Our Man In Canada
September 29th, 2003

Anatomy of a Fly
Claret & Black

By Art Lingren

It was on a 1983 September day on the Coquihalla that my thoughts jelled regarding this pattern. After returning home, I scribbled down the pattern listing on a piece of paper and after picking up all the ingredients I dressed the first specimen.

I like the finished product, dressed on a number 2 Wilson dry-dry salmon hook. I tied up a half dozen more for my next trip to the Coquihalla, named it Claret & Black as I taped the first fly and wrote its details into my pattern book. Then my thoughts turned to how this fly came into being.

One day in late August, 1983, up on the Dean River, Peter Broomhall and I were talking fly fishing. I recall making the statement that there had been about eight minds of notable anglers and fly tiers who had influenced my thouts on the development of a fly that I call Black and its variation Green-Butt Black. Later I wondered about my statement so with this new fly - Claret & Black - I decided to write down the names of the anglers/fly tiers. I was surprised by the number - George Kelson, Captian J.W. Hale, Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt, A. Bryan Williams, Arthur Woods, Rod Haig-Brown, Clark Van Fleet, R.V. Righyni and John Ashley-Cooper - nine in total.

The old tiers - Hale, Kelson, and Pryce-Tannatt - through studying their books taught me the machanics involved in tying a classic fly, which complements the classy fish I angle for - the steehead. On many of my floating-line flines, I incorporate tips, tags, butts and body hackles in the traditional Atlantic salmon tying style. Although the fish could care less about such things, it pleases me to catch fish on well-dressed flies.

Because I prefer to fish for summer steelhead, if the river conditions are suitable, with a floating line I wanted the style of fly to match the sparsely dressed tied of A.E.H. Wood.

I decided on a claret body beacuse of a statement made by A. Bryan Williams in his book Rod and Creel in British Columbia (1919), where he stated that a Claret and Grouse fly was better for steelhead than a Jock Scott or a Silver Doctor.

I chose a gold tip and rib because they complimented the body colour. Oval tinsel over flat for two reasons. First, the fabric core of oval tinsel was not as easily severed by the fish's teeth. Second, by nesting the hackle stem next to the oval tinsel, it proved good protection from the fish's teeth. The orange tail because Rod Haig-Brown wrote many times that winter steelhead seemed to have a preference for orange. In reverance to The Man, I gave the fly an orange tail.

I wanted a body hackle to give the fly extra movement, which better represents a living thing, as described by Kelson is The Salmon Fly (1895) and reiterated by Clark Van Fleet in his book Steelhead to a Fly (1951). A black hackle was chosen because it too complemented the body colour. To keep the tie sparce, one side of the hackle was stripped.

For the throat I decided on the barred flank feather from ei8ther the pintail or widgeon duck. I believe that as water flows through and fluctuated the fibres of barred feathers, a better illusion of movement and thus a more lifelike appearance is achieved.

There was only one choice of colour for the wing - black. During the summer prior to tying this fly, I bought John Ashly-Cooper's book, A Salmon Fisher's Odyssey (1982), and when it first arrived I thumbed through it and read the section on flies. In one of his statements on fly winging he said that if he had to choose just one colour for the wing of a fly it would be black. That pleased me because it confirmed my thoughts on the subject and black it was for my new fly. I wanted a fine hair that fluctuates well even in the slightest of currents for the wing and chose squirrel tail.

A black Cellire varnished head adds the last touch of class. The product was a dark-toned fly that will give a good silhouette when observed from below with the sky was a background, similar in appearance to those flies that suit R.V. Righyni's silhouette pattern description in his book Advanced Salmon Fishing (1973).

The first day I used the fly - September 15, 1983 - up on the Coquihalla, I managed to hook and land one 24-inch steelhead and six rainbows from 10 to 16 inches. This was on my original tie which I retired and mounted. I have been using the Claret & Black on and off for the past 12 years and am pleased with its performance.

Claret & Black

    Hook: Number 2 to 6 low-water salmon.

    Tip: Fine oval, gold tinsel.

    Tag: Claret floss.

    Tail: A small, red-orange, hen, neck feather.

    Butt: Black ostrich herl.

    Body: In two sections: rear third of claret floss with the remainder of dark claret seal's fur.

    Rib: Medium gold, oval tinsel.

    Hackle: From second turn of tinsel a black hackle with one half stripped off to maintain sparseness.

    Throat: Two turns of widgeon or pintail flank.

    Wing: Black squirrel.

    Head: Black Cellire varnish.

    Originator: Art Lingren.

    Intended Use: Floating-line fly for summer steelhead.

    Location: Coquihalla River [B.C.].

Credits: Article from Fly Patterns of British Columbia by Arthur James Lingren, published by Frank Amato Publications.

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