Sal­mon fly of the month

Ross Mac­don­ald rec­om­mends The Un­der­taker

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents -

THE UN­DER­TAKER IS A Cana­dian pat­tern cre­ated by War­ren Dun­can, of New Brunswick, in the late 1970s. You have to love the name – it’s one of my favourites and sug­gests cer­tain doom for any fish that makes a mis­take. It’s som­bre with a unique body and is an op­tion for low wa­ter in au­tumn. The pea­cock herl is in­spired and gives a lit­tle blink of colour and sparkle. Ty­ing in the herl is sim­ple – al­though be care­ful with the ten­sion as it can break – in my case just as I make the fi­nal wrap. I haven’t fished it much – for no other rea­son than there are many flies and it isn’t pos­si­ble to fish them all. Nonethe­less, it is an at­trac­tive fly, which has a good track record not only in Canada, but fur­ther afield. The one pic­tured was tied by Ice­landic guide, Sig­urberg Guðbrands­son. Siggi is a fan of the Un­der­taker, es­pe­cially in the lat­ter part of the sum­mer and into au­tumn. I first saw it on the Sul­dal river in Nor­way many moons ago, where it was tied as a long-winged tube. It had the same body, but with a sim­ple black goat wing and no hackle. I for­get the chap’s name, but the man who gave me the fly had caught a sub­stan­tial sal­mon on it – a proper, big Nor­we­gian fish. I like that ver­sion and have a cou­ple of smaller ones in my box, dressed on half-inch alu­minium tubes. Ju­dith Dun­ham’s book, The At­lantic Sal­mon Fly – The Ty­ers and Their Art, fea­tures War­ren Dun­can’s ac­count of the birth of the fly. “Any­body can develop a fly pat­tern. Stan­dards have been around for a long time and they are hard to im­prove, but I thought if I ever in­vented a fly, I would call it the Un­der­taker. I came up with the Un­der­taker in 1979. My friend Chris Rus­sell was fish­ing the Nash­waak, with­out suc­cess. He saw a chap up­river who landed a fish and lost it, then landed an­other fish. As the man fished, he broke off the point of the hook on a back­cast. Chris saw him change flies, drop the dam­aged fly, then con­tinue fish­ing. When the man left, Chris picked up the fly and brought it home. We couldn’t find any­thing like it in the fly-ty­ing books, so I started play­ing with the pat­tern. “I didn’t like the black wool in the body and sub­sti­tuted pea­cock herl. I used gold for the rib be­cause the Rats use gold and I love the Rat se­ries of flies. I tied up three or four Un­der­tak­ers in size 2 and 4 dou­bles. “The first time I used it, on the Ham­mond River, I caught a 24lb sal­mon. Then Chris used it on the Kedg­wick and got a 38lb sal­mon. Bill Hunter put it in his cat­a­logue. The next year it was in the Orvis cat­a­logue, then in L.L. Bean’s. All of a sud­den, the Un­der­taker was a fly.” And a very suc­cess­ful one at that.

Thread Black Tag Gold flat tin­sel, flu­o­res­cent green floss, and then flu­o­res­cent red floss Rib Oval gold Body Pea­cock herl Hackle Black cock or hen (griz­zly hen hackle dyed black) Wing Black hair (orig­i­nal used bear) Cheeks Jun­gle cock

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