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..........