Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grey Dun Midge; or, Grey Midge

This dressing substitutes an American woodcock covert for English woodcock undercoverts.



Primrose Pearsall’s gossamer silk

Woodcock covert

Peacock herl

In The Angler’s Manual (1836), John Turton includes a September dressing, No. 67 the Grey Dun Midge, a hackle “made with yellow silk: wing, light woodcock’s feather under wing; body, yellow silk; head, green peacock. On some days, the outside wing feather of the dotterill is used for the wing.”

The Grey Midge, no. 24, is one of the few hackled flies that John Jackson includes in his posthumous work The Practical Fly-Fisher (1854). He dresses it with a "feather from a Woodcock's breast, wrapped on a body of pale yellow silk."

Leslie Magee reprints three lists of flies in Fly Fishing: The North Country Tradition (1994) that include a similar dressing. The first, John Swarbrick’s “List of Wharfedale Flies” (1807), includes No. 20, the Grey Midge: “This Fly is very Small a Hackle The Feather is Taken from the Wood cock Brest or one of the Small feathers from under the Wood Cock Wing Harld at the Head with Magpie Tayl feather.”   A similar, simpler pattern is included on William Nelson’s list in Magee’s book, the Light Woodcock, dressed the same as Swarbrick’s, minus the herl head. Sylvester Lister's 1898 manuscript called for a "freckled feather from a snipe rump. Head, magpie herl, body yellow silk, with a little fur from a water rat spun on," and Lister notes that the Grey Midge "comes on about middle of April, often of an evening."

In "another CATALOGUE" of flies in the Angler's Vade Mecum (1681) that James Chetham appended to his reproduction of  Charles Cotton's Compleat Angler (1676), the Grey Midge, or Gnat is a fly for June, "Dubbing of the Down of a sad Grey Cat, or sad Grey Camels Hair, Dub'd with Grey Silk, Wings of the Grey feather of a Mallard." Although it shares the same name, it meant for June and likely represents a different insect.


  1. Neil
    Another great looking pattern, wish I had this fly Saturday, the trout were feeding heavy on tiny brown midges. I landing numerous trout using a silver hackle. Thanks for sharing

  2. On this fly how many turns of peacock did you take?

    1. I only took 3. Sometimes I take as many as four. I was using herls from the midsection of a fairly full peacock eye. I wind once around the shank, brush the fibers forward, wind once behind the first wrap, brush the fibers back, and wind once in front of the original wrap.