Our Man In Canada
July 21st, 2003

Great Canadian Flies
Cumming's Fancy

Cumming's Fancy

By Arthur James Lingren
From Fly Patterns of British Columbia, Published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

W.F. Pochin in Angling and Hunting in British Columbia (1946) writes about one of British Columbia's less celebrated fish, the cutthroat, and says:
"The Harrison Cutthroat, while not one of the largest of game fishes, is one of the sportiest. Three pounders have been taken, but he rarely obtains that weight. However, a good day's catch will include fish up to and over two pounds. Best of all he rises freely to flies and on the table is unsurpassed...

The Harrison Cutthroat is ever in search of salmon fry, upon which he feeds, and the best flies are silver bodied. Cumming's Fancy has always been a favourite...(pp. 41-42)."

This British sea-trout pattern, sold by the firm of Cumming's & Co., was introduced in the late 1920's to British Columbia's Harrison River cutthroat by the firm's Vancouver representative Walter Burgess. According to Martin Tolley in his article on the the Cumming's Fancy in the April, 1968 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine:

"After the Harrison successes Burgess scored again when he used the fly in salt water for the first time. That event took place at the mouth of the Capilano and thereafter his Fancy was firmly established in local favour."

That the fly remained in use till this day is a testimonial to its effectiveness, but keeping a fly's use alive is often the result of certain individual fly fisherman and, in the Fancy's case, John Massey deserves some of the credit. About Massey's use, Tolley's says:

"Still a winner for use off the beaches, its most assidous fan is definitely John Massely (Massey). John hooked fish after fish with the Cummings one day, and two other anglers closed in for a share of the fun. Though fishing shoulder to shoulder the others never had a touch and John kept right on catching cutthroat, calmly indifferent to the competition. It has been Massey's Fancy ever since."

Lee Richardson was another Fancy fancier and his book, Lee Richardson's B.C. (1978) says:

"We found the trout schooled up in a sheltered cove near Reifel's cabin and immediately began taking fish. It was the first time I had ever used the Cumming's Fancy, though later I was to use nothing else. The trout came up out of deep water, often three or four at a time...and the Indian was hard pressed to net one before another was brought alongside.(p. 23).

Although the Cumming's Fancy originated in Great Britain, in examining the many British Angling books in my collection, I have not found any reference to a fly by this name or that matches its description. With its adoption by British Columbian cutthroat fishers and its near three-quarter-century use here, the fly has earned a place in British Columbia's fly fisher's boxes and is rooted here to stay.

Cumming's Fancy

Hook:  Number 6 to 8.

Tail:  A golden pheasant crest feather.

Body:  Flat, silver tinsel.

Rib:  Fine oval, silver tinsel.

Throat:  Brown hackle.

Wing:  Lightly mottled turkey with golden pheasant crest feather overall.

Originator:  Walter Burgess.

Intended Use:  Wet fly for cutthroat trout.

Location:  Harrison River.
~ Arthur James Lingren

Credits: From Fly Patterns of British Columbia by Arthur James Lingren. We thank Frank Amato Publications, Inc. for use permission!

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