Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Brown Watchet; Orange Brown

This dressing substitutes hen hackle for partridge back.




Orange Pearsall’s gossamer silk

Speckled hen; here, Whiting Brahma hen hackle

Peacock herl

This In his North-Country Flies (1886), T. E. Pritt lists his No. 31 Brown Watchet or Little Brown Dun alongside the more famous, quintessential Orange Partridge, No. 32, noting that they are almost identical and that he prefers the simpler dressing, No. 32, without the peacock head. He dressed the Brown Watchett or Little Brown Dun with

“WINGS.-Hackled with a well dappled feather from a Partridge’s back.
BODY.-Orange silk.
HEAD.-Peacock herl.”

Pritt notes that “the angler may look upon one of them as indispensable on his cast from April to September, on warm days.” While he recommends them to match a mayfly, Norman Edwards and Harfield Lee note in their Brook and River Trouting (1916) that their No. 6, essentially the same as Pritt's No. 31 and 32, can be fished to imitate both a mayfly and a stonefly, the Red Brown

This Brown Watchet substitutes quail covert for wren tail hackling and uses orange Pearsall's marabou silk for the body.

John Turton's Brown Watchet “by some anglers called the Orange Brown,” No. 3 in his Angler's Manual (1836), is almost identical to Pritt's No. 31, with the exception of the hackle. Turton claims the Brown Watchet “kills all year” and dressed it with “light orange silk; wing, a wren's tail feather; body, bright light orange silk; head, green peacock's feather. In dark water, with a little green peacock feather under the wing.” Rather than substitute a red grouse neck hackle for wren’s tail, this dressing follows the hackling equivalent that James Blades listed for his Wren Tail in a list Robert L. Smith appended to his North Country Fly: Yorkshire’s Soft Hackle Tradition (2015), available from Coch-y-Bonddu Books: Blades' dressing equates the hackle “from the outside of a quail wing” with hackling from a “wren tail.”

Turton points out that “this is so noted a fly to kill with, that anglers, asked what the fish are taking, frequently say – ‘Wren Tail and Orange for ever!’” Interestingly, Turton also noted that “a little brown bear's down is used at the spring of the year, twisted round the silk.” This dressing, orange silk with reddish brown fur, recalls the Winter Brown that Roger Woolley dressed to include early stoneflies and included in the third edition of his Modern Fly Dressing (1950).

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Green Drake

This dressing of Michael Theakston’s Green Drake departs from the general rule of the blog and uses a size 10 hook instead of a size 14. It also substitutes silk buttonhole twist for smooth wool, and a rib of the same twist dubbed with antron a shade darker, and it dresses his lightly-winged pattern as a hackle.



Silk button hole twist – Belding-Corticelli 9040 lettuce, size D, tied in behind the eye of the hook and wound back toward the bend

Body silk tightly twisted, dubbed with medium olive antron, and back wound forward toward the eye

Green Drake dyed mallard flank

The Green Drake is likely the most popular and most famous mayfly in historical angling texts. It is at the very least the mayfly that angling authors most anticipate. In their versions of The Art of Angling (1758, 1774), Richard Bowlker and his son Charles refer to the fly alternately as the May Fly, Yellow Cadow, or Green Drake, and both note the trout’s enthusiasm for the fly when it is on the water. 

Roger Woolley treats the Green Drake under its own heading in the third edition of his Modern Trout Flies (1950), noting that the "Mayfly (Green Drake) is the largest of the Ephemerdiæ family of flies, and much importance is attached to its appearance on the streams by anglers, for the reason that because of its size and the numbers in which it usually hatches out, it forms an annual feast for the trout, a time when all trout (and especially the very bigs ones that rarely rise to the smaller flies) are on the move, and at times rise madly. The sight of practically all the trout in the stream rising well at the same time has given the impression that the trout’s ‘silly season’ is the duffer’s opportunity to make larger captures. This will not be found to be always or even often the case."

In his List of Natural Flies (1853), Michael Theakston gives a simple dressing for the Green Drake, the sixty-second fly he lists for fishing in the course of the year and the eighteenth for the month of May alone. He recommends that it should be "hackled, for legs and wings with, a light coloured mottled feather from the wild mallard, that is stained the ground color of the wings," which he describes in the natural as a "light grass green with dim transparency." He calls for a body of a "pale yellow-green smooth woolen thread, warpt with eight or nine rounds of darker shade." He makes no mention of a tail.  Like many angling authors, Theakston cannot resist sharing stories of fishing the hatch, recalling a June morning in particular when a deft neighborhood angler Miles Shepherd swore off fishing the Green Drake hatch – "I reckon ‘nowt’ of your green drakes!" – because of fishing an unsuccessful dressing by John Stubbs, another fly tier whose dressings, in Theakston's estimation, "are bad to equal."

Charles Cotton recalls the success and frustration he had with his Green Drake on a seventeenth-century trip to the river, "in a Cloudy day, after a showr, and in a whistling wind": "five and thirty very great Trouts, and Graylings betwixt five, and eight of the Clock in the Evening and had no less than five, or six Flies with three good hairs apiece taken from me in despite of my heart, besides." He lists the Green Drake as his favorite of the four large flies that hatch in May in his additions to the Compleat Angler (1676), alongside the "little Yellow May-fly."

Like Theakston’s dressing, this fly uses a size 10 hook, and it substitutes primose silk button hole twist – Coats and Clark’s 72-A baby yellow, size D – for the floss silk that Alfred Ronalds prescribes, as well as using dark deer hair in place of rabbit whiskers for the tailing.

In his Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836), Alfred Ronald’s gives a description of the Green Drake and suitable dressings, and he indulges in no recollections of days astream fishing the Green Drake hatch. Many anglers do, incorporating it into their observations of the hatching. Ronalds, as always, takes a scientific bent more familiar to modern anglers. First, he notes that the Green Drake is also known as the “May Fly” or “Cadow” classes it “ Order, Neuroptera. Family, Ephemeridæ. Genus, Ephemera. Species, Vulgata.

“This fly, proceeding from a water nympha, lives three or four days as shown ; then the female changes to the Grey Drake (No. 29.), and the male to the Black Drake (see p. 89.). The Green Drake cannot be said to be in season quite three weeks on an average. Its season depends greatly upon the state of the weather; and it will be found earlier upon the slowly running parts of the stream (such as mill dams) than on the rapid places.

BODY.  The middle part is of pale straw coloured floss silk, ribbed with silver twist. The extremities are of a brown peacock's herl, tied with light brown silk thread.
TAIL.  Three rabbit's whiskers.
WINGS AND LEGS.  Made buzz from a mottled feather of the mallard, stained olive. (See Dyes, Chap. II. p. 35. article 4.)

To make it with wings in their state of rest, part of a feather similarly stained must be used, and a pale brown Bittern's hackle, or in case of need, a partridge feather must be wrapped round the same body under the wings.”

Historical anglers have often felt it worth noting that the Green Drake is  large enough to fish as bait, suggesting how to best bait a hook alongside accounts of how an artificial fly might best be dressed. In his Angler’s Manual (1836) John Turton notes that the Green Drake "takes the best of fish: it is very often used in its natural state. In their season, these flies come off in such quantities, that a stranger would be astonished: boys can gather small drake baskets full of these baits in a very short time: these they sell to gentlemen to fish with." In the Practical Angler (1857), on the other hand, W. C. Stewart notes that the Green Drake is as hard to catch as the fish and "hardly deserves recognition." (For better bait fishing, he recommends clumsy stoneflies instead.)