustad S82-3906B), size 14.
          Thread: Black 6/0 or 140-denier.
          Tail: Furnace hackle fibers.
          Rib: Gold wire, fine.
          Body: 2 peacock herls.
          Hackle: Furnace.
          Head: Black tying thread.

17 thoughts on “Video: How to Tie the Gallagher Special”

  1. Phil,

    The pattern was first published in J. Edson Leonard’s book “Flies” in 1950. Several decades ago a bunch of old-timers introduced me to the pattern and made me swear to to keep it secret, “or else.” I’ve been fishing it ever since with good success, with and without a gold bead head. Best, Matt.

    1. Hey Matt,
      That almost looks like a Yorkshire/North Country Spider from the late 1800’s
      known as a Smoke Fly. Some guy on the Beaverkill name Rube Cross tied something
      similar to what Leonard published too.
      Nicely done, Matt.

    2. This pattern is very old, British if not mistaken, and has many variations! Some tied with a tag or hotspot
      and no tail! Some with a wing! Silver rib, flat or wire, gold, copper, Pearl etc. Various hackles too! All catch! I always have some and it seldom fails me! One for your box! Tight lines!

  2. Here in the western part of the US we call that a brown hackle peacock.
    It only works when I am by myself fishing or if my friends are along.
    Great pattern.
    It is very neatly tied and everyone can learn from this video.

    Clint Brumitt

  3. This is a really old British Pattern I believe, with numerous variations of ribs, flat or wire, silver, gold, copper, Pearl, etc. Tail or no tail, Tag or no tag. Wing or not! Various hackles too! Add a hotspot or not! All work and catch trout! I always have some and they rarely fail me! Add a thin coat of Sally Hansen to the thread body just before trying in the peacock, in effect gluing it to the shank! ! You can also put the peacock in a dubbing loop to make it even stronger! A pattern for your box!
    Tight lines!

  4. I’ve been fishing a Gallagher Special for years here in South Central PA with varying success. I forget where I first heard about it but I think it was probably some guy out along the stream who was having success and we got to talking. This version uses grizzly hen hackle with fine gold tinsel for the ribbing and a tag. No tail. Around here it is usually tied in size 18 or 20 and works well in early spring when the little black stoneflies are out. Cumberland Valley TU published a couple of books a few years ago with member’s favorite flies and the Gallagher was one of them. ( That version added a hare’s ear thorax. So there are lots of versions out there and I’m sure they all work. I like the looks of the one Matt tied and will be adding some to my fly box.

  5. As others have mentioned, the origin of this fly likely goes back to a series of patterns from the British Isles that include the Sturdys Fancy and Treackle Parkin. They were (and still are) popular for grayling in Ireland and the UK. With a peacock herl body, the tail will vary between feather or wool tag. The hackle ranges from white, brown or grizzly and either tied soft or dry. Regardless of the configuration, they all catch fish.

    Thanks for letting this not-so-secret secret out. I’m not telling.

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