The Ke-He

Apologies for the recent lack of posts here, I am very busy at work and weekends are spent catching up on stuff, leaving no time for angling. A sad state of affairs I know but a small crumb of comfort is the evenings away from home usually present me with a little time to tie a few flies. Yesterday evening it was the Ke-He which was the focus of my attention, so here are a few words about this underestimated fly.

Up in Orkney, many years ago, two anglers called Kemp and Heddle were fishing for the lovely wild brownies when they saw a fall of black bees. The lough apparently came alive but the pair could scarcely catch a fish between them despite the rise. Back at their lodgings that evening they devised a fly to imitate the bees, the result being known by the first two letters of their respective surnames. Well, that is the story I have heard but who knows how accurate it is. Regardless of the veracity of the tale of it’s birth, the Ke-He is a wonderful fly which I have great faith in. Despite it’s origins I have found it to be a really good fly here in Ireland and it often features on my leader. I can clearly recall it tempting three of the four good trout I boated while drifting on to the Relicks outside of Martin’s on lough Mask one fine June day.

Not alone does this pattern work, it is made from materials you are almost certain to have in your fly tying kit. Let’s start with a look at the original pattern. Hook sizes range from 14 up to 8 but I have a preference for a size 12 or 14. The hackle is a dark red game while the body is formed from three or four bronze peacock herls. I rib the herls with fine copper wire to give them a little bit of protection. The tail is a some strands of golden pheasant tippet over a short tuft of red wool. Tying silk is black or it can be brown if desired. That’s it! Very simple and very good. So what type of hackle do you use? It can be cock or hen, I have used both and can’t really see much difference between them when it comes to catching a few trout.

The first variation is simply to change the red game hackle and replace it with a black one. This is probably a more popular fly than the original and I certainly saw this one used frequently back in Scotland.

The Benbecula Ke-He is a striking looking pattern. It is the same in all respects to the previous two except for the hackle which is a pure white one. A good fly for the gloaming, that time when the sun has set but there is still light in the summer sky. The lads in the Western isles do like a fly with a white hackle so this one fits the bill perfectly.

A Benbecula Ke-He

My personal favourite though is the grouse hackled Ke-He. The name tells you all you need to know, use a mottled feather from the upper coverts of a grouse to make the hackle.

I have been known to add a muddler head to my Ke-He’s and they work a treat too! Brown, black and red spun deer hair heads have all worked for me in the past.

I know many of you are, like me, busy at the vice during these winter nights, so why don’t you make a few of these flies for your box. They really are very effective and have served me well over a long angling life.

2 thoughts on “The Ke-He

  1. Nice, not sure what a bronze herl is compared to the herls I have in my collection of bits and bobs, I assume I need to make a trip to to the store. Love having something new to tie.


  2. Hi Gavin, the term ‘bronze’ peacock herl applies to the normal stuff you buy. I am sure you will have some in your kit already. Same stuff is used in loads of patterns such as the Black and Peacock Spider, Hardy’s Favourite etc. Hope all is well with you.


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