Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August Brown; or, August Dun




Silk buttonhole twist – Coats & Clark’s lemon 223, size D

Tan tying thread dubbed with hare’s mask

Red grouse shoulder

In Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2004), Sylvester Nemes includes some of the flies Francis M. Walbran listed in his column “Monthly Notes on North-Country Trout Flies” in The Fishing Gazette. For August 15, 1885, Walbran listed the August Brown first: “Body: Light brown silk, dubbed sparingly with hare’s face, and ribbed with yellow silk, dressed hacklewise with grouse’s feather.”

In Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994), Leslie Magee notes that the August Brown hatch is an autumn corollary to the springtime March Brown and that its name is interchangeable with the August Dun or Drake, the Autumn Dun, Cinnamon Fly (which hatches alongside a Cinnamon Sedge), and the Whirling Blue Dun. He includes Sylvester Lister's 's manuscript, which gives a September dressing, the "Cinnamon or August Drake," which he dressed with a "feather from under landrail's wing. Head, peacock's herl, body, orange with gold tinsel or covered with herl from cock pheasant's tail feather," noting that the fly is "very abundant on some Yorkshire rivers." 

Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee included a winged August Dun in Brook and River Trouting (1916) which they recommend through the “last week in July, August and September." E. M. Tod also has a winged dressing in Wet Fly Fishing Treated Methodically (1903) for fishing in September. A winged August Brown, No. 47, is  in John Jackson’s Practical Fly-Fisher (1854), as well, a fly that he regards “equally as good in its season as the March Brown, which it very much resembles, though lightered coloured and smaller.”

In his Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836), Alfred Ronalds lists a winged and a hackled dressing for the August Dun No. 38:

“BODY.  Brown floss silk ribbed with yellow silk thread.
TAIL.  Two rabbit’s whiskers.
WINGS.  Feather of a brown hen’s wing.
LEGS.  Plain red hackled stained brown.

It is made buzz with a grouse hackle wound upon the above body.”


  1. Replies
    1. I very much appreciate it - it performed on some Great Smoky Mountains rainbows and specks last week!

  2. Neil, there is nothing new under this sun. It is interesting that the old flies are sometimes reinvented by the unschooled. In the early 1970's, as a kid with no knowledge of this fly, under the influence of AOTWF, I ribbed a soft-hackle hare's ear with twisted yellow floss to produce a nearly identical pattern, hackled with welsumer brahma hen, a ringer for European red grouse. In the north country of the Far West, half a world away from the North Country of the UK, this fly makes a great searcher pattern, as it serves to simulate a number of insects, including: little brown stone, little yellow stone, skwala, March brown, & also an epeorus that emerges in late July/August, possibly a cousin of the UK's August Dun. It kills on freestone streams, & #8-#10 covers a number of medium-sized stonefly species.

    Beautiful flies & interesting history. Thank you for posting these.


    1. Thank you for sharing, Steve! To be totally honest, this patterning shows up with some variation in many of the texts, though often under a different name and, not uncommonly, as a March Brown. I feel that I'm sometimes too strict in my definition of what a particular pattern might be, but it's fascinating to hear how it's put to use in it's natural habitat.

  3. Neil, in your capacity as a historian, I think it best that you play it on the strict side, which serves to help us not forget the origin of these flies. And many are interested in that. As mine is the journal of one soft-hackler's contemporary journey, I probably don't discuss the old flies enough on my blog. But then, we have you for that.