Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dark Hare's Hackle



Olive Dun

Dark blue underfur from hare’s back, thicker toward the eye of the hook, on olive Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk

Dark dun cock’s hackle

In Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2004) Sylvester Nemes includes a review of three books by John Waller Hills. The last of Hills’ books, River Keeper(1934), is a largely biographical account of William James Lunn, keeper of the River Test.

In his own account of Hills’ account of Lunn’s fly tying, Nemes suggests using “a very good grade of hen hackle from Whiting or Metz” in any dressing “where cock hackles are suggested,” noting that he has “taken the liberty of suggesting other replacement materials” in giving Lunn’s patterns. He dresses Lunn’s Dark Hare’s Hackle:

“Hackle: Dark blue cock hackle.
Body: Dark fur from hare’s back cut up and mixed. Spun on olive silk.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gray Hackle Peacock; Zulu; Orl Fly; and Peacock-flie




Narrow gold tinsel

Scarlet red hackle fibers

Peacock herl

Grizzly hen

Dave Hughes includes the Gray Hackle Peacock as a traditional pattern in Wet Flies (1995). Earlier precedents for the Gray Hackle Peacock likely include the Zulu, as Mary Orvis Marbury depicts it on Plate A of her Favorite Flies and their Histories (1892); the Orl Fly found in the writings of John Turton and the Bowlkers; and the Peacock-flie, mentioned by both Charles Cotton and James Chetham. All of these share three traits, red silk, peacock body, and a grizzly or speckled hackle; none make mention of the gold tip or scarlet tail fibers that Hughes ascribes to the dressing, although Marbury’s illustration does indicate a red wool tag for the Zulu. (Marbury's dressing clearly distinguishes from the Black Zulu, which is more commonly shortened as the Zulu.)

In his Angler’s Manual (1836), Turton includes the Orl Fly as No. 11, a hackle:

“For May and June; is made with red silk; wing, a dark grizzled cock hackle feather; body, copper-coloured peacock’s herl. A good fly”

In their respective editions of the Art of Angling (1758, 1774), Charles and his father Richard cite the Orl Fly for May and June, particularly in hot weather, and they give very similar dressings. Charles assigns the dressing thus:  “The wings of the Orl Fly are made with a dark grizzle cock’s hackle, the body of peacock’s harle, worked with dark red silk: The hook, No. 6.”

In the Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681), James Chetham reprints the flies Cotton included in the second part of the Compleat Angler (1676). The Gray Hackle Peacock is a dressing for May: “There is also this Month a flie call’d the Peacock-flie, the body made with a whirl of a Peacocks feather, with a red head, and wings of a Mallards feather.”

Sylvester Nemes mentions the Gray Hackle Red in the second edition (2006) of The Soft Hackled Flies (1975), suggesting it as a precedent for his own Syl’s Midge: “I cannot find it [Syl’s Midge] in the angling literature of the north of England, so it must be an American invention that came down to present use through the Gray Hackle Peacock, which was tied with a peacock herl body and grizzle hackle, cock or hen. Donald DuBois’s book, The Fisherman’s Handbook of Trout Flies [1960], lists other similar hackled flies, such as the Gray Hackle Purple and Gray Hackle Red. The hackle remained the same, but the body changed according to the whim of the tier. Some patterns had orange and red tags and gold ribbing. They were all old, famous wet flies.” 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


This dressing assigns black thread for dressing the fly, since James Chetham prescribes black silk for securing the wings to the hook shank, and it is hackled rather than winged with starling. 




Raw New Zealand Romney - black sheep’s wool with some gray mixed in


The Hearth-fly heads the list of flies for August angling that James Chetham includes in the second edition (1700) of his Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681). It is a part of the list following his reprint of Charles Cotton’s flies. He describes it as a “Catalogue, of Flies, practiced by a very good Angler, and useful to be known by the young Anglers in clear, Stony Rivers.” Chetham explains that the fly is "Made of the Wooll of and Old Black Sheep with some Grey Hairs in it for the Body and Head, Wing's dub'd with Black Silk, wing's of the light Feather in a Shepstares Quill." Chetham's preference for "shepstare" over starling is evocative of a North Country dialect. The Oxford English Dictionary cites an entry from an 1848 zoology text that lists "shepstare" as a Yorkshire variant of starling.

In the 1758 edition of the Art of Angling, Richard Bowlker includes the Hearth Fly in a list of “other Flies taken notice of in some treatises of angling, which may possibly be of use in some rivers” in order “to satisfy the curiosity” of other anglers, but Bowlker asserts that he does not “think it worth while to make any of them artificially.” The later edition (1774) by Bowlker's son Charles make no mention at all of the Hearth Fly in the “CATALOGUE of FLIES seldom found useful to fish with.”