Salmon fly of the month
Ross Macdonald ties the Cosseboom Special
NORTH AMERICAN hairwing patterns took off to such an extent in the early 20th century that I think it’s fair to regard Atlantic North America as the spiritual home of the hairwing style. In the UK we were still predominately using feather wings – the Garry Dog was our most notable early hairwing but it wasn’t until the 1940s that the Hairy Mary made its mark and inspired the creation of standards such as the Tosh, Munro Killer and Stoat. To my knowledge, the two best-known American patterns are the Rat and Cosseboom. They have been in continuous use for the best part of a century. To have been so popular for so long suggests they have something about them. The Cosseboom has a distinctive look with a squirrel wing and wound hackle in front. To me, the style is recognisably North American, very different in appearance to British styles, which favour a beard hackle. John C. Cosseboom was born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island in 1885 and died around 1935. He was highly regarded as an angler, caster and poet. He first tied a Cosseboom as a bucktail streamer on Nova Scotia’s Margaree River in 1922, but his first hairwing, the Cosseboom Special, was tied in 1923. Cossebooms are now used extensively on great North American rivers such as the Miriamichi, Restigouche and Humber. The flies have spread to Iceland, introduced by American and Canadian anglers, but are less common on these isles. It is generally accepted that there are six original dressings in the Cosseboom series, although fly-tyers continually dream up new versions. In addition to the Cosseboom Special pictured here, there is the Gold Cosseboom with its gold tinsel body and blue hackle, and the Orange, Red and Black versions – same dressing, only the body colour changes. The exception is the Yellow Cosseboom, which has a grizzly hackle. A red head is a must, something that John C. insisted upon in the early days. It’s a familiar topic among fly-tyers and anglers, some of whom have a neurotic commitment to the details of the fly, while others are more relaxed about such things, claiming the fish doesn’t care about our fevered attempts to outwit them. I like a red head – not always, but more often than not. I prefer to use red thread and clear varnish because on more than one occasion my red varnish has leached into the wing or hackle. Cossebooms are simple to dress and have a short list of ingredients. I think they are great flies for novice tyers, especially when trying to perfect the wound hackle.
Tag Flat silver Tail Green floss Rib Silver tinsel Body Green floss Wing Grey squirrel Hackle Yellow cock Head Red thread