Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dark Spanish Needle, or Needle Brown;

This version substitutes embroidery thread for floss, tawny hen hackle for the now-taboo brown owl feather.


Burnt Orange

Abdomen floss

Embroidery thread - DMC 720 dark orange spice

One or two turns of peacock herl behind hackle

Tan hen’s back, very lightly speckled

Peacock herl

The Dark Spanish Needle was listed as No. 22 in T. E. Pritt's North-Country Flies (1886). As Sylvester Nemes reprints it in The Soft-Hackled Fly Addict, Pritt’s No. 22, Dark Spanish Needle (Needle Brown) was originally dressed:

“Wings.—Hackled with a feather from the darkest part of a Brown Owl’s wing.
Body.—Orange silk.
Head.—Peacock herl.”

In Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994), Leslie Magee notes that Pritt regarded so highly the imitation of needle flies, the small stoneflies so abundant on Yorkshire streams, that he includes four in North-Country Flies (1886). Pritt’s predecessor’s, too, ranked the pattern highly and the imitations significantly. E. M. Tod, for instance, provided the exact same dressing for the fly minus the herl head in his Wet-Fly Fishing, Treated Methodically (1903). Tod, however, attributed his dressing as “one of Walbran’s patterns,” which is likely taken from Francis M. Walbran’s monthly column “Monthly Notes on North-Country Trout Flies” in The Fishing Gazette. Sylvester Nemes reprints some of the dressings from Walbran’s 10 October 1885 column in Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2003), among which is No. 3 the Dark Needle Fly, which Walbran dressed with an orange silk body, a dark brown owl hackle, but also with “a turn of peacock harl to form the head.”

In Brook and River Trouting (1916), Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee provide a dressing with slightly slimmer proportions than Pritt’s. Their Dark Needle, No. 10, tied to represent stoneflies of the perlidæ family:

“WINGS.-Hackled with a brownish feather taken from where the hinder part of a Starling’s wing joins the body, (There are only about four of these feathers on each side of the bird.) or with a brownish feather from the back of a Swift.
BODY.-Orange brown silk, No. 6b.
HEAD.-Magpie herl.
Middle of April to the end of June, and again in September.”

Pritt, too, recommends the fly for the spring and again in September, noting that “the natural fly is most plentiful on the water on days with flying clouds and fitful bursts of sunshine, with a cold wind blowing underneath.” He points out that “Ronalds does not mention it,” but adds that the “name ‘Needle’ was probably given to it owing to the peculiar steely shade visible on the wings.”

Michael Theakston suggests a similar origin for the “Needle” of the name in his List of Natural Flies (1843): “On the Nidd they call them the Spanish Needle, from their steely hue and small lengthy appearance.” In his nomenclature, a “Brown” is a stonefly. Theakston gives particular attention to the winter hatches of the 1st fly in his list, the Needle Brown, in February, the first noteworthy hatch of the season, and traces their emergence throughout the year. His dressing is more fluid than Pritt’s or Edmonds and Lee’s: “Their bodies are imitated with fine bright orange or yellow silk, more or less waxed, shoulders darkest; various feathers are used to represent the wings; blo from under the judcock or snipe; brown from the water rail or swift; purple from the cock pheasant’s neck; and blue grizzle from the rump of the field fare, dressed hackle-wise, with a few fibres of fine fleshy grizzle hair or fur wrought in at the breast, but all must be very small.”

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