One thing we love about tying flies is the rich tradition and history associated with our craft. There’s a whole bunch of history wrapped up (pun intended) in just about every pattern available today, and today our buddy Stuart Foxall put together a great write up on two classic styles of flies still used for salmon and steelhead today – Spey and Dee Style flies.
Spey and Dee Style Flies – A Brief History
I’ve recently fallen in love.. I hope my Mrs. doesn’t find out!
Spey and Dee style flies are quickly becoming an obsession for me.. Why? Because they’re so damn sexy! If you’ve yet to try tying them, Spey and Dee style flies are a great way to perfect your tying techniques. Due to the fact that they incorporate relatively few materials, these classic style of flies force you to tie in each material correctly as you are not able to hide your mistakes!
Spey flies were some of the earliest salmon flies tied during the early Victorian era. Most of the materials used were obtained from animals and birds that were used around the sporting estates of Scotland, and popularized on the River Spey – You know, where spey casting originated. Thus came ‘Spey style flies’ most often characterized by the following features:
- Long shanked hooks.
- Usually no tail.
- Long and flowing hackle feathers of cockerel, heron, or similar.
- Multi ribbings.
- Very low set wings of mallard.
Then, as the Victorian empire grew around the world, more exotic feathers became more readily available to fishermen. A style of fly became very popular using these new materials on a river called the Royal Dee. Thus, ‘Dee style flies’ were born, characterized by the following features:
- Large tags.
- Long and flowing hackles of heron.
- Colorful bodies.
- Occasional dropped jungle cock eyes at the head of the fly.
- ‘V’ shaped wings usually tied from turkey tail strips.
There’s something alluring about seeing and using old techniques in our flies, and perhaps incorporating them in our more modern patterns as well. And, believe me.. The fish don’t know that they’re not supposed to be eating this old stuff either!