Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Thornfly Dun; Landrail Dun; Dark and Light Sedge; or, Silverhorns

This dressing substitutes American woodcock undercovert for landrail undercovert. It is dressed more heavily to align it with William Blacker's Red Palmer Fly, which T. E. Pritt lists as a precedent. It finishes the fly in front of the head rather than behind it. 




Orange silk

American woodcock undercovert

Peacock herl

Two distinct strains of dressing the Thornfly Dun seem to exist. Drawing the connection between these two pattern groups makes two assumptions: first, that the name Thornfly (in whatever form) corresponding with a hatching period beginning in late May or early June correlates different representations; second, that these dressings are, as the name dun often seems to distinguish, caddis or sedge flies. The more popular dressings exhibit a general orange-red cast in the bodies, hackles, and heads. They have much in common with the Light Dun that Michael Theakston describes in his List of Natural Flies (1843). However, many of the dressings also emphasize a darker overall color, with purplish black bodies and darker dun-colored hackles. Dressings for this June hatch have more in common with the Silverhorns sedge that Alfred Ronalds lists for June fishing in The Fly-fisher’s Entomology (1837). 

In the former category is the Thornfly Dun, no. 49, that T. E. Pritt includes in Yorkshire Trout Flies (1885) and its 1886 reworking, North-Country Flies:

Wings.—Hackled with a Landrail’s feather, taken from under the wing.
Body.—Orange silk.
Head.—Peacock herl.”

Pritt notes that the Thornfly Dun is “a very excellent fly in a good bold brown water on warm days in summer, from June onwards. It is a variation of No. 5 [the Brown Owl], and equally useful. Dressed with a redder feather it is the same fly as that known as Blacker’s Red.” After Pritt, Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee seem to offer two variations on the Thornfly Dun for June sedge dressings. They recommend, like Pritt, their Dark and Light Sedges for fishing from the “middle of June to the end of the season.”

Despite the reference to Blacker, Pritt’s Thornfly Dun seems more aligned to manuscript dressings like Large Thorn Fly Dun recorded by Jonathan Pickard in 1820 and printed by Robert L. Smith in The North Country Fly: Yorkshire’s Soft Hackle Tradition (2015): “Orange silk, peacock harl in the head feather from the inside of a landrail’s wing.” Smith also prints another 1820 list by William Robinson with an almost identical dressing for the Thorn Dun Larger or Landrail Dun.

This dressing uses gold Pearsall’s gossamer silk, substitutes a mixture of ginger antron and orange acrylic for orange mohair, and applies gold twist rather than tinsel.

Pritt’s attribution to Blacker’s Red is presumably to the Red Palmer Fly that William Blacker includes in his Art of Angling (1843). The color scheme falls into the tawny category, essentially the same as Pritt’s Thornfly Dun, except that Blacker's fly is dressed as a palmer:

“Hook ff.—Body, Red or orange mohair, with gold twist or tinsel up the body.
Legs, Two red hackles, wound on from the tail up to the head, in rotation with the tinsel.”

Blacker’s Red Palmer is the same as the Red Palmer that John Kirkbride includes in his Northern Angler (1837), except that Kirkbride recommends occasionally using gold wire as a rib.

This dress of James Chetham's Thorn-Fly dresses a winged fly into a soft hackle, using dove covert for the light gray mallard's wing.  It uses a mixture of black antron and raw Black Welsh Mountain wool for lamb’s wool.

In the latter, darker category of Thornfly dressings is James Chetham’s Thorn-Fly. In his Angler’s Vade Mecum (1681), Cheatham includes “Another Catalogue, of Flies, practiced by a very good angler,” in addition to the list he reprints from The Complete Angler (1657, 1676), that includes the Thorn-fly as the first choice for May. Chetham’s dressing calls for a “Dubbing of Black Lambs Wooll, and Dub’d with Black Silk, Wings of a Mallards light Grey; Note that all the Feathers got from Mallards for Wings, ought be got from a wild Mallard, and not from a tame one.” Stephen Braithwaite maintained a manuscript fly list, which includes a Thorn Fly dressed like Chetham’s, that Robert L. Smith reprints.

Chetham’s early dressing seems to provide a precedent for the Alfred Ronalds’s Silverhorns a century and a half later. Ronalds notes that the Silverhorns “is extremely abundant upon some waters, and is well taken both by the Trout and Grayling until the end of August throughout the day, and principally in showery weather. The figure represents the female. The male has black horns.*

Body. Black ostrich herl tied with black silk, and dressed off.
Wings. Feather from a wing of the cock blackbird.
Legs. Small black cock's hackle.
Horns. Grey feather of the mallard.

To make it buzz, the body is ribbed with silver twist upon the black ostrich herl, and a black hackle wrapped all down.

* There is a variety upon some waters, which has a very shining highly polished jet-black wing.”