Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blae Hen and Yellow; Yellow Dun; or the Barm-flie




DMC tapestry wool #7049, light lemon

Dun hen

W. H. Lawrie includes the Blae Hen and Yellow on his list of Border Hackled Flies in Scottish Trout Flies (1966), noting that the fly is a “very killing fly on most of the Border streams in spring and early summer. A paler yellow body is used on the Tweed”:

“Hackle: Blue hen.
Body: Yellow worsted teased and spun on yellow tying-silk.”

Given the coloration and type of materials for each dressing and the seasons that each angler recommends fishing it, Lawrie’s Blae Hen and Yellow likely derives from some version of a historical dressing like the Yellow Dun that John Kirkbride includes in the Northern Angler (1837). Kirkbride claims to have developed the Yellow Dun from his observation of a mayfly that an angler carried straight from the water and into the shop. Kirkbride  notes that the “body of this fly, when it first appears, ought to be of very pale yellow mohair, or goat’s hair, laid on flat, and thin, and a delicate pale dun cock’s or hen’s hackle for legs; the forked-tail may consist of two strands from a blue cock’s hackle; let the wings be of the lightest part of the wing feather of the starling.” Minus the wings, this dressing matches Lawrie’s almost exactly, but Kirkbride also explains that, “to make a spider or hackle, to represent the drowned fly, take a delicate feather from underneath the jack-snipe’s wing for the hackle, and let the body be the same as that of the fly before described.”

Historically, anglers have often dressed versions of the Yellow Dun with a yellow hackle, such as the Yellow Dun, No. 15, of Alfred Ronalds’ Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836):

“BODY.  Yellow mohair, mixed with a little pale blue fur from a mouse. Or a yellow silk thread well waxed with cobbler’s wax to give it an olive tint.
WINGS.  The lightest part of a feather from a young starling’s wing.
LEGS.  A light yellow dun hackle.

To make it buzz, a lighter dun hackle than is represented in the figure, is wound upon the same body.”

Many winged dressings for the Yellow Dun appear in angling literature. In Fly-Fishing Treated Methodically (1903), E. M. Tod includes a Yellow Dun that he attributes to John Jackson's Practical Angler (1853).  T. E. Pritt includes the Yellow-Legged Bloa (Yellow Dun) as N0. 27 in North-Country Flies (1886), while David Webster recommends dressing the Yellow Dun with sparse canary wings and yellow hackle on a yellow silk body in The Angler and the Loop Rod (1885). 

Earlier authors like James Chetham and Charles Cotton supply dressings for yellow mayflies that resemble the Blae Hen and Yellow, too. Each author lists the Little Yellow Mayfly as one of the four most important in May. In the Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681), Chetham notes that the insect is one of “4 Flies which contend for the title of May-fly," the distinction of being the predominant hatch in the month of May: "Green-drake," the "Stone-fly," the "Black May-fly and the little Yellow May-fly." In his earlier additions to the Complete Angler (1676), Cotton comments on the four flies with an almost satirical, legalistic tone: “all of these have their Champions and Advocates to dispute and plead their priority; though I do not understand why the two last named should; the first two having so manifestly the advantage, both in their beauty, and the wonderful execution they do in their season.”

Cotton lists the fly as No. 15 for May: “The last May-Flie (that is of the four pretenders) is the little yellow May-Flie, in shape exactly like the same with the green Drake, but a very little one, and of as bright a yellow as can be seen; which is made of a bright yellow Camlet, and he wings of a white grey feather died yellow.” Chetham reprints this dressing with less politicized language—by 1681 a "pretender" might have been gaining traction to describe a soon-to-be deposed monarch—but Chetham also reprints “another Catalogue, of Flies practiced by a very good Angler, and useful to be known by young Anglers in clear, Stony Rivers.” The Yellow May-Fly is No 5. on this list: “The Body made of Yellow Wooll mixt with Yellow Fur of a Marten, Dub’d with Yellow Silk, Wings of the lightest colour’d Feather of a Throstle.”

Similarly, the fifth fly that Cotton lists for April calls for “the dubbing of Camels hair, and yellow Camlet, or wool mixt, and a white grey wing.”

A more likely precedent that both Cotton and Chetham mention for the month of June is the Barm Fly or Barm-flie, which, in their contemporary usage, would have mean leavening or yeast, a rich yellow. Cotton notes that, for June, "we have another Dunne, call'd the Barm-flie, from it's yesty colour, the dubbing of the fur of a yellow dun Cat, and a grey wing of a Mallards feather."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Border Fly

This dressing uses what Jame Leisenring, in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly and Fishing the Flymph (1941), would label a badger hackle in place of a true, black-tipped and listed furnace hackle.



Light furnace or dark ginger

Blue rabbit underfur with two turns of tying thread showing at the end

Light furnace

Roger Woolley includes the Border Fly as No. 163 under the heading “Devon and West Country Wet Flies” in the 1950 edition of his original Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1932):

Body.—Blue fur with two turns of bright red silk at the tail end.
Hackle and Whisks.—Light furnace cock.”