Northwest Fly Tyer

The fly tying pages of Monte Smith

Tying The Black Dog

The Black Dog



Pattern as per George M. Kelson, The Salmon Fly (1895)

Tag:      Silver twist and canary silk

Tail:      A topping and ibis

Butt:     Black herl

Body:    Black silk

Ribs:     Yellow silk, and oval silver tinsel running on each side of it

Hackle: Black heron from third rib

Wings:  Two red-orange hackles (back to back) enveloped by two jungle fowl; unbarred summer duck; light bustard, Amherst pheasant, swan dyed scarlet and yellow, and two toppings.

Like many other flies developed for the River Tay, the Black Dog has undergone great changes through the years. A drab fly with a dark turkey wing in its original form, it grew to exhibit more color.  Black was the dominant color of the fly, but it gradually gave way to more cheerful tones as fly fashion changed.

Tay flies were usually tied on very long hooks (especially for the Spring season) and therefore, often had more than the “standard” five ribs on the body.  You will sometimes see this legacy today, even in flies dressed on standard length irons.

Kelson’s pattern for the Black Dog is easily the most recognized, and it is the primary exhibition pattern. Key elements that have remained part of the recipe throughout the years are the slim, black body and the colored rib flanked on either side by round or oval tinsel.

The Black Dog, Step-By-Step (Kelson Recipe)

1. Fine silver oval tinsel for tip.  3-4 turns

2. Lemon yellow silk for tag.  Split would be ideal

3. Crest for tail.

4. Slips of red goose for veiling.  “Tent” them, using 4 or 5 fibers per side.

5. Ostrich herl butt

6. Attach small oval silver tinsel on lower far side of shank

7. Attach lemon yellow silk – for rib – right alongside the small oval

8. Attach another small oval tinsel piece right alongside the yellow silk

9. Smooth the body with thread or a light underbody material such as UTC 140.  Don’t build a taper; try to keep the body thin.

10. Attach black body silk underneath, using it to help smooth the juncture of gut eye meeting hook shank.

11. Wrap body silk to 3rd (or 4th) rib mark and catch the body hackle with a single turn.  Bind hackle down with thread and continue forward.  Then complete the body wraps with the silk.

12. Take the NEAR side tinsel rib and make 5 turns forward.  Remember, this is the rearmost section of the rib so gauge it so it wraps just in front of the hackle at the tie-in point (at the 3rd rib).

13. Wrap the silk rib right along the silver oval.

14. Follow the silk rib with the last component – silver oval tinsel.

15. Follow the back edge of the rib assembly with the body hackle.  An extra wrap at the throat is fine, if available.  A second feather can be used if necessary.  You may also add a throat of teal if desired.*

16. Attach two red-orange hackles for the underwing.

17. Cover the hackles with pair of jungle cock.

18. Apply married wing (construction something like: 3 bustard, 3 Amherst, 5 red, 5 yellow)

19. Add sides of lemon wood duck feather section

20. Mount crest(s) as topping.

*If teal throat hackle is desired, you can tie it in at the completion of the body or wait until the underwing is complete and add it then (prior to the wing assembly).


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