I think The Black Dog has one of the most elegant bodies
of all the salmon flies. It's another full dress fly that
is not all that difficult, and a good one to start out
with if you've never made the plunge into the full dress
pool. This one only took me one evening and one morning
to complete, and that included lots of breaks and down
time between stages.
Kelson gives his father credit for this fly, though the
details of its origin are murky at best. He considered
it a good high water fly, which makes sense if you think
about it, particularly well suited to the Spey and Wye
rivers. Francis Francis liked the fly too, for the Tay
in particular. Once again, there are lots of versions
of this one. I tied one of these a couple of years ago
and was kicking myself because I used wide gold tinsel
for the main rib instead of yellow floss, but I've
discovered now that there were lots of versions of the
fly done that way.
Ron Alcott has the summer duck (wood duck to you and me)
in this fly as "wing veiling," but the recipe from Kelson
shows it as part of the wing. I don't particularly like
the look of the summer duck used as a veiling, so I used
my artistic license and made it a roof here. I hope my
license doesn't get revoked. I'm not alone in dealing
with this summer duck in a different manner; Francis
Francis used it as part of the under-wing. In any case,
for me, the wood duck is the problem, and I came up with
my own solution. Yours may be different. By the way, Ron
Alcott's book Building Classic Salmon Flies
is a must have. He straightened me out on a couple of things.
It's one of the best "how to" books for these flies.
The two things that seem to be somewhat constant among
versions are the black body, the long-flowing heron herl,
and the gorgeous ribbing arrangement, though there are
small variations among versions there.
Once again I need to thank some fellow tiers who have sent
me materials over the years. Jack Montague in particular
has sent some very nice feathers from Florida, Alice Conba
some beautiful golden pheasant crest, and Reed Curry sent
me enough gut to last me the rest of my life. Thanks everyone.
Here's Kelson's recipe, somewhat of a standard if ever
there is such a thing with Atlantic salmon flies:
The Black Dog
Credits: Building Classic Salmon Flies by
Ron Alcott; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin. ~ EA
Hook: I used the Partridge Bartleet Traditional Blind-Eye
hook here, 3/0. I cut it a little shorter to conform to a
traditional hook length. Partridge gives you lots of length
to play with, if you like. These hooks are inexpensive and
have a very nice shape.
Tag: Silver twist and canary silk.
Tail: A topping and ibis.
Butt: Black herl.
Body: Black Silk.
Ribs: Yellow silk and silver tinsel (oval) running
on each side of it.
Wings: Two red-orange hackles (back to back) enveloped
by two jungle fowl; unbarred summer duck, light bustard,
Amhurst pheasant (sic), swan dyed scarlet and yellow and
Note: Though you can't see the under-wing very well
in this shot, I've used yellow-orange feathers from an Amherst
pheasant clump that I purchased recently. These feathers make
a wonderful under-wing for this fly.
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA