Fly Like an Eagle – Part 1
been a student of fly tying for nearly 40 years, with no graduation yet in sight. But I have learned that flies, or at least
anglers’ taste in flies, have changed a lot in that time.
However, sometimes a look backward shows
that a new fly design is really a very old idea. An example is the marabou salmon fly featured in last week’s column about fall salmon fishing. I’ve no doubt
that recent creations like the Grape, Slime, or the brash Cardinelle are effective when fished slow and deep in very cold
water, but you’ll not see one on my line.
My studies have instilled in me a traditional view of salmon flies. I know what I like. These flies are far from traditional.
I couldn’t fish them with confidence, and I believe confidence and success go hand-in-hand.
However, a series of flies originating in Scotland in the mid-1800s, the eagle patterns, may share similar
characteristics. Maybe there actually is a bit of tradition in the new marabou flies after all, if only by chance.
This is from Bob Veverka`s Spey Flies and How to Tie Them,
Stackpole, 2004, Mechanicsburg, PA.
“The eagle patterns
are a small group of flies set apart from other flies because of eagle feather body hackles. The hackles were taken from the
shin of the bird, had a marabou-like texture, and were used in their natural color or dyed yellow. Eagle patterns were used
early or late in the season when the water was cold or slightly off-color.”
“The patterns were similar to Dee patterns; they were dressed on large hooks, the bodies were mohair
or seal fur, and the wings were strips put on in the Dee fashion. Some later patterns had wings similar to full-dressed flies
with married sections and tails and toppings of golden pheasant crests.”
“Contemporary fly tyers that want to tie eagle patterns can use hooks made by Partridge in size 2/0
or larger. For body hackles, use large marabou plumes, but look for hackles that have a fine stem. Hackles can be stripped
on one side for a less bulky fly. A good modern substitute for the body hackle is mottled turkey marabou in its natural color.
The colors and shades of the natural hackles range from off-white gray, tan, and brown, and many speckling or splashes that
add to their appearance and are almost identical to the original material.”
“Wings can be tied with turkey quills or other large quills such as Argus pheasant, peacock wing quills,
and bustard quills. Heads on the original flies were tied with black thread.”
“The first eagles were tied by Mr. Brown of Aberdeen, as per Francis Francis in the 1867 A Book
If I were to try a marabou
fly for fall salmon, I`d certainly like mine to have the character and traditional style of these eagle flies, so I tied one.
I like it. I`ll be proud to fish it. I`ll fish it confidently.
Maybe you will too!
Tag: Silver tinsel
Tail: Golden pheasant crest and the tip of
a golden pheasant's breast feather
Light orange, deep orange, scarlet, and pale blue seal's fur (or equivalent) in equal sections
dressed thin but
well picked out
Flat silver tinsel and silver twist
An eagle's hackle (one side stripped) from third turn of tinsel. Since eagles are highly protected and cannot be
used, an alternative material such as turkey marabou is highly recommended.
Throat: Widgeon (substitutes are mallard, teal or gadwall flank –
Wing: Light mottled grey turkey
tail strips, set flat.
Source: T.E. Pryce-Tannatt (1914) How to Dress Salmon Flies. London: Adam
and Charles Black..
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