Anatomy of a Fly
Claret & Black
By Art Lingren
It was on a 1983 September day on the Coquihalla that
my thoughts jelled regarding this pattern. After
returning home, I scribbled down the pattern listing
on a piece of paper and after picking up all the
ingredients I dressed the first specimen.
I like the finished product, dressed on a number
2 Wilson dry-dry salmon hook. I tied up a half dozen
more for my next trip to the Coquihalla, named it
Claret & Black as I taped the first fly and wrote its
details into my pattern book. Then my thoughts turned
to how this fly came into being.
One day in late August, 1983, up on the Dean River, Peter
Broomhall and I were talking fly fishing. I recall making
the statement that there had been about eight minds of
notable anglers and fly tiers who had influenced my
thouts on the development of a fly that I call Black and
its variation Green-Butt Black. Later I wondered about
my statement so with this new fly - Claret & Black - I
decided to write down the names of the anglers/fly tiers.
I was surprised by the number - George Kelson, Captian J.W.
Hale, Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt, A. Bryan Williams, Arthur
Woods, Rod Haig-Brown, Clark Van Fleet, R.V. Righyni and
John Ashley-Cooper - nine in total.
The old tiers - Hale, Kelson, and Pryce-Tannatt - through
studying their books taught me the machanics involved in
tying a classic fly, which complements the classy fish I
angle for - the steehead. On many of my floating-line
flines, I incorporate tips, tags, butts and body hackles
in the traditional Atlantic salmon tying style. Although
the fish could care less about such things, it pleases me
to catch fish on well-dressed flies.
Because I prefer to fish for summer steelhead, if the river
conditions are suitable, with a floating line I wanted the
style of fly to match the sparsely dressed tied of A.E.H. Wood.
I decided on a claret body beacuse of a statement made by A.
Bryan Williams in his book Rod and Creel in British
Columbia (1919), where he stated that a Claret and
Grouse fly was better for steelhead than a Jock Scott or a
I chose a gold tip and rib because they complimented the
body colour. Oval tinsel over flat for two reasons. First,
the fabric core of oval tinsel was not as easily severed
by the fish's teeth. Second, by nesting the hackle stem
next to the oval tinsel, it proved good protection from
the fish's teeth. The orange tail because Rod Haig-Brown
wrote many times that winter steelhead seemed to have a
preference for orange. In reverance to The Man, I gave
the fly an orange tail.
I wanted a body hackle to give the fly extra movement,
which better represents a living thing, as described by
Kelson is The Salmon Fly (1895) and
reiterated by Clark Van Fleet in his book Steelhead
to a Fly (1951). A black hackle was chosen
because it too complemented the body colour. To keep the
tie sparce, one side of the hackle was stripped.
For the throat I decided on the barred flank feather from
ei8ther the pintail or widgeon duck. I believe that as
water flows through and fluctuated the fibres of barred
feathers, a better illusion of movement and thus a more
lifelike appearance is achieved.
There was only one choice of colour for the wing - black.
During the summer prior to tying this fly, I bought
John Ashly-Cooper's book, A Salmon Fisher's Odyssey
(1982), and when it first arrived I thumbed
through it and read the section on flies. In one of
his statements on fly winging he said that if he had to
choose just one colour for the wing of a fly it would be
black. That pleased me because it confirmed my thoughts
on the subject and black it was for my new fly. I wanted
a fine hair that fluctuates well even in the slightest of
currents for the wing and chose squirrel tail.
A black Cellire varnished head adds the last touch of
class. The product was a dark-toned fly that will give
a good silhouette when observed from below with the sky
was a background, similar in appearance to those flies
that suit R.V. Righyni's silhouette pattern description
in his book Advanced Salmon Fishing (1973).
The first day I used the fly - September 15, 1983 - up on
the Coquihalla, I managed to hook and land one 24-inch
steelhead and six rainbows from 10 to 16 inches. This was
on my original tie which I retired and mounted. I have
been using the Claret & Black on and off for the past 12
years and am pleased with its performance.
Credits: Article from Fly Patterns of British Columbia by
Arthur James Lingren, published by Frank Amato Publications.
Claret & Black
Hook: Number 2 to 6 low-water salmon.
Tip: Fine oval, gold tinsel.
Tag: Claret floss.
Tail: A small, red-orange, hen, neck feather.
Butt: Black ostrich herl.
Body: In two sections: rear third of claret floss
with the remainder of dark claret seal's fur.
Rib: Medium gold, oval tinsel.
Hackle: From second turn of tinsel a black hackle
with one half stripped off to maintain sparseness.
Throat: Two turns of widgeon or pintail flank.
Wing: Black squirrel.
Head: Black Cellire varnish.
Originator: Art Lingren.
Intended Use: Floating-line fly for summer steelhead.
Location: Coquihalla River [B.C.].
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