Tuesday, January 1

Stewart's OTHER three flies.

The spider, a dubbed wet, and a hackled wet. This is all the direction
we were left with. 
Before you read this, realize I'm not a historian, an artist, or really very clued in. I just needed something to occupy my mind this extended weekend, and I decided this was something that I found relevant to my interests.

And, again, tied as I interperted the pattern descriptions with modern
What I'm getting at is if I'm wrong, fuck off, I followed the instructions in a 155 year old book. So, y'know, its pretty much open to interpertation. Deal with it. That aside, I'm not going to bother writing a biography of WC Stewart, because frankly all I'd do is plagiarize others, anyways. Its not like he's not a hugely pivotal figure in fly fishing, more or less advocating the use of the upstream wet fly, and helping push the spider technique of tying into the lime light.

So, whenever anyone really discusses Stewart, its all about the three spider patterns we were left with (black, red, and dun), but we were left with three additional patterns as well as these words:
The three following are the winged flies to which we are most partial... An immense number of killing flies may be made by varying the wings and body, but nothing is gained by extending he number beyond those just mentioned, and we do not believe six more killing imitations can be manufactured.
Now, he's referred to six flies, so its important to note the first three are his spiders. More interestingly, though, is that Stewart clearly believed in the appearance of life over strict imitation, and furthermore (as well documented), was so willing to put preference of technique and design over imitation, one of his famous spider descriptions (the dun) didn't even bother to note the thread colour.

Anyways, the short of it is that the guy was able to reduce his pattern collection to six, which is in stark contrast to guys who carry six different boxes of nymphs, alone. Maybe we can learn something? Let's look at all six patterns in turn...
Let's get the usual bullshit out of the way, and just list the spiders for completeness:

Stewart's Black Spider:
  • Brown silk.
  • Starling body feather.
Pretty complex, huh? There's a trick in how its tied, though, which is to do a very short body (to point, or less, really) and bind the thread and feather together, spin them around into a sort of chenille rope, and wrap the length of the body that way. This is standard for all of Stewart's spiders, in direct contrast to a "North Country Spider" which is generally a turn or two of half-stripped hackle collar only. Stewart's version is "buggier" (asshole term) and vastly more durable than a flimsy north country spider.

Stewart's Red Spider:
  • Yellow silk.
  • The small feather from the outside wing of a landrail.
Tied like the black, be damned if I know where to find a landrail feather in America, but it would appear a gingery-red feather should do the trick.

Stewart's Dun Spider:
  • No silk colour listed. Dave Hughes suggested yellow or gray. 
  • The ash or dun coloured feather from the outside wing of a dotterel.
Dotterel?! Evidently, Leonard West says the inside of a starling wing provides an ample sub for this in his 1912 book, The Natural Trout Fly and its Imitation, so sure, why not?

So, as noted, we've got three more fly patterns to talk about, and these are the three that aren't constantly bandied about by everyone, and are likely every bit as important as his spiders.

1st form, light silk.
1st form, dark silk.
1st Pattern:
  • A woodcock wing, with a single turn of a red hackle, or landrail feather, dressed with yellow silk, freely exposed on the body. For fishing in dark coloured waters, this fly may be dressed with scarlet thread.
2nd form.
2nd Pattern:
  • A hare lug (hare's ear) body, with a corn-bunting or chaffinch wing. A woodcock wing may also be put in the same body, but should be made of the small light coloured feather taken from the inside of the wing.
Notice, again, no notation of silk colour. I think its safe to assume, or at least err, to go with the same colour as the prior fly, that is yellow. That seems to be a safe bet in almost all wet fly patterns, as it will darken its tone when wet, as well as taking on a slight translucence when its wet. In the 1961 SI Guide to Wet-fly Fishing, Pete Hidy's dressing for the Leisenring Spider indicates one should use primrose thread, a pale yellow. Its suggested upon completing the tying of this fly that some of the dubbing be picked out to suggest life.

3rd form, dark silk as written.
3rd form, light silk variation.
3rd Pattern:
  • The same wing as the last fly, with a single turn of a soft black hen hackle, or a small feather taken from the shoulders of a starling dressed with a dark coloured silk.
We're back to this missing colour thing, but we're now being told to use a dark coloured silk. It is, essentially, the same fly with the addition of the black hackle turn, so I think we're safe to also make assumptions here and go with scarlet, if for no other reason than, again Leisenring and Hidy favoured this and primrose in the Art of Tying the Wet Fly, and we've already gotten a tenuous tie with these colours in the first form.

In addition to hare's ear, he also lists the fur of the "water rat," or more likely what we now call a European water vole. Like so much else, its now protected. Whereas muskrat is grey, water rat was brownish. That said, I'm pretty sure by Stewart's standards it would matter if you fished it right, anyways.

Greenwell's Glory from  Brook and River 
Trouting, with a bunched and split wing.
On tying them, contrary to placing individual slips of feather quill, Stewart suggests a different method, more akin to rolling a wing, that is bunched and split. Take the feather with which you intend to make your wing, strip off as much as you intend to use, and then fold it half, and then do it again insuring that the outside of the feather is facing out rather than in. Bind it down, split  the bunch, and then draw the silk up between the split.

Finally, to simply prove you don't need an assload of fancy shit to take pictures of flies, I thought I'd show you how quickly one can make an impromptu studio out of tying supplies. I've got an old vice holding a piece of grey foam for a back drop (grey is neutral coloured and will help calibrate the white balance as well as not taint the colours of your image), with another piece of white foam to reflect light back up into the bottom of the fly. Admittedly, you might not all have a long ass zoom to raise the level, but I suspet most of you are smart enough to find something (I couldn't find another c-clamp or I'd have used another vise). Overall lighting is provided strictly by the Ott light that sits on my desk. It ain't rocket science.

Anyways, its cold and wintery and I'm pretty sure I don't give a fuck so I think the great content blitz of the last few months has drawn to a close. Hope you enjoyed the high point of the year for this blog which happened on the first of the month. Huh.


  1. The camera lens looks pretty fancy

  2. You only said fuck twice in this post. I'm getting disappointed in you.