Blue Jay Flies size 1 resizeGuest Blogger: Eunan Hedron, Classic Fly Tyer, Eunan Blogs @ Addicted to Vise

One of the most striking feathers used for fly tying is that of the blue jay. These little blue and black barred feathers are used quite extensively for wrapping throats on many Irish trout and salmon flies, and can be use as whole feathers on the wings of various trout and bass flies, as described by Bergman and Marbury, among others. 

Blue Jay
Blue Jay

Under the Migratory Bird Act (1918), American Blue Jays are protected, however, in Europe, the Eurasian Blue Jay is considered a pest and is not protected. I imagine at the time these flies were developed, the Migratory Bird Act was not in effect. Regardless, the availability of Eurasian Blue Jay skins, or wings, allows for adventurous fly tyers like myself to utilize the feathers. In Ray Bergman’s book, Trout, there are four patterns that use the wing feathers from the Blue Jay. The flies are named as follows: Blue Jay, which has orange body, and I suspect was the first one developed, Jay Silver, Jay Yellow and Jay Blue, which has a blue body and hackles. Furthermore, In Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, there is also a pattern for a Blue Jay fly, somewhat similar to the Jay Silver.

Jay Silver
Jay Silver

The Trout flies I’ve tied are both small and large versions of the Bergman patterns, and I’ll list them for sale as a collectors set in the near future. The small are tied on vintage Mustad Limerick hooks at size 7, while the large are tied on vintage Mustad crystal hooks, size 1. I really like how the larger fly permits the use of almost the whole feather. Generally you will get one matched pair, if you’re lucky, from a pair of jay wings, but more often than not, you’ll have to select feathers from different birds to get your double sided pair of wing feathers.

Jay Yellow
Jay Yellow

Overall the patterns are simple to tie, Tail, body, rib, hackle and wing. Much easier to tie than say a married wing fly, and the very nature of quill fibers doesn’t allow for a married wing imitation of these. Perhaps the closest you might get would be grizzly dyed blue. In fact, this very iteration was used to ‘convert’ the Marbury wet fly to a streamer by accomplished fly tyer Dave Lomasney for Streamers365.com. If you’re in any way inclined to tie Rangeley Style streamers, I can highly recommend that site, and indeed the accompanying books.

Jay Blue
Jay Blue

Tackle manufactures supplying Jay wings are limited, and to my knowledge Veniard, based in UK, are the only wholesale suppliers. There are some smaller scale suppliers in UK and USA who have imported Eurasian Jay wings or feathers for sale, but supply there is usually limited. Generally, a single pair of feathers will cost about $2-$3 each with shipping on top of that.

Aside from the Bergman and Marbury books detailed above, I can highly recommend EJ Malone’s book, Irish Trout and Salmon Flies as a great reference for the Irish flies I mentioned above utilizing blue jay feathers.

On a closing note, don’t be going out and killing American Blue Jays. While much more visually striking in color and appearance than their Eurasian cousin, possession and/or use of feathers from protected bird species is unlawful in all US states, to my knowledge.

2 Comments

  1. Beautiful flies, would you ever even think about fishing these works of art? FYI, there’s a lot of Blue Jay feathers on Ebay, mostly from the UK.

  2. Mike, I generally fish the smaller versions like the first photo above. The larger flies were a big hit a the fly fishing shows I presented at this winter.

    Eunan

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