The first mention I could find on the Green
Highlander in old literature is in
Francis Francis' "A Book On
Actually the fly is described there
as the "Highlander", without the "Green".
Francis says: "I have included this fly in
the list of Ness flies, though I think it
is better for the Carron and some of the
Ross-shire rivers than the Ness. It is the
best fly you can put on the Carron."
In George Kelson's book "The
Salmon Fly"-1895, that author
attributes the derivation of "The
Green Highlander" to a Mr. Grant. There are
slight changes as the fly evolved from author
to author, but the colors yellow and green
stayed the same right to the modern-day pattern.
For the full dressings of both the Francis and
the Kelson versions, please consult their books.
The version seen here as The Fly of the
Week is from T.E. Pryce-Tannatt's
book "How To Dress Salmon Flies"
-1914. This book has been reprinted
in recent years and can be bought at a number
of the major fly fishing stores. I consider it
to be the 'bible' of salmon fly dressing. It
lists about a hundred salmon fly dressings in
all of the various types of classic flies.
The Green Highlander is certainly one of the most
famous of the classics, up there with the Silver
Doctor, Durham Ranger and Jock Scott. I am including
the dressing for the Pryce-Tannatt version below
so you will be able to acquire the materials
necessary to dress the fly yourself. The procedure
for the Green Highlander follows the dressing.
Dressing of The Green Highlander
For the tag I have taken the liberty to change it
from one of flat silver tinsel to one of silver
thread and yellow floss. It is my opinion that the
fly is more attractive when dressed in this manner.
Most modern-day dressers make the fly in this way.
Tag: Silver thread and yellow floss.
Tail: A topping and barred Summer Duck
Butt: Black herl.
Body: First quarter, golden yellow
floss; remainder, bright green floss.
Ribs: Oval silver tinsel.
Hackle: A grass-green hackle.
Throat: A lemon hackle.
Wings: : Mixed-tippet in strands;
"married" strands of yellow, orange, and green
Swan, Florican, Peacock wing and Golden Pheasant
tail; "married" narrow strips of Teal and barred
Summer Duck; narrow strips of brown Mallard over.
Sides: Jungle Cock.
Cheeks: Indian Crow; a topping over all.
Horns: Blue & Yellow Macaw.
Head: Black with silkworm gut eye.
1. Lash your twisted silkworm gut that
has been doubled with a loop formed in
the front end to the underside of your blind
eye (tapered shank) hook. Secure the gut well
with at least fifty turns of thread.
2. Tie in a length of silver thread
(fine oval or round silver tinsel) at a position
over the barb of the hook. Bind it down to the
rear a distance of about one-eighth inch, then
come forward with the tying thread to the original
tie-in point. Wrap the tinsel in four or five nice
tight turns so that no black shows through the turns.
Let the free ends of the tinsel extend up as far as
the head area of the fly.
3. Now with the tying thread hanging just
at the right of the tinsel that you wrapped,
begin binding the free ends of the tinsel to
the bottom of the hook shank up to a point about
one-quarter inch to the right of where you left off
with the turns of tinsel. Go back and forth with
the tying thread over this one-quarter inch
section to take out any uneven points in that part.
End up with the tying thread at the right end of
the one-quarter inch section.
4. Here you will tie in a section of
single strand yellow floss about eight to
ten inches long. Tie it in so that the short
end extends up to the head area (the tinsel
and floss that extends up to the head area
will serve a function that will become apparent
later). With the long end wrap the floss in nice,
close even turns to the left toward the tinsel.
Do this so that no black shows through but
also so that you don't build up any unnecessary
bumps by overlapping. Once you reach the tinsel
reverse the direction of the floss and carry it
toward the original tie in point. The object here
is to make this part of the tag perfectly smooth
so that it almost looks like it was painted on.
Once you reach the tie in point tie it off there
with two or three turns of thread.
5. The next step is to prepare a Golden
pheasant topping for tie in. The fibers
on the topping want to be stripped so that
the quill is bare except for about one inch.
Check out the picture here. You will see that
the part of the quill that has fibers on it
extends to the left about one inch. Once
prepared tie it in on top of the hook shank
with two or three turns of tying thread. Now
adjust its plane so that it is directly on top
of the hook shank and projecting to the
rear at a position about equal to the bend of
the hook or a little more.
6. Now take a section of barred Summer
Duck (most of us use barred Wood Duck today)
about one-quarter inch in width and fold it
so that the good side of the feather faces
out on both sides. Bring it up into position
so that it extends about a half inch up the
tail. Tie it in at this point with two or three
turns. You may need to do some adjusting to
make it look like the picture. Take your
time and try it several times until you are
happy with it.
7. Next you want to strip off a fiber
from a black Ostrich plume. This is tied
in by the butt end and wrapped with four
or five successive turns (nice and even
and showing no gaps) and then tied off.
8. Take a length of medium oval silver
tinsel of about eight to ten inches and
tie it into place under the hook shank just
to the right of the butt. Let one free end
extend up to the head area. Take the long
end and hold it out of the way to the left
for the next couple steps (some people use
a spring wrapped around the vise to hold
materials out of the way). Bind down the
short end of tinsel to underside of the hook
shank and come back to a position about a
quarter the length of the shank to the right
of the butt.
9. Tie in a piece of golden yellow floss
(four strand or fancy silk floss) about six
inches long. Let one end of it extend to the
head area. With the longer end start wrapping
to the left until you reach the butt. Reverse
the direction and end up at the original tie
in point. The object here is to do this in a
smooth, even fashion.10. For the next step you need to prepare
a grass-green hackle by 'doubling' it. This is
done by bending the hackle fibers with the right
thumb and forefinger after wetting them with
some spit. If you hold the tip of the saddle hackle
between the left forefinger and thumb it helps
the doubling. The object here is to force the
hackle fibers so that they form a 'V'. This is
not easy, especially for the novice. Don't get
discouraged if you can't do this perfectly at
first. I've been doing it for 20 years and I
still have trouble!
11. Once you have the hackle 'doubled' you
bring it up to the other side of the hook shank
with the open part of the 'V' facing you. Give
the hackle a couple turns of tying thread at
the point where the doubling starts. As you lash
the hackle to the hook shank (just at the right
of the golden yellow floss) the open part of the
'V' will turn toward the rear of the hook. That's
OK. If, however, the open part of the 'V' faces
toward the other side of the fly or toward the
front of the fly, you will have trouble when you
go to wrap the hackle. Once you have it right
carry the thread to a position about one quarter
inch to the left of the very end of the hook
(where the looped, silkworm gut eye is).
12. All of the materials that you let extend
to the head area of the fly can now be bound down
to the underside of the hook shank. The reason we
did this is so that there will be no unsightly
bump near the butt where you might have cut off
all these materials. End up with the tying thread
about one quarter inch to the left of the eye.
13. Tie in a piece of grass-green floss about
ten inches in length...right near the tip end.
Wrap the green floss back to the hackle tie in
point (so that it meets the golden yellow floss).
Reverse the direction and wrap to the tie in
point. Tie it off. Again, as with other floss
wrappings, do this smoothly and evenly. Now wrap
the oval silver tinsel that was left off to the
side in five evenly spaced turns the last of which
ends at the front end of the green floss.
Now wrap the green, doubled hackle behind the
turns of tinsel and tie off at the end of the
14. Now you're ready for the yellow hackle
throat. It is prepared in the same manner
(doubling) as the green hackle. It is tied in
and then wrapped so that it will occupy about
one half of the what is left of the hook shank.
See the picture for the relative tie in and
wrapping points. Then tie it off. Now you
are ready for the wing!
15. The first thing here is to cut off
some strands from a Golden Pheasant tippet feather.
They should be about two inches in length or should
extend to the butt of the fly when tied in. Simply
gather the strands together and tie in at the head
area so that the tippet strands do not stand up
straight but lay close to the hook shank. These
serve as an underwing for the married part which
16. The married sections for the two halves
of the wing are made up from segments from the
various parts in the dressing. Those components
for the wing facing you should not be mingled
with those for the far side of the wing. The
two sides of the wing should be identical in
width and in the sequence of the segments. Each
segment should have three or four strands each.
By doing this it will make both sides equal when
ready to actually tie the wing into place.
17. Starting with the yellow for the side
facing you the strands should be taken off the
left side of the appropriate feathers. Those
for the far side of the fly should be taken from
the right side of the feathers. AND these two
sides must not be intermixed!!! Start with the
yellow and then add the orange and green in
that order from bottom to top. Next comes the
Florican followed by Peacock wing and finally
ending with Golden Pheasant tail.
18. To 'marry' the segments bring them
together edge to edge and stroke them
together between thumbs and forefingers
until they adhere to each other. When
you do this make sure that the tips are
just a bit longer to the left as you add
segments on up the married section for each
side of the wing. Remember that the segments
for the near wing (facing you) are taken from
the left sides of the feathers and for the far
side from the right sides of the feathers.
19. Once you have the two sides to the
married wings prepared they need to be 'humped'
to give them the proper curve. This is done by
bringing the butt ends and tip ends toward each
other so that the top of the sections are convex
and the bottom concave.
20. Now you're ready for the actually tie in.
Bring the section for the far side up on the other
side of the hook and line it up so that the tips
of the married part extend to just below the tip
of the tail of the fly. Hold it in position
with the left forefinger at the head tie in
point. Now bring the wing section for the near
side up into position so that it matches the
far side. Grasp both sections between the left
thumb and forefinger and pinch it. Now with the
right thumb and forefinger push down on the butt
ends of the sections. Regrasp the compressed point
with the left thumb and forefinger and give the
married wing a couple turns of the tying thread.
Adjust the setting of the wing so that it lays
right down the middle of the top of the hook.
You may have to try these procedures several
times before you are happy with your work. Don't
give up. It can be done!
21. Next you need to take a section of Bronze
Mallard from a feather with the brown part on the
left side. Take a piece off that is about one
quarter inch wide. This will be folded over the
top of the married wing and extend to the rear
so it comes to the position over the butt of the
fly.22. Take one eighth inch sections of both Teal
and barred Summer Duck (again use Wood Duck) from
the left side of the appropriate feathers and marry
the Wood Duck to the top of the Teal. These sections
should be about an inch and a half long. Do the same
from feathers using the right side of them. This will
be for the far side of the wing. Once these two sides
are prepared they can be attached so that they lay in
the middle of the married wing and extend back to
23. Next your Jungle Cock goes on. These should
be over the married Teal and Wood Duck sides but
reaching back only about half the length of them.
24. The Indian Crow goes on next extending
back about half the length of the Jungle Cock.
This should be done on both sides of the married
25. A topping is now prepared and measured so that
it follows the contours of the top of the fly and
the tip of it just touches the tip of the tail. Once
you have it measured nick the quill of the topping
with your hackle pliers at the proposed tie in
point and bend the butt end of the quill up so it
can act as a handle. Bring the topping into position
and give it two or three turns of tying thread.
Adjust the plane of the topping so it fits just right.
Give the tie in point a couple more turns of thread
to the right of the last turns. Now clip the
butt end of the topping that extends to the right
of the tie in point.
26. The last materials to be added are the horns.
One fiber for the left side and one for the right.
The blue side of the horns should face out on each
side. They should extend back over the top of the
fly to a point over the butt.
27. The final task is to form a good head with
the tying thread, whip finish and then lacquer and
let dry over night.
Viola! It probably sounds quite hard to a lot
of you, but once you have mastered these techniques
they will transfer to other flies using different
ingredients. Good luck with your dressings of classic
salmon flies and go out there and catch a fisherman!
If you have any questions on tying this or other
Atlantic Salmon flies feel free to send me an
email, or stop
~ Maxwell MacPherson, Jr.