Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Red Spider

This dressing substitutes American woodcock undercovert for landrail covert. W. C. Stewart's spiders are better dressed on a short shank, light-midwire hook, but in keeping with the established pattern of the the blog, this is dressed on a regular size 14 dry fly hook.



Yellow Pearsall’s gossamer silk

American woodcock undercovert

W. C. Stewart—famous for the straightforward simplicity of his Practical Angler (1857)—states that “killing spiders may be made of all the feathers we have mentioned [“starling, landrail, dotterel, mavis, grey plover, golden plover, partridge, and grouse”], but the three following are all we consider necessary”: the first is the Black Spider; second, the Red Spider; third, Dun Spider.

Stewart dressed his Red Spider “of the small feather taken from outside of the wing of the landrail, dressed with yellow silk.” He notes that it “is deserving of a very high rank, particularly in coloured water.” Much like the namesake hackle of the traditional Dotterel, landrail is, as Robert L. Smith points out, "almost impossible to obtain." In his North Country Fly: Yorkshire's Soft Hackle Tradition (2015), available from Coch-y-Bonddu Books, Smith notes that landrail hackles "are of a ruddy brownish coloration" and suggests that "a suitably dyed starling feather is reasonable replacement, or the marginal covert feather of a jay." On the other hand, Sylvester Nemes in Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2004) suggests using "a reddish-tinged hen feather," but the illustration he includes shows a fly dressed with red silk and a red grouse hackle. 

Stewart dressed spiders differently than soft-hackled flies are traditionally dressed. Roger Woolley elaborates on how to dress Stewart’s spiders: “Commence tying half-way down the hook shank and wind typing silk to the shoulder, tie in hackle by its stem, then laying the waxed tying silk along the centre stem of the inside of the hackle, twirl them round together until the feather is rolled round the tying silk, and in this state wrap it round the hook, taking care that a sufficient number of fibres stick out to represent legs. This is a difficult operation to do neatly and well, though it is a method of dressing that makes a strong, hard-wearing fly.”

Woolley also suggests that Stewart’s dressing was, as the Red Spider above, “just a soft hackle taken half-way down the hook, palmerwise, no body as in the usual type of fly, half the hook left bare.”

John Turton also gives a dressing for a Red Spider in the Angler’s Manual (1836) that shares elements with Stewart’s own. He describes it as a hackle rather than winged fly, “for March and April,” describing it as a dressing “made with yellow silk; wing, a red mottled partridge rump feather; body, hare’s ear, dark coloured at bottom, and grey at top, twisted around the yellow silk.” Turton recommends a color combination of yellow and red “in summer, for dark waters,” when “yellow dubbing is used.”  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Partridge and Green



Green Pearsall’s gossamer thread

Tying thread

Black and brown hare’s face (optional)

Gray Partridge

In the first edition of The Soft-Hackled Fly (1975), Sylvester Nemes includes a Partridge and Green with and without a fur thorax. The original dressing, no. 2, calls for:

body: Green silk floss
hackle: Gray partridge,”

whereas the Partridge and Green and Fur Thorax is dressed

body: 2/3’s, green silk floss
thorax: Black and brown hare’s face
hackle: Gray partridge.”

Dave Hughes also includes the Partridge and Green in the first edition of Wet Flies (1995), attributing it to Nemes. He dresses it using

“Thread: Green Pearsall’s Gossamer silk.
Hackle: Gray Partridge.
Body: Working silk, or green Marabou silk floss.
Thorax: Hare’s mask fur, or #7 Hare’s Ear Plus, tan (thorax optional).”

This dressing follows Paul H. Young’s suggestion to use a dyed quill body, but substitutes a Blue Winged Olive dyed turkey biot for the body. It adds the hare's ear thorax that Hughes and Nemes recommend.

In Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2004), Nemes attributes his first encounter with soft hackles to Paul H. Young, whose self-published book Making and Using the Fly and Leader (1938) includes a discussion of Partridge Spiders dressed in green, orange, and yellow. Young notes that the “Body may be ‘dubbed’ or made of dyed quill which is excellent.”