Fly Tying- the John Storey

hot out Davie McPhail’s vise is a pattern that’s a billion years old an old English classic. apparently this little creature started its life as a wet fly but somehow dried out through time and started to float. at first glance we’ll notice that it doesn’t look like anything in the least bit like any one single bug and even less like an ‘upright’ or, any of the mayfly family at the just-hatched, drying-its-wings-off-and-riding-the-surface-current-before-flying-away stage but, well… game fish aren’t particularly bright and we lovem’ that way.

suffice to say, this is one of those gems on a hook that has stood up proudly to the test of time, to me it’s got fish-catcher written all over it.

john storey dry

“John Storey was a river keeper on the river Rye in North Yorkshire. He devised an artificial fly that has remained popular in this part of North Yorkshire since he first invented it in the 1900’s. It is such a popular fly in Ryedale that it is simply known as “The John Storey”

John made the body of his fly from peacock herl. Herl is the name given by fly dressers to feathers fibres. These particular fibres are found around the “eye” feathers in the spectacular plumage of a peacock’s tail. If you happen to have a peacock to hand, you will see that these fibres have a particularly interesting iridescence; they appear as either a green or bronze colour. Viewed in natural light, they have a real “insecty” kind of hue about them. If you happen not to have a peacock, fear not, many shops now sell peacock feathers as decoration; you could pop into the nearest furnishings department and have a sly look. You may prefer simply to take our word for it.

The use of peacock herl for the bodies of artificial flies was common at the time when our July fly first adorned the waters of the Rye. I would like to think that John Storey obtained his peacock feathers from the nearby Castle Howard Estate.

Spending so much time by the river gave John the opportunity to observe the behaviour of lots of different flies in the process of hatching. He particularly watched a family of flies called the “upwings”. He noticed that they had the habit of floating down the river, wings held aloft, a convincing imitation of a small sailboat. He also noticed that the trout and grayling population of the river ate these newly hatched morsels with great enthusiasm. So, Mr. Storey added a pretend wing to the herl body; he chose to use the tip of a feather taken from the breast of a mallard duck. This species of duck is very common on the rivers on North Yorkshire. It is not difficult to imagine our river keeper picking up moulted feathers and seeing their potential for dressing his trout flies. The first wings were sloped back over the body of the fly. Later on, however, in 1935 John’s grandson modified the wing so that it was made to slope forward over the front of the fly. This is the version that is almost universally used today and Steve has produced it here. To finish his creation, our hero wound around the front of his fly, the feather from the neck of a Rhode Island Red cock. This is called the hackle and helps the fly to float. Some of the angling elders of Ryedale will tell you that the John Storey will not catch fish unless it sports a genuine Rhode Island Red hackle. Well, I’m not so sure about that, but it’s a good story (sorry!).

The John Storey is a dry fly; it is smeared with oil to make it float. When it is cast upon the waters and when it bobs along the surface, the most obvious feature is that little wing. On a sunny day, that spoon shaped appendage also reflects the sunlight and becomes even more prominent. If the fish are looking for a wing to announce the arrival of lunch, that is exactly what they see first. This forward facing wing may well be what makes this fly so effective. Whatever it is, it features very regularly in the successful fly list of many Yorkshire rivers. It has also had a few trips down to the hallowed chalkstreams of Hampshire. I just wish that John Storey were alive today so that I could tell him that it fooled those trout hand over fist too.”

nuff’ said, here’s how to tie your own. enjoy !

quote and image source: Fishing With Style

note: the wing in the image is very different than the wing on Davie’s video. i’d go for the latter as the former is completely wrong on several levels; it’s in the wrong position, is too voluminous and will twist the fly whilst casting. looks pretty though…

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