Salmon fly of the month
Ross Macdonald recommends The Undertaker
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