Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Greenwell's Glory

This dressing would have been an earlier season dressing, given the light olive body and furnace hen hackle. (For this pattern, "furnace" means a hackle with a dark list and cinnamon to dark red tips.)


Primrose yellow

Small gold wire

Light olive or primrose Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, waxed

Dark rabbit fur

Furnace hen hackle

In Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream (1910), G. E. M. Skues prescribes the standard dressing, and emphasizes its adaptability. As the season progresses, the tying silk should be less waxed so that the body is more yellow than olive; the dark furnace hen hackle having a “black centre, with cinnamon points” of the spring should be replaced by a medium honey dun throughout the summer. In Skues' dressing, the wings also get lighter as the season progresses.
"Wings: Hen blackbird, dark starling, medium starling, or light starling (lighter as season advances).
Body: Primrose or yellow tying silk, more or less waxed (lighter as season advances), ribbed with fine gold wire.
Legs: Dark furnace hackle; black centre, with cinnamon points, to medium honey dun (lighter as season advances).
Hook: Nos. 1, 0, or 00."
While the Greenwell's Glory is traditionally tied as a winged wet fly, I have followed Sylvester Nemes’s suggestion for tying the Greenwell’s Glory in Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2003).  Nemes suggests substituting a rabbit fur thorax for wings. The result is a tidy soft-hackled fly. Many anglers from the latter part of the nineteenth century onward recommend the fly.

In the 1976 pre-season roundup issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, T. Donald Overfield recalls the origins of the Greenwell's Glory which, he suggests, "must be one of the most famous flies in the history of fly fishing." It was originally tied as a wet fly by James Wright, "a superb flytier who lived on the banks of the Tweed in Sprouston" for Canon William Greenwell, "an ardent angler who frequented the Tweed in Scotland" and whose success with the dressing became the namesake of the fly. Overfield explains that the "pattern was devised on fine day in the month of May in the year of 1854. Canon Greenwell had fished all day with little luck, retiring despondent to Wright's cottage, fishless, but with a sample of the natural that the trout were taking so avidly. History does not record what the insect was, but Wright reproduced it that evening in fur and feather. The next day the worthy Canon returned from the river with a full basket of fine trout, all taken on the yet-nameless fly. Excitement prevailed and a party convened to christen the fly. The local school-master suggested 'Greenwell's Glory,' and so it became."


  1. Neil
    I am so into this type pattern, the delicate presentation one can deliver using this type pattern is so life like. Thanks for sharing
    By the way ---your header image is awesome

    1. Thanks, again, Bill - the books in the header image are pretty awesome, too!

  2. Thanks for all you do in researching these great old patterns that are so exquisitely tied and fished. They are a wonderful part of fly fishing history.