Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gray Hackle

This dressing follows James Leisenring’s in that it uses a true furnace hackle (which had less to do with the predominate color than the stem and tips of the hackle), characterized by “a very dark, black, or blue dun list next to the stem and on the tips of the fibers.”



Light yellow

Narrow gold tinsel

Bronze-colored peacock herl

Yellow or white creamy furnace

James Leisenring listed the Gray Hackle second on his list of favorite patterns in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph (1941). He noted that the hackle, particularly if it was a poultry hackle, should be tied according to the water where it would be fished: the slower the water, the softer the hackle and vice versa. 

In discussing the history of the Red Hackle and the other hackle flies she illustrates on Plate A of her Favorite Flies and their Histories (1892), Mary Orvis Marbury notes that, unlike the Red Hackle, the “White Hackle, Yellow Hackle, Black Hackle, and a number of others are named simply after their color.” At the close of her discussion on the history of hackles, she cites a contemporary Colorado angler who recommends the Gray Hackle ahead of the Brown hackle, noting that the Gray Hackle “was to the trout what bread was to civilized man.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


This dressing substitutes an American woodcock covert for English woodcock undercovert T. E. Pritt lists, as well as using embroidery thread in place of silk. Also, the head is finished using the tan  thread used to dress the Greentail.



Embroidery thread – DMC 987 dark forest green


T. E. Pritt lists his Greensleeves, No. 48, as an alternative to the Greentail or Grannom in Yorkshire Trout Flies (1885) and its subsequent edition, North-Country Flies (1886). In the former, he notes that the dressing “differs little from the Greentail, and is probably a fanciful edition of that fly, useful only on dull, sultry days, and occasionally in the evening. Not generally dressed, but will now and then kill fairly.” He dresses it as follows:

“WINGS.-Hackled with a feather from the inside of a Woodcock’s wing of from a hen Pheasant’s neck.
BODY.-Bright green silk.

Pritt refers to the Greensleeves as a “fanciful edition” of the Greentail. In What the Trout Said (1982), Datus Proper defined what fanciful means in relation to British dressings: “The term is British, and Americans are often unaware that fancy does not mean gaudy. There is room for confusion, since some fancy flies also happen to be gaudy. Many others are sober creations that happen to be products of an angler’s fancy. John Waller Hills says that a fancy fly may imitate insect life generally but cannot be ‘connected with any particular species or genus or group.’ By way of example, he gives Stewart’s famous Black, Red, and Dun Spiders, which are small, drab, wet flies for upstream fishing. Hills then distinguishes fancy flies from ‘general’ flies, which ‘imitate a genus or group, but not an individual.’ The difference is a fine one.”

In the later edition of Pritt’s text, North-Country Flies (1886), Pritt adds more specific information on the lineage for the Greensleeves, noting that it is “Another form of Ronalds’ ‘Gold-eyed gauze wing,'" which Alfred Ronalds includes in the Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836) as No. 34, a fly dressed to match a July hatch. The Gold-eyed gauze wing, he explains, “is rather a scarce insect upon some waters, but where it is found affords great sport on windy days.” Ronalds dresses the fly thus:

“BODY. Very pale yellowish green floss silk, tied on with silk thread of the same colour.
WINGS AND LEGS. The palest blue dun hackle which can be procured.”

The name Greensleeves likely derives from an old English folk ballad with North Country associations. The ballad “A Newe Northen Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves,” was registered by Richard Jones in the autumn of 1580. What the connection between the fly and a folk ballad might connote is any angler’s guess.