I received an interesting comment on my RiverKeeper Flies website recently asking if I could help create a special gift. We traded emails a couple of times and the spey fly project began.

It started with a picture of Taylor’s Golden Spey fly, a spey fly inspired by Syd Glasso’s Orange Heron. Instead of hackle tip wings, Taylor substituted the red breast feathers from a Golden Pheasant and mounted them flat over the body. I looked at the picture and materials he used and thought I could create my own version of the fly. Taylor tied it on a gold hook, but I needed to tie four spey flies that would look somewhat similar in a plate and decided to go with black for all of the spey flies. Oh, the other change was to substitute heron feathers, which are illegal now, with Blue-eared Pheasant. 

Golden Spey

Golden Spey | www.johnkreft.com

And here is a view from the top.

Golden Spey - Top View | www.johnkreft.com

Perhaps there is nothing “golden” about this fly because of the black hook, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

What was the project? Four spey flies to celebrate an anniversary for a couple of fly fishers, their 40th. My customer doesn’t fish. Turns out she found me through a Google search for custom flies.

Did you know a 40th wedding anniversary is “ruby”? I didn’t either. The challenge was to use the Golden Spey picture as inspiration and tie flies for a plate which would mean something. Why the Golden Spey? It was created by Bob Taylor in 1978, the year they were married.

She asked in an email “Obviously as the name suggests it is golden but I wondered if there could be any variance in colours for the four …one for each 10 yrs.” Her plan is to have the flies mounted in a ruby red box.

I’ve tied spey flies in the past and thought I could create some beautiful flies. 

To brush up on my technique, I refreshed my memory about the classic styles of spey flies – five turns of tinsel, proportions, where best to tie in materials for the right look.

These techniques mean a lot to me. I wanted to get it right.

So fast-forward a few weeks. I had just finished a large fly order for a good customer…25 dozen flies and was finally able to begin the spey fly project.

I started with the Golden Spey, tying it on the Alec Jackson (Daiichi) 2051 black size 1.5 hook.

Here are a few pictures of the first fly in process.

Two pieces of tinsel are tied with the orange floss. A Blue-eared Pheasant feather is tied in where the third tinsel turn is planned.

Golden Spey - Step 1 | www.johnkreft.com

Next step is to wrap the front half of the body using a dubbing loop.

Golden Spey - Step 2 | www.johnkreft.com

The wide tinsel is wrapped forward, followed by the hackle.

Golden Spey - Step 3 | www.johnkreft.com

I counter-wrapped with the second tinsel, adding a couple turns of Golden Pheasant breast feather at the front. All hackle fibers are divided and swept downward, leaving room to mount the wing flat over the body.

Golden Spey - Step 4 | www.johnkreft.com

The last step is to place two Golden Pheasant breast feathers over the top for a wing. The finished fly in the vise.

Golden Spey - Finished in Vise | www.johnkreft.com

Then I tied the same fly using scarlet, which I hope is close to the color ruby and created a “variant” I called a Ruby Spey.

Ruby Spey

Ruby Spey | www.johnkreft.com

But what to do for the transition from Golden Spey to Ruby Spey?

I searched the Internet for inspiration by checking 10, 20, and 30 year anniversaries. Here is what I found:

  • 10 year – tin, aluminum
  • 20 year – china, platinum
  • 30 year – pearl, diamond
  • 40 year – ruby

I wasn’t too happy with the results. I was hoping for a little more color. I decided to use silver tinsel for the back half of a body and the same color orange for the first transition spey. The second would have the same tinsel body with a ruby front section. My hope was to slowly transition from the original to the Ruby Spey.

Here is the first Transition Spey.

Transition Spey 1 | www.johnkreft.com
Transition Spey 1

And the second Transition Spey.

Transition Spey 2 | www.johnkreft.com

Here are a couple close-up pictures of the body detail for the Ruby Spey.

Ruby Spey Body Close-up | www.johnkreft.com

And now body detail from the Transition Spey 1. Notice the counter-wrapped tinsel which extends all the way forward.

Transition Spey Body Close-up | www.johnkreft.com

Counter-wrapping the second tinsel was difficult and took a little time, but I like the look.

I’m really pleased how the flies turned out. I hope the recipients are as well.

Now on to my next customer. I’ve already started his custom flies. Between tying flies and fishing, I have orders for the next four weeks.

Enjoy…go fish!

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