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Fly Patterns
Spey Substitutes


Solar Spey

(Designed by Ryan Pohl)



Hook:    Daiichi 2161#1/0-#6

Thread: MFC 6/0 or UTC 70, Orange or Fl. Orange

Tag:      Uni French Oval Tinsel, Gold, Small

Rib:       Rear 2/3rds,Uni Mylar Flat Tinsel, #12 Gold

             Front 1/3 Uni French Oval Tinsel, Gold Small

Body:    Rear 2/3rds, Danville 4-Strand Nylon Floss,

             Fl. Orange, Front 1/3 Fl. Orange or Orange Seal's


Hackle:  Dyed or Natural Dark Blue Dun or Dun (Blue Earred

             Pheasant, Spey Popsicle Marabou, Premium Neck

             Hackle, Spey Hackle, Bird Fur or Schlappen)

Collar:   Mallard Flank

Wing:    2 Pair Neck Hackle Feathers, Hot Orange


With their long flowing hackle moving at the slightest current pulse or flicker few flies offer the grace, elegance and style of a Spey pattern.  Spey flies trace their roots back nearly 200 years to the banks and runs of Scotland’s river Spey.  As with all patterns of that genre Spey patterns featured key traits and a unique tying style identifying their natal origin.  Original Spey flies were somber simple dressings that often utilized bronze mallard wings and teal flank collars in addition to their flowing signature hackles.  Believed to be a prawn imitation, Spey patterns worked wonders on Atlantic salmon and pioneering steelhead fly fishers and tyers such as the legendary Syd Glasso soon discovered Spey virtues on Northwest steelhead in the 1950’s.  Syd Glasso is credited by many northwest tyers for instigating today’s Spey renaissance.


Initial Spey dressings featured flowing hackles of either heron or the natural long brown or black saddle and side feathers of a Spey cock.  The Spey cock was a large bird by today’s poultry standards, believed to have achieved a size of nearly 10 pounds.  Demand however soon outstripped supply and the Spey cock is now extinct and heron is a protected bird in most jurisdictions.  Undaunted by these challenges creative and resourceful Spey tyers discovered out a number of suitable Spey hackle alternatives.


Modern cock hackle feathers are still a useful material for today’s Spey flies, especially “working flies” destined for the river as opposed to a display plaque.  Long 6-inch plus premium neck hackle feathers and schlappen are ideal Spey substitutes, available at both a reasonable cost and in a host of colors.  The webby disposition of most schlappen hackle springs to life under the guidance of skillful fly fishers and its long feather length is easy to work with.  Select feathers with a tapered profile creating body hackles that increase in size as the feather is wound forward to the hook eye.  Chinese cock capes are another suitable source of body hackle and an ideal source for hackle tip wings.  Many natural color schemes including badger, cree and grizzly provide interesting variegated effects to any Spey pattern.  Whiting Farms recently entered into the Spey hackle market. After years of experimentation and refinement with their unique Silky stock Whiting Farms now has Spey capes and saddles and the cost effective Bird Fur in a range of colors.  Bird Fur provides tyers with a host of versatile feathers with uses beyond Spey patterns. Interested tyers are encouraged to visit for a full listing of color and product options.


Marabou is another excellent source for Spey body hackle, especially for patterns destined to search steelhead water.  Strung marabou or blood quills are perfect for long flowing Spey flies.  Look for long fibered 3 to 5 inch marabou plumes with a minimum of fuzz and delicate slender stems that wind easily up the shank.  Marc Petitjean’s innovative Magic Tool tames marabou plumes allowing fly tyers to create full length body hackles and the option of combining contrasting colors and synthetic materials such as Polar Chenille.  Fly tyers can also take advantage of marabou specifically selected for Spey patterns.  Look for Spey Popsicle marabou at your favorite fly shop.  Spey Popsicle marabou plumes are smaller averaging 3 inches long and feature fine fibered barbules and delicate stems, perfect for Spey patterns.


Goose shoulder feathers “burned” in a mild, 4 parts water to 1 part bleach are still used as reasonable Spey body hackle.  The burning process removes the teeth like rachies that keep the natural feather married together.  Bleached goose body feathers are often marketed as Spey hHackle depending upon the supplier.  Spey Hackle however, can be moody to work with and takes getting used to.  The stiff stems benefit from a prolonged soaking in luke warm water, sometimes overnight.  Tyers also have the option of splitting the stems, a popular process many Intruder tiers put to good use.


Pheasant is another popular Spey body hackle option.  While somewhat stiffer and perhaps not as long as other Spey hackle substitutes the long flowing hackle of many pheasant species is a favored legal heron alternative.  Arguably the most popular species used today is the Blue Eared Pheasant.  The draw back for most has been price.  A good quality Blue Eared skin runs in excess of $200 relegating many to feature Blue Eared Spey patterns for display.  For the serious Spey tyer a quality Blue Eared skin is considered a worthwhile investment.  Casual Spey tyers can now purchase individual packages of Blue Eared Pheasant plumage at a palatable cost.  Other readily available pheasant options include the commonplace Ringneck and Golden cock pheasants.  There are a host of other lesser known exotic pheasant species contemporary fly tyers have long been familiar with as well such as Tragopan, White Eared and Peacock pheasants.  Some of these birds offer Spey hackles and other unique feathers for wings, cheeks and other key pattern components.  As with other Spey substitutes pheasant feathers take dye readily. The longer fine fibered rump feathers found toward the tail area of a cock Ringneck Pheasant make great Spey body hackles.  Some fly tying material suppliers offer inexpensive select Ringneck Spey feathers in both natural and dyed colors. 


No matter the choice preparing and winding Spey body hackles follows a common theme amongst most tyers.  Most Spey hackle occupy the front half of the pattern and featuring a swept down and back profile keeping the dorsal portion of the fly clear for the wings.  Tie in Spey hackle by the tip section.  Many tyers prefer to strip one side of the feather to further reduce bulk.  Tie in the prepared hackle feather on the far side of the hook in a low position near the bottom.  Tying in the feather in this manner positions the feather properly during the initial wraps forward as it appears off the third rib.  Spey traditions as with all traditional Atlantic Salmon dressings dictate 5 wraps of ribbing over the body.  The Spey hackle is the last component to come forward over the body after the rib.  Each wrap should be carefully buried along the trailing edge of the rib protecting the stem of the feather.  Fold the feather with each wrap and sweep the fibers down and back into position.  Remember, the end result should be a long flowing hackle suggestive of a prawn.  If there is any uncooperative hackle fibers on the top of the body pluck them out of the way, either by hand or with a pair of tweezers.


Tying Instructions



1) Place a de-barbed hook into the jaws of the vise.  Cover the hook shank with tying thread, approximately half way down the hook eye return to the hook point.  Return the tying thread to just behind the eye return and secure in the tag material along the underside of the hook to the rear of the barb.



2) Wind the tag material forward in close touching turns to the hook point.  Tie off the tag material and secure the excess material along the underside to the eye return and trim.  This practice helps maintain a smooth body foundation and neat uniform profile.



3) Tie in the Mylar rib material along the underside of the hook and secure back to the tag.  Repeat this process to secure in the floss body material.



4) Wind the floss body material forward to the ¾ point on the hook shank.  The goal is to form a smooth even body.  Moisten both the floss and fingers to avoid fraying.  Tie off the floss body material and trim the excess.



5) Wind the tinsel forward using open even wraps.  Trim the excess Mylar ribbing.



6) Prepare a Spey Hackle and tie it in by the tips just in front of the 5th body rib.  Make sure the Spey Hackle is tied in with the convex side of the feather facing forward to ensure the fibers sweep back over the body when wound into position.  Depending upon the mood of the tyer or the density of the Spey substitute feather one side of the Spey feather can be stripped away to reduce bulk.  Tie in the oval rib for the forward body section along the underside of the hook.



7) Using a dubbing loop dub the forward body section.  Tie off the dubbing noodle at the hook eye return with a minimum of wraps.  Wind the oval ribbing forward in open turns trying to mirror the rib spacing used over the rear body section.  Tie off and trim the excess oval ribbing.  Wind the Spey hackle forward over the front body section by placing the feather along the rear edge of the oval ribbing.  Tie off the Spey hackle and trim the excess.



8) Tie in the mallard flank feather to be used for the collar by the tip to reduce bulk.  Tie in the mallard flank feather with the convex side facing forward so the fibers sweep back once secured into position.  As with the Spey body hackle one side of the mallard flank feather can be stripped away to reduce bulk.  Wind the mallard flank feather forward 2 to 3 times directly in front of the body.  Tie off and trim the excess mallard flank feather.



9) Select 4 neck hackle feathers.  Begin by placing 2 hackle feathers tip to tip and shiny side to dull side (convex to concave) together.  Once 2 sets of feathers have been completed place the 2 pairs together tip to tip and dull side to dull side to nullify the natural curvature of the feather.  Once the wing is prepared moistening the tips helps keep them together.  Measure and prepare the butt area of the wing for tie in by stripping away any excess hackle fibers forward of the tie in point.  Squash the stripped hackle stems with a pair of flat nosed pliers so the prepared wing does not roll around the shank during the tie in process.  Tie in the hackle feather wing directly in front of the mallard flank collar so the tips are even with the hook bend.  Carefully trim the excess hackle stems protruding forward of the tie in point.



10) Spin the bobbin counter clockwise to remove any thread twist and help flatten the thread wraps.  Build a neat tapered head, whip finish and apply head cement.  The goal is to form a neat button head especially for display flies.  This example has a “working” head as it should be about half the length for a display fly.








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