Stu­art Fox­all's Sal­mon Les­sons

The many use­ful it­er­a­tions of the Wil­lie Gunn

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents -

SINCE ITS FIRST AP­PEAR­ANCE dur­ing the 1940s the Wil­lie Gunn has be­come one of the most suc­cess­ful sal­mon flies in the world. I’ve even seen a friend catch huge king sal­mon with them in Alaska, just to prove that Pa­cific flies don’t need to look like Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions. The orig­i­nal fly was de­signed by Flight Lieu­tenant Dusty Miller for Rob Wil­son of Brora. It was meant to be a hair­wing ver­sion of one of his favourite pat­terns, the Thun­der and Light­ning. He sent a small se­lec­tion of hair­wing ver­sions of clas­sic flies to Wil­son’s shop for ap­proval. Wil­lie Gunn was a lo­cal es­tate gillie who popped into the shop to buy a few flies to fish the River Brora. His eye was im­me­di­ately drawn to the “Thun­der and Light­ning” and he said, “Och, that looks bonny. If I had a choice, that’s the one I’d use.” Wil­son gave him the fly and said he would call it the “Wil­lie Gunn”. Wil­lie went on to catch many sal­mon on the new fly and its fame spread quickly through­out Scot­land. It is now one of the main pat­terns in any se­ri­ous sal­mon-fisher’s box. So why have I left it un­til last in this se­ries? In re­cent is­sues I’ve in­tro­duced you to my favourite flies and sug­gested when to use them, why you should use them and, cru­cially, how to fish them. Too of­ten I see rods us­ing the same flies on their favourite set-up no mat­ter when or where they are fish­ing and de­spite dif­fer­ent con­di­tions. This can greatly re­duce their chances of con­sis­tently catch­ing fish through­out the sea­son. But with a lit­tle thought and dif­fer­ent tech­niques, they might hook more fish. Some­times a change is as good as a rest. This month I aim to show you how, with a few tweaks to just one pat­tern, the orig­i­nal Wil­lie Gunn, you can cre­ate flies suit­able for most wa­ter con­di­tions en­coun­tered in a sea­son.

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