Monthly Archives: February 2017
TOSH – NED RITCHIE
One of the Dee’s most popular flies was born on the Spey and in this article, first published in Trout & Salmon, I look at the origins of this wonderful pattern.
The dressing varies and going by the samples we have of Ned Ritchie’s originals, which were a plain long black wing, it is clear that the Tosh has changed over time and the addition of yellow hair on tubes and hackles on hooks is one such change, as is the use of a rib.
Body: black floss, optional oval silver rib, wire tag
Body: bare or black floss (optional silver rib)
Wing: quartered black and yellow bucktail
The Tosh is one of the most warmly regarded salmon flies, probably because it is the embodiment of that the most deadly of colour pairings in salmon fishing- black and yellow. I think it is fair to say that Ned Ritchie’s creation falls into the modern classic bracket along with the Hairy Mary, Stoat and Munros’ Killer; all flies that have spawned a great many modern variations. Like the Willie Gunn, the Tosh is a spring favourite throughout Scotland and on rivers such as the Spey and the Dee it remains as popular as ever.
In my experience, most anglers are very fond of the Tosh, and its many variations. Just as Hoover became interchangeable with vacuum cleaner, the Tosh has achieved much the same level of brand awareness in relation to black and yellow salmon flies. My pal Jim Coates father, Geoff, refers to any fly with black and yellow as a Tosh, or ‘kind of a Tosh’. The varieties are legion. There is a hairwing version, dressed on hooks, with a black wing and yellow hackle and many varieties of tube. Other more recent patterns such as The Monkey, that excellent fish catcher, has shades of the Tosh about it while Iain Wilson’s successful Posh Tosh adds some sparkle. There is also a version which is a small plastic tube dressed, sparsely, with the hair from the back of a yellow bucktail. This was much favoured on the Ness and Moriston and in some ways I think this is more in keeping with the original.
I spoke with Mark Melville, Head Ghillie at Delfur on the Spey to find out more about the fly. Delfur is one of the great salmon beats of the world and it was here that Mark’s predecessor Ned Ritchie first tied the Tosh. Ned was Head Ghillie at Delfur for many years. I can’t be exact, but between the late 1930s and 1960s. He also served in the Shanghai Police- which I am certain is a tale all of its own. Ned has the distinction of landing Delfur’s record fish, which weighed 48lb and was taken from the famous Twa Stanes.
As I wrote previously with regard to the Hairy Mary, these are important examples of the early history of hairwing flies and are to be treasured. As you can see these are dressed on plastic tubes with a wing extending well beyond the hooks. The black hair came from Ned’s dog, Tosh. The patch of yellowish hair is unknown and came later as the fly was originally plain black. Tosh was a lurcher-collie cross; I imagine he was something to behold in full flight, but he wasn’t quick enough to avoid Ned’s scissors. I don’t know for certain why Ned decided to tie the Tosh; one of the anecdotes I picked up was that the idea to tie a fly with dog hair was inspired by a bet in the pub.
The first Tosh flies were unique and in the context of the late 1950s the long wing was a radical development, which has since proved to be of major significance. Other long wing patterns were emerging further north around the same time and I will return to this in a future column.
I’ve always been a bit hesitant to write articles on how to be successful in catching early spring fish but there are a few fundamental tactics which have served me well and might just help increase your chances!
I work for LTS fly-fishing and we have a large selection of all different types of rods, reels and lines for different situations.
I take a range of rods with me in the early days of the season and choose what I want to fish with, depending on the conditions. I will for sure have my 14.6 #10 LTS Explosive doing most of the work. I often prefer longer rods with deeper actions, not for distance but to give me control of my cast and to be able to mend my line more easily. Having control over the speed of your line and how fast your fly swims is extremely important for success.
There are many pools on the Dee and how you choose the correct angle of your cast on the river, will do a lot of the work for you. On these pools, I love nothing more than fishing with my LTS 12.6 #8 Explosive. I can’t see past this rod and it goes everywhere with me. Powerful enough to punch out a long line, accurate and capable of dealing with any size of fish. A tip that has served me well if you want to fish shorter rods in the early season is to fish with is to use triple density shooting heads. This allows for a great progressive sink rate and provides a great action for the fly. I team these up with coated running lines rather than flat running lines. This allows you to have a little more control when mending your line. If you prefer the thin flat running lines try holding your rod up for a second before making the mend. Making the mend is important to allow you to change and vary the speed of the fly and presentation.
If I am using heavy sunk lines in bigger water, the angle of the cast is really important. So instead of a squarer cast, I would be more likely to choose a 30 degree angle to allow the fly to fish immediately it hits the water.
Allow your fly to swim right into the bankside and don’t be too quick to just make another cast, let it hang there for a few seconds. I’m sure many of you have gone to make that cast and pulled the hook from a fish’s mouth. A rule of thumb for me is if you think it’s time to lift into another cast….leave it and hang the fly on “the dangle” and then make the cast.
Another good tip for bigger waters is to fish your double hook point upwards. This is because the fish will be more apt to take in the upper mouth in the softer part. The added bonus for this is that heavy sink tips and fishing deeper in heavy waters, your inverted double hook allows the hook to hit off obstacles without hanking up and losing your favourite and most productive fly.
Only cast within your ability and make sure everything lands straight and the fly is out front. Choosing the right angle to cast to is crucial. I want my fly to be swimming correctly as soon as it’s in the water. Incorrect angles might mean that your fly line has come halfway round the pool before it is swimming in the right manner.
I have three rods set up, firstly my 14’.6” LTS Explosive #10 – LTS 13.6 Across #8,9,10 & LTS 12.6 #8 Explosive. My lines will vary from a float with a fast or super-fast sink tip to a sink 1,2,3 for the deeper pools. Very rarely do we need to fish much deeper on the Dee. The beauty of fishing with the LTS Short Speedline in triple densities is the range and the Sink 1, 3 5 line that gives you that tapered and fine presentation.
Reel choice is also important. 2017 sees a great opportunity for our LTS range to hit the UK market. Our colour concept reels are now going to be complimented by our new Classic Thor and Odin reels. These reels offer a great traditional feel and superior drag that will fight any hard hitting Atlantic Salmon here in the UK, and throughout the world where.
I’m very particular to what flies I like to use. I’ll only use different weighted tube flies for the early part of the season and very rarely move away from a selection of black and yellows, perhaps with a hint of blue. I prefer lighter dressed flies with soft wings with very little flash. Far too many flies are over dressed and too gaudy for the Dee.
Always check your fly is swimming correctly, just because you like the look of the fly doesn’t mean it will swim well so test this in the water in front of you and make sure it’s not swimming at an angle that compromises the action of the fly. The Dee runs very clear in the spring months even when the river is higher and colour choice is also key. Matching the colours to that of the water and sticking to “traditional” tested colours such as yellows, oranges and black, will not disappoint. However, I have a ¼ of a century of experience on the Dee system as both a fisherman and a ghillie. One of the key things for fly choice for me is having a fly dressed sparsely so that the silhouette of the fly can be seen through the materials that form the main body of the fly. Heavy dressed flies for me are a “no-no”.
There is one thing to remember………….there are no hard and fast rules. The salmon chooses ultimately and the day I figure it out and “spoil” the mystery, is the day I stop fishing.