The Tweed Today

David Westwood


The Tweed today offers so much trout fishing at such reasonable prices that it should be crowded with anglers; the good news is that this is not so. You can still have a day on Tweed f or about £4.00, see some of the most beautiful country in the world, and come away with a couple of one pound fish! Such is the condition of heaven.


My wife and I always try to be on the river at the end of the season ‑ the leaves are all a golden shade that is to die for, the fish are all ready to settle down for the winter ‑ but not yet, please, whilst there is food around, and the weather has been so kind in the last five years that it is a pleasure just to be there. You can fish side by side with the salmon anglers (but do obey the rules) and just be part of a really vibrant river system, which rewards everyone for merely making the effort. The camaraderie of anglers is seen at its best at this time of the year, as everyone will help the newcomer to find fish, and find the right fly.


However, if you want to go already armed for the fray, then the flies I am describing in this article will help you too take fish. Needless to say I cannot guarantee you fish, but if you are in the right place, at the right time .....


If you have read my previous articles you will have noted the predominance of yellow as a body colour in Tweed flies in the Nineteenth century. In this last moment of the twentieth, there are still a few yellow flies used, but nowadays, with angling pressure increasing, and angler's subtlety increasing, there is a marked tendency towards more imitative colours ‑and yellow does not seem to feature so much in the entomology of the river.


This list is NOT exclusive - you will find many other flies used, but the flies I recommend here are those, that would be chosen by a number of my friends who fish the river much more regularly than me. They have the advantage that they give you a range of flies that will work throughout the season, especially if you also work with the extra tips I give for each fly.


Wet flies / Nymphs



Greenwell's Glory


Hook: Kamasan B 175 sizes 14, 16 and 18

Silk: Uni-Thread yellow 8/0 Body: Tie down to the rear and tie in the rib of fine gold wire. Use cobbler's wax to darken the thread. Merely rub the wax against the thread, letting the effect get lighter as the season progresses.

Rib: as noted, fine gold wire; never more than four turns

Wing: paired starling strips, with the dark side innermost, and tied at 45° . The old style used to be to tie the wing upright, but there seems to be no adverse reaction from the fish to the easier method!

Hackle: Well marked furnace hen, tied in front of the wing (heresy I know, but it adds life to the fly). Note: to tie the spider version, just omit the wing. Keep both fly types very light.




Pheasant Tail Nymph


Hook: Kamasan B175 sizes 12 to 18, weighted with copper wire Silk: Camel 8/0

Tail,Thorax, Wing buds: Pheasant Tail fibres

Body: Pheasant tail fibres ribbed with copper wire






Iron Blue Spider


Hook: Kamasan B175 sizes 16, 18 Silk: Crimson or red 8/0 Uni‑Thread

Body: Tie the silk back to the rear and start back towards the eye with six turns of tying silk to leave a red/crimson butt. Then dub the tying silk VERY lightly with natural mole chopped short. The dubbing will] attach itself after this ‑ just wind up to the eye. The red should show through the dubbing.

Hackle: A smoky grey feather from the underside of a moorhen wing, and later in the season an even lighter coloured feather from the underside of a starling wing.

Note: This fly also fishes well in the dry hackled version.



Endrick Spider


Hook: Kamasan B175 sizes 12 to 18, weighted with fine copper wire tied cigar shape.

Silk: Camel (as above) Tall: the tips of three or four pheasant tail fibres which will go on to form the body Rib: fine oval silver tinsel (wire for the smaller versions)

Body: Having lied in the tail and the silver rib, keep rib away from hook and tie in the body by rolling the pheasant tail fibre up to the tie off point. Apply the rib.

Hackle: Use partridge neck (brown) and breast (grey) mottled feathers, and put on one to two turns.

Note: Anyone who knows me, or has seen other articles in other magazines will be aware of my fondness for this fly. It is in fact the fly upon which 1 caught my first ever trout, my first sea trout and lost an early salmon. It is the Exocet of the fishing world. It is best lied using both grey and brown mottled feathers (separately) as some days the fish want one, other days the alternative.


Grey Hen and Rusty


Hook: Kamasan B175 size 16

Silk: Orange Uni‑Thread 8/0

Body: tie down to the point of the hook, then returning to the hackle position. Ensure turns are touching turns.

Hackle: Grizzle (Plymouth rock) hen. One turn of the hackle should be all that is needed.

Note: This is another fly which fishes well in the dry version. The body is the same, and the hackie is thickly tied cock grizzle, the best of which I have seen recently coming from DJ Hackle (see later).


Black Spider


Hook: Ashima Fl 5 sizes 16, 18 and 20

Silk: Black 14/0 Gordon Griffiths whisper

Body: Tie back to the back of the barb, then forwards two‑thirds of the way to the eye.

Hackle: Tie in a shortish fibred black cock feather, and wind up and then back and up again, to give real density to the hackle.

Note: This fly needs a good dense hackle to keep it bobbing away above the surface. You can add a black cock fibre tail and a shiny white polypropylene wing at 45 degrees to make it into a Black Gnat.


Sherry Spinner


Hook: Ashima B15 sizes 14 and 16

Tail: Divided ginger fibette ("V")

Body: Light gold floss, overlaid with plastic sheet (not too thick plastic)

Wing: Light blue dun polypropylene fibre (keep slim)

Hackle: Ginger cock. Use short fibred feather, trim off below the hook to allow the fly to sit flat in the surface.

Note: exceptionally good in the evenings all season, but I find it at its very best in the autumn when the glow of the evening sun reflected from the turning leaves adds the orange tint to the fly which will bring the fish up.



Black Ant


Hook: Ashima Fl 5 sizes 16 and 18 Silk: Black 810

Body: Take the thread to the barb and then tie in some Benecchi Microchenille Colour 03 Black. Wind on to form a globular abdomen and then tie in the hackle.

Hackle: Short fibred black cock tied two or three turns in the middle of the fly

Thorax: Three or four more turns of chenille, tied as a globe again.

Note; The Benecchi chenille (see below) makes superb fuzzy bodies on small flies. The red ant is made the same way with Benecchi 02 Red Microchenille and a natural red cock feather. Just cast the fly into the ring of the rise – it works well on the Junction in the evening.



Westwood's Sedge


Hook: Ashima F30 (2X long shank) Silk: to match the body colour

Body: Tie back to bend, tie in a hackle to match body colour. The body can vary between olives, cinnamon, yellow, red, black, iron blue, blue dun ‑ indeed, you name it. Dub, stopping 1/4 hook length away from eye. Run up the body hackle to the same point. Tie off, trim body hackie from 8 o'clock all the way round to 4 o'clock ‑ just leaving the under third below the level of the hook.

Wing: Prepare in advance. Use bronze mallard (dyed) on the darker bodied flies, teal breast on the lighter versions ‑ even grey gallena. Soak both sides of the feather in varnish (light rod varnish is best). Leave to dry. After making sure that there is enough feather behind the hook bend, cut across stem of whole feather, and peel away fibre not still attached to the stem. Tie on so that feather lies flat along the top of the fly. Trim the rear to length and shape for a sedge.

Hackle: Good dose of short fibred matching colour

Note: Anyone needing help with the wing on the Sedge just give me a ring on 01484‑543823.


Greenwell’s Glory


Tie the fly as the wet version except:

Hook: Ashima B15 sizes 14, 16 and 18

Tail: Furnace cock hackle fibres (6 to 8)

Wing: Upright

Hackle: As many turns as possible before / after wing.




Getting the Materials


DJ Hackle can be found at Manby's Farm, Oaksey, Malmesbury, Wilts SN16 9SA, telephone 01666‑577399. Martin Fitzgerald is producing some really superb white, grizzle and badger capes as well as some tremendous dyed colours which need to be seen to be appreciated. I certainly have not seen purer colours anywhere.

Ashima Hooks are becoming more available now, and their Carbon 90 hooks are really strong, but they also have very sharp points. To find out your nearest retailer contact Ashima on 01252834165 (they also deal in the new Finnish Fur).