Small and big

Small and big

Viking Lars | Saturday, 10 February 2024

The Scottish salmon rivers are famous for many things, most notably maybe the Spey for the Spey cast. The Spey cast was also called the Welsh cast and I think that name may even precede the name associated with the cast today. They’re both D-loop casts and know from before 1850. There were a number of different casts known by the time of the late 19th century, where - through numerous publicatins - the techniques and intricacies of salmon fishing became known to a wider audience.

I particular like the the name, “The Governor Cast”, which also tells a little about the social status of those most commonly associated with fly fishing for salmon. One man in particular is associated with Spey casting in the late 1800s - namely Alexander Grant. He’s recorded with at the time a record Spey cast landing at 65 yards - shooting no line! I think the record stood for close to a hundred years. He used 18 foot green heart rods,. Having designed one of his own - the Grant Vibration Rod” - also telling tale of how the physics of fly casting were understood at the time. Picking up and casting 65 yards of line, without shooting, using an 18 foot greenheart rod, he must’ve been a strong man. And he was known for an excellent technique as well. Another famous salmon fisher was A. H. E. Wood - fishing a 12’ single hand rod for summer salmon.

I’ve begun researching the history of spey casting, if that ins’t clear from the above.

I’m far from done, so this is really just a preamble to something (not entirely) different. A style of fly also closely associated with Scottish salmon fishing - the low water fly. I’ve written about this several times before. Using small flies for summer salmon is far from new. Today most will resort to the type of minute tube fly I wrote about last weekend, but 150 years ago, the approach was different.

Finding a hook of a size that proportionally suited a 3/4 inch fly wouldn’t have been a problem, but the size would’t be optimal for big salmon. So a different approach was taking - tying a small fly on a larger hook. To get a bigger hook gap and a strong hook. This was the style used for summer salmon flies, some of which are The Logie, The Jeannie - even a March Brown. Most probably know the story about A. H. E. Wood and the March Brown, so I’ll save that for later.

Something relatively new is the fact that very small flies are very effective for early springers as well, so - as last week - I’m still tying small ones. I will bring a couple of the classics, so more on those another day.

This fly is a modern one called Dee Sheep, I believe first tied by Swedish Mikael Frödin. It’s a variation of the Icelandic fly, simply called Sheep. That one is different by having a black wing under a yellow one, which is unusual and contrary to the Dee Sheep, it features a black body. The Dee Sheep has a silver body.

So in order to try and link modern to classic, since they are for the Dee, I tied four Dee Sheep on size 4 salmon hooks (irons as they’d call them back then) in low water style. They look good, I think.

And of course - it’s important to always tie four, of each pattern and each size. A know danish fly fishing writer, Mogens Espersen once told me why. One for a tree, one for a fish, one for a friend and one spare for the box.

Have a great weekend!