Sutherland Specials

Rummaging through the gear which I took back from my recent trip to Aberdeen I came across a wee box which rattled enticingly. Hard as I tried, I could not for the life of me remember what this small black box contained. It was in with a jumble of fly boxes but whatever was inside weighed considerably more than some salmon flies, even weighted tubes or Waddies. Like a small child on Christmas morning I excitedly prised the lid off…

Inside, in varying states of repair, I found not one but six Sutherland Specials. These are well known and loved baits in Scotland but many readers may not be familiar with them. Most plug type lures sport one vane or lip under the head to make the bait wobble and/or dive. The Sutherland sports no fewer than 4 vanes, one curved one under the head , a small one mounted vertically on the back and two semi-circular vanes, one on each side of the lure. Made of cast lead, it came in three colours – all gold, brown / gold and blue / silver. My little treasure trove contained examples of all three.

A blue and silver Sutherland Special

To mount the bait simply thread the line through the hole which passes through the middle. Protection from chaffing is provided by a thin rubber tube inside the hole. Now tie the line to the split ring which is attached to a size 4 treble hook. Like a devon minnow, the Sutherland slips up the line when a fish takes, leaving just the hook in the fish.

The Sutherland was a proficient taker of both salmon and sea trout as well as brownies in the river. Some sea trout enthusiasts added a feather (such as a cock hackle) lashed to the treble hook to increase movement. I presume they are still available to buy. The originals were hand made by the Sutherland family who were great fishers on the river Don in Aberdeenshire.


Cocker’s pool on the ADAA’s Upper Parkhill beat of the Don

I will buy some new hooks (the ones in the black box being rusty after so long) and take them with me next season to try on my local waters. I can see no reason why they won’t work as the action is very lifelike. As one or two of these ones are looking a bit shabby I might re-paint them in new colours. I am thinking that copper might be useful.


The Cothal Pool on the same beat. Salmon lie just out from that beautifully trimmed hedge on the far bank.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s