In 1936 King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallis Simpson, an
American, wished to marry. Because Mrs. Simpson was
divorced, with two husbands still living, the English
government took the view that she could not be Queen.
The then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, had the duty
of informing the King that popular opinion would be
opposed to such a marriage. King Edward was also
warned that the resignation of the government was
a possibility. On 16 November 1936, the King announced
that he would renounce the throne. The press had a
field day, but to cut a long story short, Edward VIII
succeeded to the throne in January, 1936.
At this time the 'Killer' style trout fly was developed
and a name was required. To a trout, the fly is very
attractive; it's a fly worth having; a fly that would
merit a trout giving up its kingdom for, hence the
'Mrs. Simpson' trout fly was christened.
The fly is dressed in the 'Killer' style, a distinctive
way of fly dressing in which feathers (usually 'spade'
shaped breast feathers) are tied flat on both sides
flanking the hook in a streamer fashion. Both New Zealand
patterns; Mrs. Simpson and the Hamill's Killer (Bill Hamill)
were some of the earliest flies dressed on this style.
Other well known early flies in this style include a South
African pattern, Walker's Killer, and the American fly,
the Hornberg (Frank Hornberg).
As with all flies tied in the 'killer' style, the number
of feathers utilised depends on the hook size. For sizes #8
to 12 hooks, only 4 feathers, two on each side tied in at
the head. As the hook size or shank length
increases, so too does the number of feathers needed. For
sizes # 6 to 8 flies, 8 feathers are used, two pairs at
the head and another two pairs at the midpoint of the hook
shank. The big flies on sizes #2 to 4 hooks will require 3
pairs of feathers along each side. That's 12 feathers per
fly, two pairs at the head, two pairs 1/3 of the length
down the hook and another two pairs 2/3 of the length down
the hook shank.
Whatever the size of the fly, all the pairs of feathers
should be matched and dressed concave sides facing inward.
Picking feathers from a whole skin is the only way to go;
this is because the feathers can easily be picked and
matched. As you can imagine these flies are very difficult,
fiddly and time-consuming to make. Just matching and
stripping the base of each feather takes quite some time.
Just what this fly is taken by trout for is difficult to
say. It supposably imitates a small fish, or a frog, or
even a dragonfly. The fly can be fished near the surface,
or deeper using an intermediate line with a slow figure
of eight retrieve. Weighted versions are also good fished
deep. Because it is a big fly it can also be stripped fast.
In South Africa the Mrs. Simpson apparently does well when
the fish are feeding on small insects. In Australia and New
Zealand the Mrs. Simpson is a highly regarded fly for both
rainbow and brown trout.
(unknown origin, several claimants from NZ's North Island)
Note: This method is for dressing a size #6 hook, using
4 pairs of feathers. If weight is required, it can be wrapped onto
the shank before beginning the fly.
Hook: #2 to 12 - 3X long shank.
Thread: Black 6/0.
Tail: Black Squirrel.
Body: Red or Yellow wool, floss or chenille.
Wing: Rump feathers of the male ringneck pheasant. Often
the church window feathers are used instead of the rump feathers.
Head: A well-formed varnished black head.
1. Tail of squirrel or possum fur is tied onto hook,
the tail is usually kept short and fairly thick.
Optionally a tag of golden pheasant tippets is
sometimes tied in along top of tail.
2. A rear body section is formed approx one third down
the hook shank in length and tied from wool, floss or
chenille. Different patterns call for different colours
but red (night) and yellow (day) are most popular.
3. Two matching feathers are chosen for the rear of
the fly. The paired feathers are tied on each side
of the hook, taking care to keep them touching at
the top and slightly splayed at the bottom, tent
shaped when viewed from the rear of the fly. The secret
to all 'Killer' style flies is to ensure the feathers
lay flat and even along the body, otherwise the fly
may have a tendency to spin. Therefore in order to keep
the wings flat when casting, the body is made thin.
4. The front body section is now formed approx half
the shank in length. Remember to keep it slim so that
the feathers don't bulge out.
5. Four feathers, which are all more or less of same
size and shape, are chosen for the front body of the
fly. When laid against body at the tie in position,
the feathers should be slightly shorter than the
existing hind body to give a slight tapering effect.
Tie them in two to each side, again slightly splayed
top to bottom.
6. Tie off a neat head, whip finish and apply head cement.
~ Alan Shepherd