This fly is one of those wet flies that have a palmered
hackle on the body. These, I must confess, have given me
fits in the past. It's funny, because I've tied hundreds
of dry flies with palmered bodies and never had a problem.
When I would get to the wets however, I always tried to
use hen hackle, and it just didn't work well for me. The
flies really came out shaggy looking, with hackle everywhere,
and hackle that was always too long, or so I felt. Just
recently I've switched to dry fly hackle for the palmered
bodies. I gave myself permission to do this because I asked
Alice Conba about palmered hackle, and she told me she uses
cock hackle on the bodies of her wets. That was good enough
for me. I'm one happy camper now, and like the look of the
hackle much better. We do the same thing with the full dress
salmon flies, why not wet flies too? Of course, I've used hen
for the main hackle in front.
I have found no information on the Denison, short of a picture
of the fly in Trout and the recipe there and in
Flies. The recipe is similar both places, but J.
Edson Leonard leaves out the tip and tag. I've taken Ray Bergman
at his word, and tied the green, yellow, and scarlet part of the
wing on as a "topping," as you would do with bronze mallard on
a salmon fly. The tail is done as shown in the illustration in
the book, which is slightly out of order from the recipe. The
recipe might have been easier, as marrying in the wood duck is
tough. But I've never taken the easy path in the past, why start
now? The fly is spelled differently in the two books, "Dennison"
in J. Edson Leonard's Flies. I've shown the Bergman
version, with the Bergman spelling, and here is the Bergman recipe:
Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman;
Flies by J. Edson Leonard ~ EA
Body: Orange Floss.
Tip: Green floss tag, and gold tinsel tip.
Tail: Barred mandarine on crimson, yellow and green.
Hackle: Yellow tied palmer.
Wings: Crimson, yellow and green topping barred mandarin.
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