Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Blue Partridge




Raw wool - New Zealand Romney, dubbed thinly on blue tying thread, heavier behind the hackle


As a point of terminology, flies named Blue Partridge, Gravel Spinner, Spider Fly, Gravel Bed Fly, and Sand Flie seem interchangeable in historical angling texts, but as a matter of entomology, the Blue Partridge seems to refer to the emergence (or reemergence) of the Diptera - midges, gnats, or craneflies - in early May, after the earlier emergence that Michael Theakston, Alfred Ronalds, and other anglers indicate.

In North-Country Flies (1886), Pritt dresses the No. 44, the Blue Partridge with

“WINGS.-Hackled with a feather from a Partridge’s back.
BODY.-Blue silk dubbed with a little lead-coloured lamb’s wool”

Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee include an almost exact dressing in their Brook and River Trouting (1916), No. 19, the Gravel Bed, a "crane-fly." The only difference between their dressing and Pritt's is the dubbing: they recommend "blue-grey fur from the flank of an Opossum." And they note that the Gravel Bed is a "useful fly in a coloured water." Sylvester Lister also includes a Blue Patridge in his 1898 manuscript, printed by Leslie Magee in Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994). He dresses the Blue Partridge or “Gravel Bed Spinner,” No. 18, with the “Speckled feather (bluish) from partridge back or silver pheasant. Head, magpie herl. Body, light blue covered with heron’s herl. Remarks Comes on early in May, often kills well on bright days to end of July.” Magee notes that Lister’s No. 18 is the same as John Swarbrick’s Sand Flie, No. 17 on his List of Wharfedale Flies (1807), which Magee also reprints:

“Sir if you Take notice upon the sand Beds Abought the 10 of May you will see these Flyes in Great Abundance as they bred in the sand She is a Winged Flie the Feather is Taken of a mallard what we call a Drake the feather Must be of a Sandey Brown much the same Collour as the Feather of a partridge feather some Times of a Silver pheasant Wing Sir it must be made Very small when I say small I mean Harld at the Head with a Magpie Harl purple silk Rapt down the Bodey with one turn of a feather for a Hearing saw (Heron Sheugh – a name still used in Yorkshire for the Grey heron) the Feather Comes of the Black Legd with a Black hen Neck Feather Sir Fish This Flie at the End.”

Roger Woolley chose to separate the Gravel Bed Spinner, a dressing he recommended fishing dry or wet, and the Blue Partridge. Under the heading "Yorkshire and North Country Wet Flies” in his Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1932), Woolley included a sparse, soft-hackled dressing, for the Blue Partridge:

Body.—Blue fur ribbed with blue tying sik.
Hackle.—Pale brown partridge.”               


  1. Neil,

    Where do you source the blue silk used as body material for this fly?


    1. Hi David - J. Stockard has (or had) a few silk thread manufacturers that include a blue color, I think, but not Pearsall's. For these flies I used 6/0 Uni-Thread in "Doc. Blue" or Silver Doctor Blue.

  2. Hi Neil,
    I have followed your blog for a while now and I must say that this is the best site about these lovely old patterns.

    1. Hi Jan - I very much appreciate it! I hope you fish the patterns, too.

  3. Neil - I really like the fur rib on the last photo. I had not seen that before, thanks for educating us all!