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The Butcher Family

Written by Alan Goodwin

thumb The Silver Butcher, I wonder what Messrs Jewhurst & Moon, of Tunbridge Wells Kent, were thinking when they thought up this pattern.

Hook: 14-10 Thread: black Tail: Red Ibis substitute
Body: med flat tinsel
Hackle: black hen
Wing: Mallard Blues

The fly was originally called The Moon fly but by 1838 became The Butcher and since Mr. Moon was a butcher to trade it is assumed that it got its name from that fact rather than from its undoubted fish killing properties. Known throughout the fly-fishing world as an extremely good wet fly it accounts for many fish whatever water is alights on. For us older wet fly men it is a fly that is invariably on “the cast” a banker, a go to fly. Speaking for myself the Silver Butcher and its variants have probably accounted for more Trout over the years than all my other patterns put together.

wff-8-6-2012-5-58-11-PM-2008nov0212256213331There is another claimant for The Butcher and that is Andrew Hamilton of Pollockshields. In the Glasgow Herald of 6th December 1929 there is a reference to the said gentleman as a member of the old St Mungos Angling Club circa 1881 that he achieved immortality and “invented” The Butcher. In view of the probable 43yrs difference it is more likely he created one of the others, either the aforementioned Bloody or more likely in my view that other well known Butcher “The Kingfisher” both of which I will mention below

Why such a killer? It does not represent anything in particular but is probably taken as a small bait fish or beetle. It has the red and black "trigger" colours that Brown trout like and, coupled with a silver tinsel body, it is not surprising it is a killer pattern; a fly that has spawned a few variants all off which are renowned patterns in their own right. My own favourite is the Bloody Butcher, a red hackled wee wonder.

Dressing: As above but with a red hen hackle

Fished as a tail fly or even as a bob it is a great summer pattern. I find, like the Silver version, it fishes best tied very sparse a la Clyde Style. I remember a drift on Carron Reservoir where this wee flee raised fish after fish as we drifted across the depths. What they took it for I do not know but take it they did and not the gentle takes of natural but full bodied slashing takes more reminiscent of night Sedge.

Now we come to that other famous name The Kingfisher Butcher

Hook: as above
Tail: dyed Teal Blue
Body: med gold tinsel
Hackle: hot orange hen.

There’s a school of thought that say the wing is Blae but not something I would go along with.
Dressesd on a “wee double” it did great execution on Loch Leven not as one would think as a tail fly but tripped through the waves as a bob fly.

Last but not least we have a Hardy Gold Butcher, quite unlike the others which have a wing from “Mallard Blues. This one has a light brownish wing.

Hook: as others
Tail: scarlet fibres
Body: Med flat gold
Hackle: Hot orange Hen.
Wing: Cinnamon coloured quill

From the House of Hardy stable it is relatively unknown in the UK but a discerning group of central belt anglers used it with great success on Loch Leven & other lowland lochs.

Last but not least the little know gold version, not as popular as the others but worth a cast on occasion. I use it in bright sunshine with a good wave and it is on a par with the better know Wickham’s Fancy.
A last point, whilst primarily known as a Trout fly I have had good success on The River Leven when I fished a sparse Silver Butcher for the Wee Black Nebs that frequented the tidal reaches of this urban river. Again the lightly dressed Clyde Style fly was successful in these summer waters. For some reason the bigger Sea Trout spurned it but its smaller brethren took it with gusto and many a fine bag of ½-1lb finnock succumbed to its undoubted attractiveness. In its larger sizes I am sure Salmon would be attracted but to date any I have taken have fallen to “The Usual Suspects” rather than Butchers. Maybe if I persevered it might be a different story, who knows.

Alan Goodwin lives in Erskine Renfrewshire, married with two children and two grandchildren. A long time devoted traditional fly fisher for brown trout. So much so, he has devoted some time to his website "The Highlander Way", to introduce new and old to the somewhat forgotten art of the "traditional flee". Alan also specializes in tying Clyde style flies and there are a couple of pages on his site about this unique form of fly fishing.

Alan can be found at

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