Monday, 27 June 2011

Dyeing feathers for claret

On my return last night from the river I took the odd decision of dyeing a batch of feathers and some fur. Obvioulsy waited until the wife had retired for the night and the kitchen was my own to mess with. I had taken stock of several colours of Veniards dye last week and was eager to put this to work. I started with dark claret. I dyed a batch of french partridge, white rabbit skin, turkey boits, widgeon. grey partridge and a cock cape. I remembered how the best results with claret can be gained from working from a base colour of brown, red game or ginger cape. So I dyed a natural dark red cock cape using a 1/4 tablespoon of dark claret dye. The results were very good, for me anywhow.  I am not an overly experienced dyer of materials so I was quite pleased. A black claret is how I would describe the result.  This is what I wanted - mostly for tying wet flies such as bumbles and dabblers. You can see from the far photo below the difference between the white rabbit skin dyed claret and the red cape over-dyed with claret. I further dyed a batch of widgeon feathers (on the left of the second photo) that turned out not as expected - on the light purple side. The french patridge turned out well as usual. As above, the boit feathers will make some nice claret spinners. I have not yet decided to take E.J Malone's (Irish trout Flies) advice of using rain water for the dying bath, but I am thinking about it!  Anybody used rain water for the dying bath?

Fishing on the River Ribble

I fished the Ribble at Settle for a few hours yesterday afternoon. I knew it would be make more sense if I waited until the evening time. Yet, due to other committments, this was not possible. The river level was high. Indeed, it was gorgeous wet fly water and therefore thrilling to work the pools  as the spiders dead drifted down and across. No fish were rising. The rainfall over the last few days topped the river to a height to the point it was slightly black in colour. They say trout have suicidal tendencies under such conditions. Well not so that day, they were perfectly happy - content to look and ignore my flies. Not all together true. A few small fish were caught on the partridge and yellow, along with several missed takes. Nevertheless, it was an enoyable few hours on the river bank. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Fishing notes: on the Ribble, Yorkshire.

I spent the afternoon on the River Ribble, Settle - Yorkshire. Arrived around 11.30am. Very good conditions. Disappointed to find the river still on the low side. Yet, despite the water level, there was a palpable freshness and vitaility about the river. There were no fish rising, nor any hatch of any significance. A few sedges about. I set up with a team of small spiders, starting off with a black spider on the point, patridge and yellow (variant) on the middle and a patridge and orange on the top. I considered placing a black and silver spider or a black pennel on the point - to possibly connect with some sea trout that were supposed to be in the river but I decided otherwise.

On the third cast, I took a thump and landed the first brownie of the day on the black spider. This followed with five more fish around the 7-8inches mark, two being caught on the partridge and yellow and the rest on the black spider. No monsters - but still great fun!

Around 4.00pm just before heading off, I took off the black spider and replaced it with a Grouse and Green spider. With this spider, I was thinking along the lines of sedge nymphs. Several more small fish followed on the Grouse and Green. I then connected into a very decent fish only to come off. All together, an enjoyable day with the wets. Yet, the day was made truely special when my 4 1/2 month year old baby boy gave me (with the obvious assistance of his Mother) his first Father's day card and present (priceless!)

Saturday, 18 June 2011


On a friend's request, I have been tying some brassies in recent days with a green tag. It is one of those patterns if somebody asked you for a dozen, you would reply, 'are you sure now, is that all? It is of course, a simple wee pattern with the reputtation of being a deadly fish catcher as well -  the fly tyer's dream really! This green tag brassie has been successful for my friend when fished  as part of a team of nymphs from the boat. I'll send these off tomorrow. I must admit - I have never fished much with a brassie or caught anything with it. Yes, US readers, you read corectly! But I'll keep a few aside to have in the box and see if can I break my 'brassie duck' someday. Anyway, I could not resist tying some variants. As evident in some cases, I treat the term 'variant' very liberally. Indeed, I have maybe went 'off steer' slightly, ah well!

Brassie (Original)
Hook: Kamasan B420
Body: copper wire
Thorax: Muskrat fur

According to Dave Hughes in 'Trout Flies - The Tier's reference' (1996), the brassie was orginally tied to imitate small caddis larvae that live in fast water. Yet, it is also now used for a range of imitations - midge larvae and pupae, and even mayfly and stonefly nymphs. It was devised by Ken Chandler and Tug Davenport on Colorado's South Platte River in the 1960s. It has been suggested that the original brassie had  short piece of black heat shrinked plastic tube for the thorax and black tying thread as the body. As a footnote point, you will commonly see brassies tied with a peacock herl thorax, or with a bead-head.   

Brassie (Variant)
Kamasan B170
Body: copper wire
Rib: Black silk
Thorax: Fine black fur


  Green Tag Brassie
Hook: Kamasan B175
Tag: flou green tying silk
body: cooper wire
Thorax: Hare's ear mixed with red fox squirrel

Hairy Fat Brassie
Hook: Kamasan B420
Body: Cooper wire
First thorax: Short length of red squireel underfur
Hackle/wing: Deer hair on a dubbing wire (wound with several turns towards the body and then pushed up).
Thorax: Red squireel underfur dubbed into a tight ball

Dark Brassie
Hook: Kamasan B100
Body: Black and Cooper Wire wound together
Thorax: Squirrel underfur mixed with small amount of cooper litebrite

Rick Murphy - also of the South Platte River came up with the idea of using two colours to give a segemented body in his two wire brassie (Greenhalgh and Smalley, 2009). This creates some lovely effects and colours. Similar to above, here are a few buzzer patterns using two colours of wire for the body:

Dark Green buzzer
Hook: Kamasan B110
Tail: White organza
Body: green and black wire wounded together
Thorax: Black lite brtite mixed with muskrat
Breathers: White organza

Light Green Buzzer
Hook: Kamasan B110

Body: Green and White wire winded together

Thorax: Orange glo-brite floss followed by muskrat fur mixed with pesudo peacock herl
Breathers: CDC white strands

 JC Brassie buzzer (black)
Hook: Kamasan B100
Tag: flou green
Body: black wire wound loosly over the body
Cheeks: Jungle cock feathers tied on each side
Thorax: black SLF mixed with squirrel

Brassed off-soft hackle
Hook: Kamason B110
Body: orange and black wire
Thorax: grey seals fur
Hackle: Black hen

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Upside Down on K3A

The tying of upside down flies (USD) indictates another evolving step for me when it comes to dry fly designs. Yes, I move slowly! So what about USDs and their history? For those that are interested, this is what I gathered from the library. It is unintentionally brief. In the 1970s, Brian Clarke and John Goddard of the UK introduced a series of upside down patterns to deal with selective trout, and called it the USD series. I am unsure how sucecssful these flies were or how popular they remain today. Andrew Herd - the fly fishing historian holds the opinion USD flies did not catch on - partly because they are difficult to tie and partly because few trout are that selective. In 1972, Joe Brooks in the US introduced the Keel fly. Yet, a very similar design was pictured by J H Keen before 1886 (Proper, 1982. p.102). Then, Neil Petterson of the UK invented the Funnel Dun - detailed in his book Chalkstream Chronicile. In 1979, Partridge first made the K3A hook. These hooks were designed in Sweden by Nils Eriksson and Gunnar Johnson who were well known Swedish fly tyers. This helps the fly land upside down or point up out of the water - and less visible to the fish and with the abdomen usally touching the water's surface like the natural. Gary Lafontaine in his "Caddis Flies" recommended them for a number of Sedge dry fly imitations. In fact he has 15 dancing caddis dressings for the K3A.  He writes "an imitation of the USD hook could be effective for all types of adult caddisflies, the fly not only resting on the wing edges and body, but also skating on them. without the hook to interfere, one fly could simulate their important characteristics whether drifting drag free or moving" (page 24).  However, in later times, he revised the pattern to be tied on a standard dry fly hook. He called it the Simplified Dancing Caddis.
               In David Klausmeyer's book 'Unnaturals - a practical guide to tying with synthetics', a nice step-to-step guide is provided for tying a green drake on the K3A - which to my eyes, 'looked the business', as they say! So eager to replicate this beauty, and to know how they fish, I started hunting for these patridge K3A hooks, and hunting I did. As implied, these are not so easy to purchase in the UK. Well, not amongst the big mail order retailers anyhow. I could not see them. I suspect they may be discontinued by Partridge. I eventually found them with 'Taimen', the Polish on-line retailer.
               As you can see these are a big hook, about 2x long shank and disaportionate to the gape. This surprised me.  Thus, if you need a size 14, then an 18 K3A is appropriate. As I acquired mostly Size 12 and 14s, I decided to tie some mayfly imitations and largely worked from Oliver Edwards mayfly dressing on the K3A. The hook's unqiue shape is suitable for mayfly duns. The original dressing of Edwards Mayfly as detailed in John Robert's 'A Guide to River Trout Flies' (page 177) is: Hook: K3A, Tail: four strong moose mae or deer hair, body: equally mixed ivory seals fur and fine ivroy poly dubbing over silver lurex, rib: light brown rayon or nylon floss in two broad bands at the rear, wing: silver mallard breast or flank feather dyed pale yellow or lemon wood duck. Hackles: mixed pale blue dun and a pale lemon yellow dyed grizzle and thorax: ivory and light brown poly dubbing. 

A collection of Upside Down Mayfly Duns  on Partridge K3A hooks

Tying instructions:
1. Tie the silk up the shank of the hook to the eye
2. Tie in three/four pheasant tail fibres.
3. Tie in the silk rib.
4. Tightly dub the body up the end of the straight shank
5. Rib the body to the end of the straight shank.
6. Turn the hook upside down
7. Tie the hackle to the hook at the bottom of the bend in the shank
8. Dub the fur from the base of the hackle to form the thorax of the fly
9. Tie in the wing on the edge of the elevated curved side
10. Wind the hackle up to the wing which moves along the elevated curved side. 
11. Add further dubbing in the frontal region at the hook eye for a thorax.
12. Wipe finish

Note - in some patterns I have give one or two turns on the other side of the wing. Although you will commonly see this in other sources, this may be wrong, preventing the fly from sitting correctly on the water.

Edward's Mayfly (variation 1)
Hook: Patridge K3A, Size 10
Tail: Black Pheasant tail
Body: cream flyrite dubbing
Rib: Brown silk or floss (banded near the tail)
Hackle: Olive dyed grizzly cock
Frontal dubbing:  cream and brown dubbing mixed
Wing: Light green-olive mallard flank

Edwards Mayfly (Variation 2)
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Body: Cream poly dubbing mixed with a small pinch of olie dubbing
Rib: Brown thread
Hackle: Grizzle dyed yellow-olive
Wing: Light yellow-olive mallard flank
Thorax: cream and brown flyrite poly dubbing 

Edwards Mayfly (Variation 3)
Tail: Pheasant tail
Body: creamish poly yarn
Rib: Black tying thread doubled
Wing: Four CDC feathers
Hackle: dyed grizzle olive
Thorax: rusty olive flyrite poly dubbing

Edwards Mayfly (variation 4)
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Rib: Black thread
Body: cream poly dubbing
Wing: olive poly yarn looped
Hackle: light blue dun cock

Green Drake
Tail: olive dyed pheasant tail
Body: light/emerald green poly yarn
Rib: Black floss of thread
Wing: Green olive mallard flank
Hackle: olive grizzle cock
Thorax: olive and brown poly dubbing mixed

It appears flies on these hooks have not got a great reputation for catch rates and hook hold. I need to find out for myself. You can possibly compound the problem in the dressing. For some of the flies above, the wing is probably too close to the barb of the hook. You either ensure the wing is tied within the gape or place the wing upright near the frontal region of the hook eye. USD dries are commonly tied on standard dry fly hooks and some tiers use the Timeco TMC200 and TMC 400 for uspside down mayfly imitations. Anyway, 'food for thought', maybe! P.S. Roy Christie has an insightful article on upside down flies in 'sexy loops': Additionally, there is an useful discussion thread about Patridge K3A in this UK fly dressing forum link: