Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Starling and Herl; or, Brown Clock

This dressing uses a starling shoulder hackle rather than the starling covert Sylvester Nemes suggests.




Starling shoulder

In his first work on dressing and fishing soft hackles, The Soft-Hackled Fly (1975), Sylvester Nemes listed fourteen general soft hackle patterns. The Starling-and-Herl was the last on the list, and he dressed it with

body:  Peacock herl
hackle:  Small covert hackle from starling wing.”

An earlier precedent for Nemes’s Starling-and-Herl might be the Black Snipe that T. E. Pritt mentions at the end of his list of flies in North-Country Flies (1886). However, the dressing for a peacock herl-bodied fly dressed with a starling hackle appears verbatim on the short list of flies that John Younger compiled for fishing the Tweed in his On River Angling for Salmon and Trout (1840). W. H. Lawrie reprinted the list in Scottish Trout Flies (1966). Younger's starling and herl fly is a nameless fly, distinguished only by the best months for fishing it, June, July, and August. Younger dressed it thus:

“Wing: Cock sparrow wing-feather.
Body: Peacock’s herl.”

John Jackson dressed a starling and herl pattern that falls somewhere between a palmer and a hackle, the Brown Clock, No. 10, in his Practical Fly-Fisher (1854). Like the Coch-y-Bonddu or Bracken Clock, the Brown Clock is presumably a beetle imitation. The dressing is simple: "Wings.-Glossy feather of a Starling's neck, wrapped on a body of Peacock's herl and brown silk. Well taken in bright frosty weather." The accompanying plate III depicts the Brown Clock as being heavily hackled on the front half of the hook shank, wound through the peacock herl body, much like Dave Hughes dressed his Hare's Ear Flymph in Wet Flies (1995).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Fern Fly or Woodcock and Orange; or, Soldier Fly

This dressing of Richard Bowlker’s Fern Fly uses an American woodcock primary for the hackle.



Burnt orange

Orange Pearsall’s marabou silk, lightly waxed

Woodcock covert

Leslie Magee traces the recurrence of popular dressings in North Country angling literature as well as the coterie publication of various North Country angling clubs from 1651—1885 in his Fly Fishing: the North Country Tradition (1994). He locates the Fern Fly or Woodcock and Orange in at least eight angling texts:  in Charles Cotton’s 1676 additions to Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler; James Chetham’s Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681), John Williamson’s British Angler (1740); in R. Brooks (1793); John Swarbrick’s List of Wharefdale Flies (1807); George Bainbridge’s Fly-fisher’s Guide (1816); Michael Theakston’s List of Natural Flies (1853); and William Brumfitt’s manuscript (1885).

In a book that Magee does not include, Alfred Ronalds' Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836), the Fern Fly is listed as a terrestrial, also known as the Soldier Fly. Ronalds also gives a winged dressing and, as is his wont, a buzz or hackle dressing, a furnace palmer or heavily dressed front hackle on an orange silk body. John Jackson, whose dressings Magee also excludes provides directions for a winged Soldier Fly in his Practical Fly-Fisher (1854), as does Theakston. Neither of these dressings uses woodcock as winging or primary hackle - few of the Fern Fly dressings that Magee indicates use woodcock or orange at all.

Oddly enough, Magee does not locate the Fern Fly in either of the Bowlkers’ editions of The Art of Angling. In the 1753 edition, Richard Bowlker suggests dressing the fly for mid-June through mid-July, and his dressing is the one that gives it the name Woodcock and Orange: “He is a four-winged fly; his body very slender and of an orange colour; he is to be fished with at any time of the day, from sun-rise till sunset, being a very killing fly: His wings are made with a woodcock’s feather, his body with orange-coloured silk.” His dressing seems to be a direct precedent for the Brown Fern Fly that John Kirkbride included The Northern Angler (1837), which only added a small dubbing ball thorax of hare's neck fur behind the hackle. 

This dressing of Charles Bowlker’s Fern Fly uses turkey tail for the body, American woodcock primaries for a hackle, and orange Pearsall’s gossamer silk twisted as a ribbing.

Richard’s son Charles dresses the Fern Fly in his 1774 edition of The Art of Angling. He is not as convinced of its efficacy as his father: "The Fern Fly comes in about the latter end of June, and does not continue above a week. He has four wings that stand upright on his back. His wings and body are made of a woodcock’s feather, ribbed with orange coloured silk. He is to be fished with in a morning, the first of any fly, till abot eleven o’clock, and then you may change your fly according to the brightness or dullness of the day, for there are many flies on the water at that time."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pat's Nymph

This dressing excludes the lead wire that Pat Proffitt recommends, and uses a size 14 dry fly hook rather than the down eye, 2X long, 2X heavy hook with a perfect bend Pat Proffitt assigns. This dresses uses a lightly-variegated, smoky dun grizzly hackle and a brown furnace hen hackle.




Brown and grizzly hackle fibers

Muskrat dubbing

Soft brown and grizzly hackle

Although the fly is billed as a nymphal pattern, the basic, tied-in-the-round design of the Pat’s Nymph is essentially a tailed soft hackle dressing. L. J. DeCuir includes this fly in Southeastern Flies (2000) with two others developed by Pat Proffitt, “a legendary fly fisherman of East Tennessee,” classing the set of three as “mountain flies—simple by highly effective.”

DeCuir notes two variations for dressing the Pat's Nymph: a copper wire rib for the full length of the body and/or partridge substituted for poultry hackle. He points out, as well, that local, East Tennessee tiers often simplify the dressing by leaving out the grizzly hackle, using instead only brown hackle for the tail and collar. 

In a chapter of Masters on the Nymph (1979), "Advanced Nymphing Techniques," Chuck Fothergill describes a Muskrat Nymph that is dressed much like the fly many anglers in East Tennessee also refer to as Pat's Nymph. Fothergill dressed his Muskrat with brown hackle for the tailing and hackle, with lighter tying thread. He notes that "this simple pattern of brown and gray has proven itself for years on countless rivers and lakes."