Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Brown - Spider, Nymph (or Flymph), and Moorish Brown

Sylvester Nemes's March Brown Spider.



Mixed hair from hare’s face

Narrow gold

Brown partridge
Tying Silk:


In the Soft-Hackled Fly (1975), Sylvester Nemes provides a dressing for a simple March Brown Spider that Dave Hughes includes in Wet Flies (1995). It incorporates many of the attributes of typical March Brown soft hackles: a brownish body, often of hare’s mask; a well-marked hackle, often partridge, but occasionally woodcock or grouse; and a prominent rib. (March Brown dressings often include wings. Even though I often included winged dressings and sometimes dress them as soft hackles, I will only mention winged patterns  in passing.) Dressings of the March Brown are as numerous as the anglers who dress them and often include other names, like the Hackled Deul Cruik. These are a few.

James Leisenring's March brown Nymph is the sort of fly Hidy had in mind when he defined flymphs as a class of dressing, with tails, slender abdomens, bulky thoraxes, and short, soft hackles. This dressing uses silver wire.

James Leisenring offers a dressing of the March Brown Nymph that utilizes the coppery brown tone of pheasant tail:

“HOOK  13.
SILK  Orange.
HACKLE A short-fibered, light brown feather from the Hungarian partridge.
TAIL  Three fibers from a cock pheasant tail feather tied very short.
RIB  Gold or silver wire.
BODY  Three reddish fibers from a center feather of a cock pheasant’s tail. (As with peacock’s herl, tie in, twist with thread, and wing up body, twisting together as you to.)
THORAX  Hare’s ear fur dubbed fairly heavily.”

Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee provide a complicated dressing for the March Brown in their Brook and River Trouting (1916). It is No. 8b, tied on “Hook 2 or 3”:

“WINGS.-Hackled with a mottle brown feather from a Snipe’s rump.
BODY.-Orange silk, No. 6a, dubbed with fur from the nape of a Rabbit’s neck which has been light tinged red with Crawshaw’s Red Spinner dye, and ribbed with gold wire or tinsel.
TAIL.-Two strands from a feather from a Snipe’s rump, same feather as it used for the wings.
HEAD.-Orange silk.
April, and often May.”

In his North-Country Flies (1886), T. E. Pritt offers five dressings, Nos. 11-15, for the March Brown, known alternately as the Great Brown, Brown Drake, or Dun Drake. No. 13 is dressed as a hackle and included in Fly Fishing: the North-Country Tradition (1994) as one of Leslie Magee’s favorites. It is dressed thus:

“HOOK 2.
WINGS.-Hackled, the reddish feather from the outside of a Woodcock’s wing.
BODY.-Orange silk, dubbed over with a little fur from a fox’s ear.”

Pritt notes that “many anglers fish the March Brown, or a variation of it, more or less, all the year round, lessening the size as the months go on and dressing it with a lighter feather.”

John Jackson also list multiple patterns, all winged wet flies, in his Practical Fly Fisher (1853). His four patterns, under the heading “No. 8 Great Brown,” vary to account for season or weather. Michael Theakston refers to the March Brown as the Brown Drake, and represents it as the fifteenth fly in his List of Natural Flies (1853): “Wings, a feather from under the wing of the hen pheasant; body, yellow silk, with a few fibres of light fur from a hare’s ear, wrought in at the breast.” John Turton includes a winged dressing of the March Brown as the first fly in his Angler’s Manual (1836).

The Bowlkers’ provided dressings for the March Brown as their Brown Dun in The Art of Angling (1758, 1774). Richard Bowlker’s dressing “is made of a partridge or pheasant’s feather; the body of a patridge’s hackle with hair’s fur under it, ribbed with yellow silk.” Charles’s dressing is very similar: the fly’s “wings are made of the feathers of a pheasant’s wing, which is full of fine shade, and exactly resembles the wing of the fly: The body is made of the bright part of hares furr, mixed with a little of the red part of squirrels furr, ribbed with yellow silk, and a partridges hackle wrapt twise or thrice under the but of the wing”

John Waller Hills references James Chetham’s Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681) as the first text that mentions the March Brown.  He explains that Chetham called it the Moorish Brown, but the Moorish Brown is a later addition in a printing from 1700, wherein Chetham credits this fly as belonging to “Another Catalogue, of Flies, practiced by a very good Angler, and useful to be known by the young Anglers in clear, Stony Rivers.” The Moorish Brown is “Dub’d of the Wooll of a Black Sheep and Red Silk, Wings of the Feather got from a Partridge Wings.” Hills prefers Chetham’s pattern and writes “I rather like Chetham’s pattern, for black sheep’s wool is brown when held up to the light, and if spun on red silk might give the reddish brown of the body which is so hard to copy. And then a partridge quill feather is good. The perfect fly is still to come, but meantime it is worth noticing how little it has changed in what is nearly two centuries and a half.”

James Chetham's Moorish Brown 

This dressing of Chetham’s Moorish Brown uses:
Body: Blackish-brown raw wool dubbed on red Pearsall’s silk
Hackle: Brown partridge

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Waterhen Bloa

This dressing of Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee's Waterhen Bloa uses lemon yellow Pearsall's Gossamer silk. 



Yellow Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk dubbed with mole’s fur

Dark waterhen coverts

Multiple twentieth-century fly tiers recommend the Waterhen Bloa in a variety of sizes, including Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee who list the Waterhen Bloa as No. 2 in their Brook and River Trouting (1916). They list it as a fly matching mayflies from “March to end of April, and again in September), and they dress it thus:

WINGS.-Hackled with a smoky grey feather from the under coverts of a Waterhen’s wing. (The darker side of the feather towards the head of the fly.)
BODY.-Yellow silk, No. 4, dubbed with Mole’s fur.
HEAD.-Yellow silk.”

Scottish angler E. M. Tod included the Water-Hen Bloa at the head of a list of “useful hackled flies (‘spiders’)” at the end of his Wet-Fly Fishing, Treated Methodically (1903):

Body.—The yellow tying silk, clubbed with water-rat (or mouse)   fur, sparingly put on and ribbed over with the same silk.
Hackle.—From the inside of wing feather of water-hen.

Season. A generally useful fly all through the season, and the best fly of its kind, in my opinion, for the fishing of ‘Waters.’  Very valuable also in river fishing.”

Their pattern is almost an exact duplication of the Water-Hen Bloa, No. 8, which T. E. Pritt included in North-Country Flies (1886), except that Pritt preferred “water Rat” to mole, much like the dressing for the Waterhen Bloa that Francis M. Walbran included in his monthly column “Monthly Notes on North-Country Trout Flies” in The Fishing Gazette, dated 10 October 1885, and which Sylvester Nemes reprints in Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2003). Pritt notes that the Waterhen Bloa “is identical with the blue dun of Ronalds, and is indispensable during March and April, and again towards the latter end of the season. It is also a useful grayling fly all through the winter month . . . The hackled fly is, perhaps, preferable, as the real fly hatches out mainly on cold, windy days. If the day be warm the insect takes flight immediately on reaching the surface of the water; but if, as is commonly the case, the day is cold, it lingers on the surface, not completely hatched into perfect form, and is thus easily pounded upon by expectant trout." Sylvester Nemes recommends Pritt's Waterhen Bloa dressed on a size 20 hook in his 2006 additions to his original Soft-Hackled Fly (1975).

Alfred Ronalds, whose dressing for the Little Pale Blue Dun (no. 43) seems to be the pattern Pritt has in mind, dresses his fly for September in The Fly- Fisher’s Entomology (1836). The dressing for his Little Blue Dun calls for

“BODY. Very pale blue fur mixed with a very little yellow mohair.
WINGS. Feather from the sea swallow.
LEGS. The palest blue hackle to be had.

To make it buzz, a sea swallow’s feather only may be wound upon the same body.”

 If Ronald’s dressing is the same that Pritt cites, then it is a dressing that is included almost feather-for-feather and fur-for-dubbing  in the Bowlkers’ Art of Angling (1758, 1774), a much closer match than the Water-hen Bloa. Each list it as the “The Little Pale Blue,” and many British anglers, following the lead of the Bowlkers, include a dressing for the Little Pale Blue in their books.

Perhaps the Bowlkers are dressing flies in a tradition that began before them. Charles Cotton dresses a “a little dun” with “the dubbing of a Bears dun whirl’d upon yellow silk, the wings of the grey feather of a Mallard.”

This version of John Swarbrick's dressing for the Blo Flie uses primrose Pearsall's Gossamer Silk

The simplest version of the Waterhen Bloa appears in an 1807 publication by John Swarbrick that Leslie Magee reprints In Fly Fishing: the North Country Tradition. It is a simple North Country spider, the Blo Flie, No. 4, about which Swarbrick explains:

"This is a Blo Flie made from under the wing on a Water Hen some Times Make it of a large Feather and Some Times of the Small Not Harled at the Head it is a Hackle Made with yallow Silk and not very large.

Fish these Four Last Mentioned Flies [Winter Brown, Little Black, Large bloo, Blo Flie] Till about the 15 or 20 0f March when you will see the Large March Brown Come Oute."