Feeling Blue

What is it about “blue” and Salmon and Sea Trout flies? Apart from the fact that its simply my favourite colour, some say its the last colour visible on the spectrum as the light fades, others believe the colour has association with oceanic baitfish that these fish feed on whilst at sea? Whatever it is, the plethora of patterns out there with blue as a component is legion.

Some Sewin Lures


Home dyed blue materials, hair, hackles and feathers generally fall into two camps, at least on this side of the Atlantic as Veniards Dye give the home dyer two traditional and very useful day to day shades – Teal Blue and Kingfisher Blue. The Teal being a paler and more washed out than the deep and vibrant Kingfisher Blue. Indeed, my personal preference falls in the Kingfisher camp every time, the deeper the better. However Teal Blue, has to be used for certain patterns if “political correctness” is required. While we are at it, can anybody tell me exactly what Silver Doctor Blue is?

Editor with a lovely rich Kingfisher Blue hen cape


Other dye manufacturers, Jacquards for instance, offer an alternative range. In fact last time I looked there were far more shades of blue available from them. But honestly, thats about all I can tell you about Jacquards.

To get the strongest results out of these Veniards Acid Dyes, I find it best to Ignore the instructions and get plenty of powder in the bath. A practical side effect of dyeing “my way” is the resulting inconsistent colours offering you an interesting range of shades to play with.

Of course using pure white hackle as the raw material offers the best results, but putting the blue over grizzle hackle, badger hackle, Guinea Fowl, Teal, Mallard, Squirrel, Fox, etc leads to a nice selection. And if you can find them, dyed over White Eared or Albino Ringneck feathers for beautiful Spey hackles that can rival the natural Cobalt Blue Guinea for depth of colour and length.

Dyed White Eared Pheasant in a modern Waddington pattern


So now you’ve got your hackles what can you do with them? Well, there is a huge range of patterns out there and many of the most famous use blue as a major component – Elver Fly or Laxa Blue are two. Or, on the other end of the scale, as a tiny touch that contrasts and enhances a base colour like on the Nighthawk or even Kinermony.



Where hairwings have had their roots in traditional feather wing patterns, some have been popular for many, many years, Wilkinson, Silver Doctor, Blue Charm are all good examples.

Blue Charm


Of course there are many natural shades of blue feathers available out there and leaving aside the expensive and rare feathers used in Classic Salmon Flies,  most are even easily obtainable to the average tier.

Kingfisher is an obvious one – though I rarely use it. European Jay for the front hackle on Bumbles, Vulturine Guinea Fowl (both elver feathers and cobalt breast) for the Elver Fly and Peacock Blues for the wonderful Goats Toe-  are all feathers that find their way into my own patterns. With the expensive Vulturine Cobalt one of my all time favorites.

Elver Fly using Vulturine hackles and cobalt breast feathers


An unnamed pattern using Vulturine Cobalts and Peacock Blues


Paul Slaney

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

“If I only had one fly” Denis O’Toole

In 2011 the largest Irish Sea Trout ever caught on a fly was landed on the East Coast of Ireland from an un-named river. The fish weighed over 16lbs and was returned unharmed, minus some scales. Analysis of those scales revealed the fish to be 7 years old and it had spawned 5 times. A local bylaw prevented it being claimed as the official record, a fact that doesn’t seem to worry its captor, Denis O’Toole, at all.

Denis lives close to the River Slaney, a wonderful improving fishery, and when he’s not keeping fit boxing, he fishes there for Salmon and many smaller rivers nearby where he chases Sea Trout. His chosen fly however, was designed for the River Drowes, in the North.

From early experiments in fly tying in the 90’s he has progressed from tying flies using a pair of pliers held between his knees as a vice – to a very skilled and creative tier, comfortable with many styles and techniques. I always look forward to seeing the latest O’Toole creation.

His influences are far and wide but he holds Falkus in highest regard –  “if you can sit down and watch Salmo The Leaper and not want to go fishing, you shouldn’t be holding a fly rod”.

The fly is Denis’ own pattern it works particularly well for salmon when the water is carrying a little colour and although it was conceived with the Drowes river in mind the colour combination works well on the Slaney. I’m sure it would work well just about anywhere……..

The Drowes Dawn Shrimp

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The fly can be tied on either hook or tube as follows:-

Thread – 8/0 Hot Orange
Tag – Medium Silver Oval
Tail – Golden Pheasant wound
Rib – Medium Silver Oval
Rear Body – Silver Holographic Tinsel
Middle Hackle – Yellow Cock
Front Body – Claret Floss
Rib – Medium Silver Oval
Front Hackle – Claret Cock Hackle
Cheeks – Jungle Cock

Like many tiers Im talking to, Denis considers fly tying a major part of his life and if he had any advise for novice tiers it would be this – “Practise and buy the best quality materials you can afford, I know that’s 2 pieces of advice, but if you follow them you wont go far wrong“.

And what about that Sea Trout? Well here it is……….


Many thanks Denis thats a stunning fish!

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just cant be normal