Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Willow or Withy Fly

This dressing uses yellow Pearsall's gossamer silk.



Mole’s fur spun on yellow silk

A dark dun cock’s hackle strongly tinged a copper-colour

Alfred Ronalds lists the Willow (or Withy) Fly as no. 44, the last fly to be imitated during the regular season, in his Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836). He describes this diminutive stonefly—“Order, Neuroptera. Family, Perlidæ. Genus, Nemoura. Species, Nebulosa.”—as hatching in September and notes that "it is extremely abundant during this month and the next, and even later in the season. On very fine days it may be found on the water in February. It generally flutters across the stream, and is best imitated buzz fashion."

Publishing at the same time, John Turton lists the hatch of the Willow Fly in September and October. He dresses a hackled Willow Fly, no. 68, in the Angler’s Manual (1836) “with a yellow silk: wing, a blue grizzled cock’s hackle feather; body, blue squirrel’s fur and yellow down mixed, twisted on the silk. Best on cold stormy days.”

This dressing of John Jackson’s Small Willow Fly uses java Pearsall's gossamer silk and is dressed more heavily, in keeping with the illustrations of the natural and the pattern than Jackson includes on alternating plates.

John Jackson gives two dressings for the Willow Fly, no. 57 the Small Willow Fly and no. 58 the Large Willow Fly, in his Practical Fly-Fisher (1854). He dresses the Small Willow Fly “by wrapping a feather from the inside of a Snipe’s wing, or a small grizzled hackle, on a body of light brown silk, or Mole’s fur and yellow silk,” and, Jackson notes, the fly is “best on warm days.”

He dresses the Large Willow Fly as a winged wet with

Wings.—Inside of Woodcock’s wing feather.
Body.—Moles fur spun on yellow silk.
Legs.—Brown Hackle.

This fly is well made by hackling a grizzled hackled of a copperish hue on the above body.”

This dressing substitutes blue rabbit underfur mixed with golden stone antron and dubbed on yellow Pearsall's gossamer silk as a substitute for the blue squirrel fur and yellow mohair body that Richard Bowlker recommends.

In Nymphs (1974), Ernest Schwiebert credits the Bowlkers with first offering a historical imitation for the Willow Fly, and he lauds the endurance of their identification and representation as a testament to their studies. Richard Bowlker’s Art of Angling (1758) describes the Willow Fly like Ronalds, noting that it “comes about the beginning of September, and continues till the latter end of October: He is a four-winged fly, and generally flutters upon the surface of the water: To be fished with in cold stormy days, being then most plentiful upon the water.” Richard Bowlker suggests a dressing with “wings made of a blue grizzled cock’s hackle, the body of the blue part of a squirrel’s fur, mixed with a little yellow mohair.”

In his revisions (1774) to his father’s original work, Charles Bowlker also points to the Willow Fly’s four wings as a distinguishing feature for the stonefly in late summer and autumn: “He has four wings which lie fly on his back: his belly of a dirty yellow, and his back of a dark brown.” To represent the Willow Fly, Charles gives a dressing with “wings made of a dun cock’s hackle a little freckled; his body of squirrel’s furr, ribbed with yellow silk, and covered lightly with the same coloured hackle as the wings.”

Under the heading “Stoneflies” in the third edition of Modern Trout Dressing (1950), Roger Woolley notes that the Willow Fly is synonymous with the Brown Owl, which shows up as no. 5 in T. E. Pritt’s North Country Flies (1886) and no. 11 in Harfield Brooks and Norman Lee’s Brook and River Trouting (1916). They dress these flies for April, May, and June, rather than September through October (and even through February) like Ronalds, Turton, and the Bowlkers. This suggests two different insects. More likely, Pritt, Edmonds, and Lee used the Waterhen Bloa, with its mole or muskrat body on yellow silk, to imitate the Willow Fly instead of the Brown Owl. Pritt, in particular, recommends the Waterhen Bloa as “indispensable during March and April, and again towards the latter end of the season”; Edmonds and Lee specifically prescribe its usefulness from “March to end of April, and again in September.”

John Kirkbride includes a Willow Fly in the North-Country Angler (1837), noting that its emergence coincides with the Yellow Dun in May and June. The stonefly he dubs the Willow Fly seems much more like a Yellow Sally - an insect and imitation that Kirkbride does not include in the text - than the later season stonefly that Richard Bowlker described almost a century earlier as a Willow Fly. Kirkbride’s Willow Fly is “a very delicate-looking fly, and the trout are very fond of it, particularly in the evenings. The body is of a delicate transparent yellow colour, with a greenish or olive shade; it must be ribbed with gold-coloured silk,” and “when it is made as a spider, a feather from the breast of the yellow plover must be used.”