Tim Flager’s Brahma hen reinterpretation of the classic US fly pattern the “Woolly Bugger” adapted for UK stillwaters. The original Pitsford Pea used a black chenille body and a lime green chenille collar, part Dog Nobbler, part Tadpole in its origins and has been around for over thirty years. Its origins are a little unknown, as the late Pitsford fly fisher, Bev Perkins , wrote in an article in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying “no-one really wanted to hold their hand up and say: ‘I devised the Pitsford Pea!'”. It has subsequently given rise to a whole series of “Peas” often named after the English midlands waters they were devised for, or at times even particular stretches of some waters. My favourite is the Ravensthorpe Pea, named after the beautiful Victorian reservoir just north of Northampton that I’ve fished many times. This adaptation uses the colour combination of the original “Pea”, hence the name. The Brahma hen should give it lots of motion, so will be interesting to give it an outing early season. Head hackle on this one is a single grizzly hen hackle, but could easily pop on a second to make the head a bit more pronounced. Equally easy to hide as much lead as one would like under all that Brahma.
A fly designed by US fly fisher Tim Flager, as a cold water trout fly to imitate sculpin and other small fish. The original Woolly Bugger is believed to have been created by Pennsylvania fly tyer Russell Blessing as early as 1967 to resemble a hellgrammite nymph, its precise origin is unknown, but is clearly an evolution of the Wooly Worm fly, which itself is a variation—intentional or not—of the original palmer fly, which dates back to Walton and beyond!
One of the classic loch flies named after its originator, Peter Ross (1873-1923), who owned a shop in Killin, Perthshire. According to a history of the village he was the local barber . It’s a fly that has proven to be a long-lasting pattern and has given rise to several modern variants. The original has a reputation as both a loch fly and a pattern for sea trout. Early dressings tend to use red wool rather than the seal’s fur used here.
History, it seems, is somewhat unclear as to whether Peter Ross actually tied the fly himself or merely suggested it. Alfred Courtney Williams, writing in 1949 , suggests that Ross did not tie his own flies though acknowledges that he was nonetheless responsible for suggesting this variant on the Teal and Red. Similarly, Bruce Sandison  writes:
Another butcher, Peter Ross of Killin, Perthshire, gave his name to a successful brown trout and sea-trout pattern. Ross was not an angler, he simply enjoyed tying flies.
However, an article in the Killin News  from 1996 describes how Peter Ross, in his capacity as a tackle dealer:
…was a skilled fly-tier. He sent flies all over the world and his fame was such that many a visiting angler bought flies so that he could say ‘tied by Peter Ross himself’. His variant of the Teal-and- Red, now known as the ‘Peter Ross’, was so successful that he had to take legal advice to protect the name.
The article, which cites a former angling companion of Peter Ross and his nephew and which includes a photograph of Ross complete with rod and fish, suggests that Ross was indeed an angler and that he may well have tied this famous fly himself.
Teal feathers are not the easiest of materials to work with when it comes to constructing a winged-wet fly. They can also vary quite a bit, as this version with a darker wing shows. The ‘perfect’ fly for framing would have all the bars neatly lined up in the wing! For smaller flies it’s feasible to take matching pairs from a Teal flank feather, for larger, seems easier to take a flank feather, fold it in half, and tie it on.
Parachute style (horizontally tied) hackles take up several pages in Ted Leeson’s and Jim Schollmeyer’s  massive compendium of fly tying techniques as they discuss the varied ways of both tying in the parachute and tying it off so as to not trap too many fibres. Must admit, most of mine tended to look pretty scruffy until a tip from a tyer at last year’s British Fly Fair International. Looking forward to this year’s show next weekend at the Stafford Show Ground and learning even more from some world-class fly tyers. As for the tip, it’s the same approach expertly demonstrated by Barry Ord Clarke in his video.
The origin of the parachute style seems less certain, Paul Schullery  indicates it goes back to the 1920s and Alfred Courtney Williams , writing in 1949, suggests it may have originated with a “well known Scottish tackle firm” though notes that a Mr William Brush of Detroit applied for a patent for the idea in 1931, the patent was indeed granted in 1934 (US Patent #1973139). It is worth pointing out that the patent relates to a projection on the hook (the wing post), around which the hackle is wound, not the style itself, so a licensing fee might have been difficult to collect for other approaches to forming the wing post. Courtney Williams admits to being something of a purist and that his enthusiasm for the type of fly had never been that great – how times change, today it is one of the most widely used style of flies on both rivers and stillwaters. The tackle firm in question appears to have been the Glasgow firm Alexander Martin and one of their employees, Helen Todd, is credited with having come up with the concept of tying on the hackle horizontally. An example of an original Alex Martin parachute fly, with its UK patent slip still attached was donated to the American Museum of Fly Fishing by Joseph Spear Beck in 1980  who notes that Alex Martin’s 1938 catalog identifies the date of introduction of the style to the UK as 1933. However, finding solid historical references to the young female fly tyer who may have originated the style is decidedly problematic. Joseph Spear Beck  conjectures that William Brush only decided to pursue a patent once it was evident that the style was commercially successful since a note from the successor firm to Alexander Martin, John Dickinson and Son Ltd, from 1970 suggests an earlier attempt to market the style in the US in 1928 was unsuccessful.
Ted Leeson and Jim Schollmeyer The fly tier’s beachside reference to techniques and dressing styles (Portland, OR: Frank Amato Publications, 1998)
Paul Schullery American Fly Fishing (New York: Lyons Press, 1987)
Alfred Courtney-Williams, A dictionary of trout flies and of flies for sea-trout and grayling (London: A&C Black, 1949, 5th ed, 1973)
Joseph Spear Beck Parachute Pioneers. American Flyfisher, 7, 21 (1980)