Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Snipe Bloa

T. E. Pritt's first Snipe Bloa pattern, No. 29, calls for a snipe hackle taken from "inside of a Jack Snipe's wing," and his hand-colored plates depict it as a slightly darker, denser hackle, best represented with a dorsal marginal covert from nearer the body. 

T. E. Pritt's second Snipe Bloa pattern, No. 30, takes a hackle "from under the Snipe's wing," one of the longer, glassy ventral marginal coverts.



Silk buttonhole twist Talon 810, size D (No. 29) or primrose Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk dressed with a thin dubbing of mole (No. 30)

Snipe undercovert

The Snipe Bloa has long been a popular pattern of North Country and Scottish anglers. In Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994), Leslie Magee notes that the Snipe Bloa, familiar through T. E. Pritt, is alternately the Snipe and Yellow or the Snipe Dun in other authors. For instance, E. M. Tod cites Pritt’s dressing for the Snipe Bloa or Blae in his Wet-Fly Fishing, Treated Methodically (1903). I do not attempt to reproduce all of them here, but rather provide Pritt’s as a prototypical version of the pattern. Essentially, the bodies are a grayish blue fur dubbed thinly on a yellow silk so that the color of the silk shows through or just the silk itself; the hackle, a snipe undercovert.

 T. E. Pritt includes two versions of the Snipe Bloa in North Country Trout Flies (1886): Snipe Bloa (No. 29) is similar to the Light Snipe and Yellow James Leisenring includes in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph (1941). The above patterns follows Pritt’s Snipe Bloa Nos. 29 and 30:

Snipe Bloa (No. 29):
“Wings.-Hackled with the feather from the Inside of a Jack Snipe’s Wing.
Body.-Straw-coloured silk.”

Snipe Bloa (No.30):
“Wings.-Hackled with a feather from under the Snipe’s wing.
Body.-Yellow silk, with a spare dubbing of Mole’s fur, but not sufficient to hide the yellow body.”

Pritt explains that Nos. 29 and 30 a “two dressings of the same fly, and practically identical. It is a splendid killer, and many anglers fish it more or less all the year round. It is Theakston’s Bloa brown, and is probably to be identified with the Light Bloa of Jackson. It is fished universally in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and it will account for its share of fish at any time, and particularly on cold, wild days, all through the season.”

In his List of Natural Flies (1853), Michael Theakston describes this imitation of the 32nd fly he lists, the Blo Brown: “Snipe blo feather from   under the wing; yellow or orange silk, with a few fibers of ambry-brown mohair at the breast.” In his posthumous work, The Practical Fly-Fisher (1854), John Jackson described tying his Light Bloa (No. 49) with

Wings.—Inside of Snipe’s wing feather.
Body.—Light drab silk
Legs and Tail.—Grizzled Hackle.”

Before Theakston and Jackson, John Turton gave a dressing for a Snipe Bloa in his Angler’s Manual; or, Fly-Fisher’s Oracle (1836). He delineates it as a hackle, No. 30 the Snipe Dun: “made with yellow silk: wing, a full snipe’s underside wing feather; body blue, rabbit’s down, twisted on the silk. An excellent greyling fly.”

An older precedent is the Snipe Blo tied by John Swarbrick. In Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994), Leslie Magee reprints a pattern that is similar, including a slight bit of muskrat dubbing, to the later flies from the rare “List of Wharfedale Flies by John Swarbrick” published in 1807:

“No 7 The Snipe Blo
"Take a Feather From under the Snipe Wing it is a small feather Not to put the Wite part of the Feather into the Wings Yallow silk and a little water Rat Dawn (Down) in the Bodey.”


  1. The simplicity of this fly makes it so deadly. Excellent interpretation of the soft hackle thanks for sharing

  2. Thank you, Bill. I'm afraid I missed your kind comments on the last post, the Breadcrust. I very much appreciate those, too.