Welcome to Feathers, Flies and Phantoms, a web site about both the history of the fishing tackle makers and retailers of Aberdeen, Scotland and the vintage salmon flies used on the Aberdeenshire rivers of Dee, Don, Deveron and Ythan. The purpose of the web site is to share knowledge and increase awareness of the importance of Aberdeen and the surrounding area to the history of fishing. I started the web site in November 2008 and have been amazed at the interest shown, it gets viewed from all over the world, currently the most views come from (in order, highest first)* UK, Finland, USA, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Poland and Ireland. The main sections of the web site can be accessed through the buttons on the right of this screen.

*This was when I first started the site, see updates below for a more up-to-date analysis

Dee Flies takes you to a listing of all the vintage salmon flies from the area, including the famous and unique Dee-style flies, if you click on a fly you will be taken to a page that will show a photograph of the fly (vintage if I have one, or if I don't then perhaps a more modern tying) and details of the dressing and history.

Tackle makers takes you to list of the tackle makers based in Aberdeen from 1820 to the end of the 1900s, click on an individual maker and you will reveal a short history of the maker and in some cases examples of the tackle they made or sold.

Cool stuff is a page that contains things that will interest anyone that likes any type of vintage salmon fly and fishing history. It includes photos of fly plates from old tackle catalogues (useful to get the style and proportions of vintage flies correct), the writings of William Murdoch in the Fishing Gazette, Pryce Tannatt in 1952, William Brown on how to Tie a salmon fly, PD Malloch on how to tie a salmon fly, Ernest Crosfield and anything else that I may think of that doesn't fit any of the other pages!

Other Flies - in my research into the Aberdeenshire flies I uncovered some interesting details of other salmon flies - too good to keep to myself. So here you will find pattern details and photographs of flies from the Fishing Gazette, Hardy's Ballina and Scott series flies. Here again I have tried to include photos of vintage flies - but I have to thank others (esp Bob Frandsen) for supplying me with photos of their interpretations of the patterns.

Links and More, all web sites seem to have a links page, here I only list links that I use on a regular basis and would be happy to recommend - no advertising! This page also contains some interesting William Brown design drawings from the early 1900s

P.D. Malloch flies, a page inspired by the book Salmon Fishing by W Earl Hodgeson in 1906 and the purchase of a small collection of flies originally from Mr Mallochs shop in Perth (Scotland). Includes catalogue illustrations and an appriciation of Malloch.

About me - well that's about me and some old fishing huts! 

Guest Book- this is where you come into play - let me know your thoughts on the web site, suggest further areas for research etc. 

If you spot a fly with no illustration and want to contribute feel free! If you know of further flies from Aberdeenshire that I have missed let me know. Do you know other rare salmon patterns you think should be on Not Aberdeen Flies drop me an email. Do you know more about the tackle makers again let me know.


2nd February, 2017 -
Well it's been a busy few months, but worth it I think, the "Lost Salmon Flies of Balmoral" has now sold out (the deluxe sold in the first week of publication). But I have two new books which I hope will give you pleasure and food for thought, they are being published on the 11th Feb. The Harper book should appeal to anyone who wants to understand (and be entertained by) the history of the one of the most important fishing tackle firms of Aberdeen (and Scotland) and the people who ran it, there are also the details of over 200 slamon fly patterns to keep the classic fly historian and fly tier occupied for quite a while! The Crosfield book I was asked to compile by the publisher, it pulls together all the writtings by and about Crosfield, some never published before, it also has illustrations and some pattern details of the flies Crosfield tied himself, I'm more of an editor and complier in this book. 

The books will be launched on the Saturday of the British International Fly Fair at Stafford, England. I will be there only on the Saturday and will be attempting to sign them all. Also being launched at the same time is a major new book by Martin Lanigan-O'Keeffe, it is a catalogue of Salmon Flies from the pattern books of Farlows of London, with brilliant photographs and histories of original flies from the 1870s - 1960s, it will be a must for collectors of salmon flies, fly dressers and inevitably dealers in old fishing tackle, see here.

I have a feeling my books will be a little overshaddowed by Martin's seminal work, however if you do buy it, you will also need to get hold of the Harper book as it details may of the patterns from Farlows (there is a huge connection between Harper and Farlows in the fly tying arena - you'll need to buy it to find out more). This is what my publisher says

The Salmon Flies of James Harper

James Harper was the proprietor of the famous fishing tackle firm of William Brown of Aberdeen from 1901 to 1945, and during this time he kept detailed records of the 200 or so salmon fly patterns that the firm produced. The patterns come from many sources, some are well-known, some are variants of known patterns, some have previously only been known by their name, and some never been heard of before. The collection is particularly strong on Spey and Irish flies. In this book Colin Innes sets the scene with a tale of how the pattern list was "re-discovered, then goes on to give an entertaining and sometimes surprising history of the firm of William Brown and it's owners before revealing the list of patterns. Where possible the fly patterns have been illustrated with original vintage flies and cross-referenced with period books and tackle catalogues.

Full details of the book and how to order can be found here

Ernest Crosfied: His Salmon Flies and Fishing

Ernest Morland Crosfield (1856-1925) was one of the most influential salmon anglers and fly-tyers of the early 1900s. Unfortunately, although he wrote a couple of articles and kept a detailed record of his catches in his game book, he never consolidated his thoughts into a book. Others thought highly enough of him to record his fishing and fly-tying methods, but this material is contained in a diverse range of publications, not all of it easily accessible. In this book Colin Innes has gathered together Crosfield's articles, together with published and unpublished articles written about him, and even provided pictures of salmon flies tied by the man himself. It will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in the history of salmon fishing and fly-tying in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It will also provide the salmon fly-tyer who wants to tie the "Crosfield style" with ample instruction, importantly backed up with illustrations of what the finished fly should look like.

Full details of the book and how to order can be found here

1st April, 2016 - Just popped in for a quick update and some new patterns, The Lost Salmon Flies of Balmoral seems to have pleased a few people, there have been some nice reviews, the deluxe copy sold out in the first couple of weeks and there are only a few of the limited edition standard edition left - if you want one now best get onto to Paul at Coch-y-bonddu quick. I was doing some research for another project and came across some fly patterns that seem to have been forgotten - they are not in the Grewcock book - these are from Anthony Crossley's book "The Floating Line for Salmon and Sea-Trout" published in 1939. I've also included an entertaining little story from the book.


Tail: Orange

Body: Crimson Floss, gold twist

Hackle: Dark red hen and a little fiery hackle

Wing: Golden pheasant, strand of swan dyed red, strands of cock pheasant's tail feather all mixed up and tied in together with hen pheasant's tail feather over

Silver Dawn

The same as the Pilsner with a body of silver twist leaving gaps to show the red

The Black Doctor

The top pool at Monaltrie lies off the Golf Course at Ballater behind a clump of pines and gorse-bushes. Like so many pools on the Dee, it is called Red Brae. I arrived at Ballater on a Monday morning in early April, and on my way to Red Brea I had stopped at Mr. George smith's excellent tackle shop; and having no no. 1 Black Heron made up, I took from him two no. 1 Black Doctors, being the nearest imitation available. The temperature of the water was 39 degrees and I was not very optimistic. My Gillie greased my line under string, if mainly silent, protest; for we had fished together before and he was tolerant of my obstinacy.

He reminded me of the lie of the fish and I began rather mechanically to cast; for Red Brea is one of those few pools where one cast is very much the same as another. Suddenly my line stopped.

"Got him," I shouted, and then "No."

The line was going out steadily and slowly but it was no salmon.

"It'll be tree. You'd better be getting down with it or you'll lose your fly," said Sturton.

Down I went, putting on all the strain I dared, and at last beached by 'tree' on an island of shingle at the tail of the pool. I waded out towards it.

"It's a bundle of old clothes some Tinker's thrown in," I shouted. And then I saw them. Our of the bundle stuck a pair of high heeled boots and black stockings.

"It's a woman," I shouted, "the body of a woman."

"You'd better pull her higher," said Sturton, "or she'll be leaving you."

I did so and cut the cast.

A minute later I came out of the water feeling sick. Unfortunately my man choose that moment to arrive complete with lunch and flask of whisky. Rather unreasonably he felt more sick than I did. Indeed he drank most of my small flack of whisky, whilst we waited for the police, turning every now and then to the ghastly object with legs now dangling down the stream. After an interminable half-hour the gillie arrived with an urbane sergeant complete with notebook. He put on the gillie's waders. We had to wade across quite a strong stream and the sergeant immediately lost his urbanity. Obviously he was afraid of being in need of a cast himself! He took the arms, I took the legs and slowly but surely we got our ghastly burden to the fishing hut. Not till then did I look at the face. I was surprised to see the face of a very old woman.

Later that afternoon I found the police searching the sides of the pool. "You won't find anything here," said Sturton, "you might a mile up the river." They did. They found in a neat pile her umbrella, her hand-bag, and her teeth. But I realised why they were looking by Red Brae when the description appeared in the local paper. "Encountering a heavy object," it ran " he dragged it to the surface!" What a testimonial to my 13-ft rod and 8/5 cast.

There were two sequels. Late that afternoon the gillie looked up suddenly.

"It's cold now," he said. "Will you try a big fly now in the boat-pool?" And then as an afterthought he added: "Father once hooked a postman in the boat-pool."

The other occurred four days later. As I was passing the police station, I was hailed by the cheerful sergeant now restored to urbanity.

"The fiscal," he said, "has pronounced no inquest." And then he produced a yard of neatly coiled cast and a small Black Doctor. I've worn that Black Doctor in the middle of every fishing-cap I've had since that day. The only time I forgot it, I arrived in Ireland for a peat flood. The river ran into order the day I received it from England.

5th February, 2016 - Getting excited, new book will be launched on the 13th Feb at the British Fly Fair International - details here - I will be there for the morning of the 13th only - if you are going please stop by (at the Coch-y-bonddu stall) - it seems that the "prelaunch sales" are going well

29th January, 2016 - Happy New Year! A couple of weeks ago I had an email from Michael Papais, he ties his Dee flies "in hand". Here is a photo of three of his Killers and some rather nice Olsen reels.

18th December, 2015 - A brief summary of the book:

In 1880 Queen Victoria first employed John Michie as a Forester at her Scottish holiday home, Balmoral, located on the banks of the famed river Dee in Aberdeenshire, John remained on the estate rising through the ranks to eventually become the Factor (Estate Manager).  John kept detailed diaries recording his daily life and, as was a very keen salmon fly fisherman and fly dresser, he included his fishing exploits on the Dee, who he fished with and the patterns of the flies that were successful.  To give the reader background the book starts with a short history of Balmoral, its Royal connections and the fishing that came with it, then to help put Michie’s flies into context it categorises and explains the various styles of salmon flies used on the rive Dee around the time that John fished it, for example the Eagles, low water flies and the Dee style strip wings. The main part of the book uses diary extracts to explore the fly patterns that Michie used (both previously known patterns and unique patterns) and how they compare to flies commonly in use. There are illustrations of original vintage flies and also flies tied by Edward Kublin throughout. 124 pages.

15th December, 2015 - It's almost here! Publication date 13th Feb 2016 at the British Fly Fair. More info to follow, here is the cover and some low res scans, you can pre-order and find out more here

8th November, 2015 - In more than 30 years of collecting I have never found or even seen any tackle or ephemera from the Aberdeen tackle maker William M'Leod. He was in business under his own name from 1876 till his death in 1880, a very small window of time. Prior to setting up on his own he spent 15 years with John Lyell's gun and tackle business in Aberdeen. I'm now delighted to have added a reel from him to the collection, it's great to be able to date these anti-foul rim cranks to the 1870's. It's definitely Autumn now in Edinburgh so the photo is a bit themed and I took the opportunity to include a fly invented by Blacklaws of Kincardine O'Neil, the Beaconsfield. I love a few more vintage examples of this fly - they seem to be hard to find.


6th October, 2015 - I have managed to track down the original pattern for the Saturday from William Garden, you can find it at the bottom of this page (I need to update the Dee Fly index page with this). If anyone would like to tie and send me a photo of it I will post it along with the dressing.

Brora, I am trying to confirm if Akroyd invented the Brora, in Bates's daughter's book it states that Megan Boyd told Bates that it was one of Akroyd's flies, other sources say that it was one of Megan's, but I have a pattern from William Brown, it's in Playfair's list for the 1920's and I have an early gut eyed example - so I think it must be too early for Megan

1st October, 2015 - Charles Akroyd was famous for inventing the Akroyd - he also came up with a rather less well known fly when fishing on the Conon, it was the Gloriosa Superba - I have posted a photo of a superb vintage one in at the bottom of the Akroyd pattern details

2nd September, 2015 - been away working in Calgary for a while, Matt Arciaga has sent me a great step by step showing how to tie a Spey fly in hand that is at the bottom of the Spey flies page - he even made the hook himself! Bob Fransden, ever the perfectionist, has sent a photo of the original Land & Water pattern Gordon, this has replaced an older version of the same pattern, that he did a few years ago.

The Fishing Gazette sometimes had light hearted articles, here is one about the Candle fly, followed by Bob's interpretation.


22nd July, 2015 - Paul Harkin sent me some photos of some great Lady Caroline variations, posted on the Spey Flies page

30th June, 2015 - Just back from a week on the Dee, not may fish around this year ! But have added a few rare Dee flies to my collection - starting with an original Dr Corbet or Minister of Drumoak, which you can see here

23rd April, 2015 - Updated the JS Sharpe page with a photo of the "Phantom Jacket"

26th March, 2015  - Seems like an age since I updated this site - I've been working on a couple of things - some related to the ongoing research of feathers flies, and phantoms, which I will update you on shortly. Work has been getting in the way a bit, I've been over in Calgary, Canada on a work project. Anyway my research has thrown up a couple of variations of flies in the Dee Fly Section - A different version of the Skier (with a nice story attached) and a variant of the Bumbee.

11th November, 2014 - I'm between (day job) projects at the moment and have taken the chance to catalogue my fishing books - it took a while and in the process I have identified some duplicates - some of them not worth a lot and it's too expensive to list those on ebay. So I will get around to putting a list up here - to start with a wonderful little book by Frederick Hill (first and only edition) who was gillie on the Carlogie beat of the river Dee and worked for Captain Musker the beat owner - this lists a few Dee patterns including the Musker's Fancies, Snarehill, Brora, Blue Charm, 2 versions of the Logie, Crossley's Black Heron and the low water version of Sir Charles. The DW is chipped and has some tears, but the book is in great condition - it's also signed, just under the lovely photo of Fred and his tame Blackbird! Let me know if you are interested (email address at the top of the page) and I'm sure we can come to some sort of deal - cash or swap. - SOLD

An interesting phone call with Martin Lanigan O'Keeffe the other night, resulted in the following 3 photos of original flies from the Hardy Scott Series of flies - great to see how they were originally tied - the Marmion (along with the Lady of the Lake) is of a Dee style. (I'm having a problem editing the Other Flies page where these photos should go - you can can find the patterns there)

Black Dwarf

Ivanhoe (note that the wings are tented)


9th November, 2014 - A further instalment of "Bob's Hospital" see the Gordon

8th November, 2014 - Ian Letham sent me a great email with loads of pictures - I have update the Spey Page with some of the them - a super pair of Speys that came with some dressing instructions, the Green and Purple Kings - also some dressing info for the Lady Caroline - Ian thinks that these are at least pre WW1, I would say at least 1900. Note that I think I have identified the Dee fly posted on the 4th of November - more onfo later, keep checking I have some more great fly photos in the pipeline, which I hope to post in the next few days (Speys, Dees and Hardy)

6th November, 2014 - Another instalment in the drama that is "Bob's Hospital" see the Gordon

4th November, 2014 - Just added a picture of a couple of vintage Gardeners and also a couple of Yellow (Dunbar's pattern I think) Eagles. Also see the photo below - not sure what pattern this Dee pattern is - any thoughts?


Yellow and greeny blue body, thin and broad tinsel ribbing

15th October, 2014 - More from the Frandsen Hospital - a Yellow Eagle variant (yellow and blue body) and another huge unknown Spey

14th October, 2014 - I like Pretty Feathers.  A good weekend! Last week I spotted a small leather travel salmon fly tying wallet for sale as a "buy it now", the photographs were poor and it was difficult to see what the contents were, however it was not expensive and there was a letter dated 1872 in it. I kept going back and looking at the listing during the day always expecting to be sold. In the evening I decided to take a risk and hit the "Buy Now" button, a bit of a gamble, I was expecting it to be old and worn with moth eaten feathers, but I just love sorting through old fly tying material and boxes of flies. Anyway it arrived on Saturday morning - I am delighted, with it, although not a lot of material, there is much of interest, I spent at least an hour going through it. See a small sample of the contents, also note the red embossed stamp on the back of one of the envelopes, it's Scottish!

Mmmm... pretty feathers

12th October, 2014 - One of the remaining Dee flies has now a photograph, the Colonel - thanks to Marc Le Blac

10th October, 2014 - Put a new photo from a recent trip to Knoydart, a remote area of the North West of Scotland)  on the about me page. Had an email from Ian Letham, with some photos, including a new one (first picture under "Flies from a very old wallet from the North East of Scotland" on the Cool Stuff page), also the one below, now this is a very big fly and of similar construction to a double winged Akroyd, so is it a Dee fly? If so what's the pattern?

When Ian was given this he was told by the owner that is was a "four in hand" fly

9th October, 2014 - The Hospital Project - no not an other charity giving request ! When you have a random collecting habit like mine you sometimes buy groups of things to get one or two choice pieces - over the years I have bought old fly boxes and wallets because I have spotted a good Dee fly in them, they also give-up other patterns which I will sort, identify and file away. In some cases you get what I like to call the "hospital cases" flies that aren't quite bad enough to strip down to the hook, but equally not good enough to file away in the main collection. I generally drop these in a tin and look at them once every few years, sometimes I think - "wow, nice Indian Crow on that one, I should strip it", then I think "is that destroying some history, could we learn from that fly?" I discussed this with Bob Frandsen and we came up with a plan for a little restoration project. I put together a small selection of "patients" - mostly based on Dee flies, but including a couple of special Speys and sent them off to Sunny Oz. Well, the results are coming in now - I can't say how amazed I am with what Bob is doing, it's a true indication of his skill that he can replace body hackle, tail, wing... and you would not have known unless I told you! [A word of caution here - ethics - I think you should label the fly as restored when you file them away in your collection and it should certainly be stated that they have been restored if you ever sell them - obvious really I know, but has to be said]

So at the moment you can check out a before and after Benchill, Moonshine and a rather special Spey (I also added a paragraph on what an Old Spey Fly looks like - currently a hot topic). Here are the patients:

2nd October, 2014 - A lovely little Clark from Geert Werbrouck

15th September, 2014 - The quest to get photos of all the "Dee" flies continues apace, today we have 2 new ones from Bob F, the Fredrick Hills Snarehill and the very Durham Ranger like "Eyns". Also a great little Sir Percy from Eunan Hendron an Irishman living in the US

15th September, 2014 - Great update today! Ian Letham noticed that I was looking for a photo of a vintage March Brown and boy did he deliver - an outragous 9/0 vintage example, I guess 99% of us have only seen small low-water examples of this fly - you need to see it. Bob Frandsen also sent me a picture of one of his very fine Irish style Blue Palmers, thanks Bob, can't wait to see the Enys !

12th September, 2014 - Further photo updates, General Dee Fly, Peacock and Mr. Hills Black Heron for the Dee

11th September, 2014 - Bob Frandsen has been busy again (thanks Bob!) I have now photos of the following flies updated, Muskers's Fancies, Bumbee, Golden Wasp (which turns out to be an odd little fly) & a very fine Olga !

4th September, 2014 - New photo of a nice March Brown from Geert Werbrouck - I feel sure I must have a vintage one of these somewhere. I have also added a new link to Chris Sandford's web site, which features a series of video "magazines" called "Stuff" - I really enjoy these and think you will too, if you want to see Chris "revealing his old tackle" click here

3rd September, 2014 - I have made a plea via Forum and Social Media - to help find photos for the remainder of the patterns listed in the Dee fly page (ideally vintage examples but more than happy with recent ties) - the first response was from Bob Frandsen with this lovely Kelly - yet another "Snow Fly" type fly. So if you fancy helping out, those still to go are:

Beaconsfield, Black Heron (Hills), Blue Palmer, Bumbee,Clark, Colonel (Modern), Enys, General Dee Fly, Golden Wasp, March Brown (Yes I know! Never found a good vintage one), A set of Musker’s Fancies, Olga, Peacock, Red Drake, Sir Percy, Snarehill


29th July, 2014 - Social media has finally caught up with me, I have joined a few "groups" on Facebook, the key one to this site being "The Dee Tyer" dedicated to Dee flies, this has around 800 members. I thought I'd better add some posts to it so have been taking a few "artistic" photos with my iphone, I though I'd better add some of them here too. They include some terrific Tartans (with unusual winging technique), a new photo of Dee Snow flies and a group shot of different sizes of the Dunt. Whilst rummaging around in an old tin in my collection I also discovered a "Lady of the Lake".

A handful of Dees - Some of the flies currently in my box...

25th July, 2014 - Added a new picture of a vintage Red Wing - thanks goes to Long Nguyen for this one!

10th July, 2014 - Well, had the week on the Dee - didn't catch much (any) - lost a big fish in the Lorne pool on a Toucan (more of that later) - Subject of today's update is Crosfield, I have updated the section on the cool stuff page (quite a way down) with an extract from Jock Scotts 1936 book Game Fish records that give a bit of background to the man and his dressing style - the frontis picture of this book is of flies tied by Crosfield so have included this.

Also added a photo of some really nice vintage Clunies - showing the wing structure and perhaps confirming that the Cluny and the Cluny Snail are the same thing

13th June, 2014 - Bob Frandsen sent me a photo of a recent tied Tartan to the earliest pattern from the Driffield Angler in 1806, so I have updated the Tartan page with the photo and the very excellent description of how to tie it from the book

Now started to look forward to the week starting 23rd June, our annual week at Aboyne Castle on the Dee

5th June, 2014 - Added a couple of flies from Dave Carne on the Malloch page - these are copied directly from some original Malloch sales frames owned by Roger Plourde

31st May, 2014 - updated the JS Sharpes page with a few new reel photos

12th May, 2014 - Spent 3 days fishing the upper Don for Brown Trout - feel very much refreshed, I know most of the visitors to the site are Salmon fishers, but thought I'd post a little summary of the trip anyway - I had forgotten how good it feels to be in the wilds chasing small (and some not so small) trout.

Let me start with a recommendation - my old Cortland 444 line was showing it's age so I decided to treat myself with something new - after a bit of research I decided to go for the new Barrio Smallstream line #5 - what a revelation that proved to be, excellent speedy delivery and my initial impression was nice colour and that the line had no memory at all. I set the line up with a fairly old sage 8' rod, what a great line it is, roll casts, spey casts, overhead casts all became easy, fantastic turn-over, no memory and the presentation was spot on, I had no need to do long casts on the upper Don so can't comment on that - but to me this is the perfect line for headwaters and chalk streams - at £27 including worldwide postage I would have no hesitation in recommending you all to grab one at the earliest opportunity. I have no connection to Barrio lines, but have to give credit where credit is due - and it's a British designed and manufactured product worthy of our support. Right on with the story...

Well the weather was a little unpredictable to say the least, but we caught plenty of nice Brownies, nothing bigger than about 1 1/4 lbs and they all went back, lost count of the number of fish on all days (well into double figures though!).

Thursday - Edinburgh up at 5am, on the road by 6am - picked up the permits from the Kildrummy Inn, bought a steak pie, rolls and boiled ham from the Glenbucket shop. Parked at the bridge in the middle of the beat, set the rod up for wet fly a Sharpe's Favourite (see post below for dressing and tying instructions) on the dropper and Waterhen bloa (expertly tied by Sandy Nelson) on the point. Fished the lower part of the beat in the morning, from the bridge down (much easier access than I remembered from 25 years ago), caught fish in the streamy water mostly on the Sharpe's fly. Had lunch at the hut (new double glazing and a new loo) then spent the afternoon on the pools above the hut, bigger fish in the afternoon again mostly on the Sharpe's fly, didn't see any fish rise the whole day so most of the fishing was searching with the wet fly. Drove up to Allargue Arms Hotel - where we were booked in for a couple of nights, the hotel is more pub with rooms and unpretentious, we were the only customers that night, but good food (I had the Venison stew) and the view from my bed room window....

Friday - off to Semeil Farm, picked up our permits from Toby, drove down to the river and promptly got the car stuck in the mud (note to self - must get a 4x4). After we fixed that I walked up the river to Bridge of Newe, I saw a fish rise under the bridge and cast the wet fly up to it, bang first cast before the fly was wet had the best trout of the trip. Spent the morning losing flies and catching nice fish on the upper half of the beat. Concentrated on the lower half of the beat in the afternoon, every pool gave up at least one trout, had a fantastic hail storm, the hail was the size of garden peas - hid in the wood and blessed goretex! the river below Deskry was very dirty. Fish caught 50:50 between the Sharpe's and the Waterhen Bloa - no fish rising. Called it a day at 5pm - mentally wanting to fish more but body protesting, a good night at Hotel - a new batch of Cairngorm Buzz Honey Ale (very nice and I think bought in just for us!), a T-bone and more customers helped it along. Slept like a god. Here is a typical trout from the Semeil Farm beat:

Saturday, up the long drive to Skellatar House, met Jaki and Neil who have 18km of the upper part of the river Don - they suggested the area around Candacraig house (Billy Connelly Scottish residence), so we drove over to the south of the river and found a parking spot in a clearing on the side of the road giving us a view of the river and Candacraig house, the river was coloured in the morning, we fished upstream of the car, crashing through woods, real combat fishing - we found a large deep pool with a hut opposite, just above this there is a very fast corner pool with a concrete wall, I had a huge smash take in that pool - must have been a pretty big fish, came tearing up from the bottom of the pool, that was on the Waterhen bloa, anyway it broke the 4lb maxima. Had lunch then walked down stream, spent time on the pools above and below the old ford, saw a few fish rise so changed to the DHE (also tied by Sandy Nelson) - caught quite a few fish, round about 3.15pm  there was a very good rise of olives - caught plenty of fish in a short period of time - but had to leave to return to Edinburgh (over the day probably caught the most fish on the Waterhen bloa). So there you have it, 3 days of superb, soul cleansing, wild fishing. Next year I think we'll rent a cottage and spend a whole week exploring the Skellatar water.

22nd April, 2014 - Just added a new web address to the Links & More page

21st April, 2014 - Whilst looking at the classic fly tying forum I noted a link had been posted to a 1955 video of Salmon Fishing - includes Isabella Hermiston (not sure of the spelling!) tying a Jock Scot in hand, talks about the export of classic flies from Kelso in the 1950s, quite amazing, love the fishing car! - I recommend you take a look here

13th April, 2014 - Currently on holiday in Pittenweem, in Fife (Scotland), just managed to get WiFi - so took the opportunity to update this site with a link to a fantastic new book from Barry Grewcock with Dave Carne, it's called the "The Classic Salmon & Sea Trout Compendium" I strongly urge you to have a look, and if you like what you see quickly place an order - this is a one-off publication for subscribers only so once it's gone it's gone and there is a fairly short period to place an order. I'm really looking forward to find some new "old" patterns from Barry's huge list of patterns that he has built up over many years and I know that Dave's production skills will make the book very special !

View through the cottage window, Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland

24th March, 2014 - I was looking around Timo's web site (see below) and discovered his tying of the simple pattern Murdoch Grey Eagle, I've never seen this tied up before so, after getting permission, I have placed a photo next to the pattern details on this page, it is a very elegant Eagle!

17th March, 2014 - "Front Cover Dee Fly!" - Added a photo of a prize winning Dunt to the Dunt page tied by Timo Kontio, here is a link to his web site that explains the story

12th March, 2014 - I use Google analytics to get feedback on this web site, just really to make sure it's interesting for everyone - there would be no point in doing it if there were no visitors! I'm not obsessive about it and check a few times a year, I thought that some of you may want to see some key statistics. I acknowledge that this site is pretty niche and is never going to have a huge number of visitors - so is never going to make me any money(!) However I'm quite pleased to see the figures for the last month, especially the length of time people spend on the site and the number of returning visitors - the geographical split of visitors has changed quite dramatically from when I started the site 6 years ago. (Web hosting fees are not insignificant, so any niche advertiser who wants to pay my web hosting fees please feel free to contact me!


Total number of visits to the web site in last 4 weeks = 1581 site visits with 4092 page views from 946 unique visitors

Geographical Split by visit, top 15: USA 542, UK 415, Canada 196, Norway 46, Denmark 43, Sweden 31, Netherlands* 30, Lithuania 26, Germany 23, New Zealand 22, Finland 21, France 17, Brazil 16, Japan 15, Australia 14,

*I’m currently working in the Netherlands during the week which probably accounts for some of this!

How visitors reach the web site, per visit: Direct 427, through a search 719, referred from another site 374, social media, 61 (50% Facebook)

Some of the search terms used to find the site: Pitcroy Fancy, Don flies by William Brown, Lady Grace Dee fly, Grant Vibration, Hardy Jock Scott, Spey Snow Fly, Vintage Spey Fly, Dee Flies pattern, unusual fly patterns, Jungle Heron.

Top Referring Sites: SpeyPages.com, ClassicFlyRodForum.com, Sharpes.net, FishPal.com, ClassicFlyTying.com, FishingTheFly.co.uk, SalmonAlvis.com

Average length of all visits 3 mins, number of visits > 3mins = 197, over 10 mins = 145, over 30 mins = 35.

Average Number of pages viewed per visit is 2.6, number of visits where 5 or more pages were viewed is 213, >10 pages viewed 70, >15 pages 33 and more than 20 pages 17 

New visitors average 2:13 (mins:sec) on the site visiting 2.46 pages

Returning visitors average 3:34 (mins:sec) on the site visiting 2.68 pages

Split between new and returning visitors 50%:50%


24th February, 2014 - There has been some real interest in one or two of the unnamed flies in the Malloch flies page, especially in "Unnamed No 4" with the blue and yellow body (really need to know what it's called - perhaps the "Fair Maid of Perth" ;-). Paul Rossman has tied (in hand) an excellent version of it and provided step by step photos which I have included here. Looking forward to seeing more from Paul as his flies just sing vintage!

20th February, 2014 - Just booked a couple of nights at "Briggies" (local name for the Allargue Arms - a pub at Cock Bridge near the head waters of the river Don) for 3 days of wild trout fishing on the upper Don in early May. I have not fished for trout on the Don for many years, so my thoughts turned to my trout fly boxes, whilst they are well stocked the flies are more appropriate for the rivers of the south of England. I remembered that the one fly I had a  lot of success with 'back in the day' was called "Sharpe's Favourite", not quite remembering the dressing I had a quick "Google' with no luck. When I was a lot younger I used to keep a fishing scrap book and thought that it might be there, well I found it in there, it was from the Trout & Salmon in May 1983 in an article by Alexander Grant, called "In a blizzard on the Don". As the pattern does not seem to be readily available I thought I'd list it here (I know it's not a Salmon Fly so a bit off topic!). I think it's probably an Olive imitation and can be tied either as a dry or wet fly, it was originally tied by Alan Sharpe (of the Aberdeen tackle makers JS Sharpe) as "a variant for the Greenwell for the Don and other northern streams" - "works especially well when the trout come on a hard feed early in the season".

Sharpe's Favourite

Silk: Black

Body: Stripped peacock quill, although silver ribbed dark brown silk does as well

Hackle: Dark ginger hen or furnace cock for the dry version

Wing: Waterhen

Tail: A few fibres from the hackle feather

Tag: Two turns of fine silver tinsel

Using black tying silk, tie down the tail and silver tag. Tie down the quill and wind unto the head, leaving gaps which show through the black silk underlay. This gives the body an attractive segmented look. Tie in the hackle and give it two turns, then finish with the waterhen wing feathers and a black varnish head. The dry version is identical, but with a cock hackle and upstanding wing.

15th February, 2014 - Philip Glendinning has sent me a picture of a fly that has been missing a picture for some time, the Inchgarth

13th February, 2014 - If your are a follower of the Spey Pages fly tying forum you will have already seen the two new pictures of the Spey Snow Fly and Robbie by Adrian Cortes... I can't resist them and have updated the relevant places!

6th February, 2014 - And the forecast for Deeside is Snow....

These are all tied in hand by Adrian Cortes for fishing with, I have a little project in hand to identify all the "Snow Fly" type (Salmon flies with large peacock herl wings). The ones here, clockwise from top left Beauly Snow fly, Spey Snow fly, Dodger and Dee snow fly - I've also spotted a Jock Scot version in an old reservoir, so any idea folks?

Jock Scott Snow Fly???? (sitting by a Beauly Snow Fly)

5th February, 2014 - Another of Adrians fine tied in hand flies, Skirrows Fancy and some Akroyd action.

I'm currently working on a project in Holland and spent some time in my hotel room going through some old photos, some of them were of dead fish taken in 2006, not something I am particularly proud of, but, they were eaten, anyway when I lived in Oxfordshire, England, I had access to some fantastic trout fishing in small streams for wild Brown Trout. I had one epic day during the May Fly season when I cast 4 times and caught 4 fish, then stopped fishing, I've put the results on the about me page. I also discovered this photo of a page from a salmon fisherman's wallet (part of a friends collection - but I did manage to get one of those flies from him ;-) - I call this picture "The collectors dream" those of you who like the Dee flies will understand....


4th February, 2014 - A double Silver Doctor and a low water Sir Charles hand tied by Adrian here, also Skirmisher and his fish. Also in my quest to have a photo of at least all the Dee flies, I've posted (with permission) a Moray Doone tied by Dave Carne. If you have any vintage or contemporary flies that I'm missing let me know ! Also updated the links page - removing links that no longer work and adding a few new ones.

3rd February, 2014 - Some William Murdoch Don flies for fishing (that work!) from Adrian Cortes

2nd February, 2014 - Find here a new Dee Sun fly tied by Aaron Ostoj and what happened with it...

1st February, 2014 - A tied in hand Magic, with the resultant catch can be seen here

31st January, 2014 - A belated Happy New Year to you all ! Some really good stuff in store for everyone this year, lets kick it off with some flies "tied in hand" (that means no vice is used) by Adrian Cortes. I'm often asked if people still fish with the old flies and do they still work - well with the help of Adrian I think we can prove it! - more to follow...

Just hanging around with the Brown Winged Killer, the Skirmisher, the March Murderer, the Druggist and the Butcher! - these flies are tied to be fished with (and to catch fish, not always the same thing!)

1st November, 2013 - Stoats Tails !

Although I love fishing with the old patterns - I do have most of my success with salmon on the Stoats Tail - so having a bit of free time at the moment I decided to tie up a few - Stoats Tail, Silver Stoat, Executioner, Crathie etc.) - I soon ran out of Stoat! - I ordered some new one from a firm that prides it's self on the quality of its fly tying material, specifying I wanted good big ones, the order arrived quickly at the price of £3.40 a tail but I was a little disappointed with them, so I went to Cookshill Fly Tying and again asking for the biggest, ordered a few more (these were only £2.00 a tail), well these arrived today and I'm very impressed, here is a comparison:

Cookshill on the right (obviously!)

Note I have no association with Cookshill - just feel a good supplier should be recognised  http://www.cookshill-flytying.co.uk/

19th October, 2013 - Recieved an email from Paul Majeran in Italy, with a photo of a Nickel plated Malloch Fly box - a scarce item, can be seen here

17th October, 2013 - Yesterday I gave a short talk about Aberdeen tackle makers and Dee style flies to the Aberdeen Business and Professionals club, in the audience was David Irvine, 26th Laird of Drum, subsequently he provided me with some further details of the Drum flies and a fantastic photo of Sandy Irvine with his 47 1/2 lb salmon

11th July, 2013 - Bob Frandsen sent me some photos of Spey flies to help complete the Spey Flies page - Thanks Bob! In most cases he has tied the wings in facing forward and then reversed.

9th July, 2013 - Popped in to correct a fly name in Spey Flies and add a new photo of great Glen Grant from Bob Frandsen (also updated my age on the About Me page but thats a sore point!). Had my week on the Dee - not much to report there biggest fish 10lb Hen, nice deep fish, caught an amazing number of Brownies in the 1/2 - 3/4 lb range on the Stoats Tail - very unusual. Off to the Orkla in Norway on Sunday for a week - that's a birthday treat. Will be updating the site with a few more vintage flies shortly (some amazing vintage Tartans)- and also with photos of the Lee Wulff Ultimate fly reel, which I finally managed to track down in California - an important reel made by Sharpes of Aberdeen.

13th Feb, 2013 - Just loged in to correct the spelling of Mr Knox on Spey Flies - thanks to an eagle eyed viewer!

28th Jan, 2013 - Posted a new photo of the Gardener tied by Colin Simpson

25th Jan, 2013 - Bit of a (early) Spring clean going on - have changed some of the menu button titles and reordered - to make the site simpler to navigate - also working on the Spey Fly Page

24th Jan, 2013 - You may notice a new page in the menu - Spey Flies - As there is so much interest in these I have decided to consolidate the information in one page and will shortly have better photos of the sample set of Munro flies - A one stop page for how to tie, photos of vintage flies for reference and pattern details, this will evolve over time - if anyone has any more unusual Spey Patterns please let me know and I will update the page with the details (giving full credit) - any ideas on this page are welcome! 

18th Jan, 2013 - Booked a trip with brother-in-law David to Norway to fish the Orkla in July - any hints on flies would be welcome. Combine that with the regular week on the Dee at the end of June it's going to be an excellent summer - I write this from the office in London where it is snowing! 

17th Jan, 2013 - Happy New Year everyone! - I've just come to the end of a long work project and have found some time for an update of the website! I've added a few links to websites I have found interesting recently, one of the most frequent questions I get is how to read the ID numbers on roda made by Sharpes of Aberdeen, I've put a link on the Sharpes page that takes you to a document that allows you to do this http://www.sharpes.net/history-of-sharpes-13-w.asp Also a link to a new website that contains quirky fishing photos where you can lose yourself for a while http://oldfishingphotos.com

Also added a new photo of a good vintage steel eyed Killer

Sandy's First Salmon

August 2012 - we had a family holiday in Waterville in the south west of Ireland staying with good friends Martin & Tara and on the banks of Loch Currane, we managed to get some fishing in both on the "lake" and in the river that attaches the lake to the sea, I caught a couple of small fish in the river - but 9 year old Sandy had a bit of a triumph, first brown trout and first sea-trout on the fly and first ever salmon all caught on the lake. Ellie also took some excellent scenic photos (not shown here) Here are some photos:

Sandy's first Salmon with sister Ellie

At Butlers Pool - you have to keep well back from the water!

At Butlers Pool - the river joining the sea

Me with a small fish from Butlers Pool

The Innes "boys" with Gillie Dominic

If you want to fish in the SW of Ireland - may I strongly suggest you book the services of Dominic McGillicuddy - he know's his area very well and is very good with children, here is a link to his website http://www.fishingwithdom.com (which I have also put on the web links page)

And thanks to Martin & Tara for a great holiday

The Martley Connection

For some time the William Brown Page has had some intersting letters from a Capt Martley at Camp Seaton in British Columbia to William Brown - there have been some interesting deveopments, see the bottom of this linked page.

21st July, 2012 - Sven Axelsson supplied me with a further 2 superb photos of his excellent flies to fill  in some blanks in the Dee fly section (thanks Sven and hope I got the spelling - not one of my strong points - right this time!), the Stevenson and the John Campbell. If anyone wants to help fill in the rest of the missing Dee fly pictures please feel free to email a good photo! There has also been an exciting development on William Brown and the firms connection to BC - expect an update soon.

20th July, 2012 - Had a great week on the Dee at Aboyne Castle, landed a few fish this year including a very satisfing fish in the pool "Middle Fontie" fishing from the north bank - that may mean something to some of you (Stoats tail, long shank double size 12 with black heron hackle - if you are interested)  Added some new pictures of the Canon and Ballater from Sven Axelsson

12th May, 2012 - Added some new pictures of recent additions to the fly collection, a four inch Double White Wing Akroyd and Dunt, fourth picture down on the Akroyd page, and a couple of excellent GlenTanas with an interesting bit of ephemera behind them.

1st May, 2012 - Still a bit busy, but managed to grab a few moments today, some new flies for you from the "Belgium Bobby" Geert, the Skirmisher and William Murdochs Golden Blue. Hope to post some vintage flies I recently aquired, including an excellent 3.5 inch Dunt and 4 inch Double White Winged Akroyd....

15th March, 2012 - Yes I'm still alive! Sorry not any updates for a while been a wee bit busy with the day job - should get some time soon - I hope!

5th October, 2011 - A real treat for vintage Salmon fly historians/lovers - renowned Malloch collector Mark Ross has sent me a photo of a "Sir Edgar" fly - I think this is the first time a lot of people will have heard of, let alone seen, this fly - Another FF&P first! - it's on the Malloch Page towards the bottom above the list of flies.

Also updated the Malloch page with some catalogue illustrations of flies and fly boxes - I think the Malloch* fly boxes are very undervalued at the moment, they really did have some spectacular ones - can you imagine finding a box filled with 5,000 gut eyed flies? I've also moved some Malloch relevant stuff from other pages of the web site onto it.

*Although probably manufactured by Richard Wheatley http://www.richardwheatleymuseum.org/#/early-boxes/4523871479

22nd September, 2011 - A composite list of the Salmon Flies available from Alex Martin - gives a good view of the flies popular in the 1940's, also a list for P D Malloch (at the bottom of the page) for 1912 and 1933, I would be pleased to hear from anyone that has other Malloch catalogues that is willing to send me scans of the Salmon fly pages - I used to have the catalogues for 1925 and 1938, sadly don't have them anymore... 

18th September, 2011 - A new picture of the Lady Grace tied to the William Murdoch pattern rather than the more common Kelson pattern - from Bob Frandsen

17th September, 2011 - A list of Charles Playfair flies here.

16th September, 2011 - A composite list of Gardens Salmon flies from the 1907 & 1917 catalogues now here.

15th September, 2011 - In July 2009 I said "Had a great email from Simon Runting in New Zealand, he has discovered some paperwork from William Brown (well it would be James Harper at the time) listing out salmon flies that he wanted to sell to a retail business in New Zealand in 1902. This is of great interest as it contains some names of flies not in the 1897 Browns catalogue.... I have some work to do on this." so it's now September 2011 and I have finally done something about it! See it here about 3/4 of the way down the page. This list has also helped with gettingt the history of the Moonshine/Moonlight right - it should be the Moonshine not the Moonlight (Mr P-T - re-writing history again !).

14th September, 2011 - "I have a little list..." I have been thinking about lists lately, I have always been interested in lists and catalogues, I can remember spending hours at school reading and re-reading the lists in the McHardy of Carlisle fishing tackle catalogue when I should have been learning Latin grammer. I note that my 9 year old son has a passion for lists, in his case it's lists of Lego characters and animals he might spot in the garden. I love catalogues vintage or new, retail or auction and still get excited when one drops through the door. Anyway enough rambling, I've updated the J S Sharpe page with a composite list of the Salmon flies that they sold in the first half of the 1900s, I hope you enjoy lists as much as me.... more to follow....

29th August, 2011 - Back from holiday with a sun tan, have made some updates to the Malloch page. Note that there are some flies towards the bottom of that page still require identifing - please help if possible....

Also some stunning Gled tail feathers here

17th August, 2011 - A new photo of some jolly Sailors, the Malloch project is ongoing, I still have loads of photos to take - I'll be taking a little break for a week or so as we soak up the last of the summer sunshine in Spain

13th August, 2011 - Regular viewers may notice a name change to one of the pages - I no longer have a "For Sale" page as I never got round to using it! It has been renamed "PD Malloch Flies" and is a little project I'm working on... more updates over the next few days/weeks!

18th July, 2011 - A picture of the Druggist added to Dee flies as are Evans and Golden Olive to Not Dee flies

17th July, 2011 - A picture of the Pitfour added.

16th July, 2011 - A new version of the Robbie from Geert Werbrouck, Geert is sending me the fly as a gift, but what he does not know was that Robbie was my fathers name, so it is kind of a special fly for me. Thanks Geert!

11th July, 2011 - A new fly from the wonderful Bob Frandsen, a Tartan tied to the "quaint" Francis Francis pattern - I must admit when I tie this fly it looks awful! Bob's is much neater.



Click here and go down the page till you find the Clunie - modern day success with a forgotten fly

15th June, 2011 - A new fly one of the Fishing Gazette ones from 1886, the March Murderer (for the Thurso) tied by American Tony Smith

28th April, 2011 - Some super new flies tied by Canadian Dwayne Miller, the Skier and the Dr Forbes - thanks Dwayne and sorry it's taken so long to put them up!

27th April, 2011 - I'm right in the middle of a large project with my day job at the moment so there has been no update of the site for a while - However things have been backing up and I have lots of new things to delight you with ! The first is a selection of very old flies from the North East of Scotland - these flies are part of Ian Letham's collection, I have put some images on the Cool Stuff page, have a look and see if you can identify any of them (and let me know!) - Here is a strange one to get you going... 

6th February, 2011 - Have added the Ablett catalogue illustrations of both Clunies, and pattern details from Kelson and Hardy. Also added illustrations for the Lizzie and Sailor

5th February, 2011 - A nice set of Blue Charms from Bob Frandsen, also a nice email..

"Hi, saw your entry about the Fishing tackle shop sign in Ballater. George Smith is my great grandfather. The shop passed from son to son till finally my father Alexander Smith (86) and George Smith (81) owned it. They sold up when they retired probably about 18 years ago. Both my father and my uncle George stil live in Ballater. The shop was a wonderful place as a child, it was a saddlers and fishing shop. They had a huge selection of flies and made a lot of their own I think. - Alison Murray"

I have insterest the picture of the shop sign - further down the page....

Brown Cluny !! Another Dee fly for the list - basically a Cluny with bronze mallard as the wing, illustrated in a plate of low water flies from an F.E. Ablett catalogue

26th January, 2011 - I have loaded some of the Low Water flies from the below box, they are two versions of the Logie, the Silver Blue, the Blue Charm, the Jeannie and the Jockie

25th January, 2011 - A few years I bought a small wooden box from the 1920's filled with the kind of lowater flies that AHE Wood would have used at Cairnton, I have finally got round to photographing them, here is a picture of the box and contents - over the next couple of days I'll post pictures of the flies along with their patterns


24th December, 2010 - A picture of some more obscure Don flies tied by Colin Smith - Please let me know if you have any information (or patterns) for these.

23rd December, 2010 - A little early Christmas present for lovers of the Dee flies (tomorrow will be a special day for those interested in Don flies), a Dunt, a Balmoral and a Glentanar tied by the legend that is Colin Simpson, some detail photos of the Glentannar below:

Quality of material is all !

It must take years to perfect a head like that!

22nd December, 2010 - Another cutting from the P&J, October 2010:

"Anglers were very nervous at Aboyne Castle [beat on the river Dee] last Thursday afternoon as the beat approached the milestone of 250 fish, which would have been an all-time record for this two-rod beat. Alec Coutts remained calm throughout and guided his anglers through this milestone, with the 250th fish caught by Ian Scott."

Well done Alec and Ian - I have had the pleasure of fishing with Alec for the last 10 years - he is one of the best! Ian fishes with and is my brother-in-laws neighbour. 

21st December, 2010 - George Smith tackle dealer of Ballater (situated on Deeside) is someone I have yet to reseach, but I should because, amongst other things, he is quoted in the Fishing Gazette Dee fly articles by William Murdoch, I would be very happy to hear if anyone has any information. Why the sudden interest? well the following short news article has appeared in that splendid organ the Aberdeen Press & Journal:

"Old sign revives family memories

historic discovery above deeside shop

By graeme scott

Published: 02/10/2010

A sign dating back to beginning of the last century has been uncovered above a shop in a Deeside village. It has been attracting attention after the owners of Countrywear in Ballater’s Bridge Street decided to replace their existing one.  Underneath was the original belonging to George Smith, who was supplier of fishing tackle and sporting equipment to, among others, King Edward VII. Mr Smith’s grandson, also George, 81, retired from the business more than 20 years ago and the re-appearance of the sign has brought back family memories. Mr Smith, of Monaltrie Court, Ballater, said: “It is the original sign and would date back to the beginning of the 1900s. “I hear that a lot of people are stopping and having a look at it. “It was my grandfather’s shop and then my father’s before my brother and I took over. “We had many royal visitors over the years, including Prince Charles, and they always enjoyed coming into the shop.” Countrywear owner Norman Clements, who has run the shop for the last 18 years, said he planned to put the new sign up soon. He added: “The old one has been attracting a fair amount of interest. People have been taking photographs and commenting on it.” Mr Smith added: “We are waiting for better weather before putting the new sign up.” In the meantime, the old one will continue to attract interest from local people and autumn visitors to the village.""

Here is the sign in question:


Here is an advert from the book "Under |Lochnagar" published in 1894:


17th December, 2010 - Expect a few updates over the next few days... The following 2 pictures were sent to me by fellow collector Martin O'K, the first is a mystery fly can anyone identify it? The second is a Hardy Dee lure in Jock Scott style you can see one in Durham Ranger style in the 1913 Hardy catalogue plate in cool stuff.

A bit like a Pitcroy Fancy (see one of those on the Pilot Gut Co plate here or a vintage one here) the wing comprises a long red claret hackle, a long jungle cock each side and two strips of well-marked peacock, with a topping over

The "Jock Scott" Dee lure

16th December, 2010 - Some new fly photos from the man in OZ, Bob's Marlie (yes, see what I did there!), a 9/0 Dodger and the Moonshine on a well dodgy hook.

26th October, 2010 - A highlight of the year for me - the British Fly Fair International (http://www.bffi.co.uk/) at Stoke-on-Trent is on this weekend - I'll be at there on Sat till about 2pm (Friday night in the Premier Inn, just next to the event, if you fancy a beer later on), please track me down and say hello (photo of me here) I'll be wandering about, but will base myself from Chris Sandford's Vintage tackle road-show.

An interesting sale on at Bonhams in Edinburgh on 11th of November although estimates are a bit erratic, see the catalogue here http://www.bonhams.com/EUR/sale/17995/0/ 

12th October, 2010 - The other day I was re-reading Francis Francis (not the usual "Book of Angling" but the later "Lakes and Rivers, An anglers rambles in the north of England and Scotland from 1874") and reminded myself of some further dressing varients - I have updated the appropriate fly pages with the dressings, but though that viewers may like to read an extract - I like the way Francis Francis writes about flies!

"The flies on the Dee are peculiar, being dressed upon very long shanked hooks made expressly for the purpose, Three or four of them are particular to the Dee, and I will endeavour to describe them. The first is called the Red Wing. The body is composed of one third dirty orange-yellow towards the tail, and the rest claret (inclining to purple) mohair; broad silver tinsel. Tail, a golden pheasant’s saddle feather, and tow or three turns of tinsel at a tip. The hackle is a very large black heron hackle, the fibres of which reach from the head of the fly to as much beyond the point as possible; the hackle should be wound up about two thirds of the body; at the shoulder is wrapped around a teal feather. The wings are two long strips of swallow-tailed gled set flat, so as to support the fly in the water, or the dun reddish feather sometimes found in the turkey’s tail does almost as well. The sister fly to this is called the Tartan. The body is dressed with one half dirty orange, and the upper half scarlet mohair; broad gold tinsel, two turns of it for the tip, and a red, gold-pheasant breast-feather for  tail. Over this body is run a sandy red hackle, one side of the fibre being snipped off  pretty closely; over this is run a large grey heron’s hackle – I think they come from the rump; they are very long in the fibre – indeed the difficulty with these Dee flies is to get feathers long enough in the fibre. The grey hackle is laid over the red for two thirds of the body; at the shoulder is a teal hackle, as in the other fly. The wings are two strips of silver-grey speckled turkey. It is a singular looking fly, giving one the idea of a huge spider. The white eagle is even a greater monstrosity. The body resembles that of the Red Wing. The tail is a breast feather as in the Tartan. From head to tail is wound what is termed an eagle’s hackle, but it is the fluffy part of a golden eagle’s feather just over the leg. In fact, upon a cursory inspection the fly looks like the stump of some feather. The shoulder is decorated with the invariable teal’s hackle, without which seems no Dee fly would be perfect. The wings are slips of the silver grey barred turkey, with black tips; and a very monstrous-looking production is the result. Nevertheless, it kills well towards evening; and if dressed small, and with less of the eagle on it, it will kill well by day. Another fly of the same cast is the Yellow Eagle, which is just the same fly, only the eagle feather is dyed of a bight lemon yellow. I have heard many theories as to what the salmon mistakes the usual run of flies for; but for what he can possible mistake a “yaller aigle” (as it is called in those parts) passes my comprehensions utterly. There is nothing like it that I ever saw either in earth, air, or water. These flies are used large in spring and high water, and smaller when the water fines down."

10th October, 2010 - Hello again, new job has been taking up too much time! However I do have some new updates, a great photo of Mr Walbran's version of the Dunt from Bob F. I have identified 2 additional tackle makers from Aberdeen, not much detail yet:

David Falconer, Fishing Rod Maker, 45 Bon Accord Street, Aberdeen, and
John Smith, 63 Guest Road, Aberdeen

Both found in Pigot & Co's National Commercial Directory of Scotland 1837

27th August, 2010 - A quick update, I had a days fishing with Donald Macleod last weekend on the Fishponds beat of the river Tay, one of the pools is called Benchill, I pronounced this as Bench hill and wondered if the Benchill fly was named after it. Donald gently corrected me and told me the correct pronunciation; "Benkle", now this clears up one of the unkown Dee flies on my "must find the dressing of" list! The Benckle is the Benchill. I have tidied up the description of the fly in the Vintage Flies section. (If you are wondering - neither Donald or I caught a fish, but Alan the boatman landed a sea-liced fish that tasted very nice the next day.)

4th July, 2010 - Added a photo of a Vero by Geert Werbrouck.

1st July, 2010 - Changed the listing for Moonlight added in Moonshine dressing and some history - thanks to Martin O'K for all his help - if you have any Moonlights let me know and if you have any more detail on the Moonshine let me know.

30th June, 2010 - Sorry there have been no updates for a while, been busy with new job and trip to Norway. I have updated the entry for John Ritchie, Tackle Maker Aberdeen with more details. Hope to be more active with updates shortly. Close to resolving the Moonlight/Moonshine conundrum!

18th April, 2010 - Today an email arrived from Gordon Sandison "I came across your website whilst researching my family tree and was thrilled to see a picture of a fishing gaff made by my great great great grandfather - Ludovick Grant Sandison." Gordon also provided me with some further detail and directed me to a photograph of the beardy old man - I have updated his entry here.

30th March, 2010 - I need your help! A couple of weeks ago Steinar Christensen of Norway posted a fly on the classic fly tying forum titled "Moonlight on Mrs Higginbotham", whe I read the title I thought he had made a mistake and it should have been "Moonlight or Mrs Higginbotham" - but I looked at the fly and it was not what I was expecting. So I contacted Steinar and discovered that this was a pattern for the river Em in Sweden and had been invented by J.D. Greenway and that he had written a book called Fish, Fowl and Foreign Lands published in 1950. I bought the book (quite easy to find on abebooks and not expensive - and a very good read! - some about the river Dee).

Now I know the Moonlight Dee fly, and from my notes I see that it was invented by J.R. Greenway and is sometimes known as the Mrs. Higginbotham. I can't recall where this bit of information came from - the only published reference I can find now is in Pryce-Tannatt - so if anyone can confirm this it would be great.

So was JD JRs son and did he invent a fly and name it after his fathers? or are my notes incorrect? Here is an extract from JDs book and a very nice tying of the "Moonlight on Mrs Higginbotham" by Steiner:

"Some Em fishermen maintain that the only idiosyncrasy that these fish seem to have is their apparent dislike of the colour blue. You may, they affirm, let your Blue Charm or your Silver Blue hand ever so enticingly in an eddy, or come round perfectly no semblance of drag (the greased line is always fished here); but the sea-trout remain totally unresponsive. One angler at least has tried for years without success to catch one on a Silver Blue; but the fish do not seem to mind the blue hackles in the Doctor series. So the theory does not seem really tenable. If the fish have any preference, it is for reddish-brown and dark orange flies of the fiery brown or shrimp type. Once at the very end of the spring season when they had entirely gone off and no one had caught a fish for two days, I devised and tried a fly as different as possible from those we were using. Next morning I got two fish on it, the other's rods remaining blamk, and after dinner that night. I dressed three more and presented them to the three remaining anglers who next morning each caught a fish upon them. No one knows of course what it is about any given pattern of fly that appeals or not to a fish and this will surely continue to be a fruitful subject of argument until this dreary new world finally distroys itself. But incase anyone is interested, I give the dressing:

Tail: Topping
Body: Black seal fur
Ribbing: Narrow oval silver tinsel
Hackle: First gallina, two turns, then a small black heron hackle.
Underwings: Silver Pheasant with teal over and a topping.

This is known as "Moonlight on Mrs. Higginbotham""

26th March, 2010 - Added a new link in the links page to a site that explores fishing gadgets, tins, bottles, knives, flytying vices etc. It's an American site produced by Dean Smith, but features some great stuff from the UK including a neat pair of Malloch flytying sissors, see it here http://www.tackletreasures.com/

25th March, 2010 - Sorry about the lack of updates recently. Here are some new flies from Bob Frandsen, I'm jealous of his supply of cinammon turkey! They are the Grimble pattern Killer, Akroyd, Balmoral and Tricolour.

2nd March, 2010 - A fantastic illustrated history of the Calder businesses in Aberdeen from Fraser Henderson - Fraser lives in New Zealand and sent this to me whilst the recent tsunami was approaching! I knew next to nothing about the Calders prior to this. See it half way down this page.

7th Feb, 2010 - A new Jock O'Dee from Bob

4th Feb, 2010 - A tackle catalogue from Robert Turnbull of Edinburgh for the year of 1938 dropped through my letter box today, I had a quick scan of the salmon flies and there is listed for the Dee (spring and autumn patterns) : Akroyd, Red winged killer (which I assume is the Tricolour), Dunt, Glentana, Gordon, Grey eagle, Mar Lodge, White winged killer and the Yellow eagle - so no surprises there. However there is also a list of Dee and Deveron (summer patterns - the following patterns were kindly supplied by W. Murdoch) : Badger, Blue Charm, Blue Peacock, Garden wasp, Geen mantle, Jeannie, Jockie, Logie, Mallard & claret, Sailor, Silver blue, The wasp and Watson's fancy, a few new ones to me in that list - so expect an update on the main Aberdeen list shortly, I've not researched the missing one's yet, so if anyone can give me a clue on the Blue Peacock, Garden wasp and Green mantle I would be very happy!

3rd Feb, 2010 - Been having an interesting email conversation with Ally Gowans (inventor of flies including the modern classics Ally's Shrimp and Cascade) who is making a BBC radio programme about Alexander Grant and the Grant Vibration rod. I have put a link to one of his web pages on the links page, or you can go direct from here! http://www.letsflyfish.com/ I would say if you want to fish with an Ally's Shrimp you should buy it from the inventor - his prices are cheap considering the work and material that goes into them.. and who knows what they will be worth in a few years time (if the prices of Megan Boyd tied flies is an indicator).

28th Jan, 2010 - Sorry it's been a while since an update! FF&P had an excellent review from Dr Tod on the 7th of Jan, see it here: http://fishinghistory.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2010-01-17T16%3A08%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=14 you need to page down to almost the bottom. Aussie Bob has been at work again and has sent me a picture of the Grey Heron.

Also trying to track down the dressing of a fly called the Cairnton - is mentioned in the catch record books of Cairnton beat of the Dee, see pictures of the beat alongside the Blue Charm.

9th December, 2009 - Added a new chapter in the Cool Stuff page called 'Weird and Wonderful' where flies with interesting features will appear fromr time to time - the first 6 photo's come from the collection of Jason Lewis (thanks Jason!) - descriptions & details to follow - but check out the spear barbed flies... You'll find them just below the catalogue plate scans.

2nd December, 2009 - Feathers Flies and Phantoms is now a year old - It's great to get a review - makes it worth the effort - Thanks Richard! http://www.fishingblog.richarddonkin.com/

1st December, 2009 - As promised yesterday some very interesting new stuff on the Gordon - with thanks to Bob and Martin - I think we can present (or as close as possible to) the original version of the Gordon as tied by Cosmo himself.

30th November, 2009 - Been a bit busy with my proper job lately... But very pleased to share with you a Captain Walton from Bob Frandsen, also Martin Lanigan O' Keeffe has sent me (along with some other VERY interesting stuff - more of that later) a photo of a Gordon with a brass wire eye, see it with the other Gordons.

18th November, 2009 - The rest of the William Brown Don flies from Francis Francis - Book of Angling - have now arrived, another historic set from Bob - my fav is no 6.

17th November, 2009 - A fine Corniehaugh from Philip Glendinng and a not so fine Dr Corbet (or Minister of Drumoak) from me...

12th November, 2009 - The first of the William Brown Don flies, taken from Francis Francis makes an appearance here (Tied by Bob F - sorry about the spelling Bob!), Jan Muisers sent me pattern details of the Black and Yellow Wasp, then sent a picture of one he has tied, that's on Not Dee Flies. Had a great time at the British Fly Fair at the weekend catching up with people, Philip Glendinning gave me a "Cornihaugh" - one of the "missing" Dee flies - I'll get a photo on here soon. Met up with Mikko (always a pleasure) he is doing great Snow Flies - I'm hoping he will send me pictures of the Dee Snow Fly and the Dodger. Good to see Mike Townsend, Ted Patlen, Sarah (great painings of the Spey flies, Sarah - if only I had a little more cash!) and many more. John Knott showed me a recent find - a couple of Salmon Fly Brooches, Green Highlander and a Pale Torrish, I think, with a surprise on the back, would be interested in your thoughts (pictures not v good due to cellophane cover - obviously John did not want to remove it!):

1st November, 2009 - Gordons, Gordons, every where

28th October, 2009 - William Gardens low profile Gordon

26th October, 2009 - A new version of the Ythan Killer, a William Brown dressing of the Gordon (from Kelson) and the Empress arrived today.

25th October, 2009 - The William Murdoch Don flies are flinished and loaded - I have to say that I have never seen the full set of these flies before and they are very interesting, to quote Bob "Dee flies but not Dee flies" - Anyway a huge thanks to Bob for allowing me to host the images here.

24th October, 2009 - WM Don fly 10 and another Gordon

23rd October, 2009 - WM Don flies 8 & 9 now up, when you have admired those pop over to the Gordon page where things have started to happen.....

22nd October, 2009 - WM Don flies 6 & 7 loaded

20th October, 2009 - WM Don flies 4 & 5 now up

18th October, 2009 - WM Don flies 2 & 3 loaded, No. 3 is very special to my eyes

17th October, 2009 - The first of the 12 William Murdoch Don flies as published by the Fishing Gazette in 1884 is here

16th October, 2009 - I just love the Murdoch flies for the Ythan, Bob has send a new picture of the Green Parrot- it's a cracker! Bob has his own web site, you can see more of his work here: http://bobfly.webs.com/

14th October, 2009 - I just love collecting! I saw some vintage flies on ebay - the photo was awful as was the perspective of size, however I noted some Dee fly shapes so I bid the minimum amount (not much at all) and thought to my self, at that price it would be OK if the flies were rubbish I could re-use the hooks. They arrived today - whilst not in the best of condition, I'm very happy with them, the photo below is of the 3 largest, 6/0 long shank (Grey Eagle), 6/0 and 7/0 long shank. Can anyone help me with the pattern of the second 2? I guess the pattern is something like:

Tail: Golden pheasant tippet
Body: 1/5th light orange, 1/5th dark orange/red, the rest black
Rib: Broad silver tinsel
Body hackle: Cochybonddu (dark center, light tips)
Hackle: Guinea Fowl
Wing: Speckled Turkey

11th October, 2009 - Photo of Mr Murdochs Fail-me-Never added, here

9th October, 2009 - Photo of Sir Peter added see it here

2nd October, 2009 - Had an interesting day on the Sluie beat of the Dee, the hut was very interesting - see the About Me page for photos and why the hut should be of interest to vintage fly fans....

18th September, 2009 - Had a supper day on the Dinnet Beat of the Dee this week with brother-in-law david this week, bright sun (as usual for me!), I lost 3 fish one which was very big and David landed a 10lb fish - see the action in the About Me page along with some photos of the huts on the Dinnet and Dee Castle beats. We were fishing size 12 stoat's tails amazing for this time of year.

15th September, 2009 - A wee while ago I bought a couple of old photograph albums, the first is a series of photos of a Salmon & Trout fishing holiday in canada in the 1920's the second (same people) a Bass fishing holiday. I'm not quite sure what to do we these, they seem quite important, what do you think? Here are some from the first album: [There didn't seem to be much interest in these and they made the opening of the home page quite slow - let me know if you want to see them]

3rd September, 2009 - Been on an extended holiday, will get back to updating the site shortly. The last part of the holiday was in Sutherland, family holiday so no serious fishing but thought you may like to see a picture of the splendid fishing hut at the mouth of the river Laxford, will be going back without the kids sometime!


10th August, 2009 - Check out the splendid Childers ...

30th July, 2009 - You may spot a new page in the index! And to follow on the Pig's Wool trail, here is a Black Dog Mackintosh style!


29th July, 2009 - Had some good correspondance this week, first from Bob Fransden that included a photo of 'The Pride of Aberdeen' from Tolfrey (Jones's guide to Norway), I have always wondered about how this fly got it's name and if it should be considered as a fly from the North East of Scotland and hence included on the Vintage Flies page of this web site - I would appreciate your thoughts on this, in the mean time, here is a very fine example of a mixed wing PoA...(thanks Bob!)


Update on Pig's wool, Brian has rooted out an earlier reference "Great references. Thanks. I've also had an enquiry for the wool as a result of your web site posting that I've passed on.

Meanwhile, at www.aboutflyfishing.com/library/weekly/aa120199a.htm  there is a reference to Alexander Mackintosh (1742-1829), The Driffield Angler - J Etherington, Driffield about 1806. This mention particularly concerns the Salmon Fly 'The Black Dog'. His method is given as:
Wings: Bluish feather from a Heron wing intermixt with spotted reddish ones of a turkey tail
Body: Lead coloured pigs wool (from under the ear) ribbed small gold twist
Throat & Hackle: Large Black Cock's hackle
Head: Dark Green mohair spun on dark green silk
I don't know what page it would be on in the original reference but I believe there is a picture as well.
Since Driffield is in East Yorkshire and just north of the Humber this is particularly interesting as it may be the earliest Pigs Wool reference and would presumably use Lincolnshire Curly Coat Pigs Wool."


22nd July, 2009 - An excellent Bruce now loaded. Pig's Wool! your help required, see below. Had a great email from Simon Runting in New Zealand, he has discovered some paperwork from William Brown (well it would be James Harper at the time) listing out salmon flies that he wanted to sell to a retail business in New Zealand in 1912. This is of great interest as it contains some names of flies not in the 1897 Browns catalogue.... I have some work to do on this, but in the mean time here is a quick peek.


PIG'S WOOL Got this email today:

I have been reading your web site with great interest. My reason is the study of the use of Pigs Wool in tying flies and in particular that from the Lincolnshire Curly Coated Pig.
This animal went extinct in 1972 (the last rare breed to do so in the UK before the formation of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust Charity) and we have been trying to reinstate the heritage through the import and subsequent breeding of its cousin the Mangalitza. Further information on our activities can be found at www.rectoryreserve.co.uk
Recently we started supplying Pigs Wool to the USA for dyeing and thence for fly tyeing. This has led me to research the background to this usage. Hogs Fleeces were regularly exhibited in competition at the Lincoln Show until the First World War.The wool was used, not just for making fishing flies, but was shipped to mills in Lancashire for knitting into very warm winter waistcoats. We wanted to carry out DNA testing on samples of old pigs wool to compare with today's animals in order to tell how closely linked our imports are to the original Curly Coats. Unfortunately I have been unable to locate an old waistcoat for analysis.However, I understand that collections of Salmon Flies from earlier times exist. Some samples in these examples may contain Pigs wool amd it may be viable to examine these without adverse consequences for the specimens. Do you think this would be feasible? Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. In passing do you have a reference for the earliest mention of Pigs Wool (under this name or another ie the material) for Fly Tyeing - as distinct to 'wool' which presumably would be from sheep?
Your help is much appreciated.Regards, Brian S Codling

This is what I have found so far:

The Northern Angler - Kirkbride 1840

Jones's Guide to Norway 1848

Rocks & Rivers - Colquhon 1849

The Erne - Newland 1851

The Anglers companion - Stoddart 1853

I'm sure that some of you out there will get much earlier referrences - please let me know and I'll note the earliest on the site

15th July, 2009 - Not had much time recently, but got a chance to load some more pictures of Dee fishing huts, on about me. Two more Dee fly photos added, the Rintoul and the Red Wing, both here

6th July, 2009 - Back from holiday - let's just say the sun shone A LOT! - will be posting pictures of more Dee huts at the end of the week. Today we have the Fishing Gazette pattern of the Silver Grey from Dave Carne and a picture of Mar Lodge - the Lodge.

27th June, 2009 - Time for the annual trip to the Dee next week, Aboyne Castle, the fishers did well the week before last and OK this week, so hopes are high (although the forecast seems to be for a heat wave!). New photo of a traditionally tied Gled Wing and a plate of Malloch's "flies for Scotland" from Where to Fish, 1932,  - in amongst the catalogue plates in Cool Stuff - some great standard patterns, with a lovely Akroyd. The following advert from the same book, if ever there was a reason for time travel it would be to order a few dozen flies from Kilroy! Does anyone have access to a copy of The Field 23rd June 1932 mentioned? - I'd love to post it here.


24th June, 2009 - New photo of the Helmsdale (Gaudy) Eagle see Not Dee Flies

23rd June, 2009 - New photo of the Hold Fast see Not Dee Flies

22nd June, 2009 - So many people have told me how much they enjoyed seeing the pictures of AHE Woods "hut" at Cairnton, I have added some more of the hut, house and the Dee at Cairnton - they are located with the Blue Charm

15th June, 2009 - Two new pictures of the Silver Grey tied by Dave Carne - looking forward to the next one! Also added a new pattern to Not Dee Flies found in the book "A River of  Norway, being the notes and reflections of an angler", by Charles Thomas-Standford, 1903. 

10th June, 2009 - Crosfield and Malloch "how to" now back and in Cool Stuff

4th June, 2009 - Disaster struck and I lost all the contents of this page - luckily all the others are fine! So I'll be building back some of the lost content over the next few days, incl Malloch on the Salmon fly and Crosfield on the Black Silk (sadly all the update notes from the last few months are lost...)





All researched material and pictures Copyright Colin Innes 2008 - 2015
  Site Map