Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Small Dark Dun Spider

This dressing assigns claret thread since neilther John Kirkbride assigns a particular color to the thread in his Small Dark Dun, nor does Michael Theakston assigns any to his Little Freckled Dun (Some shade of orange would be most typical of Theakston's Ripon flies.)



Muskrat on claret Pearsall’s gossamer silk

Snipe covert

In The Northern Angler (1837), John Kirkbride describes the Small Dark Dun Spider as a fly best fished in “May and June, when made very fine,” and an “excellent killer in clear water.”  He dressed it as “a hackle-fly, made of a feather from the outside wing of the large snipe, with a body or water-rat’s fur.”

Michael Theakston likely catalogued the Small Dark Dun as the 45th fly in his List of Natural Flies (1843), the Little Freckled Dun. Despite the specificity of his descriptions, his colloquial nomenclature sometimes makes the task of tracing a pattern's emergence purely speculative. His Little Freckled Dun is "very like the Freckled Dun, but much smaller. Commence hatching with the month, and are out numerous most part of the day and in the evenings, through summer." Theakston recommends a dressing with "Wings, a rankly freckled feather from the snipe or judcock; tinged and legged with blue-dun fur." 

The Little-Dun that James Chetham lists under May in the second catalogue of "Dub-flies" that James Chetham included in the second edition (1700) of his Anglers Vade Mecum (1681) is likely an effort to represent a similar insect to Kirkbride's and might possibly be a precedent for his dressing. Chetham's fly is dressed why a "Dubbing of an Otters Fur, Dub'd with Ash-colored Silk, Wings of the Feather of a Shepstares Quill." 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Marlow Buzz; Cocce Bundy; but, more regularly, Coch-y-Bonddu, etc.

This version of the Coch-y-Bonddu follows Alfred Ronald's directions for the Marlow Buzz and John Kirkbride's Welsh Cocce Bundy.



Peacock herl

Red furnace (cochy-bondu), palmered with one hackle and dressed with another at the front

Like many soft-hackled flies, the Coch-y-Bonddu takes its name from its hackle, a soft poultry hackle in this instance, which is spelled differently by various authors. The name is of Welsh origin meaning the “Red and Black Stem.” In Welsh coch means “red” and y means “the,” while bonddu or “bôn+ddu” means, literally, “stem black” or “black stem.” Coch-y-bonddu, the “Red and Black Stem,” is an apt name for fly dressed with a red furnace hackle.

Jim Leisenring defines the term furnace hackle in The Art of Fishing the Wet Fly & Tying the Flymph (1941): a furnace hackle “has a very dark, black, or blue dun list next to the stem and on the tips of the fibers. In between the dark list and tips is a good color, usually red, yellow, white, or silver. The hackles which show these three distinct markings are known as furnace hackles and the name, such as Red Furnace or Cochy-bondu, Yellow Furnace, etc., is determined by the color between the dark list and tips.” In modern usage, “furnace” is often a misnomer applied to any poultry hackle with a dark center and a reddish-brown color that extends from the list to the tip.

In the Fly-Fisher's Entomology (1836), Alfred Ronalds lumped similar patterns under the Marlow Buzz dressing - the Coch-a-Bonddu, the Hazel Fly, and the Shorn Fly. Unlike other authors, dresses the fly as a palmer. Likewise, in the Northern Angler (1837), John Kirkbride  describes the Coch-y-Bonddu or Cocce Bundy as a palmer in relation to the Peacock Palmer, a fly dressed with "a body of copper-coloured peacock harle, ribbed with gold thread, and two fine red hackles, black at the butt." He notes, however, that "this palmer, made with a black-listed red hackle, very full, without any gold, is called the cocce bundy, and kills well in Wales."

In Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994), Leslie Magee discusses the Coch-y-Bonddu under the beetle heading, noting “many representation of beetles or ‘clocks’ in the old North Country lists,” counting thirteen patterns listed among prominent, nineteenth-century North Country angling authors, Micheal Theakston comprising almost half with his List of Naturals (1853). Magee includes the Coch-y-Bonddu in the list, but does not attribute it to an originator or author. He notes that of the thirteen flies he cites, only the Smoke Fly and Coch-y-Bonddu are still in regular, contemporary use, its popularity with anglers and trout largely undiminished. Other beetle or "clock" imitations include the Bracken Clock, Starling and Herl, and (perhaps) the Black Snipe, and the more modern Eric's BeetleImitations of this class or terrestrial outpace those of other terrestrials like the small ant or black ant. 

Datus Proper’s color plates depict an almost perfectly spherical body of peacock herl with a short loft and with a deep red, long coch-y-bondhu hackle that slopes back over the body and curves around the sphere.

Roger Woolley includes the Cochy-bondhu in the third edition of his Modern Fly Dressing (1932):

“This is a very small flying beetle that is in season and often very abundant in the warm June weather. The imitation is a favourite with many anglers, and is used more less throughout the season—and kills fish, too.

Body.—Bronze peacock herl tipped with flat gold.
Hackle.—Cochy-bondhu cock, a red hackle with black center and tips.”

In What the Trout Said (1982), Datus Proper related a modern experience with the traditional Coch-y-Bondhu on Falling Springs Branch in Pennsylvania. He regarded it as the “most imitative fly in existence" and confessed that he "had doubted its effectiveness, because I had not seen an American fisherman using it. The models I saw in shops were big, with anemic bodies and bushy hackles. Nothing like a beetle,” so his “new flies were tied with the natural insects as a model. They had come from a trout’s stomach, and they floated unhappily in a small white plastic box full of water.”

The body was more difficult [than determining the hook size—modern 20]. Three peacock herls spun around a waxed black thread would be strong, but they were still not as thick as the natural beetle’s body. A couple of attempts showed me how to pile them on so that they would stay put. The body was now as thick as it was long, and strong enough to pass on to my grandchildren—in case there were still any trout in Pennsylvania then.

My hackle was the traditional color: shiny, dark red, with a black center and tips. But I only used three turns, with the shiny outside of the hackle facing outward. The hackle was the smallest a coch-y-bondhu roost has to offer—with a width hardly created than the thickness of the body.

My pattern, then, was as described in books for decades, but the design was like no fly I had actually seen. (For all I know, every angler in Wales has one.) It looked ridiculously small and plump, with an undernourished hackle—like a fat lady in a miniskirt. No wonder dealers sell no such flies. But when I put mine in the plate of water with the defunct beetles, the fat lady was also a fat beetle.

Evidently the trout agreed with me. One of life’s little miracles is the way in which a primitive, three-year-old, cold blooded creature like a brown trout can detect a tiny difference in a fly. May you never change, Mr. Trout. Damn their pollution, concrete, dredges, and silt. Life without you would be a dull business.”