The Dark Mackerel is a top-class sea-trout pattern that is at its most effective when fished in the peat-stained waters of north-west Scotland. The claret hackles and dark, bronze mallard wing combine beautifully with the red tinsel to give a subdued sparkle that would be difficult to achieve with any other range of materials. Tied with a palmered hackle and a wing set low and slim, it has the distinction of being equally effective on rivers and lakes.
Being such an effective pattern for sea-trout, it is surprising that red tinsel is used in so few other flies. The only other recognised pattern is the Red Mackerel, which has red rather than claret hackles. It is particularly effective as the river is clearing after a spate.
Claret is a great colour for dark days, whether the quarry is seatrout, salmon or brown trout, but there is another variation of the Dark Mackerel that is tied by substituting brown or furnacecock hackles for the claret ones. It is down to personal preference whether the collar hackle is tied before or after the wing, but applying a long-fibred hackle afterwards does impart some extra movement to the fly. To this end, the collar should be tied either with a hen or a softfibred cock hackle.
Hook Size 8-14 wet-fly Thread Black
Tail Golden-pheasant tippet Rib Copper
wire Body Flat, red tinsel Wing Bronze
mallard Body hackle Claret cock hackle
Collar hackle Claret hen or soft-fibred
1. With the hook fixed securely in the vice, run the tying thread down the shank to the bend. There, catch in a few fibres of golden-pheasant tippet plus three inches of copper wire.
2. Using close turns of thread, cover the waste ends of the tippets and copper to form an even base for the body. With the thread positioned just behind the eye, catch in three inches of red plastic tinsel.
3. Wind the red tinsel down towards the tail in closely touching turns. Ensure that they do not overlap.
4. From the tail base, take the tinsel back up to its catching-in point in touching turns. Secure the loose end of the tinsel and remove the excess.
5. Select a dyed-claret cock hackle with fibre-length one-and-a-half times the hook gape. Strip the fibres from the base and catch it in a short distance back from the eye.
6. Using hackle pliers, grasp the hackle by its tip and wind it along the body in open, evenly spaced turns.
7. Keeping tension on the hackle, wind the copper wire up through it in evenly spaced turns. These turns of copper wire secure the hackle in position and protect the tinsel body
8. Secure the copper wire and then remove the hackle tip and waste wire. Prepare a slip of bronze mallard fibres about three times the width of the intended wing.
9. Fold one edge of the slip to the middle then fold it again. Catch it in just in front of the body with two or three turns of tying thread.
10. With the wing positioned upright on the top of the hook, secure it with tight thread turns. Remove the excess then apply a second dyedclaret cock hackle to form the collar.
11. Secure the hackle tip and remove the excess. Stroke the fibres so that they sweep back over the wing and body. Position them with thread. Build a neat head and cast off the thread with a whip finish.
WHERE, WHEN & HOW TO FISH
W H E R E
The Dark Mackerel is effective on both rivers and lakes but it is a noted killer on peat-stained waters. It is also used to great effect on many Welsh sea-trout rivers.
W H E N
Very effective on lakes, the claret coloration makes it a great fly for a dark day and a rolling wave. On rivers, its muted colours make the Dark Mackerel the ideal fly to use during the evening’s failing light.
H O W
The Dark Mackerel can be fished singly or as part of a wet-fly team, when it is invariably fished on the point. Teamed with a Butcher and a Teal, Blue and Silver, it will cover all the changing light conditions. It can be fished on a floating or intermediate line and is often tied as a double, where the extra weight helps to anchor the rest of the team.
T Y I N G T I P
The Dark Mackerel should never be over-dressed because, as a point fly, it needs to sink. However, varying the number of turns affects the density of both the body and the collar hackle, and allows it to be used in different weather conditions.