Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Red Fox Squirrel Nymph

This dressing is an unweighted composite of primarily early directions for dressing the fly with a few of the later modifications, and in keeping with the standard for hook size and representation on the blog, it uses a size 14 dry fly hook rather than the nymph hook Whitlock prescribes. It largely follows Dave Whitlock’s “Standard Red Fox Squirrel-Hair Nymph” recipe from the June 1984 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, using natural, prepackaged belly fibers for the abdomen and unblended back fur taken from a road-kill fox squirrel as the thorax. It adds the hackling and tailing that Whitlock suggests in the book chapter on nymphing. 

Hook:

6-16
Thread:

Burnt orange
Tail:

Red fox squirrel back fur (optional)
Rib:

Gold twist
Abdomen:

Red fox squirrel underbelly fur
Thorax:

Red fox squirrel back fur (dubbed slender)
Hackle:

Dark speckled brown hen hackle



Including the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph as soft hackle might be criticized as taking too much liberty with the blog definition of the style, as in the case of the northeastern Breadcrust, the ubiquitous Greenwell’s Glory, or the Tup’s Nymph (or most other patterns dressed by G. E. M. Skues). Nevertheless, it an impressionistic pattern and lends itself to dressing in many familiar styles. Pinpointing the inception of one of Dave Whitlock’s most iconic flies is a task likely best left to Whitlock himself. Since tracking down every reference to the fly would be even harder, a sample of Whitlock’s own words on the pattern must suffice.

An early publication that includes the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph was The Masters on the Nymph (1979), to which Whitlock contributed a chapter 7, “Nymphing Tackle.” The first of the four “favorite nymph patterns” he includes is the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph,” which he describes as his “favorite all-purpose nymph, as versatile and effective for a nymph as the Adams is for a dry fly. It works as well where mayflies, stone flies, caddis pupae, and scuds of similar colors exist, and where there are no nymphs.

Hook:   Mustad 9671, sizes 4-18
Body weight:   6 to 10 wraps of lead wire at thorax
Thread:   Black
Tail:   Sparse tuft of red-fox squirrel back hair, including both guard and underfur ½ length of hook shank
Rib:   Small oval tinsel
Abdomen: Red-fox squirrel belly fur
Thorax:  Red-fox squirrel back fur (with guard and underfur included)
Wing case:   Dark-brown swiss straw or turkey tail
Legs:   Either guard hairs of red-fox squirrel back or one turn of dark partridge hackle”

He also cited it as the nymph he used in his nymphing system in a pair of articles in Fly Fisherman magazine from 1983, but did not give it an explicit treatment of the fly itself until a June 1984 article entitled “Red Fox-Squirrel-Hair Nymph.”  In this article, he describes now to trim a red squirrel hide to preserve the scarce belly fur—split the skin down the back when dressing the body—and how to sort the fur into like colors. (He also notes that a shaved, tanned red fox squirrel skin can repurposed into buckskin nymphs. Very little of the animal goes to waste for the savvy, creative fly tier.)  More importantly, he discusses the reasons for the fly’s success. Rather than clinging to a narrow representational niche, the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph aims for impressionistic representation and is, as a result, characteristically versatile. By adjusting the length and thickness of the abdomen, and thorax, as well as the sparseness and length of the hackle, the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph could give the impression of a broad array of insects. In this article, he gives a dressing for “Dave Whitlock’s Standard Red Fox Squirrel-Hair Nymph” that looks much more like a soft hackle:

“HOOK:  Mustad 9671 or Tiemco Nymph Hook, #2 to #18.
THREAD: Black or dark brown nylon.
CEMENT: Dave’s Flexament.
WEIGHT: Lead or copper wire.
ABDOMEN: Belly fur from red fox squirrel skin, may be blended with synthetic sparkle dubbing. Abdomen should be ½ to 2/3 of the overall body length.
THORAX: Back fur from red fox squirrel skin, may be blended with synthetic sparkle dubbing. Thorax should be ½ to 1/3 of the overall body length.
RIB Gold wire or oval tinsel.”

In his Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods (1982), Whitlock’s fly boxes illustrate this versatility: it shows up, for instance, in his “Box No. 1: General Utility Box” at the head of the list in sizes 6-16, as well as “Box No. 4: Terrestrials and Summer Midges” in sizes 16 and 18.

Whitlock’s prolific writing has continued to describe the efficacy of the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph. He contributed a short article on the pattern in the September/October 2010 issue of Eastern Fly Fishing that reflects many of the modern, commercial interventions in fly dressing that have risen alongside media popularization of the sport, especially in print but also in film. This version updates the materials that Whitlock originally posted for the do-it-yourself fly tier of the late seventies and early eighties. In their blend of synthetic and natural fibers, these newer, branded materials regularize the color and consistency of the abdomen, thorax, and hackling, and they incorporate colors and sparkle that are more likely to attract a trout’s attention, particularly in off-color water. Both the original and contemporary versions have a place in the angler’s fly box. This Red Fox Squirrel Nymph uses:

Hook: TMC 5262, size 2-20
Thread: Orange Wapsi Ultra Thread 70
Weight: Lead Wire the diameter of the hook wire
Cements: Zap-a-Gap and Dave’s Flexament
Tail: Back hair of red fox squirrel
Rib: Small or medium gold oval tinsel
Abdomen: 50-50 blend of red fox squirrel belly hair and similar colors of Antron and SLF or No. 2 (red fox squirrel abdomen) Wapsi Dave Whitlock Plus SLF dubbing blend
Thorax: 50-50 blend of red fox squirrel back hair blended and hare’s ear Antron and SLF or No. 1 (red fox squirrel thorax) Wapsi Dave Whitlock Plus SLF dubbing blend
Legs: Dark ginger Metz hen back feather for hook sizes 2-12; for smaller hooks, pick out the dubbing guard hairs for legs
Head: Orange thread or gold bead.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Red Ass; or, the Arkansas Red Butt



Hook:

10-16
Thread:

Red
Tip:

Silk buttonhole twist - Coats & Clark's 184, red, size D
Body:

Peacock herl
Hackle:

Partridge



L. J. DeCuir lists the Red Ass as the Arkansas Red Butt in his Southeastern Flies (2000), noting that “peacock herl flies have always been good producers on the mountain streams of the Southeast and this one is no exception. This pattern is from Jerry Cobb. He’s had great success with it on the streams in the higher elevations in the Smokies as well as the Northern Arkansas trout streams.” DeCuir dressed it as a heavily hackled wet fly:

“Hook: Mustad 3906, TMC 3976 #8-16
Thread: Red
Tag: Red thread
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Partridge tied as a wet fly collar
Head: Red thread built up fairly heavily”

DeCuir points out that the Arkansas Red Butt works equally well on trout in Southern Appalachian mountains or the tailraces of east Tennessee as it does on panfish and bass in farm ponds and warm water impoundments.

Cobb’s combination of peacock herl, red thread, and a black and white barred hackling recalls dressings like the Gray Hackle Peacock and its precedents; dressed without a tip, the fly bears a strong resemblance to Sylvester Neme's Syl's Nymph.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Black and Blae

This version is dressed with black tying thread and a blue rib to emphasize the attributes of the fly’s name. It substitutes black plastic canvas yarn for dog's fur. The blue thread rib is taken from a spool and not teased or stripped from "some fair damsel's gown.". 

Hook:

14-18
Thread:

Black
Rib:

Blue 6/0 thread
Body:

Muskrat without the guard hairs and black plastic canvas yarn
Hackle:

Snipe covert



Robert L. Smith includes fly list taken from Thomas Charleton’s poem The Art of Fishing (1819) in his The North Country Fly: The Soft Hackle Tradition (2015). Smith notes that Charleton's poem "offers further evidence of the ubiquitous use of the soft-hackled fly in the northern counties of England during the late 19th century." A rather unique fornat for an angling text, Charleton's poem draws on an earlier precedent that Smith locates in Thomas Scott'smid eighteenth-century poem The Anglers and "entwined the locally used fly patterns of Northumberland into his lengthy poem on the joys of angling in northern rivers."

Charleton recommends fishing the Black and Blae when "March comes in." The dressing is 

Dubb’d with the fur of black dog’s skin,
And water rat’s blae down;
For wings snipe hackles far excel,
Blue silk its rib can mimic well,
From some fair damsel’s gown.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Carrot Fly; Carrot and Black Nymph; or, Carrot Nymph

This dressing substitutes yellow-green dyed quail undercovert for the green parrot Skues prescribed for the tail and yellow-green dyed covert in place of the poultry hackle.

Hook:

12-14
Thread:

Primrose
Tail:

Olive dyed quail covert fibers
Body:

Rear 1/3—pale yellow wool; Middle 1/3—hot orange wool; Front 1/3—green seal fur
Hackle:

Olive dyed quail covert



G. E. M. Skues introduced anglers to the Carrot Fly in the journal of the London Flyfisher’s Club in 1912 as proof of “what asses trout are.”  In 1975 winter issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, T. Donald Overton notes that the response to the fly was mixed. Some anglers questioned whether Skues was having a laugh; others, “perhaps shamefacedly, cast it to the trout, with surprising results.”

Overton notes that the “tying is not difficult,” but advises fly tiers to “aim for a steeply tapered body, as shown in the ‘natural,’” a carrot: “The silk is waxed primrose (1). Tie in two strands of green parrot feather-fiber, or its equivalent, (2) and return the silk up the hook three turns. Tie in a length of pale yellow wool (3), bringing the silk forward to one-third the length of the body. Wind the wool forward and secure (4). Tie in a length of hot-orange wool (5) and take the silk up the hook for another third. Wind the wool up to the silk and secure, (7). Now tie in a length of greenish seal’s fur dubbing (8), and a short, fibred hackle dyed olive-green (9). Wind the dubbing and secure. Take a few turns of the hackle round the hook shank and secure with a whip-finish (10).”

Jay Zimmerman traces the history of the Carrot Fly The Best Carp Flies: How to Tie and Fish Them (2015). He credits Skues with developing the first, but notes that Skues only casually mentions his Carrot Fly in the The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921), where he called it "the famous Carrot fly." (Presumably, Skues deferred to this short-hand reference because of the fly's popularity following its introduction in the journal of the London Flyfisher's Club nine years earlier.) For whatever reason, American fly tiers have exhibited a strong inclination to imitate garden produce in the pursuit freshwater species. Zimmerman notes that "Reuben Cross from Neversink, New York, introduced a nymph in his book Tying American Trout Lures (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1936) he called the Carrot and Black" fifteen years after Skues' Way of the Trout with a Fly (and twenty-four years after Skues' club journal article). Zimmerman cites Cross's directions: "'The Carrot and Black is tied with brown hackle tail, carrot-colored body with black Chenille shoulder and dun hackle wound on the same as with a wet fly. After you have finished off with the tying silk take your scissors and clip out the top and bottom whisks, leaving the side legs." Later a similar dressing, the Carrot Nymph as Elsie Darbee tied and named it, showed up in A. J. McClane's classic McClane's Standard Fishing Encyclopedia (Holt, Rinehart And Winston, 1965).  Zimmerman also suggests that Randall Kaufmann further confused the dressing in American Nymph Fly Tying Manual (1975) by calling it the Carrot Fly and giving it a dubious lineage. Kaufmann noted that the an "old standby for years in the east" and, incorrectly, only recently in the west, and his dressing emphasized "halloween colors" untrue to Cross's American original that "account for many fat rainbows and brookies from pond and stream alike" More confusing was the Kaufmann's explanation of the dressing "is a slight variation from the original," presumably Cross's. His fly uses black hackle for the tail and unclipped front hackle, and orange tying thread with a black chenille thorax for the body. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brown and Bright-Green Simplified Deep Sparkle Pupa


Hook:

12-18
Thread:

Dark brown
Body:

One-third olive Sparkle Yarn; two-thirds bright green acrylic Craft fur
Hackle:

Dark red grouse dressed sparsely, wrapped one turn
Head:

Brown marabou strands



With his seminal Caddisflies (1981), Gary LaFontaine changed the way anglers and fly tiers looked at caddisfly representation. His signature Deep Sparkle Pupa introduced anglers to the synthetic Sparkle Yarn for representing the air bubbles trapped between the molting exoskeletal shuck and body of a hatching caddisfly. The dressing itself has a clear soft-hackle heritage, though the body is perhaps better designed to trap air bubbles that enhance the natural sparkle of the synthetic dubbing, and the hackle itself is so sparse as to be almost nonexistent. The head, however, would be at home on any dressing historical angler fished, like dressings of the Winter Brown and Dark Spanish Needle stoneflies or the Light Sedge caddis dressing.

The Brown and Bright-Green Deep Pupa is second on LaFontaine’s list of primary patterns:

"HOOK:   Mustad 94840
WEIGHT:  lead or copper wire
UNDERBODY:  one-third olive Sparkle Yarn and two-thirds bright green acrylic Craft fur (mixed and dubbed
OVERBODY:  medium olive Sparkle Yarn
HACKLE:  dark grouse fibers (long wisps along the lower half of the sides)
HEAD:  brown marabou strands or brown fur"

LaFontaine chose to designate a more traditional soft hackle style dressing of his Deep Sparkle Pupa as "Simplified" to avoid the confusion among anglers who purchased commercially-tied Deep Sparkle Pupas. He created this version because "fly-fishing friends urged" him to design "an optional recipe minus the overbody, for easier and quicker tying." He notes reservations about the effectiveness of the simplified dressing, questioning "how effective this type is compared to the regular pattern. They are much better than any drab-bodied creations, but they are not quite as bright, nor do they trap air bubbles quite as well, as the overbody style." He prefers the overbody "regular type" for his own angling.

Authors like Bob Wyatt have recently questioned LaFontaine's premise in designing the Deep Sparkle Pupa pattern. In What Trout Want (2013), Wyatt argues that the "gas bubble phenomenon is undocumented in any scientific study because pharate caddisflies don't exude a gas that creates a bubble between their instar cuticles," and he points out that the "lack of evidence in itself is not proof that no such insect or behavior exists" and promises "when that proof is produced, I'll be happy to eat my baseball cap." Nevertheless, LaFontaine's pattern is, as Wyatt notes, "a very successful trout fly," and the fly itself remains, if not a strict imitation, at least "another very good attractor pattern."

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Light Sedge; or, Light Dun

This dressing substitutes a mottled quail covert for "light-barred" landrail coverts and uses a red fox squirrel belly fur rather than the "reddish fur from the thigh of a squirrel."

Hook:

14-18
Thread:

Yellow
Body:

Red fox squirrel belly fur
Hackle:

Quail covert
Head:

Cock pheasant tail herl



In their Brook and River Trouting (1916), Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee included the Light Sedge as a dressing for a June trichoptera that will fish well throughout the rest of the season. They dressed it with

“WINGS.—Hackled with a light-barred reddish feather, from the lesser coverts of a Landrail’s wing.
BODY.—Yellow silk, No. 4, dubbed with reddish fur from the thigh of a Squirrel.
HEAD.—A reddish herl from the tail of a cock Pheasant.”


Michael Theakston’s original dressing is variable enough to allow for a wide range of materials and substitutions. This dressing takes the following liberties: it uses burnt orange thread, Wapsi synthetic blend red fox squirrel belly fur for the body, and an American woodcock rump feather for the hackling.



Michael Theakston includes a dressing for the Light Dun in his List of Natural Flies (1843), which might correlate to the Light Sedge that Brooks and Lee list for June. Theakston’s Light Dun (a dun is a caddis or sedge in Theakston’s nomenclature) “commences hatching this month [April], and are plentiful in May in June, and again in autumn; but are out most in the dusk of evening.” Theakston’s insect is “the produce of the codbait,” a case-building caddis that constructs “artificial cases of some of the codbait tribe” with “small particles of vegetable substances mingled with those of stone, attached to them, which may impart a darker shade or freckle to the flies. The largest codbait creepers, when the case is covered with particles of stone only, produce the largest and lightest colored flies.”

Dressed in classic soft hackle style, rather than the winged pattern Theakston's preferred, the Light Dun is: “imitated with feathers from the landrail, brown owl, dotterel, brown hen, etcetera; with tawny, coppery colored silks, of lighter or darker shades.”

While it certainly was not dressed to match a British hatch, Ernest Schwiebert drew on the “little Scottish pattern called the Corncrake and Yellow” as the “basis for the accompanying pupal imitation for the accompanying pupal imitation of the Little Sand Sedge” he included in Nymphs (1973).The Little Sand Sedge American caddisfly that seems similar to those that historical British angling authors describe:

Hook: Sizes 12-14 Mustad 3906 sproat
Nylon: Tan 6/0 nylon
Body: Pale dirty-yellowish dubbing
Thorax: Light brown dubbing
Wing cases: Light gray duck quill sections tied at sides
Antennae: Lemon woodduck fibers
Head: Tan nylon”

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Eric's Beetle

This dressing substitutes a synthetic dubbing for peacock herl and starling hackle for hen. 
Hook:

12-16
Thread:

Black
Body:

Primrose worsted wool underbody overwrapped with bronze Arizona synthetic peacock dubbing
Tip:

Primrose worsted wool underbody showing at the tip
Hackle:

Starling shoulder hackle



In the 1975 Late-Season Angling issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, T. Donald Overton gives a brief history and dressing instructions for a Eric’s Beetle, a fly designed in 1940, the “brainchild” of Eric Horsfall Turner. Overton describes Turner as “an observant entomologist, a world-class competitive caster, an erudite writer and an accomplished fly dresser.” After observing a live beetle draw a strike where his floating flies had not, he studied and designed his artificial beetle. Turner made careful records of “all his dressing experiments and river tests.” He determined that “yellow wool” was the best color for the tip and “took more trout, under all conditions, than any other color,” and he noted also that "the peacock herl body proved superior to ostrich or marabou."

Overton gives these instructions for dressing the fly that correspond to a series of numbered instructions: “Take a #12 hook and wind the black silk (1) to a point opposite the barb. Tie in a length of yellow wool (2). Take the silk forward for one eighth of an inch (3).Give the wool two or three close turns behind the silk to form a yellow butt (4); do not cut off the waste end. Tie in three peacock herls (5). Wind the silk to the starting point and tie in a small black hen hackle (6). Now wind the wool backwards and forwards (7) to provide a plump body. Take the herl (8) and wind in close even turns over the wool (9). Give the hackle only three turns (10) and complete the fly.”

Overton notes that Eric’s Beetle is best fished “upstream, with the leader greased to within three or four inches of the tippet point; as the fly drifts downstream under overhanging foliage, sinking the while, it often brings surprising results.” Such a technique would likely work well for other beetle patterns like the Marlow Buzz, Starling and Herl, Bracken Clock, or perhaps T. E. Pritt's Black Snipe

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Copper King

This dressing assigns a thread color since Roger Woolley does not and substitutes holopraphic tinsel for flat metal tinsel.

Hook:

14-16
Thread:

Camel
Body:

Copper holographic tinsel
Hackle:

Brown Partridge



In Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1936), Roger Woolley lists the Copper King, presumably dressed as a flashy attractor pattern, under the “Fancy Wet Flies” heading. A fly might be termed “fancy” for a number of reasons, though it seems to have less to do with the flashiness of the dressing (even when the body of the fly is copper-colored tinsel) than the imagination of the fly tier or imitative nature of the pattern. 

Body.—Copper-coloured tinsel.
Hackle.—Brown partridge.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sand Fly


This dressing of Michael Theakston's Sand Fly configures the fly as a hackle and opts for the "yellow bronze brown hen" hackle over the three other alternatives Theakston provides.

Hook:

10-18
Thread:

Orange
Body:

Orange Pearsall's gossamer silk dubbed sparsely with muskrat
Hackle:

Lightly specked, bronzy-yellow hen



Sand Fly is the name some historical anglers use to identify the Gravel Bed Spider, but it most often refers to a caddisfly or sedge. Leslie Magee notes dressings sedges or caddisflies listed specifically as the Sandfly, Sand Fly, or Sanded Dun in six different angling texts from 1809 to 1916, including George Bainbridge’s The Fly-fisher’s Guide (1816), Alfred Ronalds’ The Fly-fisher’s Entomology (1836), and Michael Theakston’s A List of Natural Flies (1853). Robert L. Smith lists no fewer than ten dressings explicitly named Sand Fly (or an approximate dialectal variation, like Sandflee) in manuscripts and publications dating from 1712 to the twentieth in his North Country Fly: Yorkshire's Soft Hackle Tradition (2015), available from Coch-y-Bonddu Books.

Theakston gives a dressing for the Sanded Dun—“dun” is his denomination for sedge or caddis—that uses “bright copper colored silk for body; feathers, for wings and legs, from the landrail, throstle, or a yellow bronze brown hen, or the brown owl, with or without a tinge of water rat.”

Bainbridge provides a winged and hackled dressing for the Sand Fly, asserting that it “may be considered as one of the best flies for affording diversion,” since it can be fished “successfully, at all hours of the day, from April to the end of September.” He compares the flies fished on “the borders of Yorkshire, where, as well in Cumberland and Westmoreland, the snipe’s wing and golden plover’s feathers, dressed as hackles, without dubbed bodies are the favourite flies.” Presumably, he means silk bodied dressings. Bainbridge notes that, while such silk bodied flies will work, a dubbed bodied fly will often work better, recalling a afternoon when his dubbed bodied Sand Fly caught twice as many fish as its silk bodied counterpart. For the winged dressing, the “wings are made from the sandy-coloured feather of the landrail’s wing, with a ginger hackled for legs; and the bright sandy-coloured fur from the hare’s neck, mixed with a very small quantity of orange-coloured mohair, for the body; or if dressed as a hackle, the feathers from under the throstle’s wing are the nearestthe colour of the wings of the fly.”

Ronalds cites Bainbridge’s description of the Sand Fly and its dressings, adding a “silk of the same colour” as the “sandy coloured fur from the hare’s neck.” He leaves off the orange mohair that Bainbridge recommends. Ronalds also stipulates that the Sand Fly is dressed “buzz,” as a hackle, with a throstle’s undercovert, but he notes that the hackle should be “wound upon the above body.” 

In North Country Flies (1886), T. E. Pritt includes the Sandfly, No. 34, which is an almost exact replica of the winged wets Bainbridge and Ronalds list, except that he ribs a sandy body with sandy hare’s fur. John Jackson, likewise, includes a Sand Fly, No. 19 in his Practical Fly-Fisher (1854) that alternates hen pheasant undercovert for the winging, but maintains the body and hackling; E. M. Tod includes this dressing in Table I of the Appendix of his Wet-Fly Fishing (1903).

In Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1936), Roger Woolley includes a Sand Fly under the heading of General Wet Flies:

Body.—Ginger fur.
Hackle.—Ginger hen.
Wings.—Starling.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Exe Fly



Hook:

14-16
Thread:

Primrose
Body:

Rear third, primrose tying silk; front two-thirds, cock pheasant tail
Hackle:

Furnace



In the third edition of Modern Fly Dressing (1950), Roger Woolley includes the Exe Fly under the “Devon and West Country Wet Flies” heading. He dresses it:

Body.—One-third at tail end straw-coloured floss, remainder formed of cock pheasant tail fibres.
Hackle.—Furnace cock.”

The fly's name suggests origins with anglers on the River Exe in Devon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Blue Dun

This dressing substitutes pale yellow seal's fur for the pale "wool, mohair, or fine dyed pig's wool" that John Younger prescribes and uses starling undercovert.

Hook:

12-16
Thread:

Yellow
Body:

Blue rabbit underfur and pale yellow seal's fur
Hackle:

Starling undercovert



W. H. Lawrie’s Scottish Trout Flies (1966) reproduces lists of flies like John Younger’s list for fishing the Tweed. Of the six flies Younger dressed, the unnamed fly for April and May. His fly, undoubtedly a Blue Dun, is dressed with

“Wing: Transparent feather from the wing of the bunting or that of a full grown cock sparrow.
Body: Blue water-rat fur mixed with equal proportion pale yellow, inclining to white, wool, mohair or fine dyed pig’s wool.”

Younger includes one additional dressing for April and May with the same body, but hackled with a body feather from a grouse. G. E. M. Skues suggested that Younger’s dressing imitated a “small darkish Watery” that hatched from “May throughout the season,” No. VII on his list of flies for representing the Medium Olive. He adapted Younger’s pattern thus:

Hook.—No. 16 down-eyed Pennel sneck.
Tying Silk.—Bright yellow, waxed with clear colourless wax.
Hackle.—Dark-blue hen short—not more than two turns.
Whisks.—Two strands of darkish blue unspeckled feather from neck of cock guinea fowl- short.
Body.—Thinly laid dubbing of mole’s fur mixed with yellow seal’s fur.”


Skues also suggested that “the body may be varied by using English squirrel blue fur instead of mole.”

Roger Woolley notes in the last edition of his Modern Fly Dressing (1950) that the olive fly is the usually known as the Early Olive Dun. He introduces his dressings by noting that, “although entomologies tell us there is no such fly in nature as the Blue Dun, anglers always have had and will have their Blue Dun. It is an imitation of the large, early spring Olive Dun, a fly appearing in early spring, the first of the Ephemeridæ family to show on our streams.” A proliferation of olive dun colored bodies matched with dun hackles, however, makes pinpointing which are intended to match Woolley’s mythological Blue Dun a challenge. The Waterhen Blae, for instance, might equally serve the purpose. To limit the scope of these possibilities, soft hackled Blue Dun patterns here will to create an olive shade that the yellow silk underbody accents, either by mixing yellow and blue or by overwrapping the main body with a yellow or olive rib.

John Waller Hills traces the development of the Blue Dun in A History of Fly Fishing for Trout (1921) from Dame Juliana Berners and her A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496) to the twentieth century: “The progress of this fly is of extraordinary interest. It starts with a black wool body, dark mallard wings and possibly a jay's blue feather as hackle. This dressing is too dark altogether in body and wing. Cotton lightens both, and gives a fairly good fly, and Chetham a still better one. His Blue Dun has no hackle it is true, but its rough body of fox fur could easily be picked out, and except for this it is almost as it now exists. But there were one or two improvements, the snipe wing, which I think is better than the starling for the sunk fly, and mole's fur body. So we get the fly of to-day.” Hills suggests that flies like the Old Blue Dun are variations of the Blue Dun, utilizing a rib in place of blended blue and yellow body. The effect either way, he implies, simulates the olive hue that is characteristic of the Olive Dun. In their Art of Angling (1757, 1774), both Richard and Charles Bowlker include dressings for the Blue Dun that includes bodies “made of a blue fur of a fox, or the blue part of a squirrel’s furr, mixed with a little yellow mohair.”

Many dressings of the Blue Dun, like those of the Bowlkers, are winged. John Kirkbride includes, as he often does, dressings for winged flies and for hackles: “when dressed as a hackle-fly, a fine feather from the underside of the wing of the jack-snipe, or moor-pout, answers very well for the hackle.  The body must be the same as described above”—“from the light blue fur of the rabbit, or the grey squirrel, mixed with a very little yellow mohair.” The “moor-pout” is a Scottish term for a young grouse.


This dressing of Vernon S. Hidy’s Blue Dun uses primrose Pearsall’s gossamer silk for the tying silk and light olive Pearsall’s gossamer silk for the rib.



While many historical soft hackle patterns use a blue fur body mixed with yellow to create an olive effect, others are dubbed on dubbed on primrose or yellow thread and include a rib. James Leisenring’s angling companion, Vernon S. Hidy, included such a dressing for the Blue Dun in Chapter 10 “Soft-hackle Nymphs—the Flymphs” of The Master’s on the Nymph (1979): “Sizes 12, 14, 16; muskrat fur on primrose silk; olive-yellow thread ribbing; two turns of blue dun hen hackle.” The Old Blue Dun that Leisenring includes in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly & Dressing the Flymph (1941) seems dressed to achieve the same effect.