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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It is clear that the family of Spey flies has grown somewhat since, for example, Pryce-Tannatt's rather rigorous analysis. Although he acknowledged that there was no consistent pattern for any spey fly, yet he seems to have been quite clear about the particular characteristics that characterise this group of flies.

I sometimes find myself looking at pictures of flies described as Speys and wondering whether they really qualify as such, so far removed are they from the original Scottish style.

What are the essential characteristics that define a Spey fly these days?
 

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I put all flies in 4 groups.

1. Drys- Any fly that floats on a dead drift.
2. Skaters- Any fly that floats, but is fished "actively".
3. Nymphs- Any fly that sinks and is fished on a dead drift.
4. Speys/Streamers- Any fly that sinks and is fished "actively".

I know many will consider this crude or archaic, but it's how I rationalize things. I actualy tie my flies to catch fish, not to pay tribute to long dead spey gods, or impress anybody. I just keep in mind what I want the fly to "do" when I tie, so the 4 group method works for me.
 

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To me, the essentials of a spey fly are those things which distinguish them from all other fly styles/types.

These are:

1) Long, flowing hackle palmered from at least the 3rd turn of tinsel;
2) constrasting throat hackle of duck flank or guinea (dyed or natural);
3) slim body of dubbing, floss, tinsel, or combination of floss and dubbing or tinsel and dubbing that begins in front of the hook point (including tip/tag);
4) tinsel or tinsel and floss combined ribbing;
5) low set simple wings of bronze mallard, tented hackle tips, flat tied natural of dyed G.P. pheasant rump or breast feathers, or tented goose/swan shoulder strips and none of these would extend beyond the hook bend;
6) if a tail is used, it is short and barely goes beyond the hook point.

Yes, I'm aware that my definition of a spey fly excludes hair wings or wings composed of only modern synthetics.
 

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Craig,

I am not trying to pay tribute to any long dead spey gods either but I think your system is a little too limited. Hard for me to lump a Lady Caroline in with an articulated bunny leech.

Gardener,

I freely admit that many of today's "spey" patterns are not in keeping with the traditional restrictions. In fact, some or most share more with the Irish era full dressed paterns than the original Scottish Spey patterns. For me, I'm willing to overlook the more colorful plumage as long as the pattern is 1) sparsely dressed with long flowing hackles and 2) exhibits the the proper winging characteristics. It does not have to be tented mallard as I would not want to exclude the Glasso style patterns (Northwest Speys) but neither should they be Dee style.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Interesting responses. My own instinct is to take quite a hard line on what qualifies as a true spey fly; on the other hand, as Craig points out, the art of fly tying needs to strike a balance between preserving the past in aspic and producing flies that will do the job for which they are intended - catching fish. Tradition should be acknowledged but not allowed to hamper creativity. Nevertheless, given the distinct stylistic differences between, say, spey, dee, simple strip wing and built wing flies, to say nothing of more modern styles of fly, I certainly don't think think that they can all be lumped together as speys and streamers, in the same way as we can acknowledge a number of quite different styles of dry fly, each with its individual characteristics.

In addition to the points made, I would suggest two further criteria. The wing, whatever it is made of, needs to have the classic spey profile. This means it not only must be set low to the body, but also should have a distinct humped or arched profile. Obviously this in easier to achieve with some materials rather than others; the classic bronze mallard lends itself well to it, but some feathers are altogether too straight in the fibre (and thus perhaps better suited to dee flies). It might also exclude hairwings, although I wonder whether an approximation of the classic spey profile might not be achieved by layering bunches of hair of different lengths. Incidentally, although the Orange Heron has clearly been regarded as a spey fly for many years, and shares most of the other defining characteristics, I think it is not easy to produce this classic profile using hackle tips, even if properly tented.

The other point I would add is that these flies should basically be quite unornamented. The point has been made that tails, where used at all, should be short. I would also add that butts, tags, veiling etc don't really belong on a traditional spey fly, although from a fisherman's point of view I confess that a slim tinsel tag can add something to the allure of a Lady Caroline, to my eyes, at least. Whether the fish appreciate it equally, I don't know!
 

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Interesting question and a good one in light of all the bastard flies ones sees out there called speys. I see a lot of flies without a wing that folks are trying to call spey flies. :Eyecrazy:

Reread Price-Tannatt last night and he does indeed set out pretty strict rules on what constitutes a spey fly. He even calls out the fact to have the hackle wrapped in backwards which I do not do.

I think glassos flies push the envelope as far as spey style flies go. However this was an innovation to deal with our glacial tinted streams and the need to provide a little more durable and visible wing in our winter flows. Otherwise his flies adhere to the strict standards set out in 'How to dress salmon flies'. He also tented his wings rather than set them straight up and down like some modern books call for. I think his flies would have been accepted in the spey valley by the tiers of that era.

Any fly with a hairwing I feel is disqualified.

-sean
 

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Sean,

Interestingly, Pat Crane who was a friend of Glasso tied his Glasso Orange Heron, Sol Duc Spey, and Polar Shrimp with hot orange goose shoulder that were set low in the classic "humped wing" look of a spey fly. Steve Gobin also ties his Glasso flies with hot orange goose shoulder wings, and he knew Glasso before Glasso's death too. While Dick Wentworth (who Glasso taught to fly fish and tie flies) another very close friend of Glasso tied his with hackle tip wings in the manner of Glasso.

Price-Tannant, Hale, Kelson, Hardy, and Knox all spoke about tying spey hackle in by the root (or butt) of the feather. However, heron has a different stem characteristic than blue eared pheasant and the hackle from a "spey chicken" was the feathers on the side of the tail, which like schlappen has the longest fibers near the root (butt) of the feather necessitating tying it in by the root (or backwards if you will) to get sufficient fiber length.

And if anyone has ever seen a Glasso tied fly, he has seen that Glasso set the wings low, tented them (with the inside hackle edges overlapping or touching all the way down the wing), and had them just barely beyond the hook point. A very different look than those I see with knife edge, vertical wings, which I suspect are used because they are much easier and quicker to tie than the low set, tented ones.
 

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Tenting hackle wings...

Maybe one of the toughest skills I've tried to aquire... On average, I'd say I get 1 in 4 or 5 to lay low and tent properly, per Glasso's "standard". Flytyer - am open to suggestions on how to accomplish that w/ more consistency!

With that said - while I'm all for tradition, I'm also all for fishin'... And with very few exceptions, "close enough (in my case, 'for government work...' :hihi: )" is good enough when it comes to the fish and fishin'. That last millimeter of touching/not touching doesn't seem to make a difference as far as the performance of the fly, and for that matter, the fishiness of it. Ultimately, that chromer, for me, is the ultimate judge. Besides, I'm such a damn slow tier anyways, the extra 15-30 minutes or more effort to tie and re-tie, and re-tie....those wings to get the wings tented isn't worth the extra effort in the end...

As far as whether or not Glasso's flies should or shouldn't be considered "spey flies", I guess that's up to personal preferences... I personally like Gardener's point of the importance of tipping the hat (a strong tip at that) to the traditions of old, while keeping the door open for innovation and new concepts, that in their own right hold beauty, charm, and, yes, fish-foolin' mojo!!!
 

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Feiger,

Ververka has the best instructional photos and description I've seen on how to tie hackle tip wings in the manner of Glasso in his spey fly book. In short, don't completely strip the fibers to the tie in point, leave a few unstripped that will be right at the tie in point, and tie the far wing in first learning the top of it toward you, followed by tying in the near wing leaning the top of it away from you. I use 2 turns of thread to hold each wing in place and then lock them in place with an additional 2 very tight wraps of thread after they are positioned. Remember to hold on the the wings with your left hand when you put on the 2 tight wraps to keep the wing from rotating. Almost forgot, use hackle from the left side of the neck for the near wing and from the right side of the neck for the far wing because doing so has the hackle tips naturally bending down toward the fly's body.

To get a Glasso wing to lay very tight to the body, you have to crimp the hackle stems and bend them down in the direction of the body just beyond the tie in point toward the hackle's tip with smooth jawed pliers. I usually don't do this because it takes a little longer and just tie in the far wing followed by the near wing and be done with it, even if the wing rides a little higher.

By the way, your Glasso wings look very good.
 

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Okay.... you guys are confusing me :Eyecrazy: I thought I was fishing my spey flies on my spey rods, but am I really fishing dee flies on my doublehander? Or heaven forbid - an Intruder on my Skagit rod?!! :D

I guess like the above terms there is almost a double standard for spey flies. For better or worse the term spey flies - as commonly used in PNW/BC usually refers to a rather generous definition - almost any "classic looking" fly would qualify. This certainly wouldn't be acceptable in "fly tying" circles but with the average guy on the river it is good enough. And just like how our bretheren in Britain get distressed by we heathens on this side of the Atlantic calling double handed rods spey rods - so too will "fly tyers" be offended by the loosely defined term spey fly.
 

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Charlie ,guess the spey fly of today is a Willie Gunn as fished by WG himself .
Some where there are a few heron hackled sparse dull coloured things Tied with herons that had collieded with power lines at walthamstowe resivour .
they look great but I cant find a situation when I would want to fish them !!
 

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The basic rules when tying spey flies is.....? There are no rules!!!!!! Evolution is a good thing. Glasso's series of speys were considered quite radical for there time when compared to the speys of old which were quite drab and also quite repetitive in nature. As of late there seem to be quite a few " crossover" type patterns a combination of both spey and traditional atlantic salmon type patterns. To me this is really the best of both worlds and is what brings the art into tying. I think the basis princibles need to be observed but after that just go with it. A good example would be one of my favorite tyers Marc Leblanc.
 
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