Well, we have two completely different flies called
the Kingfisher. I don't mean slight variations, or one
without a tail, I mean two completely different flies.
There appears to be an English Kingfisher, and an
American Kingfisher, at least that's how I've come to
think of them. The American version is found in the
literature a couple of places, In Mary Orvis Marbury's
book, and Ray Bergman's Trout. These versions
appear to be virtually identical, and that fly is shown
above. To cloud the issue further, J.Edson Leonard's
Trout doesn't show this version at all,
though one of his three Kingfisher recipes is close.
Let's talk about the American version first. Here's Mary
"Of the Kingfisher, Mr. John B. McHarg, veteran angler
and fly-maker of Rome, New York, has written:
So Mr. McHarg created the American version of the Kingfisher,
perhaps not realizing that there already was a "King's Fisher
Fly," published as a salmon fly by Richard and Charles Bowlker
in 1747. Also known as The Peacock Fly, (above) this fly has absolutely
nothing to do with the other two flies already mentioned, and
I'm sorry I brought it up.
"If I could have no dinner until I had taken a big trout
with the fly, the one particular lure I would select from
the multitude would be that which years and years ago I
christened the Kingfisher. This is the best of the chosen
four with which I have whipped the waters of America for a
lifetime, and the only one with which I ever had really
good luck casting for shad. For big trout and jumbo bass,
I do not believe a more killing fly was ever made. From
Skowhegan to Alaska it is always in season. Try it at either
end or the middle of the season, anywhere in North America,
and my word for it you will find a most killing lure, and
worthy a place in the best fly-book on the earth."
"Mr. McHarg's enthusiasm is always contagious, and we know
his to be one of the generous hearts that enjoy sharing the
good things of this world with their fellow-men; we feel a
hearty respect for his opinion, as well as for his cordiality
and generosity, of which we frequently have had proof."
Now just where does the second version of the Kingfisher originate?
I've found reference to it in three places. The oldest is a picture
of a Kingfisher sold by Ogden Smiths of London, in a catalog from
the 1920s. This version features a tail of blue hackle, perhaps
Kingfisher hackle, that's what I used in mine below. The body is
silver tinsel, as is the body of a slightly different Kingfisher
I've found in both J. Edson Leonard's Flies and E.C.
Gregg's book How to Tie Flies. I suspect this version is English,
though I'm unable to prove it at the moment. In any event, I've
tied both flies in more of an English style, with smaller heads
and on smaller hooks. The American fly above was done on a #8,
the English one below on #12 hooks.
Flies by J. Edson Leonard, How to Tie Flies by
E.C. Gregg, Ray Bergman's Trout, and Favorite Flies
and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury. ~ Eric Austin