“If I only had one fly” – John Richardson

If you only had one fly, what would you choose?

That’s the question I’ve asked of several of my favorite tiers around the Globe. The take up has been very encouraging, so much so I’m going to try and feature a different tier every now and again as long as I keep this blog going. I can promise you that a treat awaits!

The rules are, choose and tie the fly and answer a couple of questions – Thats it! simples.

First up is John Richardson.

John lives in the Village of Fallin, near Stirling in Scotland. His local rivers are the Forth and the Tieth, a stones through away from his home. He fishes both, but tries to fish the Tay as often as time allows and also has plenty of time under his belt on the Naver in the far north of Scotland.

What attracted me to Johns tying was his consistency which obviously comes from long practice and his lightness of touch in producing many, many salmon hair wings. Often with a slight quirk of his own.

His variations on the Franknsnealda phenomenon are many and wonderful, but interestingly not the fly he chose.

John learned his craft from a gentleman called George Flemming who ran a local youth fishing club introducing John and a few others to tying trout flies. Most of his friends weren’t interested but John took to it like a natural and moved to salmon flies quite quickly. As John puts it.. “fishing was in my blood and all my family were great men at it”

I asked John if tying flies was his living, his answer was “I wouldn’t say it was my living, more of a passion and I couldn’t live without it. The flip side is less time for fishing but I enjoy being involved in every aspect of the sport. Its the best pastime about, simple!”

John’s chosen fly is the Tay Raider, a Cascade variant that has done well for him and his friends on their local rivers. The ever popular yellow and orange colors are enhanced here with a peacock tinsel body.

Here it is.. tied by John

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Hook.. as you wish

Thread.. Black UTC 70

Silver tag with a glo-brite 5 butt.

Tail is mixed yellow and orange buck tail with a couple of strands of stretched pearl flash.

Body is Uni peacock mylar with a silver rib.

A wing of black fox body fur highlighted with more flash is finished with yellow and orange hen hackle, Jungle Cock and a shiny black head.

John has a few words of advice for new tiers, or any tiers come to that.. “I think good fly-tiers have it in them, and if I was going to say anything to a novice it is, be patient and try not to overdress, as little is very much a lot”

Good advice and damn nice fly John! Thank you.

Paul Slaney

I should really give this up, wrapping bits of fluff on a hook for fun just can’t be normal

Hackle Tweezers by Tyflyz Toolz

Normally I don’t go for hackle pliers. I prefer to use the ones on the ends of my hands. But now and again when wrapping small and delicate feathers I’ll admit I wish for a good pair.

Well, I think Ive found them. I give you Hackle Tweezers by Tyflyz Toolz (got to be from the US don’t you think?)

These simple little pliers are actually quite a revelation. Well made, grippy, robust but delicate and easy to use. I found them at Funky Flytying and for under a tenner they are a bargain.

Here they are set up for wrapping a right handed collar hackle faster than you can imagine.

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Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.

The Cold Iron Man

To sea boat crews, to mention the word “Salmon” is thought to bring bad luck to the boat and its crew. So the term “Cold Iron Man” or “Cold Iron” was coined to to avert disaster when talking about salmon whilst afloat.

I was recently asked to design and donate a salmon fly to be auctioned in Thurso (Scotland) to raise funds to help a friend of Eddy McCarthy (Head Gillie on the Thurso) recover from Breast cancer.

So here it is- The Cold Iron Shrimp.


Hook.. size 4, Partridge code P.

Rear body.. Silver holographic tinsel ribbed and tipped with oval silver tinsel.

Mid hackle and wing.. White hen hackle with natural silver fox body hair over.

Front body.. Purple seal fur, with oval silver rib.

Wing and flash.. Black shadow fox body fur over two strands of purple crystal flash.

Front hackle.. Blue dun hen hackle, with natural guinea fowl and jungle cock cheeks.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.

Shrimpy Things

Recently I’ve been playing around with some Shrimpy things. I really enjoy tying this style of salmon fly and I love mixing colour and materials within the style. This little batch of flies are heading to Russia this coming summer with my friend Rafal Kaminsky, I hope they do the business for him.

They are all tied on Partridge Code P double hooks size 6 (I genuinely believe there are none better) The colour schemes are loosely based around existing patterns such as the Green Highlander, Kinermony Killer and Cascade and they contain materials such as Boar, Nyatt, Shadow fox and Hen.

I hope you like them…

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The following photo shows a little more detail of the construction with the mid wing and hackle. Orange Nyatt on the left, Sunburst Boar on the right.

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The colours in the final fly in the series are based on a Green Highlander. One of the most classic of classic salmon flies.

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While I was tying these flies, somebody asked about how I construct and finish the heads. It’s quite simple……………

I use 50 denier GSP thread in white to tie all these flies. Its extremely strong, lays flat, is very fine and any colour on top of it is stronger in hue. It enables me to form a very small and neat finish to the fly.

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I then use a different colour thread to finish the head. The brand is not important, only in the need for the thread to lay flat. Danvilles, UTC, Glo-brite all work.

This is Danvilles 6/0. I cover the white thread with two layers and build the shape of the head.

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Finally I add one coat of Deer Creek Diamond Fine UV resin and cure with a UV torch. I find it easiest to put a small dot of resin on my thumbnail and apply it with a fine needle.

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Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.

McConomy’s Goat

This past weekend I was sent a small booklet authored by professional fly tiers Jimmy and Gloria Younger from Dumfries in Scotland.

Its called- “The Book” Salmon, Trout and sea Trout Flies.

Jimmy recently featured in the recent film by Eric Steel, Kiss The Water, documenting the life and work of another Scottish tier, the famous Miss Megan Boyd.


And a simple you tube search will come up with some interesting snippets of film of Jimmy tying flies. I love his trick with tinsel tags.

At first glance, this is a simple little book, black and white with a scattering of hand drawn sketches. A few pages in however, and you realise you are reading the wisdom of many years experience behind the vice.

I was instantly hooked! Jimmy, or is it Gloria? takes us through the basic tools, materials, proportions and techniques needed to construct a hair wing Salmon Fly with the occasional gem along the way!

On fly tying Vices…” In the USA, a fly tying vice is known as a ‘vise’, so that there would be no confusion between the two when in print. Over here, we don’t bother about this, as most of us can tell the difference, at some time of the day, at least”

On Jungle Cock.. “I firmly believe that the addition of Jungle cock cheeks make all the difference to a fly, but only from a sales point of view”

Delve further into the book and uncover a treasure trove of dressings for those 350 salmon and sea trout flies, many of which are new to me and I suspect are local to Jimmy and Gloria and in some cases designed by or for particular clients.

This is where the true worth of this book lies. Patterns such as the Caroline Scott, Eskimo Nell, Lord Louis Shrimp and the Sporran grace the pages with the more familiar Stoats, Ally’s and other traditional Scottish fare. It’s a wealth of ideas and possibilities.

On page 40, I came across the McConomy’s Goat, a dressing that sent me straight to my Vice.

Here it is, I think its a beauty! img_004 (4)

If you get a chance, pick up this book. You wont regret it.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.

50 shades of olive

Well its popular in the Cinema as I understand it…..

When the wife is away, the boys go to play
and the Mastercard funds all things nice.
Plain envelopes, no receipts and no questions asked.
You don’t have to ask the man twice.

As gently restrained, and not by the LAW,
lay the soft curves of a Grip 2701.
Lightly waxed, a smooth bed of silk,
it’s just the start of this evenings fun.

Stripped, plucked and wrapped to his desire,
With a little whipping for good measure.
The lust in his eye for those fine Irish dyes,
reveal the depths of his deprived guilty pleasure.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.

Recent Times

I’ve been very busy these last few weeks with a long procession of Canadian patterns falling off my vise. Canadian hair wing patterns were the initial inspiration behind my salmon tying.

Some years ago I was captivated by a photograph of a box of Miramichi flies from the hands of the late Warren Duncan from New Brunswick and later was privileged to meet and tie with him here in the UK. His encouragement got me into this addiction and I thank him for it.

Since then, there have been a lot of hackles wrapped and I lost the finish on my Vise somewhere along the way. But here’s to you Warren, I hope you approve.

And yes mate, I know an Undertaker has a gold rib:-)

Orange Blossom Special


Copper Killer


To a more than casual observer my random substitution of some of the materials is due purely to what I have to hand when I tie the flies.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.

No Jungle Cock were harmed making this fly

For sea trout or sewin as we call them around here (sea run browns) you cant really get better than a fly that’s black and silver. I’m prepared to bet that most Sewin fishers have something similar in their box.

Tie this simple fly in a range of sizes from 2-12 on single hooks, double hooks, metal tubes, plastic tubes, waddington shanks, whatever.. And you’ll have a great box of fishing flies season round.

The wing can be squirrel, bear, bucktail. fox or as in this case, possum. Or indeed a mix. The flash is optional, best tie it in as you can always take it off if its too bright on the night. I’ve seen guys cut Jungle cock off Sewin flies because they think its too much.

While we are on that subject, you can see that no Jungle Cock were harmed in the making of this fly. Its not that I don’t like it – but so many of these flies end up in trees whilst fly fishing at night. its just too damn expensive!

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A trio of black and silver sea trout lures, all size 6, tied on Partridge Bomber hooks.

Blacker than a witches heart

It only took an afternoon find the big fish! I’d searched the beat and run a Copper Mepps through its hidey hole. From my position on a high bank, I’d observed a fish lazily following my offering only to turn away at the last second. I logged it away, Salmon or Sea Trout I couldn’t tell, but it was was a good one and I knew exactly where it lay.

Where the big ones live

There were 3 other big fish I’d marked in the area. In another pool downstream, an almighty splash in the middle of the night before had given one away. The other two however, were in a magnificent pool that marked the no mans land between ours and another beat downstream. Saved for desperation stakes, but it’s just not “cricket” to venture onto someone else’s water, even if there is a fine dividing line.

No mans land

We’d enjoyed a late dinner and a few glasses of wine but the evening was passing slowly. Late night TV was blearing from the other room. The guys had got addicted to “Bitchin Kitchen”. I don’t think they were interested in the recipes, but they had been away for a few days and she was very easy on the eye.

I got my head down and stole an hours shut eye.

It must have been around midnight when we finally got going. The full moon that had been threatening us for the last few nights was finally with us. I’d been preying for cloud cover but as we walked down through the fields our shadows followed us as if it was broad daylight.

imageShadows in the moonlight

I’ve been out on better nights, but the boys had traveled a long way for this chance.

The river was quiet, nothing moving, dew already fully formed in the long grass! The chance of a river mist increasing by the second, something else to add to the list of no-no’s that plague your chances of a Sewin.

No need for lights, we found our way upstream to the pool with the big fish and the tree lined north bank. There would be a shadow there. Indian file, the loudest noise an owl screeching somewhere in the distance and the only visible light at the porch of our cottage.

You see? these fish like it blacker than a witches heart. It’s a fine time to fish and an intense experience. You have to experience it to understand how guys can get addicted to this.
Blacker than a witches heart

And this was a private beat in the Tiefi valley in high season, a Mecca for us kind of guys.

The night was getting cold but the mist hadn’t quite formed as Josh threw his first cast with a black and silver fly. He let it swing over pool whilst I found a comfortable spot in the bushes. I sat back to watch, pulled up my hood, smoked a cigarette and promptly drifted off into a deep sleep.

I don’t know how long I was there before a loud shout of “Fish On!” had the same effect as a bucket of water thrown in my face. First instinct was to light the scene and I saw Josh’ rod bend deep into the butt, the fish splashing heavily in the surface. The sound, hugely magnified by the still night and the depth of the pool.

This was the fish of a lifetime! Please! Please! Don’t let it get away!

Jesus Christ! I left the net in the cottage! Luckily the fish swam towards Josh and as much as I wish I could regale you with a tale of a long and heroic fight. My first instinct was to jump in the water and make a grab for it. My hands cradled around her belly and the wrist of the big square tail and we had her.

It was only then, I realised the other two guys had walked upstream in time to witness the whole event and luckily, between us, we found a camera and tape measure. As our lamps lit the scene with an artificial glow, I had to look twice, between the camera flashes, to confirm that it actually read 82cms, a touch over 32 inches.

IMGP2706Enough said

It took Josh a few moments for it to sink in. He was on his knees cradling the fish but I had to ask him the question. Around here, there are no rules other than the fish was his to with what he wished.

“Take her or let her go mate”? I asked gently.

The struggle was obvious in his eyes, a moment of darkness, quickly suppressed as he stepped into the water and sent her on her way. A powerful flick of that big tail and our lights lost her in the depths. Good man!

As Josh quite aptly summed up the whole event. “Mission accomplished!”

imageThe way back home