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.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

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."

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