Mikael Frodin holds this fly up as a prime example of a "mixed wing"
fly. George Kelson, who liked to think of himself as the inventor of
the mixed wing, used this married wing technique in many flies, and
promoted it in a number of articles in The Fishing Gazette
in 1883 and 1884. The idea was to take sections of wings from different
birds, marry them together, lefts to lefts and rights to rights, thereby
creating two wings that would be tied on the fly simultaneously. This
idea was taken quite seriously by the angling public in Great Britain,
and the idea spread like wildfire. In 1888 Kelson made the technique
ever more difficult by specifying that just one fiber at a time be
used to form a section, then those sections joined together in multiples
to form a wing. In other words, he would take individual fibers from
say, four left hand feathers from four different birds, marry them,
an then repeat the process, typically four times, and join those
sections together to form a wing.
Now, there is another facet of this whole mixed wing thing that Kelson
tries to explain in "The Salmon Fly." He talks about a technique in
there where he grabs individual fibers from various birds, lays them
in his hand, lays another bunch next to that one, then another next
to that, and then ties the whole thing on at once somehow, forming
a wing. I've seen a couple of renditions of this technique done on
some web sites, and the effect is a bit wild. So we are left with
the question of what constitutes a "mixed wing" really. Some say
that it is any fly with a golden pheasant tippet under-wing with
a married wing over that. Frodin gives examples like the Dawson,
Floodtide, Black and Gold, Silver Doctor, and Gordon. These flies
are all over the map under-wing-wise, some having golden pheasant
tippet, others having white-tipped turkey, and some, like the Dawson,
having no under-wing at all. I personally don't pretend to know. I
use to think that a built-wing fly had sections of wings built over
each other, i.e. an under-wing of white tipped turkey, a main wing,
and a roof, and a mixed wing fly had one big wing comprised of
married sections, like the Thunder and Lightning from Pryce Tannatt,
but that's clearly wrong. It's wrong because Kelson talks about
creating "skins" for mixed wing flies, outer skins made from shorter
feathers like teal, wood duck, gallina, etc. These go over the main
wing "skin," which is comprised of married sections, which in turn
go over the inner skin, or underwing, which is also made up of married
slips. All of this made up a mixed wing fly. One would assume then
that if the fly has married components, it's a mixed wing fly. What's
absolutely right however is murky at best. All the techniques for
winging ultimately became blurred together, with "mixed wings" being
put on traditional built-wing flies, so in the end, nobody really
knows what's what.
The Dawson was the creation of Kennet Dawson, and was also known as
the Baron Dawson. It was a favorite of Kelson's, though was not a
fly commonly used on most rivers. It's not one of the mainstream
flies that lots of tiers do these days, and that makes it a little
more interesting I think. If you'd like to try this one, here's
Credits: The Salmon Fly by George Kelson;
Salmon Fishing by John James Hardy; Classic
Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin; Tying the Classic
Salmon Fly by Michael D. Radencich. ~ EA
Tag: Silver twist and yellow silk.
Tail: A topping and chatterer.
Butt: Black ostrich herl.
Body: In two equal sections of silver tinsel, butted at center
with Indian crow and black ostrich herl.
Ribs: Silver tinsel (oval).
Throat: Indian crow, repeated as above, and light blue hackle.
Wings: Light mottled turkey, yellow macaw, golden pheasant tail,
teal, powdered blue macaw, ibis, dark mottled turkey, grey mallard:
mallard and a topping.
Horns: Blue macaw.
Head: Black ostrich herl (dispensed with in Hardy, it's just
listed as "black") .
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA