Flies & Fly Tying Wigram’s Robin and the Alexandra

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  • #834586

    ronb
    Participant

    I have always had a fascination with these two fly patterns but never had a lot of success with them. Both seem to work better for me when stripping them back very quickly, or sometimes with a small Alexandra , not retrieving at all. Does anyone still use these patterns and if so, how successful do you find them? With Wigram’s Robin I have read that the rear half of the body should be tied with fluro red wool (which seems to be more pink than red?) or scarlet wool etc. what would be best and would a dubbing in the right colour be better? Thanks, Ron.

    #835309

    mrampant
    Participant

    I have used the Alexandra a lot in a team; I haven’t hooked many with it but I think it works as an attractor and another pattern does the work (that is my excuse).  I like the robin and have used it a lot and in different sizes. The best rainbow I have ever hooked was on a size 4 robin at the Dee; although I didn’t land it. that time I used it as a slow strip and a long pause. The colour for the red I have tried in fluro red antron and red wool. I don’t think that the colour would be a big deal although red I feel is a good trigger for most flies.

    Cheers,

    Mark

    #835570

    DrGraham
    Participant

    Dick Wigram developed the Robin in 1969 and sent them to Noel Jetson, at that time in New Zealand. The fly became one of Jetson’s favourites, and in turn a favourite of David Scholes who used it to the exclusion of other streamers/exciters. Scholes has said in his books that Jetson was the only one that could tie the fly properly to Wigram’s specifications, and colour was the key to the success of the fly. Jetson’s tying is as follows, from Glenn Eggleton’s “Noel Jetson – Life and Flies” page 165:

    Hook: Dick and Noel originally used Mustad 3666 in sizes 8 and 10, Substitute Kamasan B200.

    Thread: Pearsall’s Naple silk, black.

    Rib: Gold twist. The rib that was originally used was made from real gold twist imported from Veniards. Gold tinsel may be substituted.

    Butt: Scarlet wool.

    Body: Seal fur, black.

    Wing: Black hen.

    Eye: Jungle cock.

    I believe the gold twist is another name for Veniard’s gold oval tinsel. Scholes referred to gold oval. Photos of Jetson’s fly show that it is indeed a bright red “scarlet” colour. The butt is only about a quarter of the body length. The tying of the fly is described in Eggelton’s book and also how Jetson produced substitute jungle cock. Wigram, Jetson and Scholes would fish with or without jungle cock.

    Max Stokes’ “Tasmanian Trout Fly Patterns” page 23 describes the butt as fluorescent red wool, confirmed by Scholes in “Fly Fishing in Australia”. Stoke says the red wool is half the body length and gold wire for ribbing. I would stick with Jetson’s recipe as true to Wigram’s original tying.

    As for fishing, Scholes used the Robin for flooded backwaters, or what he described as “edge” fishing when river levels were high relative to the bank. He reported a fast strip retrieve when edge fishing to attract pugnacious trout, but I’ve assumed he used a slower retrieve for back waters which are usually shallow. He did note that the fly needed to move as soon as it hit the water and casting had to be precise.

    #835658

    flylife
    Moderator

    That recipe is missing Rib and Butt on my screen…

    Rib: Gold twist

    Butt: Scarlet wool

    #835662

    flylife
    Moderator

    No doubt the modern replacement for a Robin would be a black Woolly Bugger or Woolly Worm with a red tail, and the attraction of the Alexandra’s flashy (but delicate) peacock herl wing has been replaced by all manner of robust synthetic flashy wing and dubbing materials and shiny beads. Both great flies but…

    #835668

    DrGraham
    Participant

    You’re right Flylife. Interesting, it’s still there in my Word document but didn’t copy over!  Fixed now.

    #837252

    ronb
    Participant

    Thanks for the replies, it was good to read that these patterns are still being used. I guess it is hard to go past the woolly bugger style of flies as it is such a great fly. From reading about the Alexandra’s popularity years ago it seems that it has been surpassed by better patterns. Having the butt on the Robin only a quarter of the body length looks better to me so I might try tying a few variations. I guess I just wanted a change from fishing woolly buggers most of the time and the more traditional patterns that I used when I first started fly fishing seemed like they would be fun to try again.

    #837504

    micmac3701
    Participant

    Swapping out the hen hackle for black rabbit zonka works well, its no longer the original Wigram’s Robin but its a deadly backwater/murky water pattern.

    #837517

    chf
    Participant

    Still have a couple of Robins ( scrunched in the forgotten corner of the fly box ) though I can’t recall when I last tied one on .

    I guess it has been superseded by materials that better impart movement in the water …if I recall correctly the wing was tied down at an angle to the shank  just in front of the butt which made it ‘rock’ or ‘kick’ when retrieved , pretty clever really.

    Maybe the same for the Alexandra  , superseded by materials that give the ‘flash’ but are more robust .

    I quite like the idea of re-inventing old patterns with newer materials and always carry a few Mrs Simpsons with a long tail of marabou or rabbit fur

    #837551

    mrampant
    Participant

    Another older fly I really like is the Watson’s Fancy; the jungle cock against the black really pops.

    Cheers,

    Mark

    #837563

    DrGraham
    Participant

    chf, you’re right about the tying of the wing on Wigram’s Robin. By tying the wing down from forward of the butt instead of from the bend, the wing is cocked slightly upward. This does two things, stops the wing wrapping around the bend of the hook, which often happens with matukas and other streamers, and also allows a bit more movement in the wing hen heathers.

    Interesting thoughts about re-inventing old flies using new materials. I’ve experimented with CDC in that manner, e.g. how would I tie a snowflake caddis using CDC? I’ve been forced to use alternative/new material when traditional material has become scarce. For a period, I couldn’t source speckled hen wing quill for the wings of Noel Jetson’s Highland Dun (Max Stokes’ page 8). Instead, I tried a blend of rusty brown and natural dun CDC for the wings. The rest of the tying remained the same. Did it work? Absolutely, but no better or worse than the original, but it was no longer Jetson’s Highland Dun – perhaps the CDC-wing Highland Dun? I have now sourced the right feather and have returned to Jetson’s original pattern. I just enjoy tying and fishing with traditional patterns.

    #837567

    DrGraham
    Participant

    Mark, indeed the older patterns like Watson’s Fancy still work very well, plus flies like Invicta, Greenwell’s Glory, Mallard and Claret etc. In Tasmania the classics developed decades ago by the likes of Max Christensen, Dick Wigram, Noel Jetson, Bev Stewart etc. work just as well today. There is quite a noticeable difference in flies between those in “Australia’s Best Trout Flies” (1997) and “Australia’s Best Trout Flies Revisited” (2016) in relation to a shift from perhaps more traditional to more modern styles and material. Is there any measurable difference in performance? I suspect not. I’m a great believer in it is more about how you use the fly than what you use, and your own confidence in the fly.

    #837608

    BarryJ
    Participant

    …………….

    I’m a great believer in it is more about how you use the fly than what you use, and your own confidence in the fly.

    +1

    #837681

    mrampant
    Participant

    I think the reason for the modern ties and material is the ease and time to tie the flies; it has been reduced significantly. Especially if you are tying multiple of different options.

    Cheers,

    Mark

    #837723

    rsawyer
    Participant

    Wigram’s Robin is featured in Fur and Feather. The pattern listed says flourescent red/orange  wool for the butt section. It also details the process for tying in the wing so it cocks upwards to avoid fouling.

     

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