The Green King Spey - Step-by-Step
As described by T. Pryce-Tannatt in his book: How to Dress Salmon Flies: A Handbook for Amateurs.
The Green King is not a particularly well-known pattern nowadays, but it contains most of the important Spey elements.
Like the Dee patterns, the Spey patterns are named for the river in the UK that gave birth to this type of fly. The River Spey is located in Eastern Scotland; an area that is also arguably home to some of the best single malts. The key ingredient in Spey flies is the flowing hackle; originally sourced from a special strain of roosters that were bred along the banks of the Spey; the so called: Spey Cock. Today, there aren’t any Spey Cocks left, so substitution is the call of the day.
Many people consider that Spey patterns are shrimp imitations, but this is far from clear. What is clear is that this type of pattern has a lot of action in the water; primarily due to the trailing hackle barbs.
This pattern can be tied on very long shank hooks; all the way up to #5/0 and beyond, if you can source them. There are two limitations to this pattern; the length of the barbs on the Spey Cock hackle substitute that you have and the length of your bronze mallard flank feathers. Tom calls for this pattern to be tied on hooks ranging from 1 ½”-2 ½”’ which in Partridge Bartleet CS10/1 speak, means a #4-#5/0. I used a #2 and it worked pretty well with the hackle and winging materials that I had on hand.
Here it is:
1. Thread the hook back just past the point.
2. There’s a lot going on at the back end of a Spey pattern. Here are the steps. First, tie in the wool body material. I used what the pattern calls for; Berlin wool. You need to separate the strands and tie in a single strand, since a thin body is one of the general characteristics of Spey patterns. Tom says to tie it in with a single flattened wrap; I used two.
3. Next, tie in the sliver twist (thread) that you’ll use to counter wrap the body. Strip off the metal from one of the ends of the twist and tie it in by the thread core, using 2 flattened wraps.
4. Then, tie in the hackle. I used Blue-Eared Pheasant in a natural gray color, but there are many, many Spey hackle substitutes available to choose from. The length of the hackle fibers is important on Spey patterns; by normal Salmon fly standards, the longer, the better. You’ll want to tie this in by the stem, not by the tip, since you want the longest barbs at the back of the fly. I used 6 flattened wraps to avoid the hackle pulling out on me as I wound it around the hook. I also stripped off one side of the hackle; leaving the shiny side facing toward the hook eye.
5. Finally, tie in the flat silver tinsel that you’ll use to form the primary rib on the body using 4 flattened wraps.
6. Now, advance the thread about 8-10 butted wraps and tie in the flat gold tinsel that you’ll use for the secondary rib using 4 flattened wraps.
7. Now, wind the wool up the body and tie it off at the head with 3-4 flattened wraps. Be careful not to trap any hackle fibers as you wind on the body.
8. Next, wind on the primary flat silver rib, followed by the secondary gold rib. You want to leave just enough space between these two ribs to accommodate the hackle stem. Tie each of these off, in sequence, with 3-4 flattened wraps.
9. Now, take the tip of the hackle in your hackle pliers and wind it diagonally up the hook shank, being careful to place the stem in between the flat silver and the fat gold tinsel. Tie it off at the head with 4 flattened wraps.
10. Next, counter wrap the silver twist up the body, making your cross wraps in between the flat tinsels. Be careful not to trap any hackle fibers in the process or your hackle will not flow easily towards the back of the fly. [Note: I couldn't resist adding a tiny tinsel butt to this pattern before I started the counter wrapping.] Cut off the hackle and the silver twist waste ends and pull the hackle fibers diagonally down towards the hook point and more parallel to the hooks shank as you work your way towards the bend. Smooth up the head with tying thread, whip finish it and switch to black thread.
11. Now you want to mount the Bronze Mallard wing. You can do this in one of two ways. The first is to cut feather slips out of right and left Mallard flank feathers, as you’ve done in the past for some of the other patterns. Using this process, you pair the slips, back to back, mount them on top of the body and tie them in at the head. The second is one that noted Salmon fly tier, Michael Radencich, recommends; you take a single flank feather strip; either a left or a right side feather, even up the tip and tear it off the stem. Then you fold it in half, and mount the folded slip tent-wise on top of the hook. I used the second process, since I’ve been using the first process for the Mallard roofs on some of the classic featherwing patterns. It worked very well for me; at least I think it did. This wing should lie as close to the hook shank as the hackle will allow. Some tyers form their wings so that there is no space at all between the bottom of the wing and the top of the hook shank; almost a shell-back look. Mine has some lift to it.
12. Next, form up the head of the fly with flattened tying thread.
13. Finally, smooth up the fly and coat the head with the cement of your choice; I used SHHAN
And that’s it – the Green King Spey pattern.
I know that we have a lot of tyers who tie Spey-style Salmon flies, so I’m looking to see some variation here. Feel free to tie up the Spey pattern of your choice.
It’s always helpful to see how others tie similar patterns; for me it’s one of the best ways to learn.
Post or PM me with any comments or questions that you have.
Only one more pattern to tie up; the Jock-O-Dee.
Oooops! I left out the Widgeon throat!
Here it is again - with the throat; which should be added right after the hackle and the tinsels have been wrapped and tied off in step #10 above.
And that's it! The Green King Spey pattern.