Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Doctor Lyte Palmer

Rather than using “dingy-orange worsted wool” for the body, this dressing uses orange hare’s mask to give the body a slightly scragglier look. It also substitutes a ginger hackles for honey dun and a braided tinsel that seats more deeply and securely in the hare's mask body than the prescribed flat tinsel. Braided tinsel aligns with earlier precedents.



Rust brown

Peacock herl
Rib 2:

Vintage, fine gold twist wound along front edge of peacock herl rib

Ginger cock hackle slightly smaller than front hackle

Orange hare’s mask

Ginger cock hackle with a faint, medium dun list, slightly larger than the palmer hackle

James Leisenring includes the Doctor Lyte Palmer in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly & Fishing the Flymph (1941) that he has “found at times very deadly.” It was originally dressed by one of his “fishing companions, an expert flytier, Dr. H. W. Lyte of Allentown, Pennsylvania.” 

 Leisenring's dressing of the Doctor Lyte Palmer calls for:

“HOOK  13,14
SILK  Orange.
HACKLE  Pure honey dun of rich color and medium stiffness—two turns.
RIB  Fine peacock herl of the sword feather—one of the very long, thin fibers.
RIB #2  Very narrow gold tinsel wound right alongside of the peacock herl rib and in front of it.
RIBBING HACKLE  Pure honey dun hackle slightly smaller than the front hackle.
BODY  Dingy-orange worsted wool.”

Sylvester Nemes leaves Doctor Lyte Palmer out of the dressings he included in his coverage of Leisenring’s Art of Tying the Wet Fly from his Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2004), but it is likely the sort of fly Joe Humphrey had in mind in his phenomenal textbook, Trout Tactics (1981), in his observations on fishing  the wet fly, particularly in his Pennsylvania limestone home waters:  “When caddies hatches are heavy in April or early May, try this: fish only heavy, broken pocket water—forget the flats. Use a short line and work downstream and fish only the pockets in behind boulders and breaks. Use a well-dress palmered #10 or #8 wet fly, and bounce the flies in the pockets. A long rod of nine feet or better can be an advantage when trying to hold wet flies in one specific area. Heavy riffs or currents push through the middle of a line and drag your flies out of productive water at edges of the currents. The trout never get a good look at your fly or refuse them as they drag; a longer rod can hold them there since there is less line on the water.”

Leisenring’s Doctor Lyte Palmer recalls one of the four palmer flies, the Golden Palmer, that Richard Bowlker included in his 1757 edition of The Art of Angling, but which his son Charles excluded from his own 1774 edition: “His body is made of orange-coloured silk, ribbed down with a peacock’s harle and gold twist, with the red hackle of a cock wrapt over the body: The hook, No. 5, or 6, according to the water you fish in.”

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thornfly Dun; Landrail Dun; Dark and Light Sedge; or, Silverhorns

This dressing substitutes American woodcock undercovert for landrail undercovert. It is dressed more heavily to align it with William Blacker's Red Palmer Fly, which T. E. Pritt lists as a precedent. It finishes the fly in front of the head rather than behind it. 




Orange silk

American woodcock undercovert

Peacock herl

Two distinct strains of dressing the Thornfly Dun seem to exist. Drawing the connection between these two pattern groups makes two assumptions: first, that the name Thornfly (in whatever form) corresponding with a hatching period beginning in late May or early June correlates different representations; second, that these dressings are, as the name dun often seems to distinguish, caddis or sedge flies. The more popular dressings exhibit a general orange-red cast in the bodies, hackles, and heads. They have much in common with the Light Dun that Michael Theakston describes in his List of Natural Flies (1843). However, many of the dressings also emphasize a darker overall color, with purplish black bodies and darker dun-colored hackles. Dressings for this June hatch have more in common with the Silverhorns sedge that Alfred Ronalds lists for June fishing in The Fly-fisher’s Entomology (1837). 

In the former category is the Thornfly Dun, no. 49, that T. E. Pritt includes in Yorkshire Trout Flies (1885) and its 1886 reworking, North-Country Flies:

Wings.—Hackled with a Landrail’s feather, taken from under the wing.
Body.—Orange silk.
Head.—Peacock herl.”

Pritt notes that the Thornfly Dun is “a very excellent fly in a good bold brown water on warm days in summer, from June onwards. It is a variation of No. 5 [the Brown Owl], and equally useful. Dressed with a redder feather it is the same fly as that known as Blacker’s Red.” After Pritt, Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee seem to offer two variations on the Thornfly Dun for June sedge dressings. They recommend, like Pritt, their Dark and Light Sedges for fishing from the “middle of June to the end of the season.”

Despite the reference to Blacker, Pritt’s Thornfly Dun seems more aligned to manuscript dressings like Large Thorn Fly Dun recorded by Jonathan Pickard in 1820 and printed by Robert L. Smith in The North Country Fly: Yorkshire’s Soft Hackle Tradition (2015): “Orange silk, peacock harl in the head feather from the inside of a landrail’s wing.” Smith also prints another 1820 list by William Robinson with an almost identical dressing for the Thorn Dun Larger or Landrail Dun.

This dressing uses gold Pearsall’s gossamer silk, substitutes a mixture of ginger antron and orange acrylic for orange mohair, and applies gold twist rather than tinsel.

Pritt’s attribution to Blacker’s Red is presumably to the Red Palmer Fly that William Blacker includes in his Art of Angling (1843). The color scheme falls into the tawny category, essentially the same as Pritt’s Thornfly Dun, except that Blacker's fly is dressed as a palmer:

“Hook ff.—Body, Red or orange mohair, with gold twist or tinsel up the body.
Legs, Two red hackles, wound on from the tail up to the head, in rotation with the tinsel.”

Blacker’s Red Palmer is the same as the Red Palmer that John Kirkbride includes in his Northern Angler (1837), except that Kirkbride recommends occasionally using gold wire as a rib.

This dress of James Chetham's Thorn-Fly dresses a winged fly into a soft hackle, using dove covert for the light gray mallard's wing.  It uses a mixture of black antron and raw Black Welsh Mountain wool for lamb’s wool.

In the latter, darker category of Thornfly dressings is James Chetham’s Thorn-Fly. In his Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681), Cheatham includes “Another Catalogue, of Flies, practiced by a very good angler,” in addition to the list he reprints from The Complete Angler (1657, 1676), that includes the Thorn-fly as the first choice for May. Chetham’s dressing calls for a “Dubbing of Black Lambs Wooll, and Dub’d with Black Silk, Wings of a Mallards light Grey; Note that all the Feathers got from Mallards for Wings, ought be got from a wild Mallard, and not from a tame one.” Stephen Braithwaite maintained a manuscript fly list, which includes a Thorn Fly dressed like Chetham’s, that Robert L. Smith reprints.

Chetham’s early dressing seems to provide a precedent for the Alfred Ronalds’s Silverhorns a century and a half later. Ronalds notes that the Silverhorns “is extremely abundant upon some waters, and is well taken both by the Trout and Grayling until the end of August throughout the day, and principally in showery weather. The figure represents the female. The male has black horns.*

Body. Black ostrich herl tied with black silk, and dressed off.
Wings. Feather from a wing of the cock blackbird.
Legs. Small black cock's hackle.
Horns. Grey feather of the mallard.

To make it buzz, the body is ribbed with silver twist upon the black ostrich herl, and a black hackle wrapped all down.

* There is a variety upon some waters, which has a very shining highly polished jet-black wing.”