Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Maxwell’s Red and Blue

This dressing uses a brownish hare’s fur from a hare’s neck. Taking a cue from the name of the dressing and the hackle, it assigns red tying thread.
Hook:

12-18
Thread:

Red
Tail:

Red cock hackle
Rib:

Small gold wire
Body:

Brownish tan hare’s neck
Hackle:

Red cock hackle



In the third edition of Modern Fly Dressing (1950), Roger Woolley includes a pair of flies, Maxwell's Red and Maxwell's Blue, on his list of “Devon and West Country Wet Flies.” He dresses Maxwell’s Red simply, as above:

Body.—Hare’s flax, ribbed gold wire
Hackle and Whisks.—Red cock.”


This dressing uses a brownish hare’s fur from a hare’s neck and blue tying thread, though blue dun thread would create a more impressionistic dressing. However, in the spirit of the fly's namesake, a brighter blue is likely preferable to a more subdued shade. 

Hook:

12-18
Thread:

blue dun
Tail:

Dark dun cock hackle
Rib:

Small silver wire
Body:

Brownish tan hare’s neck
Hackle:

Dark dun hackle



Woolley dresses Maxwell’s Blue with:

Body.—Hare’s flax, ribbed silver wire
Hackle and Whisks.— Medium to dark-blue dun cock.”

Although Woolley makes no explicit attribution for the fly, the namesake is Sir Herbert Maxwell, who believed that the color of a lure is less important in catching a fish than size and presentation. In British Fresh-Water Fishes (1904), Maxwell offers a reason why perch might be said to have superb vision and notes that “the colour sense in fish has been the subject of much controversy among anglers, some of whom are anxiously particular about the precise hues acceptable to surface-feeding fish. My own experience goes to convince me that salmon, and even highly-educated chalkstream trout, are singularly indifferent to the colours of the flies offered to them, taking a scarlet or blue fly as readily as one closely assimilated to the natural insect. Probably the position of the floating lure, between the fish’s eye and the light, interferes with any nice discrimination of hue from reflected rays.” He reiterates the point in while discussing salmon fishing in Fishing at Home and Abroad (1913), suggesting that “it matters not one spin of the farthing whether the prevailing hue of a fly be red or blue, yellow or black, or an equal combination of many hues; and the only important consideration is that the lure be of suitable size and be give life-like motion.” Yet for all the polite force of his assertion, Maxwell confesses: “Well, that is the conclusion to which I have been driven malgré moi; but such is the weakness of the human intelligence that I have found it beyond my strength to act upon it,” and “consequently, I suppose I spend as much time as anybody else at the outset of a day’s fishing in hesitating” over which fly to fish first.  

Maxwell’s argument might easily be dressed on a fine wire hook with pale ginger tails and hackling, a pale blue dun wing, and a body of pink silk ribbed with gold tinsel and then be cast across a choppy run on the Beaverkill or Willowemoc, after the fashion of George LaBranche and his Dry Fly and Fast Water (1914). Unlike Maxwell, however, LaBranche felt that presentation was more important than color, shape, and size.

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