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The Clyde Style 

                      "The trout within yon wimpling burn. Glides swift- a silver dart. And safe beneath the shady thorn. Defies the anglers art....Robert Burns

This is typical Spate stream in its upper reaches.  Fish are small usually three to the pound & a half pound fish is good, a pound fish a veritable monster.  Here winged Clyde Style flies  reign supreme.  Soft hackled spiders too but it is mainly the Clyde wet winged patterns  we will speak off here.  

Flies on right show the typical Clyde Style. Hooks  are light wired body length no more than half the shank, hackle of hen or upland game bird, 1-2 turns only. Wings are tied upright & set at a "jaunty wee angle" Lightness of construction is the keyword & hooking properties are good. Other than a touch or two of tinsel sometimes a lack of embellishment & a general more sombre hue is it's marque.


The River Clyde  tumbles westward above Elvanfoot skirting the market towns of Lanark & Hamilton. Passing through Glasgow, Scotland's  largest city she empties into the Firth of Clyde at Greenock. The River Clyde in past times was more famous for its heavy industries & in particular it's shipbuilding rather than fly fishing. Here the great Queens were built, Elizabeth & Mary. Clyde built  meant quality & many famous ships were sent down it's slips to trade with the modern world. Sadly with the demise of heavy engineering & the emphasis switching to today's hi-tech manufacturers the Clyde shipyards are gradually fading into obscurity. But  it is not of shipbuilding we talk  here it is the fly fishing, the men, tactics & most important of all its flies, The Clyde Style. These steel men of Lanark haunted the upper reaches of the river good Trout were hard to catch. No C& R here this was fishing for the pot, undersized fish were returned & then only till they were big enough to be caught again.  As fishing pressure increased they soon found out that only a lighter dressed fly would give them any guarantee of success & so The Clyde Style evolved. Using locally procured fur & feathers they fashioned these wets often "sans vice". Thankfully  fishing trends have changed & people are becoming more aware of the need to conserve fish stocks. If not through out & out C.& R. then at least in bag limits. The old flies are gradually being replaced by today's "moderns" but a hard core of knowing fly fishers still adhere to the old favourites.


Cow Dung Fly

Greenwell's Glory

    Hook:-16-12 light wired
    Body: orange ostrich
    Rib: fine gold wire
    Hackle: med red game,2 turns
    Wing: Starling, paired, upright

Hook: 16-12s light wire 
Body: Pearsall's primrose, well waxed
Rib: fine gold wire
Hackle: med red game,2 turns
Wing: Starling or Blackbird, paired & reversed




Tackle involves a longish  soft action rod coupled with a single action reel & floating line. My trusty Brady bag a few spools of nylon, flies, bits & bobs sandwiches & a flask of coffee complete the essentials. Travel light is the name of the game as many miles can be covered in the course of a days fishing.

Brady, Perfect, Wheatley & split cane parabolic rod shown on the left. My small stream set-up, now replaced with a "modern" carbon rod & a lightweight reel.

A three fly set-up is normal, mounted on a 10ft tippet with two 6" blood knotted droppers is about right. Surprisingly this is relatively tangle free if used correctly. Modern fly fishers can adapt to a gentler method of casting where an open loop is far desirable than today's tight loop mentality. The old timers used up to 6 flies at a time & tangles were not a problem unless strong winds were present. They knew what they were about these old time wet fly men. Flies set up this way are called "a cast" or a "team" and are fished on short line across & down searching out likely lies. A knowing band followers of Stewart fished "The Upstream Wet" as well as hackled dries such as Badger & Green & Greenwell Spider.  Wading carefully along the edges they cast into likely looking pockets of water. The wet cast should "kiss" the stream & the dry fly should "alight as if thistle down". A lot of water can be covered by this style of fishing so keeping weight to a minimum is desirable. After all you "have" to leave room for a few trout for breakfast do we not?

All in all a most interesting way to fish & trout can be steadily taken in this style. Blending in with your background is the keyword. When fishing downstream approach cautiously & flick your flies on marginal water first before wading as trout can & will lie in surprisingly thin water. Lengthen your cast & fish across & down mending as conditions require. Move down a pace or two between casts, always with the emphasis on stealth. No clumsy wading here or you will scare every trout in the stream. Allow flies to swing below  lift rod tip slowly always anticipating a trout for even at this late stage having shown interest & followed the flies around may still snatch as you prepare to recast. Many are lost at this point due to the difficulty of hooking directly below & downstream. Takes come as the flies begins to quicken up as they swing across & down. Try this technique in spring/early summer in fast to medium flows. 


      Blae & Black        Light Olive

  Teal & Black

Woodcock & Red



Hen Blackie Spent Willow Bluebottle Cran Swallow


 Note the changes in "style" The first three are dressed on Mustad Viking hooks.  These light wire round bend hooks are ideal for Clyde patterns. The others are tied on shorter shank "Sproat" series, are slightly heavier wired but good never the less. Oh how I wish they would bring back "The Limerick bend", these were ideal wet fly hooks with good profile & excellent hooking properties. Maybe a wee bitty too heavy for "Clyde's" though but for standard Wets they were ideal. Wings are varied  from the upright & slightly forward of the olives to the more laid back of the Hen  Blackie & Cran Swallow. You will note the hackle changes too with a couple of them showing a full hackle in front of the wing & in the case of the Bluebottle & Cran Swallow wing is "bunched" rather than the more usual "paired slips".

Woodcock & Mixed




Thread:- yellow 8/0

Body:-equal parts, yellow & red floss

Rib:- fine gold oval tinsel

Hackle:- red hen

Wing:- Woodcock slips, tied upright & reversed

A good springtime pattern? Why? I really do not have the answer but good it is & has accounted for many fish to my rod. Took six Trout over a pound in as many casts from the tail of a pool on the Lamington District stretch of the Clyde just down stream from Wolfclyde bridge on a  mild April day, They were feeding on a hatch of dark olives. Nothing like the fly but work it did. Fished down & across they took just as it quickened up & swung around the tail of the stream.




The Woodcock Series of wet flies.

Woodcock & Yellow, Woodcock & Red etc. are easily recognised by the use of the subtle feather that gives the fly it's  name. Many Scottish wet flies take their name from the "feather." For example Teal & Green & Grouse & Claret, where the wing is Teal breast & Grouse respectively. In the spider type flies it is the hackle from the neck or wing coverts that are  used instead of the more usual winging material of primary or secondary wing feathers. A most useful feather is the Woodcock with it's subtle hue of light brown & fawn & well worthy of having a pair, or indeed a full body in your tying case. If I had to pick a favourite game bird then the Woodcock would certainly be the one.


Woodcock Secondary Feather  

                             Matched slips would be taken from corresponding sized feathers, from each wing.



Night Flies  No Clyde page would be complete without a mention of night flies or as the old timers called them "The Big Flee". Night fishing for Brown Trout  is an acquired art & not for the faint hearted. The stream by night can indeed be a lonely place but good fishing can be had for those that can master it's pitfalls. The trout gorged by the evening rise quieten down & prepare for the night's feeding, Moth & Sedge begin to appear in the "gloaming" & it is these that be now imitate. It is good to "rest" the stream for an hour or so before commencing with the "big Flee". Flies as the one shown below are our ammunition. Larger than our miniscule day time species the trout like a good mouthful & this is reflected in the flies construction. The Jackdaw is one of my own & is a good general suggestive pattern. The White Tip has been around for many seasons & gets its name from the white tipped part of a mallard Drakes blue wing feathers. The Crow & Silver & Stank Hen make up the quartet. Many off the Clyde flies take the pattern's name from the bird or animal that supplied the fur & feather hence the somewhat simplistic titles those Clyde fly fishers called their patterns. Sizes, below are all 12s



 This pretty little wet is a good choice for summer nights. It does not imitate anything in particular, but is a good general pattern & has accounted for many fine Browns each season.

The White Tip  

Another good fly for the night. I fish this on the tail position of a two fly cast. With the Jackdaw as "bob, I feel I am well covered for the short summer nights.     


Crow & Silver 

On those dark nights, when you can hardly see in front of your outstretched hand, this one does good service. Fish it on the tail, slow & deep.                           


Stank Hen

When the summer moths are on the wing, this pattern will do the trick. Fished in the surface film it is taken for a struggling insect trying to break free.



Clyde patterns would not we complete without mention of a couple of Spiders. The "overdressed" Partridge & Orange has an additional tag of flat gold tinsel. This adornment is an added attraction in our somewhat darker Scottish streams & many flies carry this "extra" in one way or another. The Woodcock & Yellow on the other hand is dressed in its slimmer form, more akin to a North Country pattern but has a rib of fine gold wire to enhance it's fish alluring properties. But even this one would be classed as overdressed in the North Country tradition. Our Scottish Brown Trout don't seem to mind & after all they are the best judges don't you think? And who are we mere mortals to argue with that.

Partridge & Orange

Woodcock & Yellow


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Selected Bibliography 

             John Reid   Clyde Style Flies   David & Charles  1971

There is now a reprint available from Coch-Y- Bonddu books

               Robert C. Sharp  Lets Fish The Clyde  The Motherwell Times 1973, sadly out of print.