As an American fly tyer, I've begun to feel a bit cavalier in my attitude towards the various shades of claret especially compared to tyers in the U.K. and even more especially compared to Irish fly tyers. Through my visits to www.salmonfishingforum.com (a largely U.K. populated forum), I'm gaining new appreciation claret's many nuances.
A recent post about claret on that forum motivated me to post a photo of 3 different capes I had dyed claret. A salmonfishingforum friend, Kenny (kgm on that board, and a scotsman living in Ireland), took me gently to task, mentioning that true clarets couldn't be gotten from dyeing over pure white.
Here are the capes in question:
Well, Kenny took the bull by the horns and sent me 6 or 7 claret-dyed seal samples from Frankie McPhillips of Northern Ireland and Steve Cooper (www.cookshill-flytying.co.uk) . Yikes, my claret is so vanilla compared to those samples. I mean, the Irish take their claret (the fly tying kind, dunno how they feel about the wine with all that Guiness flowing about) very seriously.
Being a fan of visual comparisons, and dying to use Bridget's new label-maker thingy, I decided to lay out some differences for us all. To wit:
Photo taken in direct sunlight (rare occurence around here) with my old Kodak point and shoot. The good news is, and definately as luck would have it, I'm pretty close to 3 of the clarets. And they're probably the ones that count for me. That black claret is some myserious concoction, I'd say.
Kenny sent me one new pack of Frankie McPhillips dubbing in Fiery Brown. It's so cool for me to have it's just getting tacked up on the wall, unopened.
Of interest to me is how lacking the color claret is in (particularly) atlantic salmon flies tied for the Miramichi system. In days gone by, flies like the Logie, with its body of dark claret floss, was in use on that river. There's a photo in John E. Hutton's book Trout and Salmon Fishing (Little, Brown and Co., 1949) of hisownself sitting in a canoe on the Miramichi, playing a fish. The caption reads: "...Fish hooked on No. 12 Logie." But even the poor Logie has become "de-claretized".
In Kelson (1895), the Logie's body is listed as that dark claret floss. Along comes Pryce-Tannatt (1914) and voila! the body becomes ruby red. If you peruse that excellent purveyor of salmon fishing equipment W.W. Doak's catalog, there is not a single fly that appears to use claret anywhere on the fly. (Thus endeth today's academic adventures)
All is not lost. Great fly innovators like Bob Warren have used the claret-ish colors of the Golden Pheasant to very great effect. His Golden Pheasant Spey is one of the most effective autumn patterns I've seen:
I dyed a GP skin claret, and kind of like the Golden Pheasant Spey even a little farther into the claret spectrum:
Of course, then I went totally overboard, claret-wise, when my wildflower garden was in bloom:
The Celtic Beauty was born with a claret throat, and continues to be dressed with claret in its iterations other than pure hairwing:
and the latest, inspired by landlocked salmon fishing buddy, John Miniaci:
Dyeing and playing with colors has become much of the fun of fly fishing for me. I'm very happy to have acquaintances like Kenny helping me enjoy it even more. Thanks for the color, Kenny!