A wanting to learn "Spey Patterns"

Jeremy Husby

Is there a Vahalla for fishermen?
Once again I am completely confused on the matter on what exactly is a spey. I have heard so many different things that from this point on I only think that a spey pattern must come from the river spey, unless I figure it out. Here is a few things that I have heard.

First, anything big that resemble a shrimp.

Second, anything big tied on a spey style hook, can you see my frustration.

Third, any large fly with the body hackle wrapped from the stem/or base to the forward.

These were all answers from shop owners. . . .

Matt’s example in the previous post pretty much explained more then all the other people I have had try to explain a spey pattern. So I sat down and tied the below, and I ask what is this and how would it become a spey pattern. And of course any other criticisms would be great, since the audience is made of some the finest NW fly tiers.


Scott Behn

Active Member
That is a nice pattern, yes I would say that it is a spey style fly and if you don't mind me asking...HOW IN THE HELL DID YOU GET THOSE NICE WINGS...LOL

I've been teaching myself to tye these buggers and I have yet to get a nice set of wings.

I don't want to step on any toes here, but Mr. Ron Lucas has a nicely laid out description of the spey style fly on another website. Perhaps he'll chime in here shortly.

If not I can pm you the website if you want it.
I suspect you'll get a lot of variation in the answers you receive, because the term is used to apply to a number of different styles or variations of fly.

If you look at the early flies associated with the designation "Spey", they shared a couple of things:

1. long, flowing, somewhat soft hackles, originally of a coque-like feather (think schlappen on steroids) and then of feathers such as heron.
2. Wings set low and tented over the body. These wings were most commonly of water fowl flank but sometimes wing, tail, or flank feathers from other birds.

The first characteristic seems to be common to all of the various "spey" flies I see today, whether or not they have the low, tended feather wings of those in the classic books (Knox, Kelson, Francis Franci, Pryce-Tannet). You will see marabou speys, hariwing speys, hackle-tip speys, ... .

One thing which was not characteristic of all the classic spey patterns was that they were not tied solely on what are marketed as "spey hooks" today -- hooks like the Alec Jackson spey with Dublin/limerick bends and curved shanks. They were also not limited to "large" sizes -- by large I mean 1/0 and larger -- often being tied on hooks in what we would today call sizes 1-8.

The other modern book I recommend you look at is Bob Veverka's "Spey Flies: How to Tie Them" from Stackpole Press. It's a good complement to John's book, with a bit more emphasis on showing a broader cross section of historical patterns.


Jeremy Husby

Is there a Vahalla for fishermen?
Thanx. . .Stu & Scott. . . It took me awhile to get the wings, what I think is tented, since I have never seen a top view of any spey pattern I assumed that the wings should but together at the top so nothing can come up through. Well I did my best in doing just that and hoped thats how it was meant to be done.

I couple other questions I have are:

Does the Ribbing have to be a Five wrap like on Atlantic patterns?

And what are your feeling on using pheasant rump for the body hackle, is it to soft of a material?

re: 5 wraps: I think the ribbing needs to be proportional to the size of the tinsel, the number of tinsels, and the length of the hook shank. You'll see some contemporary spey flies which are tied with very slim bodies on very long shanks. These will have more than 5 wraps. Some of the traditional speys will have two or three ribs, plus a counterwrap, and the important thing is that this all fit well for the amount of body you have to rib.

re: pheasant rump for spey hackle: Absolutely! Pheasant rump (or dyed GP rump) is one of my favorite spey hackling materials -- it's cheap, widely available, has great movement, and ringneck rump has reat color as well. The issue is length of fibers and length of rachis -- it's mostly useful in smaller sizes, although sometimes you can get away with using more than one feather to cover the length of the shank.

:) I thought Id share a couple of "traditional speys" with this thread: I draw your particular attention to the bottom fly. This was tied by Derek Brown of Scotland using the blacker method of winging. One of the crispest ties Ive ever seen. Of course, he used TOP quality mallard. Id sure like to get hold of this guy again and have a set made up! I emphasize that these are traditional styles only. Hope these are of some help.
If your interested in Spey and Dee flies you might want to check out Stu's home page (listed in his profile) for some fine examples of these flies.


Jeremy Husby

Is there a Vahalla for fishermen?
Here are three more tries at it, I did last night, I left the hairwings out because they just don't have such a nice head on them. So . . . ones a try at a GP. I love the site Stu, one of the best on the net. . . Can I place a link to your site on my page??? Some of the patterns by Mr. Howell & Mr. Lucas are just unreal. . . Thats the kind of stuff I like to see. . .better then playboy. . .



Active Member
What is a spey fly? Heckuva question when you think about it- so many "correct" answers.Long hackles low wing,yep, ah but then a Dee has a low wing only flat and split and traditionally mixed.From the River Spey? Some sources would say so.Tent wing of which there are atleast three styles or techniques,hackle tip wing,hair wing,synthetic wing.... etc?No wonder MSWord doesn't recognize "spey" as a word.

As I have thought about this since you posted and read these wonderfully thoughtout replys, the only other answer I come with was used by our own Supreme Court on another entirely unrelated matter."You'll know one when you see one", and in our case tie one.

Great post and replys!

back to sorting feathers......

Sure, you are welcome to link to my site. SOme of the htmp got corrupted so I lost some page formatting. I need to fix that in my copious free time.

As for Mr. Howell and Mr. Lucas, I don't know them but I have met their sones, Scotty and Ronn...