Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Waspe Flye; Wasp-flie; Wasp Fly; the Bee

This dressing substitutes a grizzly hackle for raptor hackle and assigns silk button hole twist for the ribbing, as well as the yellow tying thread for dressing the fly overall.
Silk buttonhole twist, Coat's & Clarks 223 yellow, size D
Raw Black Welsh Mountain wool
Dingy dun grizzle hackle

Flies tied to mimic bees are immediately recognizable date as far back as historical dressings like the Brown Hackle. Dressings of wasps and bees, like many terrestrial flies, tend more toward generalization than flies tied to represent water-born insects. However flawed the assumption might be, fly tiers seem to think trout will respond better to a strict representation of insects they see underwater all the time, but only need a suggestive pattern to represent terrestrials. Whereas dressings of the Small Ant or Black Ant focus on a pronounced thorax and abdomen, and beetle dressings like the Bracken Clock assign iridescent peacock herl to suggest wing cases and abdomens, wasp and bee dressings typically focus on two key traits, the insect's abdominal barring and its wing coloration. This focus has not changed much since the late middle ages. Dame Julianna Berner’s A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496), for instance, provides an early instance of such considerations: “The body of blacke wull & lappid abowte wt yellow thread: the winges of the bosarde.”

In Part II of The Compleat Angler (1676), Charles Cotton includes a very similar Wasp-flie as the third dressing for July: “We have likewise this month a Wasp-flie, made either of a black Cats tail, ribb’d about with yellow silk, and the wing of the grey feather of a Mallard.” Likewise, John Turton includes a hackled dressing of the Wasp Fly in his Angler’s Manual (1836), which he also dresses for July: “made with light brown silk: wing, starling’s underwing feather; body, brown bear’s   hair, ribbed with yellow silk.”

William Blacker includes a slightly different dressing for a Bee —the standard dressing, he claims, for all bee or wasp patterns—in The Art of Angling (1843):

“Body, Yellow tail, then brown, then black.
Legs, Black-red hackled, at the head.
Wings, Hen pheasant, or partridge wings.”

Despite including dressings for a variety of terrestrial categories in his List of Natural Flies (1843), Michael Theakston emphasizes other terrestrials - house flies, beetles, and ants. Alfred Ronalds, likewise, does not include a yellow and black barred bee in his Fly Fisher’s Entomology (1836), though both Theakston and Ronalds include an Orange Fly, dressed to imitate a small orange wasp.

In Favorite Flies and their Dressings (1892), Mary Orvis Marbury lists the Bee as no. 98. Its dressing includes the wings and familiar chenille body associated with the less imitative dressings of bee flies as attractor patterns. She notes that “imitations have been made of bees since early times with no special restriction as to material, so each maker has chosen his own.” Regarding the Bee dressing she includes, Marbury explains that it “was first made by C. F. Orvis in 1878, for use in streams west of the Mississippi River. The peculiar burnished effect of the upper feather of the wild turkey used for the wings, and the alternate rings of chenille which permitted a bulky, bee-like body without too much weight.” Granting the imperfections that always attend reproductions of color plates in historical texts, the Bee Marbury depicts on Plate M - Trout Flies has a chenille body of alternating olive and gold rather than brown or black and yellow. Paired with the brown "wild turkey" wings and the brown furnace hackle, the lightweight, "bulky" chenille body was probably less representative of a bee than a grasshopper in the large "streams west of the Mississippi."

In Wet Flies (1995 and 2015), Dave Hughes provides a dressing of a classic winged wet fly, the McGinty, which seems related to Marbury’s dressing of the Bee:

“Hook: 2x stout, size 10-14.
Thread: Black 6/0 or 8/0 nylon.
Hackle: Brown hen.
Tail: Scarlet red hackle fibers under teal flank fibers.
Body: Yellow and black chenille, wound together.
Wings: White-tipped mallard secondary wing quills.”

1 comment:

  1. Neil, glad to be back among the blogging crowd again. Been away for awhile taking care of some health issues and getting a little extra time with the family. I have missed a lot on your blog so I have some more reading to do. Look forward to reading more of the Soft Hackle history. I am getting more and more into tying them and fishing them. Stop by my new blog when you get some time and say hello! I have added your blog to my blogroll.