Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Spey Fly

FlySpoke At Grantown on Spey Beat
Many anglers of silver and chrome are traveling back in time by deploying beautifully crafted old world offerings to entice their quarry.  Flicked through the air with the legendary artistry of the single and double Spey, or the newer movements that make up Snake Roll, Snap T, Circles, Wombats and more.

But what is at the end of the line, no matter what casting style or river are ancient as well as modern Spey Flies.  By historic definition, we need to understand that flies with long flowing hackles have been passed down through a large enough number of us, so that the term Spey Fly has become generic.  There are also Dee Flies, Tay Flies and flies from every river in Scotland that had individual characteristics to point to their geographic origin.  From hook to cheek and feathers there are substantial enough differences to keep an ardent cynosure guessing.  Personally, I get a lot of joy tying and adapting them to fit my style and fishing situations.

The evolution of these flies, that has taken solidly here in the United States, are the hackle tip creations of Syd Glasso, Dick Wentworth and Walt Johnson.  I look at the work of Bob Veverka and hope that I can come close to such proficiency.  Many use the same construction techniques as the old flies with just as many variations to be considered new developments.  The main factor of the classics was determined by the available materials that could be obtained locally in the late 1800's.  So even back in the 19th century special Spey Roosters were being genetically developed for their hackles to wind on long bodies, giving the style it's unique character.  Today with the restrictions of materials we must adapt in kind.

I offer this step by step construction of a true classic on a modern platform.  Please understand, there is enough information on this subject to write a complete book.  I am offering but a minor sample of the possibilities.

The Lady Caroline
Old to New
First we need to pick a good platform.  A Daiichi  Alex Jackson Black Size 3 #2059
I like this hook because it is very close to the original hook curve.
The Tail
Most Spey Flies had no tail.  Going back to information about patterns and tying there are only but a few available. The lady Caroline gets a Golden Pheasant Red Breast Feather for the tail.  This is a very somber shade of red but has a beautiful appearance when matched with the Gold Rib.Note that the tail is not very long and will determine the length of the hackle I use later.  Also pick barbules from the same side of the stem that will curve slightly up and not the feathers tip.  Our thread is used unwound and as flat as possible in a minimalist application.
The Ribs
This fly has three ribs.  Wide Gold, narrow gold twist and narrow silver twist.  There are a number of ways that this style of ribbing can be applied.  Three parallel, two parallel and one counter crossed, or two counter and one regular crossed.  The most important technique for your ribs is to make sure that your are tying them to the hook in different and orderly places.  They must not overlap and need to be able to flow evenly in perfect angles from the first wrap.
The Body
The Lady Caroline uses Berlin Wool that is blended with one part olive and two parts brown.  The research I have done has this step in a bit of flux.  Some instruction will tell you to take the individual strands of the woven wool and twist them together before tying in to the hook.  To me a blend means to take the wool in the appropriate quantities and pull it apart to create a dubbing.  I truly don't know if this is what was done at Castle Grant, so long ago, but it is my conclusion.  I make sure that the dubbing is very tight and wound forward to just before where the head of the fly will be.
The Hackle
What was available for the construction of this fly was Heron.  If you are lucky to see a true Heron feather you will understand the magic of movement it makes in the water.  Heron is illegal in the United States, but can be purchased and used in other countries.  My feather of substitution is the natural gray Blue Eared Pheasant.  This feather is beautiful so long as the quality is in order.  You must look at the tips and the suppleness of the stem.  First decide how full you want the hackle to be.  Use both sides of the stem, by folding them back, for full profiles or strip the right side barbules for a lighter wispy look.   Tie in by the stem at the head of the fly judging your turns so that as much of the tip is used.  Make sure that you are back from the eye as you do not want a heavy build up at the head.  Wind the flat gold and silver ribs to the front and tie off.  Wind your hackle back to the gold rib tie in and secure the hackle with each turn of rib moving forward.  Trim the hackle.
The Throat
Again we will use a Golden Pheasant Red Breast Feather.  For this fly tie it in as a collar, pull down and secure.  If any of the barbules are a problem sticking up then just carefully trim from the top.  Stroke them down to create a beard.
The Wing

There are a few different ways to tie in a Spey Fly Wing.  As well there are a number of different materials that can be used.  The look of a Spey wing when compared to the look of a Dee wing is a key factor in this construction.  Besides the total somber color scheme of Spey flies, the shell back application is key.
Pick two matching Bronze Mallard feathers and remove the short sides.  Find the sweet spot and separate with a bodkin six barbules from each that will be the apposing wings.  The barbucells will hold these barbules together as you  handle them.  Work slowly and carefully.  You can apply together or one at a time.  If you do one at a time then make sure that the far side is placed first and then the one closest to you.  The method of wrapping is a two loose wrap and then tighten by pulling the thread straight down.  Make sure that the wing is not wrapped and pulled away from you as you tighten.   I also make sure that I am applying these wings on a slight build up at the front of the hook.  Any bump behind your thread point will make the wing flare up and out.  You want these wings to lie as flat as possible on the top of the body.  If the hackles are in the way then pull them down or carefully remove.
The Head
You want to make sure that the head of the fly is as small as possible.  If you wrap forward and then back with as few turns overlapping as possible you will be able to tie off at the bottom back of the head.  Four coats of clear head cement and you are ready to cast in the old Scottish Tradition.
The New
Now use your imagination.  Here is the same construction using different materials.  The pattern was tied in the style of Syd Glasso but has all the same elements of how old flies were tied.   

For Reference
Spey Flies - How to Tie Them by Bob Veverka
Spey Flies & Dee Flies by John Shewey
Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin

Friday, October 16, 2015


We are going to be fast approaching some late winter fishing in New York.  Before you know it March and April will seem close at hand and you might want to be ready.  Here are a few items to think about.

#10-When nymphing leave your fast action rod in the car, the softer more shock resistant the better, those fish are crazy
#9- Get to the river well before dawn, you will be lucky to be first
#8-3X Fluorocarbon works fine using a FlySpoke Knot at the fly and a Double Surgeon leader to tippet, lighter will get you a few more hook ups but you won't stand much of a chance
#7-Change flies every 15 casts
#6-Have enough flies with you to give patterns that work to others, you will receive in kind
#5-Visit all the local fly shops, spend money at each, and ask the same questions looking for consistency
#4-Constantly check your leader for damage
#3-If you are swinging flies always choose the harder to access less frequented side of the river
#2-Let your fly dangle in the current at the end of each swing
And the #1 thing to remember while fishing Steelhead on the Salmon River in New York

 You are but a humble participant in a game that will require all the skill you can surmount when a big November Steelhead decides it is the boss..........  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

On The Bridge

Pro Series 
11'0" 4wt. Switch 
Triple Epoxy - Fleur de lis Butt Cap - Titanium Guides - All Burl Cork

Monday, September 21, 2015

High Stick Switch Rod

Here is my new 4 piece true 3 weight High Stick Switch Rod.  Can't think of a better tool for medium water where tippets are light and the fish range into the 25 inch category.  Light in hand yet at 10' 4" when the removable bottom grip is in place and a pleasure to fish.  This one has my signature Fleur de Lis on bottom grip, titanium guides and triple epoxy grip treatment.  Complete with aluminum tube and sock.  Crafted in the USA by William.  $475.00 plus shipping.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

What Makes A Great Salmon Fly?

I guess the answer should be an easy one.  It should be a fly that catches fish and leave it at that.  But I really think it should be something much more.  There is an extra value to some Atlantic salmon flies that have stood the test of time.    While some hot patterns will come and go, a number of these classics seem to hang on for generations.

Who would deny the ability for a White Wing Akroyd or Lady Caroline to catch a fish on any river in the world.  Or the power of a size eight Blue Charm.  For some time using the Green Machine, a relative new comer, seemed like you were cheating.  However, those days are gone because the Green Machine can be like magic some times.  Add the white tail and you have a real winner.

The thing that makes all the difference for me is how a certain fly will make me feel.  A fly that offers me an added touch of confidence and might be the difference between success and failure.

Do you rise up as royalty when you tie on a big and beautiful Green Highlander?  I do.  Some days I choose a fly that makes me feel good and the only change I will make all day is to a different size of the same fly.  Often when 7pm rolls around I open my fly box and automatically put on a Black Dose.  It is just that way sometimes.

Well, I have made a new version of an old fly that makes me feel great to use.  This spring I fished Dick Eastman's, Dick's Killer for trout for the first time.  I saw a post on a fishing chat forum about the fly and started to tie a few, and a few more followed.  The fly caught many large trout and Lanlocked salmon and always was responsible for the largest fish of the day.  There is something about the way the colors reflect off each other that gives the fly a wonderful look while swinging.  So I have taken this streamer pattern and converted it to be a standard Salmon fly as well as a Spey style fly.

I just have a feeling about this pattern, and I'm going to give it a real work out the end of the month on Matapedia.  Maybe it will catch the largest salmon as well as trout.


Monday, August 3, 2015

Name Brand Spey Rod Blanks

In addition to my fast action FlySpoke blanks, I now have available a nice selection of Sage, Winston, Orvis, TFO, Rain Shadow and T&T blanks for your custom build.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Spey & Switch Class At Tall Timber Lodge

Way up in the Great North Woods in Pittsburg, New Hampshire sits one of the best lodge experiences available. I am very proud to announce that I will be teaching two Spey & Switch classes at Tall Timber Lodge. The May class was fully booked, and now a second class is being offered on September, 19. What a great time to be swing and dangling flies on the Connecticut River system to big browns and landlocked salmon. This class is going to book fast so if you have any interest please call the lodge.  

For more information on class availability or class creation at your location please contact me at  For information about the September Tall Timber class please contact

Thursday, July 2, 2015

--NEW--Pro Series Fly Rods

Available in 35 High Modulus Fast Action and Light. Single, Switch and Two Hand Fly Rods. 
All custom built and crafted with pride in the USA.  Start your build today.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Best Of Both Worlds

The problem with using a switch rod for nymph fishing is the weight.  Even a commercial 3 weight is really a 5 or 6 weight.  This is because the two hand rod fly line industry dictates the weight of the lines, calls them what they want and the rod companies follow suit.  For single hand lines the fist thirty feet is what determines the weight classification.

I have developed two new rods for the trout and landlocked salmon angler who wants to have full versatility while on the water.  Increased distance of casting and mending and a real switch rod concept.  Each is based on a true 2, 3, 4 or 5 weight power according to AFFTA yet has all the added ability of a two hand rod.  Also having a length that will not cause shoulder fatigue when single hand casting is desired. Feeling the take and excitement of the play is so important.

They are both built on a 10 foot blank platform.  These are IM6 medium action rods that will allow the shock absorbing give necessary when playing a big fish on very light tippet.  The choice is a removable bottom grip that extends the rod to be 10' 4" or the 10 foot blank with full custom grip that has a static mini bottom grip. Plenty long enough for two hand fulcrum pull when swinging.

So, if you are looking for that perfect nymphing stick that will quickly change into a swinging stick and with only a line change be a dry fly rod then these two versions will be a sure hit.

FlySpoke builds custom fly rods in many other designs for your exacting requirements.  We take the time to create that perfect stick that will be the most versatile for where you fish.  If you would like to explore the possibilities of creating that build I would be happy to offer you a high quality fly rod, made in America at what seems to be an imported price.

Monday, March 30, 2015

I Remember Atlantic Salmon In Maine

As my years have turned into real time, I have been reflecting on important moments.  In my angling life there is one that stands out above others and happened during the early 1970's in Maine.

The Narraguagus River is a Queen of waters among salmon rivers.  She has all the components that make for strong shouldered fish like those of the Matapedia and Moisie.  This is a river of Salmon and very few Grilse.

It was not my first year in pursuit of a Salar encounter.  I had been traveling to Maine in late May and June for three years and visited most of the other rivers with major runs.  Penobscott, Sheepscot, Pleasant, Dennys and Machais had all received some time with no takers.

I arrived in Cherryfield late in the day and spent the night in a local motel.  The rain had been coming in buckets and was not giving up.  The river would be in full glory and sounding a dark rage.  Reality was far more harsh than my words.  Even with such conditions the casters were lined up at the Cable Pool.  Other pools down river were available but most anglers would put their rods in order and wait their turn on this highly productive water.  I seem to remember hours between rotations at times.

On this day I decided to cross the rail trestle below the pool and fish from river right.  My 8 1/2 foot Fenwick glass 8 weight would be a limited match for a raging river that offered little back cast room.  Sinking line and a huge Mickey Finn was my set up.

As the rain continued, I made cast after cast shooting out as much line as possible and then letting the heavy current take more line down river through my fingers.  This is a technique that I now use to control the side ways speed of my fly in faster water.  In the middle of a swing it finally happened.  I had a salmon on my line in a raging river with no less that thirty people lining the banks.  The show was on.  The fish jumped multiple times, screamed down river, bored its way to the opposite bank where I thought it had wrapped a rock,  coxed close at hand on a heavy leader and finally came to net.  I then did what seemed natural.  I removed the hook quickly scampered back to the river and let the fish go.  What a thrill.

You could have heard a pin drop!

Now, today we call it 'Live Release' and before that 'Catch & Release' and up in Maine in 1973 they called it 'I can't believe he let it go'.  I remember one fellow coming up to me and telling me that if I am going to release a salmon that I should not have used the net.  I have hand tailed many fish for myself and others, removed the hook and having the catch on it's way in a matter of moments since.

I think for many that day it was the first time they experienced the release part of the equation.  The following year I made a stop at L.L. Bean for supplies and a fellow said, "Hey, you're that guy who let the Salmon go up on Naraguagus."  I proudly said, "Yes I am".

Sadly, the salmon of the cable are now visions in my mind.  I Remember Atlantic Salmon In Maine.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

High Stick Switch Rod, Nymph or Swing?

I have been fishing my medium action high stick nymphing rods for about ten years now.  The advantage over what I see most anglers using is just amazing.  Longer drag free drifts, easier mending and control as well as effortless casts.  I carry two different leader set ups.  One for nymphing with or without indicator and then a collection of poly and versi leaders for when the swing is the thing.  I make these rods in a number of configurations from 10 feet to 11 feet with removable or static bottom grips.  $325.00 to $450.00  If you would like any further information please contact me at

Friday, March 20, 2015

Can Instinct Be A Learning Process?

A while back,  I received a phone call from a very good friend and highly experienced angler.  He called to tell me about his day fishing and the events that happened.  In great detail, he told me of the five hook ups through the day and how and where.  I was really happy for his good fortune and wished I had joined him.  The important fact was that he remembered every aspect of what occurred.

Any day in February, that you have five hook ups is a great day to me.  I then asked how his partner did.  "He didn't get any to take" he said.  "We were fishing the same water with the same flies and I just can't explain why.  He has all the passion and desire and did work hard, but just did not connect."

Well, I think I can explain exactly why and it has to do with what I call Learned Instinct. Fish have instinct that is extremely powerful.  The slightest thing out of place will freeze them from moving, let alone take a fly.

Some of us will go through an entire day and not give a thought as to what is happening under the water.  Some of us will watch with great concentration as our line moves with the flow.  Some of us could close our eyes and feel every move the line is making.  When you get to that point you have achieved Learned Instinct.

The angler who throws out his line without thought is relying on luck.  The angler who watches every movement is learning.  The angler who can feel has learned what is right and makes it happen without thought.  Sort of like a basketball player who has achieved spontaneous action.  No premeditated thought goes into the process but the result is a basket.

The difference in my friend and his partner is the number of hours of careful attention paid to what is happening at every moment.

The moral to this story is that you need to fish a lot if you want to be successful.  Not every day will produce the catch, but your chances increase with every moment you are willing to pay attention.