Colonel Downman’s Fancy

Colonel Downman's Fancy
Hook: Hayabusa 761 black nickel
Tail: Teal fibres
Rib: Silver tinsel
Body: Black floss
Wing: Pair of Blue Jay with Jungle Cock on each side
Throat: Black hen
Thread: Danvilles 6/0

A traditional wet fly for which more than one tying can be found in the fly fishing literature, though it is only mentioned in a few of the common 20th Century compendiums of trout flies. The oldest reference that I can find to the pattern is that given as a loch fly by Roger Woolley [1] in 1932. Roger Woolley’s book is a collection of articles first published in the Fishing Gazette in 1930 and 1931. The pattern simply says “Jay Wing”, not specifying whether it is the blue-barred feather or primary wing feather. The rest of the dressing matches that given in later dressings by John Veniard [2] in 1952, with a blue-barred jay wing (the version tied here),  and in his later book Reservoir and Lake Flies [3]. It is also the version beautifully tied by Ken Sawada [4] in his 1995 book “Wet Flies”.

Tom Stewart [5], writing first in 1964, suggests that the pattern has been subject to many variations over the years including the version with teal tail fibres and blue-barred jay wing given here. He then goes onto describe a “usual” tie as being red-dyed hackle fibres for the tail and a blue feather from the jay for the wing. Tom Stewart’s “usual tie” is the one given by Stan Headley [6] in 1997 using a pattern supplied by Davie McPhail.

As to Colonel Downman himself, there would appear to be little mention of him beyond a comment in the French magazine “Le Moucheur” by Maurice Lewkowicz who describes the pattern as having been created by a colonel of the Indian army retired in the 1930s though no citation is given as to the source of this information.

Bibliography

  1. Roger Woolley, Modern trout fly dressing (London: The Fishing Gazette, 1932).
  2. John Veniard, Fly Dresser’s Guide (London: A&C Black, 1952)
  3. John Veniard, Reservoir and Lake Flies (London: A&C Black, 1970)
  4. Ken Sawada, Wet flies (Tokyo: Ken Sawada, 1995)
  5. Tom Stewart, 200 popular flies and how to tie them (London: A&C Black, 1979).
  6. Stan Headley, Trout and Salmon Flies of Scotland (Ludlow: Merlin Unwin, 1997)
  7. Maurice Lewkowicz, Le Geai (Le Moucheur n°46 – Décembre 2001-Janvier 2002).