Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Classic Dry Fly Box

After the terrific success of Mike Valla's first book, 'Tying Catskill-Style Dry Flies', it's pleasing to see that Mike has released a new work on the history of 100 famous old flies and fly patterns of the Catskill region.

Mike's proven record on sourcing historical facts and his authentic approach, research and the flies he has put together in this book, is a credit to him.  As an example, Mike's search to obtain the correct hooks that were used in the original tyings went world wide and finally, he found what was needed, would you believe, not far from home!  This just goes to prove how diligent Mike was in reproducing these flies for this book.

I'm still awaiting my Limited Edition copy; there may be some left, so I suggest you get in touch with the publishers.

Back Cover

The Classic Dry Fly Box
by Mike Valla

A glimpse inside the Dry Fly Box of Mike Valla! Join him as he takes a tour of the history of the Catskill-style dry fly, from the Abbey to the Yellow Spinner, with 98 other stops in between. From the popular to the obscure, Valla delves into the history of these marvelous flies, masterfully weaving quotes from Gordon, Cross, the Dettes, Bergman and other legends with his own personal anecdotes about growing up in the Catskill tying tradition. Fully illustrated with gorgeous color photography and complete with dressing appendix.

Published by The Whitefish Press (November, 2011) • Softcover Trade Edition • 128 Pages • Full Color Throughout • Dressing Appendix for all 100 Flies • List Price: US$29.95

Available from The Whitefish Press (

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We Need Your Help

The Parachute Custom Dry Fly Hook made in England

I have just posted a large article on my website with reference to the correct positioning of the post on Parachute hackled flies that are tied on standard dry fly hooks. Click here for the link.

The hook featured above was one sold in America by Herters Inc. way back when. But there were others. We know that William Brush of Detroit was granted a patent for his Parachute Hook in 1934 but I only have a drawing of it.

The House of Hardy also patented their Ride-Rite Parachute flies, again in 1934.

There is also the suggestion that Alex Martin of Glasgow produced his own hooks around the same period.

I've been told that Partridge also made a Parachute hook.

So, can you help? Pictures out of books can give us an idea but a good close-up photo, as with the Herters model, tells its own story.

I would really like to complete this story and if you have any old Parachute hooks, can you please send me some, or one, so that it can be photographed. I will gladly return it or swap it for another hook from my collection.

I know that a number of you are active on the chat boards on a number of websites and if you can post a request, I would really appreciate it. You can contact me at or via Comments here.

But wait, there is a second request! Mike Valla is working on another project and is desperately looking for some Mustad 93843 size 16 up-eye hooks. Can you help?

Mike can also be contacted on or via Comments.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The pontoon boat and big browns!!

On a recent trip to New Zealand, I had first-hand experience on the value of owning a pontoon boat. What impressed me was the ease of its mobility. On still water it simply slips across the surface with a minimum amount of effort and it's truly amazing how far you can travel in a very short time.

My fishing in New Zealand was on a lake with extensive weed beds; trout from 6 to 10 pound were feeding freely in amongst the weeds, chasing damselfly nymph and snail.

This is the sort of fish I'm talking about and over
the week I was there, I caught plenty of them.

The fishing was so good that I've just got to go back! And this time, a little bit better prepared than my earlier trips in January and March this year. So, upon my return home, I started looking for an Australian distributor for pontoon boats, to no avail. The next port of call was Google and eventually, Cabela's and there I saw The Madison, which suited me just fine, as I had met an American couple with the exact same boat in New Zealand and it worked just fine for them.

The champers christening
for champagne fishing!

Well, you guessed it, we tested it and it worked just fine but, to my wife's disdain, I informed her that I needed flippers, a light-weight anchor, a drogue, a flyfishing-style life jacket, a rod holder, a wetbag to keep a jacket and jumper dry, a floatation cushion for the seat and gloves, because after the test run, I suffered with blisters! Too much pen-pushing and not enough physical but after all, I'm retired!!!

I've just got to say, dealing with Cabela's is nothing but a pleasure; what a company, what a service, simply awesome.

If you want to know more about this fishing spot in New Zealand, email me on

To be continued............

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Fishing Flies - An Encyclopaedia

By Malcolm Greenhalgh & Jason Smalley
Published by Harper Collins Publishers, London
Available from Coch-y-Bonddu Books

When I first started tying way back in the dark ages, well, the early 1960s, one of the must-have fly pattern books was A Dictionary of Trout Flies by A. Courtney Williams, first published in 1949 and went through a lot of editions. What was so different about the Dictionary was that with each pattern there was a short history of that pattern and who was responsible for developing it. It gave a tormented beginner like I was, in those days, a lot of the information.

Living in Australia we were starved of this sort of information. The truth was, I could easily afford those E. Veniard booklets and they were cheap but books, I had to save for. For me the Dictionary was my fly tying bible. Then came Flies by J. Edson Leonard, first published in 1950, with over 2000 fly patterns and what an eye-opener that was! I still have two editions of that work. Unfortunately for me this work did not appear in our book shops over here until the early 1970s. Just the same, I fumbled with every page over and over again, trying to soak up all that it was hidden within those 340 pages.

So, let's fast forward. A couple of years ago, after attending the British Fly Fair, Ole Bjerke, Mustad (ex Partridge) and I were invited to lunch at the home of Malcolm Greenhalgh. Well, there I was trying to eat this magnificent meal that Malcolm and his wife had prepared but I was so ill with a stunning British cold, that I was unable to finish it all. Really, I should have been in bed.

Out of that delightful luncheon there was an offer to participate in Malcolm's new book, Fishing Flies, which is, in all honesty, an encyclopaedia of fly patterns that Malcolm has gleaned from around the world over his extensive career as a fly fishing/fly tying author. The work contains some 1300 patterns, with a small photograph of each one.

What is different about this book is that it is not only a terrific reference work but that the flies have been sorted into categories such as North Country Spiders, Midge patterns, Stoneflies, Shrimps and so on. In all there are fifteen different categories, so if you are looking for fly patterns to represent say Mayflies or Upwings, as they are called today, this work has a whole chapter listing a reference source that would cover just about all of the patterns one would need to carry on a world trip. A great buy and at 30 quid, it won't break the bank.

Australia is well represented with patterns by yours truly, the late Warryn Germon, Ray Brown and John Rumpf.

The late Warryn Germon

Ray Brown, Tasmania

Unfortunately, I don't have a current pic of John Rumpf. Internationally, the other contributors are Stuart Bowdin, who tied most of the dry flies, Paul Little, who tied all of the salmon flies and Terry Jenner tied all of the salt water flies.

Other guests are: Dave Bell, Brian Burnett, the late Al Coen, Howard Croston, Oliver Edwards, Lawrence Finney, Wendy Gibson, Peter Greenhalgh, Les Gregory, Mick Hall, Geoff Haslam, Chris Helm, Chris Hosker, Ed Jaworowski, Peter Joest, the late Paul Jorgensen, Ian Kennedy, Torril Kolbu, Ted Malone, Ken Maylor, Robert McHaffie, Steve Munn, Dick Nelson, Wally Nowak, Steve O'Dea of Donegal Flies, Marc Petitjean, Bob Popovics, Terry Ruane, Roger Salomonsson, Riny Sluiter, Mikko Stenberg, Paul van den Driesche, Chris Wadmore, Bar Woodall and Terenzio Zandri.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

America's Dark Blue Sedge - Video is Awesome!

Philip J. Mancini

When I attended the Somerset Fly Tying Symposium at New Jersey last November, I had a golden opportunity to meet a lot of great people, fly tyers and fly anglers. One was Philip Mancini, a young family man who loves the arts, his fishing and his fly tying.

Philip J. Mancini, aka Fishin' Musician, is a Professional musician and storyteller, fly fisherman and fly tyer from Northeastern Pennsylvania. As a musician and storyteller, Philip performs for weddings, private parties, banquets, special events and the like. His Fishin' Musician presentations encompass music, photography and stories. He is a multi-instrumentalist who will bring a memorable experience to your event with music, spokenword and photography. You can learn more at Philip's website and comments and questions are welcome - or contact him at

Philip and I have a common interest in the food forms that attract the attention of Old Speckles and if you follow the link at the end of this post, you will see an amazing video of a Dark Blue Sedge hatch that Philip captured in his home "bug tank" (aquarium). But I will let him tell you in his own words:

The Dark Blue Sedge - Psilotreta
This video was taken in my "Bug Tank" at 5am, one Friday morning. As I was preparing my wife's coffee and my morning tea, I walked into my study to a racket of fluttering wings coming from my bug tank. You may ask, "A bug tank?" Yes, I keep a bug tank in my study. I use it to observe insects for photography and study. I took video of this event for an hour, as the evening's hatch was winding down and have created this video presentation for my speaking engagements and your enjoyment.

The Psilotreta is a well known hatch in the eastern United States and happens around the same time as our famous Green Drake Ephemera guttulata hatch, mid May through June. Both have peak emergences at dusk to early evening. The larvae have a two year cycle, are cased in a small rock and mineral case, burrow into the silt or gravel and are size 8-10. Their body colour is green with a black head having two dark red stripes.

The Cased Larva of the Dark Blue Sedge

Pupae are size 12-14, have a green body and swim to the surface to hatch.

Dark Blue Sedge Nymph

As adults, their body is greyer in colour; the male has some green in the abdomen. The females will fly upstream skipping off the water until they are ready to drop their dark green egg sac - when they land to release it. As adults, their size is 12-14.

Dark Blue Sedge Wet
All photography & flies by Philip Mancini

I've got to tell you this, I have watched it a number of times and I can't help get over the amount of false runs these caddis make towards the surface to escape out into our world! I hope you enjoy the show.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Brown-eyed Blue Leptophlebiid Dun

Brown-eyed Blue Dun

For the past month I have been studying the emergence of the Mayflies on our Rubicon River, about ten minutes from my home. Each morning I have visited the same section of water to photograph what has come off that morning or the night before. The summer periods are always difficult because of high temperatures, sometimes around 40 plus degrees Celsius. Because of this some of our mayfly species actually come off in the cool over night.

Some of our Australian mayflies are around all season whilst others only for a short while and this can vary from region to region. Hatch charts, if you can call them that, are mostly compiled from observation and a lot of guessing. The only authority that I know that gets it right every time is Mother Nature and you really have to work hard to get all the information you need from her.

In Australia we are so far behind the eight ball when it comes to being able to easily identify the bulk of our 113 species of Mayfly (that figure could be closer to 200). Our scientists are still recording what they have found and grouping and re-grouping at such a rate it is difficult to keep up with them. So be it, we will have to wait.

With that aside, I have been able to watch a constant emergence of four species and another that has only been around for a couple of weeks. To the fly fisher they would be loosely grouped into what I call the mini Mayflies, being from size 18 through to 14 standard hook size and not including the little Baetids which are also around that size grouping.

They all belong to the Leptophlebiidae family. The tally is little Black Duns (two species), the Honey Dun, the Devonshire Dun and a new one which I call the Brown-eyed Blue Dun.

Honey Dun Male

Devonshire Dun Male

Black Dun Female

Little Black Dun Male

The fact is I cannot find any scientific literature to assist with identification down to genus or species but at a guess, I would place them all within the Leptophlebiidae family.

For those who are a little unsure of how to tell the difference between Baetids and Leptophlebiids, the quick answer is simple; Baetids have two tail filaments and what looks like small, deformed secondary wings. The males have turban shaped eyes whilst the Leptophlebiids have three tail filaments, larger well formed secondary wings and rounded eyes on the male, whilst the females' eyes are shaped like a hammer head shark's head with the eyes off to the sides.

To be honest I have not seen the little brown-eye blue before and that could be my fault. The answer could easily be that I have not been on the water when it emerges, or I have missed it because it seems to come off in small numbers. The true answer to this question will only take time to reveal. The more you watch the more you learn.

Brown-eyed Blue Dun Spinner Male

Brown-eyed Blue Dun Female

The male has these brilliant, rich tan eyes as does its spinner, whilst the female is a little more drab and minus those brown eyes. A size 16 hook would match it well. They have beautiful pale speckled tails and, coupled with that pale dusty blue coloured body, it really is a magnificent looking Mayfly.

I have always thought that the Blue Duns, be they olives or whatever, normally belong to the Baetid family. Well old Mother Nature has thrown another curve ball and opened up another chapter.