Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"North Country Angling for Southern Appalachian Trout"

I am excited to share a link to a PDF version of an article that I have written on tying soft hackles for the the trout streams of the southern Appalachian mountains "North Country Angling for Southern Appalachian Trout," which has just been published in the May-June issue of  Wildlife in North Carolina, a magazine I have enjoyed reading since I was a child.

Please visit the magazine's website to read my article, "North Country Angling for Southern Appalachian Trout."

A rise on the New

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Shell flye at saynt Thomas daye; Grannom; or Greentail

This dressing assigns an olive dun thread and substitutes antron for olive wool and the black-and-white barred snipe's under wing feather for the  black-and-white barred English buzzard hackle Dame Juliana Berners gives for the pattern.



Olive Dun

Peacock herl

Light olive antron

Webby grizzly hen hackle

In her early modern text, A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496), Dame Juliana Berners provides a pattern for the Grannom that would come to resonate through angling literature. Her pattern calls for the Shell flye at saynt Thomas daye to be dressed with “a body of grene wull & lappyd abowt wyth the herle of the pecoks tayle: wynges of the bosard.”

John Waller Hills devotes more attention to the Grannon than the eleven other prominent patterns of angling literature that he traces in his History of Fly Fishing for Trout (1921). His first step in tracking the lineage of the pattern is determining when the insect that the fly imitates emerges. Berners places it in July, but his experience indicates that the “Grannom comes up in April and lasts about a fortnight: the dates of its appearance and disappearance are clearly marked. The Translation of St. Thomas of Canterbury is 7th July, and I consider the Treatise particularly accurate in dates, and I never saw a Grannom, or heard of one being seen, so late as that. So reluctantly I rejected it. But my skepticism was considerably shaken by finding that Ronalds uses Shell Fly as a synonym for Grannom and also found the fly, or one like it, in trouts’ stomachs in August; and in his fifth edition says that the Grannom if dressed buzz is a good fly all the summer months into September [Ronalds’ dressing is below]. Cotton gives the Shell Fly for July but considers that it was taken by the trout for the palm that drops off the willow into the water, and other writers, who have cribbed from the Treatise or Cotton, also give it . . . Chetham gives the first undoubted reference. He calls it by its common name of Greentail in the list of flies in his Appendix. Its body is from a brown spaniel’s ear, the tail end of sea-green wool, and wings from a starling’s quill feather. Bowlker dressed it with a body of fur from the black part of a hare’s face, ribbed with peacock herl, two turns of grizzled cock’s hackle at the shoulder, and wings from a finely mottled pheasant’s wing feather. He found it no advantage to imitate the green tail of the female fly . . . the dressing has varied little in the two hundred and forty years since Chetham described it. Pritt in his Yorkshire Trout Flies (1885) give a good modern dressing: wings hackled from inside a woodcock’s wing or partridge’s neck or under a hen pheasant’s wing: body lead-coloured silk with a little fur from a hare’s face and the lower part green silk.”

The rear half of the body is dressed with green Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk and dubbed hare’s ear for the front half of the body. It also substitutes the marginal covert of an American woodcock for the English woodcock undercovert.

Hills' recounting of Pritt’s dressing for No. 33, the Greentail (Grannom Fly) is almost verbatim.  It is worth noting that Leslie Magee also list’s T. E. Pritt’s Grannom or Greentail as one of his thirty preferred flies in Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994). The similarities between Pritt’s Greentail and Alfred Ronald’s Grannom lend some creedence Hills’s claim that dressing for the caddis have changed little over time.

Alfred Ronalds’s dressing for the No. 14 Grannom or Greentail in beautifully illustrated The Fly- Fisher’s Entomology (1836) allows for a wet fly or palmered dressing:

“BODY. Fur of hare’s face left rough, spun on brown silk. A little green floss silk may be worked in at the tail to represent the bunch of eggs there.
WINGS. Feather from the partridge’s wing, and made very full.
LEGS. A pale ginger hen’s hackle.

Made buzz with a feather from the back of the patridge’s neck, wound upon the above body.”

Similar dressings also appear in Richard and Charles Bowlker’s Art of Angling (1758, 1774),  John Turton’s Angler’s Manual (1736), John Kirkbridge’s Northern Angler (1737), Michael Theakston’s List of Natural Flies (1843), John Jackson’s Practical Angler (1854), and E. M. Tod’s Wet-Fly Fishing (1903), in which Tod notes “I give the dressing of this fly because it is a favourite well known. I very seldom use it myself.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hare-lug, wingless

This dressing of W. C. Stewart’s first Hare-lug , dressed on red silk for discolored water, leaves off the woodcock wings W. C. Stewart recommends.

This dressing of Stewart’s second Hare-lug uses a grayish-tan American woodcock hackle in place of the English woodcock undercoverts that Stewart prescribes. As with the first dressing, it leaves of a combination of wing and hackle in favor of a soft-hackled dressing.

This dressing assigns purple silk for the vague “dark-coloured silk” that Stewart lists for the pattern. It also leaves off the wing in favor of a greenish purple iridescent hackle from the shoulder of a starling.



Yellow, scarlet, or purple silk

Hare’s ear

Red hackle, woodcock, or starling

In The Practical Angler (1857), W. C. Stewart lists three patterns utilizing “the fur of a hare’s ear, or, as it is usually called in Scotland, ‘hare lug.’” Stewart describes the three dressings as flies, noting that “a fly is more difficult to dress neatly than a spider.” He gives the dressing for three flies:

“1st. A woodcock wing with a single turn of a red hackle, or landrail feather, dressed with yellow silk, freely exposed on the body. For fishing in dark-coloured waters, this fly may be dressed with scarlet thread.

2nd. A hare-lug body, with a corn-bunting or chaffinch wing. A woodcock wing may also be put in the same body, but should be made of the light-colored feather taken from the inside of the wing.

3rd. The same wing as the last fly, with a single turn of a soft black hen-hackle, or small feather taken from the shoulder of the starling, dressed with dark colored silk.”