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.


  1. Nice blog, coming from the Spanish tradition of wet fly fishing it is interesting to see how similar are some of the dressings. Although the way we dress the flies is quite different. THis particular one would be equivalent to our "Butano". Those familiar with the perdigon nymphs might have come across this name,since many perdigons are christien after their traditional wet fly equivalents.

    1. I like the clean lines and sparseness of of the butano perdigon style nymphs - are they ever hackled?

  2. Hi Neil: Yes, the classic “Leonese” wet-flies are tied with slim silk bodies, like the “perdigons” and cock de Leon feathers. A quick google search of “ahogadas leonesas” would show a bunch of patterns. But the following link is a little gem. This is the work of Dr.Pariente from the 1960´s where he showed the “Manuscript from Astorga” (1624) and the “Manuscript of Juan Peña” (1825).
    In addition to reconstructing the old patterns, he also details a series of “modern” patterns using different types of cock de Leon feathers. These patterns are also popular in France, where they were brought over by Louis Carrere. Carrere lived and fished extensively in Spain before our Civil War. In 1934 he published in Spanish a book on modern techniques of wet-fly fishing, which he latter published in France “MOUCHE NOYEE, Pêche sportive de la truite dans les rivière et les torrents. Louis Carrère 1936”. Carrere details quite well-how to dress these flies. Some of this "montagne espagnol" is also described by Pelletier in his book on wet-fly fishing.
    Actually this fly “Sand fly” would actually be closer to the “Cascuda” which can be tracked to the 1624 manuscript. This fly is sometimes dress with a doble wing to be fished as “saltona” (dropper) for evening fishing. Nowadays most people fish these flies are team of flies with a “buldo” floater and a spinning road, but they are also very effective with a classic fly.

  3. Here is another link
    The key is to build a conical body finished in a sharp end at the base of the cone (this guy uses a forceps for that). This helps to lift up the fibers, but it is a little tricky. An alternative is to use the cock the Leon fibers in a similar fashion as the deer hair when you tie a comparadun. These tricks are described in Carrere´s book. The key to the spanish dressing is that the hackle does not form a complete fan around the hook. For classic wet fly fishing (english style) the angle between the cock fibers and the body is between 60 and 45 degrees. But having fished the other style in North American rivers I can assure you that they are quite effective too....Now that you can get cock the Leon feathers in the USA. Given them a try.