Greenwell’s Glory: The History of a Classic Fly

via A fly Fishing History by Dr. Andrew N. Herd

greenwell

There are all sorts of variations on the story of how the first Greenwell’s Glory came to be tied, but there is no doubt that it was the invention of Canon William Greenwell of Durham, pictured above in his later years. In his early teens, Greenwell learned to fish on the Browney, a tiny beck which winds its way into the Wear within a few miles of where I am writing this article. Our hero was a mere whipper-snapper of thirty-three when he travelled up to Scotland with the Durham Rangers fishing club to their waters at Sprouston and at Henderside on the Tweed, and it was at Sprouston where the idea for the fly came to him. The canon had had a rather thin day’s fishing one day in May when the water was alive with March Browns, but the fish were to determined to take another fly which he couldn’t recognise. Make a careful note of Greenwell’s thoughts:

‘ I caught some of them, and came to the conclusion that the best imitation would be the inside of a blackbird’s wing, with a body of red and black hackle, tied with yellow silk. ‘

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It just goes to show how they were conditioned to think in those far off days, because here were the fish rising to take insects on the surface, and yet the canon came up with a classic design for a fly – perfect in every way, but designed to be fished wet. Of course, dry fly fishing was only in its infancy in 1854 and capable fisherman though he was, Greenwell was no revolutionary. So he took his ideas along to Jimmy Wright’s humble abode and told him what was needed. Wright already was the best-known fly tyer on the Tweed and it sounds like he must have been a bit sceptical at first about the new pattern, but he soon changed his mind:

‘ Next day I had as fine a day’s sport as I ever remember, and going, on my return, to James Wright, he asked me what success I had had. I told him I had filled my creel. ‘Why’, he said, ‘but your creel holds 32 lb.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I have got my pockets full as well.’ ‘Wonderful!’ he said, ‘with March Brown, no doubt.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘almost all on the new fly. Dress me another dozen for to-morrow… ‘


apart from the vision of creels and pockets stuffed with dead fish… this is cool stuff.
i can’t get enough of these old finds because they continually remind me of all the things we think we discovered recently, but where already known hundreds of years ago…
click either pic for the complete article. enjoy !

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