For anyone interested in classic salmon flies, I'm going to recommend a great book by Bob Frandsen, The Blacker Compendium, a great breakdown of the original and somewhat complex book by William Blacker - W. Blacker's Art of Angling, and Complete System of Fly Making, and Dying of Colours.
Bob's book is a great addition to any fly tyers library and contains a simple and easy to follow guide to hook selection from today's hook scales, to get the correct hook for the fly as recommended by Blacker. These vintage hooks are not so easy to find, but in a pinch you can convert some modern day hooks to suit your needs. The step by step guides for all of Blacker's Flies are also well illustrated and easy to follow.
I learned of this book, and indeed William Blacker, through the Classic Fly Tying Forum, where, last winter a member posted some Blacker flies from the River Bann. This was interesting to me, as when I was a nipper, I used to fish the River Bann in Northern Ireland with my father. There are two sections of the river, the upper, rising in the Mourne Moutains and flowing into Lough Neagh, the largest inland lake in the British Isles; as well as the lower, flowing from the Lough into the Atlantic Ocean. I fished the upper, but I'm guessing since Blacker was chasing salmon and sea trout, he fished the lower, as there are also a series of flies for the nearby River Bush, as well as many of the other major rivers and lakes of Ireland and Scotland.
Blacker's flies are relatively simple in their construction, as illustrated by Bob's Book, but some of the materials used in those days (1800's) are today rare and often very expensive. However, there are many reasonably priced and excellent substitutes which are easily accessible.
I managed to get some nice hooks for tying Blacker's flies and I tied the first one last night - The Spey, from McPhearson, the guy who showed Blacker the fly and recommended he use it.
Here its is - a mixed wing.
Pattern as follows
Hook is a size CC (#4) blind eye limerick (vintage hook)
Tail - subbed Toucan with GP crest - CDC is much better sub for toucan
Butt - Black Ostrich Herl
Body - Yellow floss
Rib - gold tinsel
Hackle - Red cock hackle from the butt
Throat - Blue Jay
Wing - 4 fibers each of left and right, Royal blue and red goose, Kori bustard, Golden Pheasant tail, Amherst Pheasant tail and GP tippetts
Horns - Blue and gold macaw (I omitted these accidentally, and only realized after tying)
Head - Originally should be black wool, I used superfine dry fly dubbing as a sub
Wing construction is generally left to the discretion of the tyer, depending on fishing condition. I tried to follow the main colors listed in The Blacker Compendium, albeit with some less expensive subs (goose over parrot)
This is my first Blacker fly, and generally I'm pretty happy with it. I will retie it and make the wing a bit thicker (more quill slips from each of the feathers used). I'll also change the tail, and make the head more compact and shorter.
Other flies I've been tying lately are long flies - big streamers for trolling and casting, which I've posted in the streamer page above, or you can click here for a direct link.