This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Dotterel.

Dotterel |

It was interesting to me as I read about Thaddeus Norris (1811 – 1878). He authored The American Angler’s Book (1864) and American Fish Culture (1868) and had a significant impact of fly fishing in America. Norris recognized the difference between British and American stream, rivers, and lakes as well as the insects that inhabited them. Most of the fly patterns used in America before Norris’s work were from England. 

In fact, to show the impact Norris had on American fly fishing, Theodore Gordon learned to tie flies from American Angler’s Book as stated in Gordon’s Fishing Gazette article he wrote in 1892. Gordon called Norris “Uncle Thad”.

Valla writes “The ‘fly-making’ instruction provided to Gordon through Norris’s pages marked the beginning of what later became known as the Catskill school of fly tiers.”

That’s a significant statement in itself.

It’s remarkable to me the variety of information in the book. Here is a list of the chapters to give a better idea of his diverse knowledge:

  • Chapter 1 – Angling
  • Chapter 2 – General remarks on fish
  • Chapter 3 – Tackle in general
  • Chapter 4 – The perch family
  • Chapter 5 – The pike family
  • Chapter 6 – The carp family
  • Chapter 7 – The herring family
  • Chapter 8  – Catfish and eels
  • Chapter 9 – The salmon family
  • Chapter 10 – Salt-water fish and fishing
  • Chapter 11 – Trout fly-fishing — outfit and tackle
  • Chapter 12 – Trout fly-fishing — the stream
  • Chapter 13 – Salmon-fishing
  • Chapter 14 – Salmon-rivers of the British provinces
  • Chapter 15 – Repairs, knots, loops, and receipts
  • Chapter 16 – Fly-making
  • Chapter 17 – Rod-making
  • Chapter 18 – Fish-breeding

So you can see the wide variety of is knowledge which fills 622 pages. And remember, it was published in 1864!

If you are interested in reading the American Angler’s Book, you can download it HERE.

 But back to the Dotterel.

The Dotterel is a British fly and is one of the flies presented by Norris in his American Angler’s Book. Named for the feather of the Dotterel bird, the fly in those days was tied with gut attached to the hook because hooks didn’t have eyes in those days. I tied the fly with a Mustad 3906 hook.

Norris describes the Dotterel on page 316 as follows:

The Dotterel is one of the flies described by Hofland—”body of yellow silk, legs and wings from the feather of a dotterel.” This feather is not known to American anglers ; my imitations are made from the light barred feather of the partridge or snipe, and the body of light yellow floss silk. It is easily made, and on small Kirby hooks it is killing on well-shaded waters, especially towards sunset.

Here is the fly pattern described by EPHEMERA, (Edward Fitzgibbon), a British author, in his Handbook of Angling (1847) on page 120. It is listed as a fly for the month of April.

Dotterel hackle. – Body, yellow silk or mohair ; wings and legs from the feather of the dotterel. Hook, 11 and 12. When dressed small on the hooks just mentioned, this is an excellent fly in the small streams of the north of England. Dressed large on a No. 6 hook it is a good lake fly for large trout.

Enjoy…go fish!

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  1. Met Mike Valla at fly show in Denver 1/5/20.
    Thanks for signing your book for me. Tied a couple Dotterel’s today. I matched the pic in Mike’s book but use mallard flank tips tied in sections, not wound. Pretty darn close. Love to fish soft hackles in Colorado where I live

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