In his second article David Westwood offers more advice on tying these beautiful and effective flies


When Pritt first published his excellent book on the flies of Yorkshire and the North he entitled it "Yorkshire Trout Flies", changing the title to 'North Country Flies" for the second edition. There is in fact a distinct difference between the Yorkshire fly patterns and those of the Border Counties, but it is about the former patterns that I am writing now.


Yorkshire Patterns


The patterns I have chosen for this article are all to be found in the serious works on the genus (and see the bibliography), but even within Yorkshire there are variations on the theme. I will concentrate on the better known versions.


The Hook There is a lot of rubbish bandied around in the name of Pritt as far as hooks are concerned. I was recently told by a fellow professional flydresser that North Country Flies can only be tied on short shank wide gape hooks. I do normally do this anyway, but for the purposes of a demo (in bad light, in a pub in York) I chose that night to tie on bright, standard hooks. In fact there is no reference in Pritt to a specific hook pattern. It is here that I hope that the argument dies. Tie Yorkshire and North Country flies on any hook, that suits you ‑ proportions that matter, not just the hook. All the patterns for this article are tied en Partridge Z2 hooks ‑ in my opinion, the perfect hook for the purpose ‑ short shank, a wide gape, and most importantly, a straight eye.


Proportions (see Diagram 2) Pritt says two things which are fundamental to getting the proportions of a Yorkshire fly right. These are:

1.     They cannot be "dressed too sparingly in the matter of feather".

2.     Tie a smaller version of the fly en a normal hook, rather than going down in size, for "fishing hooks which are too small" has the result that "you will fail to strike your fish". Note too that Pritt emphasized the importance of the hackled wet fly, noting that winged wets got too much attention. I have found this to be true' even when fishing Yorkshire wet patterns in Scotland.



Diagram I


Putting in the hackle. Tie in, put 3‑5 turns in front, push up the tip and put the final turn of silk in front of the hackle stem and pull up at the shoulder of the eye. Then hackie and finish the head.



The Patterns


Snipe and Purple

A really good fly for downstream wet fly fishing. Especially valuable in spring and autumn. Can be tied with a peacock herl thorax or with a peacock (sword) herl head.


Thread: purple tying silk

Body: purple tying silk

Hackle: one turn of dark Snipe feather, taken from the marginal coverts of the topside of the wing.




  The silk colour is once more a matter of concern to some, arguing that only the true "original" Pearsall's colour is valid. One more example of rot, because the colour in Pritt's day was due to vegetable dye, the colours today, and for the last 90 odd years is due to chemical dyes, which vary from decade to decade.


  The feather should be dark, although there is no problem with a little yellow at the tip after all the Golden Plover feather works well with fish, and is much more marked. Also, use the longer, larger feathers as well the tip of each will tie a good fly too!


  Note also the method of tying the head foundation around the feather tip, and the importance of the last turn of silk before turning the hackle (see Diagram 1).


Waterhen Bloa

This famous and ubiquitous fly, at its very best in the spring. It is a variant of the Blue Dun.


Body: yellow tying silk dressed really lightly with a chopped mixture of blue rabbit underfur and blue mole. Just touch the silk (after waxing) with the mixture, and tap the silk to remove excess. The silk colour must show through.

Hackle: one turn of waterhen marginal covert feather.


Coot Black Spider

I have lost count of the variations on this theme the Black Spider but the coot feather does suit the fly. Another version of prime importance is Stewart's Black Spider, but that is another story!




Body: waxed black tying silk. The wax (bootmakers) should be applied cold, and run up and down once or twice to impart sheen to the silk.

Thorax: peacock herl tied tight two or three turns will do leaving just enough room for the hackle. Hackle: a charcoal grey feather from a coot's wing.


Woodcock and Hare’s Lug Spider

This is a good fly to imitate the dark olives in spring and early summer.


Thread: primrose yellow (always keep yellow silks in a plastic bag or other container between uses it gets dirty faster than a child! Tag: fine gold tinsel

Body: the silk, with a thorax of hare's ear fur (mixed)

Hackle: one turn of a woodcock feather from the undercoverts or marginal coverts.


March Brown Spider

Wherever the March Brown hatches, and in many places where it is never seen, this fly does stirling work.


Thread: orange (light, not fluorescent)

Body: mixture of all the shades of colour from a hare's ear dubbed onto the tying silk, ribbed with yellow silk. I find this also works well with a lime silk rib.

Hackle: a well speckled partridge back feather.


Partridge and Orange

The fly can be dressed with a fine gold wire rib, which can enhance its sparkle, although I have found that on its day the fish will take it even on the first cast before it has had a chance to sink.


Thread: orange

Body: tying silk

Hackle: a brown speckled partridge back feather, not too long.


Greenwell Spider


This is a case of borrowing a really first class pattern, and making it your own! The original Greenwell’s Glory is, of course, a Tweed fly, but the spider is a Yorkshire derivation. Nevertheless, it works. The body colour should lighten during the season from dark to pale olive.


Silk: primrose yellow

Body: tying silk, gently waxed with bootmaker's wax (coldis quite efficient) and ribbed with a maximum of four turns of ultra fine gold wire

Hackle: a good quality Greenwell hen's feather, or a furnace hen's feather.





General Comments


I. ALWAYS tie the hackle in by the tip, not the stem. Take a feather, and holding it by the tip (your fine pliers holding the stem will help) and stroke the fibre back. This will give you the tying point and show the length of the hackle to be. With partridge feathers, choose the well speckled feathers, but do not be afraid to use the very tips of the larger feathers, otherwise you will be paying too much for whole partridge skins!


2. Always ensure that you tie down and back in touching turns of tying silk. I always use 8/0 thread for the job, and take particular care not to overlie or leave gaps ‑ nothing is more unsightly, an error which is soon eliminated with care and practice.


3. Always use hen feathers when tying a poultry hackle. Some professionals use cock feathers, saying they retain their stiffness in the water. The point of the hackle is that upstream it holds the fly vertically in the water, downstream it flows around the body, giving the fly the appearance of a nymph. The game and other birds also use do this naturally, being soft of fibre.


4. Use a wax for the dubbings natural fur will not stick to silk the way the artificial dubbings may do, and in any case you rarely need a lot.





The fly in the middle of the left row is a Woodcock and Hare's Lug Spider