Why are they Different?

The original Speys, Dees and Tays were distinguished mainly by the slender, long shanked hooks, the materials used in the construction of the body, hackle and the wing, and often by multiple flosses and tinsels used in complex ribbing patterns, as well as by the arrangement and alignment of the wings themselves. Of course there were exceptions to these criteria, but those came to be more in later flies, not the early ones. The main criteria I will introduce here in the introduction though is the wing arrangement and the long hackles. All of them were simple strip wings, to use Pryce-Tannatt's vernacular. The Speys however were winged with a pair of bronze mallard (usually) strips, humped low over the body, producing an effect like a "keelless racing-boat placed upside down." Dees usually had a narrow strip of cinnamon or white turkey, tied horizontally, splayed wide in a V, and Tays, the best way to describe them would be to send you over to http://nwflytyer.wordpress.com/ and look at Monte's rendition of the Black Dog.
Most of them used either herons hackle, tied as long as possible, or Spey cock hackle. These days heron has given way to smaller hooks and Blue eared pheasant as a sub, and Spey cock is now schlappen, our best guess at what Spey cock was back then. There was a certain group of Dees that even used eagle thigh feathers or marabou(from the marabou stork), neither of which we can use today at all. Fortunately, turkey thigh 'marabou' is indistinguishable apparently from the real thing, so we have that covered also.
I shall show examples of all of these styles, with exceptions eventually as time allows for tying, writing and posting.
For those readers wanting a complete, in-depth, up to date history with tying instructions, of the Spey flies, I urge you to visit the best site I have seen for this: http://nwflytyer.wordpress.com/tying-notes/an-introduction-to-spey-flies/ It has everything.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Dee Fly - The Tricolour

The Tricolour.  This fly, from George M. Kelson's book "The Salmon Fly" is a typical Dee fly of the day.  Long shanked, slender in profile, with widely splayed wings of cinnamon turkey tail.  It's perhaps distinguishing feature is the long grey heron hackle, where the usual was a long black heron on most standard Dee flies of the time. 
Mikael Frodin in the "Classic Salmon Flies..." 1991, states that he is unable to determine any origins for this fly but that it "originates from the first two or three decades of the 19th century."  Of this I have no doubt myself.  I have perused the books and the web and likewise find little enough mention, and nothing really helpful.  It certainly has all the hallmarks of an older pattern like most of the Dees were.  The pattern is as follows:

The Tricolour, as per Kelson
Tag: silver twist
Tail: red breast feather of the golden pheasant
Body: yellow, light blue and scarlet seal's fur
Ribs: silver lace and silver tinsel
Hackle: natural grey heron from the blue fur
Throat: widgeon (teal in large patterns)
Wings: two strips of plain cinnamon turkey

The only other author I found to mention this pattern besides Kelson and Frodin was Dr. T. E. Pryce-Tannatt in his book "How to Dress Salmon Flies"
My third edition (the 1977 ed.) lists it as the Tricolor and has the pattern as follows:
The Tricolor, as per  Dr. T. E. Pryce-Tannatt
Hook: 1 1/2 - 3 inches
Tag: silver tinsel
Tail: topping and tip of a red breast feather of the golden pheasant
Body: pale yellow, light blue and scarlet seal's fur
Ribs: flat silver tinsel and twist
Hackle: natural grey heron from the third turn of tinsel
Throat: teal
Wings: (As in Akroyd) two strips of plain cinnamon turkey

A photo will be posted here soon of this albeit slight variation from the older Kelson version.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Spey Fly- The Davidson Spey

The Spey flies with their low slung wings of bronze mallard, and distinctive Spey cock hackles (usually, occasionally heron was used) were a group of flies often described as dowdy or dull.  That they retained a place in today's fly wallets, despite being nearly replaced over a century ago by the 'gaudy flies,' and being little remembered by the more modern masters (Knox lists 16 patterns for the Spey, who else since lists all 16, and how many others were there that didn't make it into text?) is interesting.   Peculiar to look at when compared to the gaudy flies, odd to tie, as often things are reversed from what was the usual pattern, and certainly not fancy, why have they been kept around?  Resembling a loose interpretation of a shrimp or prawn perhaps to a salmon, they are deadly.  When introduced to the Pacific Northwest steelhead, they were equally as lethal.  I introduce the Spey flies with my own pattern, the Davidson Spey

The Davidson Spey
There are several salmon flies listed by various authors named the Davidson, or the Davidson something or other.  This fly is not related to any of them.  This is my own creation, based on the colours of the Davidson tartan, and named in honour of a friend of mine, and the Davidson Clan to which she is related.

The Davidson Spey
Hook: Daiichi Alec Jackson Spey #1.5
Body: 3/5 dark green seal, 1/5 dark blue seal, 1/5 black seal
Ribbing: Broad flat silver, medium oval gold, with red floss over the flat silver.  Fine oval silver crossing the hackle
Hackle: oily black Spey cock, lemon wood duck at the shoulder
Wing: Bronze mallard with light grey roots

A Dee fly -The Tartan

Francis Francis presents two flies named the Tartan in his 1867 book, "A Book on Angling," and I have taken the liberty to quote directly from that book as follows:

"The Tartan (Plate XII. fig. l,p. 357) is a strange looking fly and is rather a troublesome fly to dress. Tag, gold tinsel; tail, gold pheasant rump; body, half orange and half scarlet-red mohair laid on sparely, of course; broad-ish gold tinsel also spare; hackle, first a stripped sandy-red cock's hackle (that is, only one side of it to be used, the other being stripped off), and on top of this, the large blue-grey hackle or feather from the heron's back and rump; the larger the better, they cannot be too large, as when the hackle is laid on, the fibres are expected to extend from the very head to the farthest bend of the hook. It is an awkward feather to lay on, as are all heron's hackles, being very delicate. It should be tied in, to commence from as low down as it can be conveniently tied, so as to leave enough for a good thick brush from the head. If in winding on the hackle, any of the red hackle fibres under it be wound in, they must be picked out afterwards with the needle, and put in their proper position. At the shoulder, a teal hackle of course. Wings, two strips of silver-grey mottled turkey (the small mottled feather); these feathers are not easy to get. When this fly is finished, and before it is properly pressed down into shape, it looks like an enormous spider, or daddy long-legs; it certainly is a monstrosity, though, after all, not such a monstrosity as The Eagle,..."

He goes on to describe several Eagle patterns there-after, and eventually I will get to them, in another post.  His second Tartan, a Tay fly is much different then the above, and one I have not tied yet, but will one of these days.  Again quoting from the man himself, or at least, his book; "The Tartan (Tay).—Tag, silver twist; tail, a slice of tippet and orange-yellow pig's wool; but, peacock herl; body, pig's wool as follows, orange, yellow, bright pea-green, red, and blue grey, dressed rough and picked out; broad silver tinsel; hackle gallina at shoulder; wing, slips of grey and light-brown turkey, sprigs of yellow, red, and lavender swan with a bunch of peacock herl over all; peacock head." 

Sir Herbert Maxwell also lists the Dee Tartan, his pattern being identical to that of Francis Francis, and seen at left.  His commentary on Dees however is most interesting. He says, "This is the Dee Tartan (the Tay boasts one of its own). It may be taken as the type of the old-fashioned Dee fly dressed on a very long shanked hook. There are endless modifications of them, the long heron hackles, both black and grey, being a conspicuous feature, and they used to be invariably finished off with a teal or pin-tail hackle at the shoulder. It is difficult to get feathers long enough in the fibre to wing these long hooks, and it was an ancient practice to tie in a second pair of wings half way down the body. Flies so dressed swim very nicely."

A Dee fly - The Moonlight

The Moonlight is in my opinion one of the most sublimely beautiful of the Dee flies.  It was designed by Dr. T. E. Pryce-Tannatt, and found in his book "How to Dress Salmon Flies," A & C Black, 1914.  The pattern is listed below:
Hook: 1 1/2 to 3 inches
Tag: silver tinsel
Tail: topping and a pair of Jungle Cock feathers (back to back)
Body: in two halves- first half, silver tinsel veiled above and below with a pair (or two pairs) of blue chatterer feathers (back to back); second half, black floss
Ribs: fine oval silver tinsel over the flat silver tinsel; broader oval gold tinsel over the black floss
Hackle: a black herons hackle over the black floss
Throat: speckled gallina
Wings: (as in the Akroyd)
From the Akroyd in Pryce-Tannatt,
"Wings: a pair of cinnamon turkey tail strips (set flat) White Turkey tail strips are often used,... in which case it is known as a White Winged Akroyd"
In this rendition I have used kingfisher as I simply do not have chatterer, and kingfisher is the accepted sub.