Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Classic North of England Spiders #2: Waterhen Bloa

A discussion on north country spiders doesn't get very far before this little beauty is mentioned. It is a dark olive imitator of great repute and you'll struggle to find an angler around these parts who doesn't have a few in his box when he sets out to fish for trout on a spate stream in the early part of the season. My old man even uses them successfully for stillwater rainbows...presumably representing the olive-grey midge species as the water he fishes doesn't have a hatch of lake olives.

I realise that the waterhen bloa is these days usually dressed with a fine mist of mole fur dubbing along the shank (not too many years ago it use to be water rat (vole) fur, but it would be a brave man who would use this and broadcast the fact!). However around these parts, strictly speaking, the pattern remains unadorned and consisting of just two materials - silk and hackle. Historically, it was always the 'light snipe' or 'snipe & yellow' which received the Ratty treatment, but the two patterns are so similar that the distinction is largely irrelevant. I'll probably do the snipe & yellow as a seperate post - in truth I do prefer it as a fishing fly because the snipe hackle is a little more robust than waterhen and has a slightly browny hue which I feel better matches the colour of my local spring olives.

Simplicity in itself, the fly is a happy example of maximum effectiveness for minimum effort. and for a lazy bugger like me, that's got to be good news!

Waterhen Bloa.
Hook: Mustad R50 #14
Silk: Pearsalls yellow
Hackle: Moorhen marginal covert


Tying notes:
1. The point about colour of hook wire made previously holds good here - even more so as this pattern relies on the alluring translucent olive-bronze colour of the body which almost glows through when the silk is wet (or waxed if you prefer). This just doesn't work with black wired hooks, so please, please leave the TMC 103bls alone for one minute will you?!
2. Previous comments regarding body length and hackle turns hold good.
3. The silk should be yellow and not primrose as is often incorrectly used. Pedantic I know, but hey - this is my blog and I'll be as pedantic as I bloody well like!


Jim Anderson said...

Just as a comment, nothing more, I submit these two recipes for the Waterhen Bloa:

T.E. Pritt, North-Country Trout Flies, 1885:
Wings.-Hackled feather from the inside of a Water-hen's wing.
Body.-Yellow silk, dubbed with the fur of a Water-rat.

Edmonds & Lee, Brook and River Trouting, 1916:
Wings.-Hackled with a smoky grey feather from the under coverts of a Waterhen's wing. (The darker side of the feather towards the head of the fly).
Body.-Yellow silk, No. 4, dubbed with Mole's fur.
Head.-Yellow silk.

I am sure that you are well acquainted with these authors, I simply wanted to point out that the inclusion of Water Rat or Mole fur into the recipe goes back a ways. I find it interesting that you are tying what could be called a "Waterhen and Yellow" and calling it a Poult Bloa. I suppose one could do that, but then where would we be if everyone started tweaking fly pattern recipes a bit and keeping the original names?

Your fly is beautifully tied and, as before, I eagerly await your future posts. Best regards.

Matthew Eastham said...

Thanks for your comment Jim. My tying - and the version which seems to have hung around these parts for a very long time - apparently originates from Swarbrick's 1807 dubbing-less tying. The water rat fur came along later, courtesy as you righty state, of Pritt and co.

Glad you like it. There are plenty more to follow!


Jim Anderson said...

Thank you, that is exactly the kind of response I was hoping for! I am familiar with Swarbrick only through Leslie Magee's book, in which I do see a fly Swarbrick calls "No 4." This appears to be the pattern you referenced, a "Blo Flie." I am having some difficulty with the translation - the bit that goes, "Not Harled at the Head..." Does he mean palmered or half-palmered as Stewart's Spiders?
Thanks again for pointing to Swarbrick. Best regards,

Matthew Eastham said...

Good book, Magee's. Plate 5 page 14 gives you the original dressing.

I take 'harled at the head' to mean a few turns of herl - usually magpie or peacock - in front of the hackle to form a little head. This was very popular at that time. Indeed a few old timers around here still use this method.....

Thanks for the comment,