Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps?

Part Two hundred-twelve

Black Pennell

The Black Pennell

Compiled By James Birkholm

Donald Nicolson from Scotland replied to a post on our Bulletin Board regarding old hook sizes and mentioned H. Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley) Pennell had other things to his credit beyond the old Pennell Scale of hook sizing. A little searching discovered the famous wet trout fly Donald mentioned. Here it is:

Quoting from Fly Patterns and Their Origins by Harold Hinsdill Smedly; "H. Cholmondeley Pennel, 1837-1913, English poet-sportsman and author of The Angler Naturalist 1864; Modern Practical Angler, 1873; The Sporting Fish of Great Britain, Modern Improvements in Fishing Tackle, and Salmon & Trout , 1885, of which he was also an editor, was the originator of that type of hackle fly known as the "Pennell Hackle." He also originated the turned down eyed and tapered hook which carry his name.

His choice and recommendation of that particular type of hackle fly was in three colors: brown, yellow and green. The body, instead of being bushy or soft, was hard, silk wrapped and thin. The hackle, tied very sparsely, was a little longer than usual.

Although he probably did not realize it when he recommended these patterns of thin bodies and lightly dressed hackles, he started something, for many tiers now recommend and say "dress sparsely," but he was the first to realize that a lightly dressed fly was oftentimes better than one too heavily dressed.

This Pennell hackle type of fly was a forerunner of the Baigent variants."

According to John Gray, Grays of Kilsyth, Lanarkshire, Scotland, the Black Pennell was "Devised in the nineteenth century by H. Cholmondeley Pennell, the Black Pennell is particularly popular in the remoter waters of the Highlands. Commonly fished as a bob fly, it is especially good during the early season when black midges are hatching."

Black Pennell recipe

    Hook: size 10.

    Thread: Black.

    Tail: Golden Pheasant tippets.

    Body: Black thread.

    Rib: Silver.

    Hackle: Black cock.
    ~ Jim Birkholm

    Credit: Photo from John Gray's Grays of Kilsyth website. We thank John for use permission.

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