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Thread: Alexandra

  1. #1

    Default Alexandra


    An original Scottish wet fly trout pattern....the Alexandra has stood the test of time. The exact originator and date (mid 19th century) is wrapped in a mystery. Maybe is was W.G.Turle (Turle Knot inventor), or John Brunton (inventor of Brunton's Fancy fly), A E Hobbs (author of 'Trout of the Thames', or George Kelson (professional cricketer, well known angler, author of the salmon fly fishing and tying bible 'The Salmon Fly', and renowned bs artist), or an unknown "Old Fly". Who knows.....any way you slice has found a place in many anglers boxes.

    The Fishing Museum - The Alexandra

    This is my version for whacking a few steelhead. A few subs, a few additions. I added a pair of turkey quill slips for an underwing.....which disappeared from the pattern some time ago.


    Hook - Blue Heron #2
    Tip - Medium oval silver tinsel
    Tag - Red floss
    Tail - Peacock sword
    Body - Large flat silver tinsel
    Rib - Medium oval silver tinsel
    Hackle - Gray schlappen
    Underwing - Paired Ozark turkey quill slips
    Wing - Peacock sword
    Sides - Red goose shoulder
    Head - Red angora dub

    Last edited by flytie09; 11-30-2019 at 01:51 PM.

    “If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”
    ~Zane Grey

    " . . . shouldn't a man stand on his own two feet and catch his own steelhead? Maybe put out some effort and find his own fish just for the fun of it?"
    ~Syd Glasso

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Northern Colorado

    Default Re: Alexandra

    I have read from The Dry Fly & Fast Water:

    The English creation known as the "Alexandra," representing absolutely nothing in insect life (at least to the eye of man), strongly supports Professor Rennie's theory. It's effect upon trout has been so deadly that it has been suggested by may English anglers that it's use should be barred upon some streams.

    Mr. Halford said: "It certainly is not the imitation of any indigenous insect known to entomologists; possibly the bright silver body moving through the river gives some idea of the gleam of a minnow. Long ere this it's use should have been prohibited on every stream frequented by the bonafide fly fisherman, as it is a dreadful scourge to any water."

    This must have been, and probably still is a killer fly to this day. With the red and white, it makes me wonder if this is the reason the red & white Daredevil spoons are so effective.
    The only thing human kind ever learned through history, is that through history, human kind has learned nothing.

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  4. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Manning, S. C. (formerly MD)

    Default Re: Alexandra

    I tied & fished this fly many years ago. The Alexandra is a wet fly that I've always liked and have fished for both trout & bass. This one is not as elegant as the above fly, and was based on one in a color plate of wet flies in a old book that I have. The white had been omitted. Still, red, black, peacock & silver gets attention. I caught several Smallmouth on this fly.

    Remember, no one likes to be behind the big truck, but that's better than being under it!

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  6. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Minnesota - Northern Driftless

    Default Re: Alexandra

    I like Alexandra, nice pattern that seems to have lots of great variants, I suspect the sunray shadow with peacock is a variation. Both are good salmon flies, trout flies too for that matter.

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Isle of Lewis, UK.

    Default Re: Alexandra

    Thanks for this, flytie09, a great thread to enjoy with my morning coffee.

    Like you, I've long thought of the Alex as a Scottish fly but now I'm not so sure having read A. Herd's article. If it is indeed a 'Thames fly' by Hobbs, well that's England, but other than that Herd doesn't mention places. Major Turle and Kelson were both English but no doubt fished north of the border at times. I don't wish to be nationalistic, just factual.

    I first fished the Alexandra in about 1973 on Scottish Highland rivers and lochs for brownies and it was a favourite throughout my childhood. In fact, the first entry in my old log book is for June 14th, 1975, on the River Beauly, Scotland, when I caught on the Alex a fish ''too small''.

    Even then, though, the Alexandra raised eyebrows and one soon learned that it was considered 'unsporting' and made the game 'too easy'. Regrettably, I never found it so but I still keep the faith and carry a few in my box. I like it small and in the middle on a three fly team or as a large pattern in coloured water. I've seen it take the odd Atlantic salmon but I rarely see my guests fish it these days. Maybe it needs more sparkle?

    Best of luck fishing your version, it looks splendid. A bit of synchronicity, but it reminded me of the Beauly Snow Fly. I'm sure you know it but here's Davie McPhail's salmon/steelhead version.

    Btw, I'm seeing a big similarity in fly profile between trad. Scottish Spey flies and US steelhead patterns. I presume this is as much to do with the nature/speed of the waters you're fishing in, that they're often quite fast, is that right?

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  9. #6

    Default Re: Alexandra

    Thanks Lewis. You never can go wrong watching a Davie McPhail video. And yes......this upsized streamer version of the Alexandra is reminiscent of the Snowfly series of Atlantic Salmon flies that feature peacock herl for wings. As far as is it Scottish or English of origin? To be safe...we can call it of UK origin.

    Steelhead water can be rather fast, but it is highly variable in flows and velocity across the various regions they reside. They even vary greatly for a particular stream through out the year. Anglers swinging flies to steelhead come to identify good steelhead water....which is 3-6 ft deep at a brisk walking pace. And come to find with these varying conditions you might have to change the fly type/size/color/etc accordingly.

    Having grown up fishing the Great Lakes for Salmon and was always stonefly, leech and baitfish fly patterns for years. The larger profile and movement of Spey and Dee flies, are characteristics that fish respond to. The last steelhead of the season was on...... a Lady Caroline.
    Last edited by flytie09; 12-01-2019 at 11:26 PM.

    “If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”
    ~Zane Grey

    " . . . shouldn't a man stand on his own two feet and catch his own steelhead? Maybe put out some effort and find his own fish just for the fun of it?"
    ~Syd Glasso

  10. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Isle of Lewis, UK.

    Default Re: Alexandra

    Hi, flytie09, thanks for your thoughts.
    The way I phrased the river flow question was careless as, of course, a migratory fish will encounter all kinds of water as they travel! But you caught my drift nicely and I get it, cheers.

    I'm wandering off the Alex. topic, forgive me, but I'm curious as to whether Waddingtons have any standing in N. America?
    They were invented by Richard Waddington in (I think) the late '50s when he was living by fast water on the River Spey at Tulchan (where I used to work ) but have fallen from favour in the UK nowadays. The ubiquitous treble hook doesn't help but I did like the way they fished, sitting nicely level in a strong flow. I have wondered whether double or even single versions would swim/hook as well but I've never seen such a thing.
    Waddington's books are a good read and tactically he was very advanced for his time, on a par with Faulkus I'd say, but how well his advice would translate to steelhead I don't know. Some gems are universal, e.g. he suggests letting a bad cast fish through rather than stripping back and recasting, disturbing the water unnecessarily. The fly will fish differently from all the others a fish has seen and, who knows, it might just grab it.

    You've also touched on a weakness of mine ..... not changing the fly often enough. You're right, though. Some pools deserve two or three changes but I'll go through it all with the one fly, then try something new and do the pool again. I know it would be wiser to present the optimum fly/size at each stage the first time down, before the water has been disturbed, I just don't have the self-control to stop casting and do it!

  11. #8

    Default Re: Alexandra


    The Waddington shank lives on with Intruder flies worldwide in my mind. Treble and even double hooks are simply not legal on many rivers now in North America as people are trying to make a conscious decision to limit their impact to certain fisheries with improved handling (keep them wet, tailing gloves, rubber nets) and using more fish friendly hooks.

    Jerry French, Ed Ward and Scott Howell in the early 90s developed the Intruder style of flies and their method of rigging with some outside help. As I understand it...a client from the UK that one of them guided in Alaska routinely for Pacific Salmon, sent them Waddington shanks and copper tubes to experiment with. The rest is history.

    I'm frugal. I don't tie a ton of intruders. I fashion my shanks using straight hair pins shaped with a pair of pliers. I use this method and brand shown in this links below. With the exception that I make double eyed ends so I have something to clamp onto in my vise, like a traditional store bought Senyo, Fish Skull, OPST or Partridge shank.

    I think this is where I got the idea from:

    Hair pin intruder shanks | Global FlyFisher | I have been making my own intruder shanks from straight hair pins for a while, and they are easy to make, inexpensive and work really well.

    Intruder shanks, wire and hooks | Global FlyFisher | The major difference between almost any fly and an Intruder is the use of a shank and a trailing hook. This is about shanks, wires and stinger hooks.

    They are not as stout as a store bought shank...but are tough enough for me none the less.

    I then use Econoflex, by Soft Flex, coated beading wire for my trailing loop, which comes in various colors. A cheaper alternative to the Intruder wires out there. I tried the 30 lb Powerpro...but it was not stiff enough for my liking. If I rig it for the hook to ride hook point up...that's where it should be. I think the idea came from here:

    Fanatical Fly Tyer : Trailing Hook Review (Intruders - Stinger Flies)

    I never got into the junction tube method of rigging, as again, I don't tie or use many of them.

    As far as changing flies....I really don't change flies all that often myself. I try to ensure that the fly I have on is appropriate for the water conditions I'm fishing. The size, weight, color and profile matches what I believe to work. From the fly I select...I then work backwards to my sink tip, my shooting head and the rods I might have brought with me. This usually all starts the night before with some intel gathering and guesswork.

    “If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”
    ~Zane Grey

    " . . . shouldn't a man stand on his own two feet and catch his own steelhead? Maybe put out some effort and find his own fish just for the fun of it?"
    ~Syd Glasso

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