I have written before about using feathers from the Francolin to make spiders. These are very effective little patterns for use on the river when small stoneflys are hatching in the spring. It’s the smaller feathers from the breast on the skin that I have which provides the hackles for the spiders but it also has some larger feathers on the flanks of the bird and I decided to try and make some other patterns with them. I realise some of you are no doubt thinking ‘why does he keep using these strange materials’ but I got these feathers from Cookshill so they must be readily available.
The Francolin is a small bird that looks something like a partridge. There are lots of different species but the skin I own is from a Grey Francolin. The breast and flank feathers are a light creamy/sandy sort of colour with thin dark brown stripes. These wind to make lovely hackles so here are a couple of patterns to whet your appetites.
Francolin dry mayfly
Use the same method as you would for a Mosely May. Using yellow silk and a size 10 or 12 medium wire hook, I made the tails from moose mane fibres and the body from golden olive fur ribbed with red silk. I added a few legs made of knotted pheasant tail fibres dyed yellow. The hackles are a bright golden olive and a blue dun cock wound together and then a Francolin flank feather wound through them. Use figure of eight turns of tying silk to give the classic semi-circular hackle shape.
A simple fly that is just a variant of the ever popular Octopus. Once again, yellow tying silk and a size 10 or 12 hook for this one. Make a tag of opal tinsel under a tuft of no. 10 Globrite floss for a tail. Bright yellow seal’s fur, (the brightest you can find) for the body ribbed with oval silver tinsel and a body hackle of a palmered badger cock. Shoulder hackle of a yellow GP rump feather over a lemon yellow cock hackle and a Francolin flank feather is then wound in front.
For hooks you can use anything from a medium to long shank in heavy wire. Black or brown tying silk works well for this fly. Make the body from copper tinsel. Rib it with some oval silver tinsel. Leave plenty of space at the eye for tying in about ten double knotted pheasant tail fibers as legs. Wings are a pair of feathers fron the back of the Francolin tied in to create a ‘V’ shape over the back of the fly. Now wind a long fibred red game cock hackle and in front of that a Francolin feather. Aim for an untidy, straggly look.
Very simple this one. Golden olive fur body ribbed with oval gold tinsel. GP tippet tails over a Globrite no.4 tag. A short fibred cock hackle dyed golden olive is palmered down the body and I tied in a few fibres of Guinea Fowl dyed bright blue as a beard before winding a Francolin feather at the head.
Then I went a bit mad and tied up some of these brutes which I guess are sort of loch ordie’s. Just a size 10 long shank hook, Francolin feathers wound to form the body and a light blue dun cock hackle at the front. Lough Carra, late on as the dark sets in, pulled back across the surface, that wake on the oily surface, who knows?
I like the look of these flies, they have a ‘life’ about them which inspires confidence in me. They are at the same time natural colours, a change from the very bright UV and fluorescent colours which are so popular these days. Whether the trout will share my appreciation of them is entirely another story and I’ll have to wait until the spring and summer to try these flies out.
Over the past few weeks I have rekindled my passion for fly tying. An awful lot of ideas, some of which have been in my head for a very long time, are now being turned into actual flies for trial. I plan to spend the coming days working away at the vice and filling up my boxes so I can enjoy the few days fly fishing I will have during 2022. The ‘topping up’ process has to continue too where some of my most successful patterns have either been used up or given away (usually the latter). My Yellow Green Peter is one example, I have none in my box at the moment despite it being one of my favourite flies.
There is always the ongoing debate about why we need to be constantly creating new patterns or using the latest materials. We do not require the vast arrays of flies we fishers habitually carry with us. Over the years I have met a few anglers who only used one or perhaps two flies. As a youngster in Aberdeen our family GP was a wonderful man called Dr. Davidson. Straight as a ramrod and sporting a perfectly groomed silver moustache, the good doctor fished the river Dee for salmon and sea trout using only one fly – the Blue Charm. I recall making some for him and his delight when I presented to him. A gentleman of the old school, Dr. Davidson was immensely successful yet saw no need to bother his head with choosing different flies. Others, me included, like to try different flies out. I enjoy both making the flies and also giving them a swim to see if they will work. The satisfaction of catching a fish on a fly you have tied yourself is multiplied when you have dreamed up the pattern too.
A proportion of fly fishers don’t tie their own flies, many others tie just the patterns they want to fish with while others tie for the sake of tying. There are even fly tyers who do not fish! These days the vast and ever expanding range of materials which are so readily available mean anyone can quickly assemble a formidable kit and start to make just about any fly. I personally think fly tying has become much easier than it was when I started over fifty years ago. Tying silks are so much thinner that you can take multiple turns whereas when using natural silk each turn had to be effective. The quality of hackles now specifically bred for flies is beyond anything I could imagine in the past. Synthetics were unheard of when I started to make flies but look at the multitude of plastics we can pick from now. I view the whole fly tying scene as a place where an individual can decide what he or she wants to do without judgement and long may this continue. The guys who make huge pike flies from hanks of tinsel are every bit as valid as the creators of tiny dry flies or those who follow the writings of Kelson and make works of art from exotic feathers. Fly tying is indeed a broad church.