A strange kind of magic

Charles van Strauben­zee in­tro­duces a salmon fly that com­bines the most un­likely colours and ma­te­ri­als to deadly ef­fect

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents -

A bright new salmon fly for coloured wa­ter

IT WAS DUR­ING my first trip to Ice­land, some years ago, that I was in­tro­duced to a great many new and var­ied ways of ty­ing salmon flies. Colours that seemed out­ra­geous when com­pared with tra­di­tional pat­terns, not to men­tion a ju­di­cious use of syn­thetic flash and some in­no­va­tive sizes, shapes and weights, all had that fish-catch­ing magic. It was that same magic that I hoped to har­ness when I be­gan de­vis­ing the Straw­berry Macken­zie. The name for the fly comes from the trick I use when ex­plain­ing how to pro­nounce my last name: Straub-en­zee like the first part of straw­berry and the sec­ond of Macken­zie. I was ex­tremely lucky to be­gin my salmon-fish­ing ca­reer on the Brora in the early 1960s, lucky be­cause Me­gan Boyd tied all my flies and Wil­lie Gunn some­times gillied for us. We fished with Green High­landers, Blue Charms and Silver Doc­tors. Ev­ery so of­ten a new fly would ap­pear, some­thing that had a very dif­fer­ent style to the ac­cepted pat­terns and which fast be­came a favourite, such as the Gen­eral Prac­ti­tioner or Ally’s Shrimp. The Straw­berry Macken­zie bor­rows some­thing from both these pat­terns, with the dyed-orange golden pheas­ant tip­pets be­hind the hackle-fi­bre wing. I wanted the fly to in­cor­po­rate all the bright colours and flashy ma­te­ri­als I was un­used to, and en­listed the help of Iain Wil­son at the Bor­ders Gun­room, St Boswells, in the ty­ing. To­gether we con­cocted the fin­ished ar­ti­cle. Of course, no amount of de­sign will make up for a fly that doesn’t catch. I be­lieved the Straw­berry Macken­zie, with its bright colours, would work well in the coloured wa­ter of a spate when the orange, ma­genta and pink would stand out well against the sed­i­ment in the wa­ter. On the Hal­ladale in Septem­ber 2015 I en­coun­tered just such con­di­tions. In that first out­ing I caught six salmon and rose or lost sev­eral more. An aus­pi­cious start. In July last year I had the op­por­tu­nity to fish one of the mid­dle Tweed beats, where we found the wa­ter to be coloured but not dirty. I landed a fresh 14 lb fish in the morn­ing fol­lowed by an­other later on. The next day I had two more. On the third day I thought that I would try a dif­fer­ent fly, but af­ter a fruit­less few hours I re­turned to the Straw­berry Macken­zie and landed an­other big salmon. I be­lieve that the com­bi­na­tion of colours in the fly, the ma­genta and orange in the wing and tail, the golden pheas­ant tip­pets and the dual-colour body of pink fritz and fine black che­nille ribbed with silver wire cre­ates good con­trast and is highly vis­i­ble. The added ad­van­tage of us­ing pink and ma­genta in the dress­ing is that it may stim­u­late a re­sponse from fish that have al­ready seen a large num­ber of Cas­cades, Wil­lie Gunns and other pat­terns with a pre­dom­i­nance of black, orange and yel­low. I would use this fly on dou­ble or tre­ble hooks in sizes 6 to 10 or as a cone­head tube. In coloured wa­ter, any­where from a fall­ing spate to a steady flow, it has proved ex­tremely ef­fec­tive for me and I en­cour­age you to give it a try, too.

Hav­ing be­gun salmon fish­ing on the Brora, Charles van Strauben­zee has fished more than 40 Scot­tish salmon rivers, and has caught fish of at least 18 lb on six of them.

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