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.” 


  1. that looks like a good one! I'll have to try it on a small brook trout stream this winter when the stoneflies start coming off

    1. Thanks, Mark - this one I also like for fishing the water.

    2. (And I meant general fishing) - let me know how it works for you

  2. Or the Red Ass Soft Hackle, which I have found very effective on stillwaters in Idaho/Nevada and at the high alpine lakes. Same thing, just with red thread and a red butt.

    1. I've got this one, the Red Ass, slated to post a little later in the year