Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Sand Fly

This dressing of Michael Theakston's Sand Fly configures the fly as a hackle and opts for the "yellow bronze brown hen" hackle over the three other alternatives Theakston provides.




Orange Pearsall's gossamer silk dubbed sparsely with muskrat

Lightly specked, bronzy-yellow hen

Sand Fly is the name some historical anglers use to identify the Gravel Bed Spider, but it most often refers to a caddisfly or sedge. Leslie Magee notes dressings sedges or caddisflies listed specifically as the Sandfly, Sand Fly, or Sanded Dun in six different angling texts from 1809 to 1916, including George Bainbridge’s The Fly-fisher’s Guide (1816), Alfred Ronalds’ The Fly-fisher’s Entomology (1836), and Michael Theakston’s A List of Natural Flies (1853). Robert L. Smith lists no fewer than ten dressings explicitly named Sand Fly (or an approximate dialectal variation, like Sandflee) in manuscripts and publications dating from 1712 to the twentieth in his North Country Fly: Yorkshire's Soft Hackle Tradition (2015), available from Coch-y-Bonddu Books.

Theakston gives a dressing for the Sanded Dun—“dun” is his denomination for sedge or caddis—that uses “bright copper colored silk for body; feathers, for wings and legs, from the landrail, throstle, or a yellow bronze brown hen, or the brown owl, with or without a tinge of water rat.”

Bainbridge provides a winged and hackled dressing for the Sand Fly, asserting that it “may be considered as one of the best flies for affording diversion,” since it can be fished “successfully, at all hours of the day, from April to the end of September.” He compares the flies fished on “the borders of Yorkshire, where, as well in Cumberland and Westmoreland, the snipe’s wing and golden plover’s feathers, dressed as hackles, without dubbed bodies are the favourite flies.” Presumably, he means silk bodied dressings. Bainbridge notes that, while such silk bodied flies will work, a dubbed bodied fly will often work better, recalling a afternoon when his dubbed bodied Sand Fly caught twice as many fish as its silk bodied counterpart. For the winged dressing, the “wings are made from the sandy-coloured feather of the landrail’s wing, with a ginger hackled for legs; and the bright sandy-coloured fur from the hare’s neck, mixed with a very small quantity of orange-coloured mohair, for the body; or if dressed as a hackle, the feathers from under the throstle’s wing are the nearestthe colour of the wings of the fly.”

Ronalds cites Bainbridge’s description of the Sand Fly and its dressings, adding a “silk of the same colour” as the “sandy coloured fur from the hare’s neck.” He leaves off the orange mohair that Bainbridge recommends. Ronalds also stipulates that the Sand Fly is dressed “buzz,” as a hackle, with a throstle’s undercovert, but he notes that the hackle should be “wound upon the above body.” 

In North Country Flies (1886), T. E. Pritt includes the Sandfly, No. 34, which is an almost exact replica of the winged wets Bainbridge and Ronalds list, except that he ribs a sandy body with sandy hare’s fur. John Jackson, likewise, includes a Sand Fly, No. 19 in his Practical Fly-Fisher (1854) that alternates hen pheasant undercovert for the winging, but maintains the body and hackling; E. M. Tod includes this dressing in Table I of the Appendix of his Wet-Fly Fishing (1903).

In Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1936), Roger Woolley includes a Sand Fly under the heading of General Wet Flies:

Body.—Ginger fur.
Hackle.—Ginger hen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Exe Fly




Rear third, primrose tying silk; front two-thirds, cock pheasant tail


In the third edition of Modern Fly Dressing (1950), Roger Woolley includes the Exe Fly under the “Devon and West Country Wet Flies” heading. He dresses it:

Body.—One-third at tail end straw-coloured floss, remainder formed of cock pheasant tail fibres.
Hackle.—Furnace cock.”

The fly's name suggests origins with anglers on the River Exe in Devon.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Blue Dun

This dressing substitutes pale yellow seal's fur for the pale "wool, mohair, or fine dyed pig's wool" that John Younger prescribes and uses starling undercovert.




Blue rabbit underfur and pale yellow seal's fur

Starling undercovert

W. H. Lawrie’s Scottish Trout Flies (1966) reproduces lists of flies like John Younger’s list for fishing the Tweed. Of the six flies Younger dressed, the unnamed fly for April and May. His fly, undoubtedly a Blue Dun, is dressed with

“Wing: Transparent feather from the wing of the bunting or that of a full grown cock sparrow.
Body: Blue water-rat fur mixed with equal proportion pale yellow, inclining to white, wool, mohair or fine dyed pig’s wool.”

Younger includes one additional dressing for April and May with the same body, but hackled with a body feather from a grouse. G. E. M. Skues suggested that Younger’s dressing imitated a “small darkish Watery” that hatched from “May throughout the season,” No. VII on his list of flies for representing the Medium Olive. He adapted Younger’s pattern thus:

Hook.—No. 16 down-eyed Pennel sneck.
Tying Silk.—Bright yellow, waxed with clear colourless wax.
Hackle.—Dark-blue hen short—not more than two turns.
Whisks.—Two strands of darkish blue unspeckled feather from neck of cock guinea fowl- short.
Body.—Thinly laid dubbing of mole’s fur mixed with yellow seal’s fur.”

Skues also suggested that “the body may be varied by using English squirrel blue fur instead of mole.”

Roger Woolley notes in the last edition of his Modern Fly Dressing (1950) that the olive fly is the usually known as the Early Olive Dun. He introduces his dressings by noting that, “although entomologies tell us there is no such fly in nature as the Blue Dun, anglers always have had and will have their Blue Dun. It is an imitation of the large, early spring Olive Dun, a fly appearing in early spring, the first of the Ephemeridæ family to show on our streams.” A proliferation of olive dun colored bodies matched with dun hackles, however, makes pinpointing which are intended to match Woolley’s mythological Blue Dun a challenge. The Waterhen Blae, for instance, might equally serve the purpose. To limit the scope of these possibilities, soft hackled Blue Dun patterns here will to create an olive shade that the yellow silk underbody accents, either by mixing yellow and blue or by overwrapping the main body with a yellow or olive rib.

John Waller Hills traces the development of the Blue Dun in A History of Fly Fishing for Trout (1921) from Dame Juliana Berners and her A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496) to the twentieth century: “The progress of this fly is of extraordinary interest. It starts with a black wool body, dark mallard wings and possibly a jay's blue feather as hackle. This dressing is too dark altogether in body and wing. Cotton lightens both, and gives a fairly good fly, and Chetham a still better one. His Blue Dun has no hackle it is true, but its rough body of fox fur could easily be picked out, and except for this it is almost as it now exists. But there were one or two improvements, the snipe wing, which I think is better than the starling for the sunk fly, and mole's fur body. So we get the fly of to-day.” Hills suggests that flies like the Old Blue Dun are variations of the Blue Dun, utilizing a rib in place of blended blue and yellow body. The effect either way, he implies, simulates the olive hue that is characteristic of the Olive Dun. In their Art of Angling (1757, 1774), both Richard and Charles Bowlker include dressings for the Blue Dun that includes bodies “made of a blue fur of a fox, or the blue part of a squirrel’s furr, mixed with a little yellow mohair.”

Many dressings of the Blue Dun, like those of the Bowlkers, are winged. John Kirkbride includes, as he often does, dressings for winged flies and for hackles: “when dressed as a hackle-fly, a fine feather from the underside of the wing of the jack-snipe, or moor-pout, answers very well for the hackle.  The body must be the same as described above”—“from the light blue fur of the rabbit, or the grey squirrel, mixed with a very little yellow mohair.” The “moor-pout” is a Scottish term for a young grouse.

This dressing of Vernon S. Hidy’s Blue Dun uses primrose Pearsall’s gossamer silk for the tying silk and light olive Pearsall’s gossamer silk for the rib.

While many historical soft hackle patterns use a blue fur body mixed with yellow to create an olive effect, others are dubbed on dubbed on primrose or yellow thread and include a rib. James Leisenring’s angling companion, Vernon S. Hidy, included such a dressing for the Blue Dun in Chapter 10 “Soft-hackle Nymphs—the Flymphs” of The Master’s on the Nymph (1979): “Sizes 12, 14, 16; muskrat fur on primrose silk; olive-yellow thread ribbing; two turns of blue dun hen hackle.” The Old Blue Dun that Leisenring includes in The Art of Tying the Wet Fly & Dressing the Flymph (1941) seems dressed to achieve the same effect.