Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Black Gnat



Red or wine

Black silk or fibers from a crow’s secondary wing feather

Starling shoulder feather

The dressing above is follows James Leisenring’s pattern for the Black Gnat in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph (1941). His pattern in full calls for:

“HOOK  14, 15.
SILK  Crimson or claret.
HACKLE Purplish black feather from the shoulder of a cock starling.
BODY  Black silk or two or three fibers from a crow’s secondary wing feather.
WINGS Dark starling optional.”

Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee include a delicate dressing of the Black Gnat as no. 22 in their Brook and River Trouting (1916):

"WINGS.-A few fibres from a light blue Hen's hackle put on as a single wing.
BODY.-Black silk, No. 9.
LEGS.-Rusty black Hen's hackle.
HEAD.-Black silk.

Middle of May to end of August.
For close days.”

The Black Gnat has been a popular fly in angling literature. In Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream (1910), G. E. M. Skues dressed it simply, in a manner that Leisenring seems to have followed:

Wings: Palest snipe rolled and reversed.
Body: Black tying silk with two turns of black ostrich herl or knob of black silk at shoulder.
Legs: Black hen or cock starling’s crest, two turns at most.
Hook: No. OO.”

John Waller Hills traces the evolving popularity of the Black Gnat in his History of Fly Fishing for Trout (1921), but he notes how hard imitating the insect is and how unsuccessful most imitations seem to be: the “fly has three characteristics; a small body, transparent wings, and, in the male, particularly short ones . . . These three characteristics are the fly: and every one of these three Cotton observed and copied. After this it is hardly necessary to trace the fly down. The commonest dressing, however, not I think the best, is black ostrich herl body, and either some sort of clear wing, or more usually wingless, with a dark or black hackle. So Bowlker dressed it: and so did Francis and many others. Nearly every writer agrees that it is a difficult fly to copy. It is a most unsatisfactory fly to fish with.”

T. Donald Overfield similarly traces the history of the fly, but tracks it through five different historical dressings to the modern day in his column “Trout Flies of Yesteryear” published in Fly Fisherman magazine. He lists a “present day version,” which is a dry fly pattern by Commander C. F. Walker in The Art of the Chalk Stream (1968). Prior to that, R. S. Austin, who tied flies for G. E. M. Skues and developed the famous Tup’s Indispensible, included a Black Gnat pattern “in his unpublished papers dated 1890.” F. M. Halford, too, tied a Black Gnat that he described in Floating Flies and How to Dress Them (1886). Overfield, like Hills, makes note the Bowlkers’ eighteenth-century dressing for the Black Gnat, as well as it's earlier precedent, the dressing that Charles Cotton includes for March in his 1676 additions to Izaak Walton’s classic Compleat Angler. He dressed it: with “the dubbing either of the fur of a black water-Dog, or the down of a young black water-Coot, the wings of the Male of a Mallard as white as may be, the body as little as you can possibly make it, and the wings as long as his body.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Orange Partridge

Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee's Orange Partridge, No. 6



Gold tinsel or wire

Silk buttonhole twist, Coat's and Clarks 135-c orange

Brown mottled partridge

In Brook and River Trouting (1916), Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee list this dressing for the Orange Partridge, No. 6:

HACKLE.-Hackled with a brown mottled (not barred) feather from a Patridge’s neck or back
BODY.-Orange silk, No. 6a, or orange silk, No. 6a, ribbed with about four turns of gold wire or tinsel.
HEAD.-Orange silk”

T. E. Pritt's Orange Partridge, No. 32

T. E. Pritt lists a pair of dressings for the Orange Partridge in North-Country Flies (1886): No. 31, the Brown Watchet, or Little Brown Dun, and No. 32, the Orange partridge. Sylvester Nemes recommends the No. 30, the Brown Watchett, dressed on a size 20 hook in his 2006 additions to his original Soft-Hackled Fly (1975). Pritt gives two dressings, the Brown Watchet, No. 31, only differing from the Orange Partridge, No. 32, in the peacock herl head it includes. Both flies are "hackled with a well dappled feather from a Partridge’s back."

No. 32 Orange Patridge
“WINGS.-Hackled as in No. 31.
BODY.-Orange Silk.

These are practically the same flies, and are very excellent killers. I prefer the dressing of No. 32 myself, although one will kill as well as the other, and the angler may look upon one of them as indispensable on his cast from April to September, on warm days. It is the Turkey Brown of Ronalds, and the Spiral Brown Drake of Theakston.”

Micheal Theakston’s imitation for the Spiral Brown Drake in List of Natural Flies (1853) is an identical dressing of the Yellow Partridge, including the slight, hare's ear thorax he prescribes. But the Turkey Brown that Alfred Ronalds includes in The Fly- Fisher’s Entomology (1836) is much more complicated, dressed with a tail of red cock's hackle, a body of "dark brown floss silk ribbed with purple silk thread" and a grouse hackle tied "buzz."

An older precedent for the Orange Partridge might be, as John Waller Hills suggests in A History of Fly Fishing (1921), Dame Juliana Berners’ Donne Flye, tied to represent the February Red.