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Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than today's modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps?

Tying the Jock Scott

Part Two: Underwing, Wing, Sides, Cheeks and Topping

Jock Scott Salmon Fly
By Eric Austin, Ohio

This is part two of a two part step by step tutorial discussing the dressing of the king of the salmon flies, the Jock Scott. I intend to get very in depth with each stage, with an emphasis on material preparation, which is key to being able to pull off this very difficult and complicated fly. The methods discussed will apply to more than just classic flies, and can be applied to all sorts of flies, and applied directly to classic wets from the Mary Orvis Marbury era to modern day European wets. For a photo showing the sections of the fly with names, see the large photo at the end of the article.

The Underwing

The white tipped turkey underwing must be perfect. If it isn't, all sorts of ramifications ensue, none of them pleasant. You are, to a degree, always at the mercy of your materials, but in this case, if you can't hold the left and right turkey sections back to back (concave sides together) and look down on them and see that there is no curvature right or left, get another set of turkey slips. These will never work, and your fly will be a disaster.

We should discuss what is meant by right and left slips. If you hold a feather in front of you, tips up, stem down, with the "good" side of the feather facing you (convex side typically), slips cut from the left side of said feather will be "lefts", and slips cut from the right side of the feather will be "rights". Lefts almost always comprise the near wing in a salmon fly, and rights comprise the far wing. I don't want to be confusing, but duck quills are an exception to this rule, as they have lots of reverse curve in their wings. But for the winging materials used in salmon flies (goose secondaries, swan, turkey, bustard, macaw, etc.) this is absolutely the case. So our underwing here will be made up of a slip from the left side of one white tipped turkey feather for the near wing, and a slip from the right side of the same feather, or a different white tipped turkey feather, comprising the far wing. The two wings are placed back to back, and tied in with three soft wraps dead center on the top of the hook. It should look something like this.


Be sure to look down on the top of the underwing you've done and make sure it is on the same plane as the bend of the hook, in other words, perfectly vertical. If it's not, adjust it now or you are completely doomed. Not to overstate it, but call a suicide hot line now, so they can get there in time. Once it looks good, three or four hard wraps are in order, while holding the front of the wings securely to prevent thread torque from rolling them out of place.


Do you see the little flare-out in the white section of the upper wing in the picture above? I had no control over that, it's just the way the turkey feathers curved. But that little flare caused no end of problems when I tried to mount the wing. I can't emphasize this enough, your underwing must be perfect. I've "humped" these slips before tying in, so that the underwing would stay low on the fly. Humping is merely a case of holding the slips together in one hand, as they'll be on the fly, and then stroking them with the other, trying to change the curvature of the wing as you stroke. The fibers will remarry slightly. It's natural to stroke toward the tips, but stroke toward the butts as well, that seems to work well for me. Practice with some bad slips, and see how much curve you can generate. Try to get the slips to do your bidding.

The Overwing

It's always surprising to me how many people think that marrying wings is difficult. This is a mental thing, thinking something's hard when it's not. Marrying wings is a piece of cake actually, but mounting the married wings, well now, that's hard. There is but one rule you have to follow where married wings are concerned, and that is "lefts marry to lefts, rights to rights". Do yourself a favor and first off, properly identify from which feathers you'll be cutting left slips, and work only with those. Don't even get the rights out of the plastic. Make sure that your feathers don't exhibit an inordinate amount of reverse curvature, in other words, don't curl up on he ends. Make your left wing, which is the near wing (closest to the tier), first. With some turkey it is difficult to tell which is the "good" side. How can you tell if it's a left or not if you don't know which side to look at? Well, the good side will typically have just one stem, while the underside will look like the stem is split, or has two sections to it. So face the side toward you that has the single stem, and cut your slip from the left side of the feather. Try to keep your first married wings simple, as I've done on this fly. Each slip here has four strands or so, and there are seven slips married together to make up the wing. If slips don't marry well, try other slips, or even another type of feather all together. This is all a matter of not giving up. I've got an article devoted to married wings on this site, and it can be found here: Married Wings

On this fly I ultimately made two sets of wings, and mounted each a number of times. Sometimes it just goes wonderfully the first time, sometimes fifteen is a charm. I haven't trimmed the underwing butts here, but in retrospect I probably should have, if only on this fly. It is said that leaving the butts in place helps stabilize the wing, but I found in this case they simply got in the way and caused problems. I never cut the butts when the underwing is golden pheasant tippet, but turkey is different, and adds bulk to the head as well when not trimmed before mounting the main wing.


Overwing top

Overwing far side

Mounting the Wing in Detail

Just so we don't get confused, this section shows a different Jock Scott than the one we've been working with, because I decided to go into greater detail with the mounting of the wing, and had no pictures. So if this fly looks a little different, it's because it is. Here, I'm holding the wing in place with my thumb and middle finger of the left hand. I'm trying to cover as much surface of the wing as possible, with special emphasis on the top of the wing. I want pressure on the top especially because as the loop is slid down the wing, the top can get pulled forward if the tread catches the wing fibers. I don't have a death grip, because just that can screw up a wing. I'm trying to stabilize it in place, as I crush the fibers of the wing straight down with my thread loop. Be sure to check the other side of the fly before going any further, and make sure you're straddling the underwing (you might not be and never know it), and make sure that the lower part of the wing is just on top of the shank, and that you've formed a "tent" of sorts, and are in the middle of the shank as well. This is CRITICAL. This is the part you have complete control over, and if you get this right, the outcome is much more likely to be a good one. Take a LOT of time on this setup.

Mounting 1

Now I've done a pinch loop, and the thread is on the other side of the fly. I would normally not let the weight of the bobbin hang down, but I had to take the picture. I would have the bobbin in my right hand as a rule, and the thread would be unweighted.

Mounting 2

Here I've released the pinch loop, and I'm very slowly pulling up on the bobbin, closing the loop as I watch the tread slide down the face of the wing, making sure it doesn't get caught on any of the fibers. I'm at the same time grasping the butts and angling them up slightly, making a nice "V" in which the thread will land, and fighting the thread torque at the same time. I NEVER let go with my left hand.

Mounting 3

Tightening the loop some more…

Mounting 4

Now I continue to hold with the left while I do two or three medium wraps with the right hand, if I feel that things have gone well.

Mounting 5

Things have gone reasonably well, and this is the result. It looks bad now, but can easily be fixed. Don't panic if your wing comes apart a bit, it can be dealt with. Sometimes though, if it really explodes, it can't and you need to take the pieces and steam and re-marry them.

Mounting 6

Here is the wing after some minor touch up. Next, we go back to the original fly.

Mounting 7

The Wood Duck/Teal Pair and Jungle Cock Sides

The wood duck/teal pair is fairly straightforward. I like to use gadwall, as it marries so well to the wood duck. It's important to use the very large premium teal feathers or widgeon or what have you, as long as they're big and don't exhibit much curvature. The wood duck works better farther down the feather. Up toward the tip it curves up too much, and doesn't hump as readily. Some serious humping must be done once the pair is married, or they will really curve upward. Pryce-Tannatt recommends mounting them in the middle of the wing, and I think this is good practice as they will tend to ride up otherwise. If your pair is not behaving, riding up or curving up, you may coat the backside of the pair liberally with saliva (nature's flexament), and "stick" it in place.

Wood duck/teal tied in

The jungle cock sides are not too difficult, but I would again use Pryce-Tannatt's tip about not stripping, cutting fibers close to the stem instead. Jungle cock really likes to stick to your fingers and pull out, especially when you're grabbing the front of the fly with the left hand while putting the topping on. This happened to me twice while tying this fly, and I was really wishing I hadn't stripped the stem of the jungle cock, but old habits die hard. By the way, if you haven't cut the guinea throat stem and removed it from the sides of the fly, the jungle cock becomes a nightmare. The stem will make it stick out from the fly and not lay flat. The same thing can happen to the wood duck/teal pair.

Sides tied in

Now, if you'll look carefully at the picture above, you'll see that there is thread showing behind between where the overwing is tied on and the throat. This was a mistake on my part, but something easily overlooked after you've mounted the wing a number of times. I mounted the wing a bit too far forward, or it crept forward during the mounting process. There's a fix. It's the DeFeo throat method, and you start by prepping another guinea hackle by cutting a large wedge out of the top. Make it large enough so that what is left is as long or longer than you want the throat to be. Now turn your vise upside down and tie on with three wraps as shown:

Defeo hackle tied in

Next, pull the hackle slowly forward by using the stem, endeavoring to keep it straight, until it's the length you want.

Defeo hackle

Slowly pull out sides of the hackle that are up too high on either side of the body, which will look like this from the top:

Defeo hackle

Your throat will now look like this, and that thread behind the wing is now hidden. At this point I've trimmed all the butts, which I like to do before mounting the mallard roof and topping. I find that cuticle cutters are invaluable for getting in and trimming some of the tougher stuff. Don't cut the gut eye! Yes, I've done it. It affected me a little bit at the time, but I got over it in a few short months. Remember, it's just a fly. You'll see in a couple of shots where I've further camouflaged the thread with the cheeks and mallard roof.

Defeo hackle complete

The Peacock Sword

The two or three peacock swords that go over the top of the fly are very difficult to do. The only help I can give here is to make you aware that this material, like many others, can be crimped with fingernails, or curled as you would curl ribbon, etc. Sometimes doing them one at a time helps, sometimes not.

Peacock Sword complete

The Mallard Roof and Cheeks

Roof Complete

Under some circumstances the cheeks could have been added earlier, but I chose to add them last here, after attaching the mallard roof. With some flies this is a great trick for cutting down head size, but on this particular one, because I didn't choose to trim the underwing at first, it only helped a little.

The mallard roof used to give me fits until I found this method of doing them in the Michael Radencich book. First, pull an amount of mallard at right angles from the stem that is twice the width of the roof you'd like to see on one side of the fly, remarrying the slip and evening the tips, like so:

Mallard prep

Next, pull the feather away from the strip, leaving some stem attached to the strip. Take the resulting slip and fold it in half, and hump it to match the curve of the wing.

Humped Roof

Tie it in tent fashion, and notice that the tail of the roof is sticking up, sometimes almost straight up. Don't worry, we'll fix this. Make sure both sides of the mallard roof are about the same width. This is quite tricky, as the wing wants to move, get pushed down, etc., so be very careful. Once in place so you're happy, slather up your left thumb and middle finger with lots of saliva, and run them over the rear of the mallard roof, sticking it down to the top of the wing. This can usually be accomplished in one deft move, and voila, your roof is perfect.

Roof Complete

Now for the mounting of the topping (golden pheasant crest). I do a lot of preparation for the topping, crimping and curving with my thumbnail where necessary, stripping the base just barely long enough and then bending the stem just right at the tie in point with pliers. I will always set the topping on the fly after each adjustment, making sure that it's just right. In the shot below I'm flattening the tie-in point with needle nose pliers, and looking to make sure the topping is straight. If not, I'll twist it the other way.

Topping prep

In this photo I'm trying the topping on for size. It's critical to get the front bend just right.

Sizing the topping

Now the topping is tied in. Try to get some of the fibers on each side of the wing, and make sure that the topping goes right along the spine of top of the fly. Make sure too that there is no space between the tie-in point of the topping and the wing, a common problem. If there is, redo it, and bend the stem of the topping a little bit more, so it has a sharper angle, or less, as too sharp an angle can be a problem too. The angle has to exactly agree with the angle between the head and the front of the mallard roof.

Topping complete

Now the horns would go on, if I had chosen to do horns, which are considered optional. I might have put horns on, if I had thought about it one time. There are different schools of thought where horns are concerned, some never do them, others curve them over the top of the fly, and others still mount them on the sides of the fly, angling up so they meet above the tail. I usually do the latter, when I remember. One strand of Macaw on each side tied in high on the head will do it. I always have to fool with these a lot, and I like to have them cross in the back, when I remember. I remembered on the second fly I did for the winging section, and did a conventional head on that one as well:

Jock Scott with horns

The head is the last thing to go on, and can either be done with ostrich herl, as I've done below, or without, as shown above. I was looking at too big a head on the first fly, or bigger than I like, so I went the ostrich herl route.


I should talk about thread avalanching now. If you like a steep head, and I do, as you wrap the thread down the slope it can pull down, or avalanche, and take everything from your ostrich herl head to the topping to the sides to even the wing with it. This is quite discouraging after working on a fly for hours or days. First, you must be aware that this can happen. Second, you must do something in advance to stop it. There are very sticky waxes used, some guys glue up the thread with Sally Hanson's and then wrap, some guys use Zap-A-Gap and then wrap, some skip a whip finish, some do one at the eye, and some don't wrap the thread at all. They just trim the butts in the shape of a head and lacquer the whole deal. The topic of glue seems to be quite taboo, with nobody admitting they do it, and everybody doing it. Well, not everybody. Ron Alcott for one is quite proud of the fact that he uses no glue, other than to lacquer the head. He uses a liquid wax that sticks like, well, glue. In the 1800s they used a tarry blend of pitch or whatever other goo they had available. Or they made special tacky waxes. I did a vast number of these flies with no glue anywhere on the fly because I thought I was being true to some ideal. Man were those flies frustrating. Each stage could affect the one before it seemed. Now, my flies have a better overall construction, and are more solid generally, but I still run into situations where glue is good answer. Some guys Crazy Glue every stage of the fly, though I don't. I use Griff's penetrating cement on the throat wraps before razoring the stem, and on the head wraps just before I trim all the butts at the front of the fly (before the mallard roof and topping). It just keeps the sides from shifting during the very delicate trimming process. I'm very ambivalent about glue, and can't bring myself to Crazy Glue all the stages, but I won't sit here and say it's a bad idea either. Spit is very often a very good alternative to glue and quite handy as well, but there are one or two old timers who claim that even using that is cheating. Do what you're comfortable doing. Saliva is all natural as far as I'm concerned.

If You're New to These Flies

If you've just started doing these, or think you might want to go for it, I've got lots of advice. First, don't do what I did, and just jump into these things if you've never tied anything but dry flies and nymphs. I would strongly suggest that you start by doing some winged wet flies, as practice for the winging. I would start with basic wets like the Blue Dun, with a simple wing cut from mallard slips. Then graduate to married winged wets like the Babcock. Finally, try some of the easier salmon flies, and don't go with too small a hook, I think 2/0 is good. These are quite difficult to do small. I started by doing Silver Doctors on #8 salmon fly hooks, which is very difficult. You want to avoid as many frustrations as you can in the beginning. These flies can drive you crazy. Make yourself take a break of at least five minutes between each stage. Just the tension alone that increases as the fly progresses (especially if it's going well), can be enough to screw the thing up. Go into the fly with a general idea of what you're after, and try to achieve that. Even if the fly doesn't quite pan out as a whole, if you achieve your general aims give yourself credit. Try to get each stage looking exactly the way you want, and do a stage over again if you're even mildly unhappy with it. And finally, know that as in regular fly tying, materials are everything. Get the best materials that you can afford. Graduate from goose to turkey as quickly as you can, because turkey's easier. Swan's very nice to work with too, but pretty much unavailable. Materials are at least as big a problem as tying the fly itself, and many are available only once in awhile. Your fly shop will have next to nothing that you need. The internet is your friend.

I myself have something of a love-hate relationship with the full dress salmon fly, and take long breaks away from them. Every time I come back things get a little better, and a little easier. If you like a challenge, and enjoy trying to reach unattainable perfection, these flies are for you. They really are a lot of fun.

Jock Scott sections

Jock Scott (per Pryce-Tannatt)

    Tag: Silver twist and yellow floss silk (Actually, Pryce-Tannatt's recipe specifies oval silver or flat silver tinsel only, with no floss. Many tiers though combine the Kelson tag with the Pryce-Tannatt fly as I've done here)

    Tail: A topping and Indian crow

    Butt: Black ostrich herl

    Body: In two equal halves-first half, yellow floss butted with black herl, and veiled above and below with six or more Toucan feathers; second half, black floss.

    Ribs: Fine oval silver tinsel over yellow floss, broader oval silver tinsel or flat silver tinsel and twist (in the large sizes) over the black floss.

    Hackle: A natural black cock's hackle, wound over the black floss

    Throat: Speckled Gallina

    Wings: A pair of black white-tipped Turkey tail strips (back to back); over these, but not entirely covering them, a "mixed" sheath of "married" strands of Peacock wing, yellow, scarlet, and blue Swan, Bustard, Florican, and Golden Pheasant tail; two strands of Peacock sword feather above; "married" narrow strips Teal and barred Summer Duck at the sides; brown Mallard over.

    Sides: Jungle cock

    Cheeks: Blue Chatterer; A topping over all

    Horns: Blue and Yellow macaw

    Head: Black Ostrich herl (Kelson) or black (Pryce-Tannatt

Note: In the text of How to Dress Salmon Flies Dr. Pryce-Tannatt describes a slightly different wing for the Jock Scott, as follows: "Right" and "left strands of scarlet, lemon, and blue dyed Swan, Bustard, Florican, cinnamon and grey Turkey tail, and green Peacock sword feather, and "right" and "left" strips of Teal, barred Summer Duck, and brown Mallard-for the built wings.

Credits: How to Dress Salmon Flies by Dr T.E. Pryce-Tannatt; ~ EA

About Eric:

Eric Eric lives in Delaware, Ohio and fishes for brown trout in the Mad River, a beautiful spring creek. More of his flies are on display here: traditionalflies.com -- Classic salmon and trout flies of Europe and the Americas.

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