Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Turkey Brown; Little Brown Dun; Little Dark Brown

This dressing follows Alfred Ronalds’ suggestion for dressing the Turkey Brown “buzz,” as a hackled rather than a winged fly.



Red hackle, matching as closely as possible the grouse hackle

Purple Pearsall’s gossamer silk

Embroidery thread - DMC 938 dark coffee brown

Grouse covert

Alfred Ronalds includes the Turkey Fly or Little Brown Dun as No. 22 in his Fly-Fisher’s Entomology (1836) to imitate a May mayfly: Order, Neuroptera. Family, Ephemeridæ. Genus, Ephemera.

“It is to be used on cold days ; is a very good fly upon some waters ; and is in season from about the time that the March Brown becomes scarce until the end of June.*

BODY.  Dark brown floss silk ribbed with purple silk thread.
TAIL.  A whisk or two of a red cock's hackle, stained as for the legs.
WINGS. Tip of the brownest feather from a partridge's tail, or, if well selected, a feather may be found on the back of the partridge.
LEGS.  Red cock's hackle stained a good brown with copperas.

To make it buzz, a feather from the Grouse may be tied on, in the manner shown in the imitation of the Green Drake, No. 28.

* A fly is found upon some waters, similar in every respect to the above, except that the wings partake of the colour of the Iron-blue. The Little-dark-Spinner, No. 23., answers for its metamorphosis”

Although it seems like a stretch, T. E. Pritt correlates his No. 32, the Orange Partridge or Little Brown Dun in North-Country Flies (1886), Turkey Fly, which suggests other precedents to and heirs of Ronalds’ dressing, like the Brown Watchet

This dressing substitutes split silk buttonhole twist – Belding-Corticelli 8545 purple, size D, for violet camlet and uses beaver as a “dark brown dubbing.” It uses a mourning dove covert for the hackle and purple silk for the body and head.

Even more speculative is the possible connection between the Turkey Brown and a Restoration-era dressing, the Little Dark Brown. In his Anglers Vade Mecum (1681), James Chetham reprints the list of flies that Charles Cotton added as the second part (1676) of Izaak Walton’s Compleat Angler (1653). Both authors list the Little Dark Brown as the second fly for April and dress the “little dark brown, the dubbing of that colour, and some violet Camlet mixt, and the wing of the grey feather of the Mallard.” It's name, dirty purplish body, and emergence suggest a possible connection between this dress and Ronalds' Turkey Brown. They also suggest a distant connection to the Small Dark Dun Spider

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Grouse and Yellow



Yellow Pearsall’s gossamer silk

Yellow tying silk

Pale speckled brown grouse covert

In the appendix to the third edition (1950) his Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1932), Roger Woolley includes a group of soft hackled dressings that utilize grouse. No. 139, the Grouse and Yellow, is a classic soft hackle, dressed only with yellow tying silk and a grouse hackle. Woolley also pairs grouse with orange and claret silk. 

The efficacy of a simple grouse-hackled and thread-bodied dressing is evident in the wide variety of body colors that angling authors have historically grouped under the name Grouse Hackle. In The Longest Silence (1999), Thomas McGuane recalls the "match-box of homemade flies" that his Irish angling companion Ned Noonan carried to the River Maigue - it was full of "grouse-and-orange, grouse and anything you could name." 

John Kirkbride's Grouse Hackle in the Northern Angler (1837) is a similar sort of catch-all dressing, which included a variations of the fly that might be termed the Grouse and Green, Grouse and Yellow, or the Grouse and Orange, too. Similarly, Mary Orvis Marbury mentions the Grouse Hackle as an instance of a popular dressing included on the first plate of flies in her Favorite Flies and Their Histories (1892) and named after “the feather of which it is made,” in contrast to the Red Hackle, “White Hackle, Yellow Hackle, Black Hackle, and a number of other” dressings that “are named simply after their color.” Of course, the dressings she cites are named according to their hackle, whereas different dressings of the Grouse Hackle, in historical texts like Marbury's, are rarely distinguished. The plate in Marbury's Favorite Flies depicts a Grouse Hackle that is heavily dressed, has an orange body, and a tan or gold rib.