This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is McNeese’s Golden Heron.

McNeeses' Gold Heron |

This Golden Heron spey fly was tied by Dave McNeese, an icon in the steelhead fly tying world. It was part of a fly collection from my friend Jim Fisher.

Below is an image of Dave McNeese I took at the 2018 NW Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo in Albany, OR. Dave is a popular tyer at this annual event.

Dave McNeese at 2018 NW Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo |

Here is a little more about his fly tying journey in his own words:

In 1969 I began a catalog business called “My Flies”, specializing in hand dyed materials and flies of my own design for trout, steelhead and salmon. I caught the attention of Ted Neimeyer and Eric Leiser who then arranged a trip for me to go back east to spend time in the Catskills to improve my tying skills. I stayed with Harry and Elsie Darbee for the summer of 1975, and visited with numerous tyers, fly shop owners and supply houses. Elsie spent long hours teaching me the art of tying the Catskill flies and Harry taught me salmon flies and streamers. Poul Jorgensen was intrigued by my NW steelhead adventures so later that summer he came to Oregon to fish the North Umpqua with me. It was at this time that I saw how well he tied salmon flies, and each day we spent tying a different fly together. Not long after this, my material business boomed and I sold it to open “McNeese’s Fly Shop” in Salem, OR. We offered classes taught by some of the best: Wayne Leuellen, Bob Veverka, Poul Jorgensen, Mark Waslick, and many others. The students from those classes went on to become great tyers of whom I am so proud. Currently I am marketing my Blue Heron Spey Hook, and still fly fish, tie flies, dye materials, and chase butterflies.

NW Fly Tyer & Fly Fishing Expo website

Whenever I research steelhead and spey flies, I always begin my search using John Shewey’s books in my fly tying library. I pulled out Spey Flies & Dee Flies, Their History & Construction. He references a Gold Heron, an early spey pattern found in Autumns of the Spey (1872). (To download this old book, click HERE. For other old books, see my page – Links to Free Old Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Books.)

Here is the listing for the Gold Heron from Autumns of the Spey, page 70 – body black, with bars of gold tinsel. Between the bars two threads of gold and silver beading. Hackle very long, of the slate-coloured hack hackles of the heron. Wing, mallard.

Well, McNeese’s fly is different than the image of the above fly. Dave was known to create his own fly patterns and many “variants”. This appears to be one of them.

Here is a close-up image of the fly.

McNeese's Gold Heron Close-up |


Fine, flat silver tinsel


Fine oval silver tinsel


Medium flat gold tinsel


Long black heron or dyed pheasant rump


An underwing of four golden macaw breast feathers or dyed substitute


Thin section of bronze mallard


Jungle cock

Source: STEELHEAD Fly Fishing by Trey Combs, page 349

Here is an excerpt from John Shewey, another respected tyer in his own right and student of McNeese:

Without question, Dave McNeese and McNeese’s Fly Shop propelled the art of steelhead and Spey-fly tying to new heights. His influence was felt throughout the region and many of today’s top tiers reflect in their own work the innovative tying style and attention to artistic detail of Dave McNeese.

Spey Flies & Dee Flies: Their History & Construction by John Shewey

If you ever get a chance to purchase Spey Flies & Dee Flies, Their History & Construction by John Shewey, don’t hesitate! It’s a terrific book.

I used to frequent Dave’s shop in West Salem. I always looked forward to it. In fact, I took a fly tying class from him when Rich and Cathy Youngers owned Creekside Fly Shop in Salem, OR. It was a memorable experience learning to tie Catskill fly patterns. Oh, the stories he told, not to mention the feathers he plucked from a live rooster he brought in a cage for the class. I won’t go into the rooster flying around the room…it’s a story for another day!

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

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