Brown thing

Many years ago, soon after I pitched up in Ireland in fact, I began tying some of my favourite Scottish patterns but adapting them to Irish styles such as Bumbles and dabblers. Some of these worked well but others were frankly useless. Exactly why this should be is not obvious but there you are, that is fishing for you. Only a few of those experiments survive in my fly box today but one that made the cut is what I call my Brown Thing. This one was based on a simpler palmer style fly I used a lot on Scottish hill lochs back in the day where it did great execution. It never did graduate to being named and has forever been consigned to being referred to as ‘that brown thing’. Note that this a completely different fly to the normal Fiery Brown which is so popular over here. The actual brown fur I use was dyed many moons ago and luckily I made enough to last me for all these years. It is a flat, dark chocolate brown colour without the orange glow you associate with fiery brown.

Materials list

Hooks: 10 to 14 wet fly hooks (the 14’s can be a challenge alright)

Tying Silk: Brown, 8/0

Tail: crimson cock hackle fibres

Rib: fine oval gold tinsel

Body: dark brown fur with the odd strand of red blended in

Body hackle: dark brown cock

Under wing: Brown squirrel

Wings: Woodcock

Head hackles: crimson hen, dark brown cock and brown partridge


Very easy to tie, all you need to remember is to leave plenty of space at the head for winding the hackles. Start the tying silk at the eye and wind down the hook a few millimetres then catch in the dark brown cock hackle. Wind the silk to the bend.

Tie in a bunch of crimson cock hackle fibres for a tail. I have added a red tinsel tag under the tail sometimes and this looks good but probably does not make the fly any more effective. Tie in a length of fine oval gold tinsel and wind the tying silk up the hook to bind the tinsel in nice and tight before returning it to the tail. Now dub the tying silk with the brown fur and wind a rough body. Take the tip of the brown hackle in your pliers and wind it down to the tail in open turns. Use the oval gold tinsel to tie in the hackle and wind it in an opposite spiral up the body where you tie it in with the tying silk. Remove the waste tip of the hackle and the end of the ribbing tinsel.

I tie in an under wing consisting of a slim bunch of natural brown squirrel tail hair next. This is a good base for the main wings and makes the fly that little bit stronger. Cut off the waste ends once you have tied in the hair.

The wings are matching slips of woodcock tied over the back of the fly, one on each side of the squirrel. I know some of you find winging like this a bit of a trial but just keep practicing and it will all come together. Use a ‘soft loop’ of tying silk and angle the wings slightly towards you as you draw the loop tight, rolling them straight as the tension comes on the silk. Cut off the waste ends of the feather slips once they are secured.

Tie in and wind the head hackles one after the other, crimson first, then brown and finally the brown partridge. About two turns of each is about right. Form a neat head and whip finish before applying a drop of varnish.

This fly does not jump out at you when in the fly box, it is a non-descript sort of pattern but don’t be fooled by its lack of glitz. It can be very good on summer evenings as the light goes, when I presume the trout take it as a sedge.


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