Dr Bell’s Grenadier

IG190219-213120Dr Howard Alexander Bell (1888-1974) of Wrington, Somerset, is generally regarded as one of the pioneers of reservoir fly-fishing in the UK and someone who left an indelible mark on the development of modern stillwater trout fishing.  He fished Blagdon Lake in Somerset regularly for over 40 years, at the same time studying its aquatic invertebrate life closely and tying flies to imitate. While reservoir trout fishing began around the 1870s, initially mainly bait fishing, early fly fishing on reservoirs tended to use attractor patterns or salmon flies. Conrad Voss Bark, in his History of fly fishing [1], says of Dr Bell:

Dr Bell of Blagdon had the greatest formative influence of any man on the development of reservoir fishing in the first half of this century.

Adrian Freer’s excellent website recording the life and legacy of this pioneer of modern reservoir fly fishing [2] reveals that he was a private man who looked to his time spent fishing on Blagdon Lake for its quiet and solitude. However, he developed a meticulous, scientific approach to the study of his catch, regularly examining the trout he caught for evidence of what they had been eating. As a result, he realised that, by imitating insects that the trout of his beloved Blagdon expected to see and eat, and by presenting them in a manner that mimicked their progression through the water he had developed a significantly better approach to catching trout.

IG190224-134822
Dr Bell’s Blagdon Buzzer

He was responsible for the design of several fly patterns that were significant innovations at the time, representing the advent of modern imitative reservoir flies. Amongst them The Grenadier, the Blagdon Buzzer nymph and the Amber nymph. His buzzer pattern is the forefather of countless modern buzzer imitations that fill the rows of the reservoir angler’s fly box. Ironically, when it comes to The Grenadier it is less clear what he was seeking to imitate, not helped by Bell’s lack of published material. In Nymph Fishing – A history of the art and practice [3], Terry Lawton writes of Dr Bell:

He hated and never sought publicity and was reputed never to have written anything about fly fishing although notes for an unpublished article, dated 1941, were published in The Buzzer in 2003.

Tom Stewart [4] mentions an earlier article in The Fishing Gazette of 1958 by Colonel Esmond Drury that seems to have brought Dr Bell’s patterns to a wider audience and gave the particulars of the Grenadier as using hot orange seals fur or floss of a similar colour for the body.

IG190223-145623-Edit
Hook: Tiemco 3769 #10-14
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Seal’s fur, dyed orange
Hackle: Ginger cock
Thread: Danville 6/0 brown

Today, it is more common to tie The Grenadier with a palmered body hackle and short tail.

Grenadier Special
Hook: Tiemco TMC 3769 #10-14
Tail: Globrite #7
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Seal’s fur, dyed orange
Hackle: Ginger cock, palmered
Thread: Danville 6/0 brown

Adrian Freer’s website, link below, is an excellent and long overdue recording of the life and legacy of this pioneer of modern reservoir fly fishing.

  1. Conrad Voss Bark A history of fly fishing (Ludlow: Merlin Unwin Books, 1992)
  2. Adrian Freer ‘Dr Bell of Wrington’ webdatauk.wixsite.com/dr-bell (Accessed February 23, 2019)
  3. Terry Lawton Nymph fishing – a history of the art and practice (Shrewsbury: Swan Hill Press, 2005)
  4. Tom Stewart, 200 popular flies and how to tie them(London: A&C Black, 1979)

Doobry/Wickhams Variant

IG190217-215539

The Doobry is a fly that is a cross between two classic loch-style wet flies: The Zulu and The Dunkeld. Writing in Trout and Salmon Flies of Scotland [1] its originator, Stan Headley, notes that while the original Doobry was created for a specific purpose on a specific loch, it didn’t really work that well as originally conceived. However, it has become a modern standard on both lochs and reservoirs throughout the UK serving as a general purpose loch-style pattern. This variant has more in  common to the colours of the classic Dunkeld (brown, orange and gold), with none of the black of the Zulu and might equally as well be referred to as a Wickhams variant, as it shares the classic combination of brown and gold of that pattern. For some reason, I’ve never tied or fished the Doobry, so have tied up a few of both the classic and this variant for 2019.

Doobry Variant (Stan Headley)
Hook: Tiemco 3769 #10-12
Tail: Globrite yarn #6
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Gold tinsel
Body hackle: Brown rooster
Collar hackles: Brown hen over fluorescent orange rooster
Thread: Danville 6/0 black

The Doobry

The original Doobry uses a slightly different dressing than the one shown below, which substitutes globrite #4 for the tail, as opposed to red wool.

Doobry (Stan Headley)
Hook: Tiemco 3769 #10-12
Tail: Globrite yarn #4
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Gold tinsel
Body hackle: Black rooster
Collar hackles: Black hen over fluorescent orange rooster
Thread: Danville 6/0 black
  1. Stan Headley, Trout and Salmon Flies of Scotland (Ludlow: Merlin Unwin, 1997)

Corixa Cruncher

Corixa Cruncher
Hook: Tiemco 3769 #10-14
Tail: Brown rooster hackle fibres
Back: Hen pheasant
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Madeira metallic Col. 300
Hackle: Brown rooster
Thread: Uni 8/0 white, switched for brown for head

 

corixaSince I first discovered Madeira metallic threads, this pearl thread has become a staple for corixa patterns. This is a more suggestive pattern than other corixa patterns, but it is quick to tie in a range of sizes. Imitating the Corixa Punctata or lesser water boatman, these wonderful insects breath oxygen by trapping it beneath their wing cases – the pearl colour of the Madeira thread suggests this trapped bubble of air perfectly in this pattern. Technically, Corixa don’t have tails, but the tail here accentuates the overall shape of the insect which tapers markedly towards its rear.

Chironomid Emerger (Variant)

Shewey's Chironomid Emerger
Hook: Tiemco 200R 14-18
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Hemingway’s Hare’s Dubbing Plus UV, black
Hackle: Badger
Gills: 3/32 foam cylinder
Thread: Danville 6/0 black

The original is a pattern devised by John Shewey, Editor-in-Chief of the US Northwest Fly Fishing family of magazines. It already had elements of the classic suspender buzzer pattern, I rather like the addition of the hackle, the original used a peacock thorax and grizzly hackle, I’ve used a badger.