GODFREY SPEY FLIES
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The Spey type fly design of course originated on the banks of the Spey River in the Scottish Highlands. It's an extraordinary river valley with unique history due in part to relative isolation as it lays between two mountain ranges. The City of Aberdeen is the closest large city some 55 miles east over the Cairngorm Highlands as shown on the map of Rivers of East Scotland. The third largest and longest river in Scotland, the Spey is fast in the upper river, broad in the lower and definitely bold and grand. Strathspey (the river valley) is known for two things: A great salmon fishery and Scotch Whisky. This valley and the Moray area in general is the leading distiller of famed single malt scotch; casual visitors enjoy the river scenery, the history, and traveling and imbibing on the "Whisky Trail".

The picture on top of this page is of the "Craig Bridge" on the Spey at the small town of Craigellachie the home of James Shanks the noted mid-century guide and fly designer. His son George Shanks was even more famous as head Ghillie at Castle Gordon. He was in charge of a dozen guides who worked seven salmon beats on the lower Spey River. The early history going back to the 17th or early 18th century is indeed very murky. We must depend on scant 18th century articles in the Angling Gazette and the book, Autumns on the Spey by E. A. Knox, 1878. Knox's book describes the authentic early spey flies of the Shanks.



Black Heron
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Black Heron
Carron
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Carron
Black King
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Black King

    The Black Heron




 
The Black Heron is much like the better know Gold Heron. This early design has no throat hackle and is simple a black and brown fly, but the ribbing is complex as is most of the old Spey side flies. Available in all sizes 2/0 - 8.

The Carron

  The Carron is another very old spey, but somewhat brighter with its light orange body. No doubt its named for the Carron Beat on Middle Spey River which is still a great destination for the avid angler looking for the true Scottish salmon fishing experience. Nearby accommodation: The Carron House

This Really IS a great fly for trout and bass as it imitates crayfish really well. I use it and don't worry myself about any of the modern crafish imitation. Available in sizes 2/0 - 8.

The Black King


  The Black King like the other King color pattern patterns sports "spey cock" hackle. The design is attributed to Mr. Charles Grant and available in sizes 2/0 - 6. fly tier.



Lady Caroline
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Lady Caroline
Gold Heron
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Gold Heron
Green King
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Green King

The Lady Caroline

  A very well know and an ancient fly design the first description of the Lady Caroline appears in a list given by Stoddart in 1847 book

Angler's Companion.

The actual name is not given, but the pattern is right. Another source: The fly is named after Caroline Elizabeth Gordon-Lennox who lived 1844-1934. Lady Caroline was most likely designed and tied by George Shanks who at the time served as the head ghillie at the Gordon Castle. Avaialbe in all sizes 2/0 - 8. Available in sizes 2/0 - 4

The Gold Heron

  Listed by Knox attributed to Geordie Shanks of Aberlour on Spey. Available in sizes 2/0 - 8.

The Green King

  Described by Francis Francis in 1867 and gifted to him by Charles Grant an avid angler and fly designer. Available in sizes 2/0 - 6.


All of the flies pictured here are tied on size 2 long shank English salmon hooks; that is about 1 1/4" long and would be considered normal for summer salmon angling. For Spring time angling up river on the Spey in the old days, spey flies were tied large, say 7/0 or 3 to 4 inches in length and thrown with the huge 20 foot rods for some of the largest salmon found anywhere in Europe.

I do fish spey patterns and on local waters, but in the smaller sizes: size 2 to size 8 hooks. I fish a size eight Lady Caroline for trout in our local Gunpower Falls River. For Bass I really like these flies especially on the Susquehanna north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I don't use a 20 foot rod or even a 'switch', but a nice easy nine footer for five weight. On this river the old spey fly patterns in sizes four and six work just great for small mouth all summer long. They are just as effective as the touted Clousers or mundane woolies and I just like using a real classy fly.

Spey Flies on this page are available on the English long hooks in sizes 2/0 - 8 and Alec Jackson black hooks, Free shipping on orders of $50.00 or more.
    To order call Ted at:




Red King
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Red King
Silver Heron
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Silver Heron
Stoddart Spey
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Stoddart Spey Fly

    The Red King


 

A vintage fly from JAJ Munro of Aberlour-on-Spey c1910-1920. This fly is pictured at Feathers Flies and Phantoms by Colin Innes. Avaiailabble in sizes 2/0 - 6.

The Silver Heron

  The Silver Heron is seen in Garden's Catalog of 1917 and pictured at Feathers Flies and Phantoms by Colin Innes. Available in sizes 2/0 - 8.

The Stoddart Spey


  This is Stoddart's No 1 spey fly from the Thomas Tod Stoddard's Angler's Companion to the Rivers anf Lochs of Scotland (1846). and known widely as the Stoddart Spey. Available in sizes 2.0 - 8.


The myth of loss of the unique Spey Cock breed who's feathers are central to the tying of old spey flies is a gross exaggeration. Archebald Forbes writing in My Native River, 1896 promoted such a story about the uniqueness of the feathers and the mysterious loss of the birds. In reality, birds were reported by Augustus Grimble, The Salmon Rivers of Scotland vol 2, 1900. at Arndilly, Wester Elchies, Gordon Castle and so forth. Considered a weak breed, they were narrow breasted, poor of meat and survived better in warmer climes like Goodwood, Sussex, home of Duke of Richmond.

Any loss of birds mid-century might have been result of desperation during the Highland Potato Famine - 1846 to roughly 1856. During this period, approximately 30% of the Highland population emigrated principally to Canada and Australia.

The large, healthy looking bird pictured here shows the desired drooping, side tail feathers. They are also known in the trade as coque feathers. Today, very high quality black and to lesser extent red and brown feathers are available. Give John McLain at Feathers MC  a try.

 




Culdrain
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Culdrain
Gold Riach
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Gold Riach
Spey Dog
Three for $20.00 mixed sizes
About the Spey Dog

The Culdrain

  Culdrain is Gaelic for "corner with thorns" and is another design by Geordie or James Shanks listed in the Knox book. Culdrain with the Culdrain House (7 bedroom min-mansion) and Stead (farmstead) is near the Bogie R. a few miles south of Huntley and ruins of Huntly Castle the ancestral home of the Gordon Clan. This area is about 25 miles E. of the towns of Aberlour and Craigellachie on Spey. Also near by is the famed Deveron R., which is easier to fish than the Spey and has great fishing for both salmon and large brown trout. The Culdrain house build in 1846 by the Gordon family may have been constructed with the help of Geordy or James as they would have been the right age to pitch in. This fly is available in sizes 2/0 - 6

    The Gold Riach




 
Gaelic is a "poetic" language where spelling is fluid so the "Riach" name here might be for the grey or whitish/blackish color of the fly or maybe means "royalty" or perhaps the name of a gillie or angler. Regardless the body color is great for crayfish imitation and I like it on the Susquehanna. Available in sizes 2/0 - 6.

The Spey Dog


  . Francis Francis described this fly in his 1867 book and its a lovely fly with heavy wings. Available in sizes 2/0 - 6




Little is known of George 'Geordie' Shanks other than he was head ghillie at Gordon Castle so must have been well know to visiting anglers and of course Mr. Knox who often fished there in the Autumn at the end of the netting schedule.

Over the interceding 150 years the original spey flies in their many variations were fished, sold or given away. Ever since many fly tiers have tried to ‘codify' the patterns and most severe adaptation is seen in the flies of Price Tennatt. His neat and artistic presentation has the wings together as in a beetle back. Original 18th century George Shanks' flies are shown here. Click on the frame for a larger view.

 

This picture is from an article about the Craigellache Hotel; a nice piece with pictures by Callum Watt. The frame of flies deserves further research, but one thing stands out: The style of the flies -- such variety. Note the two small flies on the right; they are approximately size 2 and have similar appearance to mine.





The "Purpy" also known as "the Gold Purple Fly": This is an ancient pattern with no known origin, but well accepted as a "standard" on the river. Here are all the available hook sizes of this type of fly that I produce - Sizes: 2/0, 1/0, 1, 2, 4, and size 6.

The above flies are tied with so called "Spey Cock hackle feathers" in color red-brown. The feather is tied-in in the traditional, Speyside fashion; that is, the feather butt end tied in at the end of the body and then the feather wound forward along side of the tinsel rib. This tying method enables the feather fibers to stick out perpendicular to the hook. I suspect this was done to make the fly present somewhat larger in the high, fast water of Spring.





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