Charles Peck – My “Highland Dun” Story

My “Highland Dun” pattern.

This dun pattern evolved in the early nineteen sixties. I started fiddling with mayfly patterns while I was fishing the Western Lakes.  The traditional English patterns used, March Brown, Wickham’s Fancy and Hardy’s Favourite didn’t really work in crystal clear water when compared to the natural duns and spinners. The very prominent wing of the big black highland spinner (dun stage) was a distinct mottled grey. The naturals floated high, skidding on the surface in wind. The old English patterns became soggy and sat low. I tried to tie flies to emulate the naturals, both in appearance and behaviour on water. An early session on Lake Explorer, taking some quite large fish using one of my early duns. Experiments went on for two or three years with various ideas and feather combinations. Max Bertram was quite interested in what I was doing and we both tried them successfully on Little Pine.

Later, Jim Ferrier, Len Smith, Reg Clayton and I were at a FFCT dinner and we agreed to fish the Macquarie at Stewarton the next day. The Macquarie had been running full for a couple of years and was fishing very well. We met up for morning tea and I had seven or eight fish.

Reg had gone downstream. Many refusals to spinner patterns and Reg asked what fly I was using. I gave him a couple, which worked. Reg later showed the pattern to David Scholes who wrote an article in The Australian Fly Fisher magazine about the fly. David described my dun as the first good pattern of an Australian mayfly.

David called it ‘Pecks Dun’. I still refer to it as my “Highland Dun”. Jim Ferrier and others called it “CPHD” (Charles Peck Highland Dun). It still works for me in various sizes on lakes and rivers. In New Zealand on the Mataura, it seemed quite OK in size 16 or 18.

In recent years an “economy” version has evolved. Easier to tie with my arthritic hands!

Using dark grey possum fur as a buoyant lightly dubbed body (such as in an “emerger”) instead of the small body hackle. Tied with the same tail, wing and main hackle as in my original tie. I seem to do just as well. It does not sit quite as high on the water in a wind, but I am happy provided the fish don’t mind. 

Peck’s Dun (a.k.a,” CPHD”)

Tied in two styles: dark wing or light wing.                   

Hook: 12 or 14.

Tail:  Dark chocolate cock hackle fibres, three or four, (not less than half hook length).

Method; Wind hook with one layer of brown thread, tie in tail, take thread back up one third of hook.

Body Hackle: Very small brown hackle for the darker pattern, or grizzle grey hackle for the lighter pattern, about three turns wound sparsely from one third back to bend. Body hackle should be very short, just a fuzz around the hook to keep the fly high on water. Return thread back through body hackle up to wing location about one third length from eye.

Wing: A strip of dark oak turkey secondary wing feather

(a)1 ½” by ½” for hook size 12 or

(b) 1 ½” by 3/8” for hook size 14. I sometimes have used crow secondary wing feathers (which are dark grey) when out of turkey. (There are usually plenty of crow feathers around lake shore at Little Pine Lagoon or as road kill).

Section is folded to provide a wing about 1/4“ wide as in (a) or 3/16” as in (b), pinched between thumb and forefinger tied in with a couple of turns over then one turn behind to cock it, (about one third back from eye).

Hackle: One dark chocolate and one grey grizzle cock hackle (dark or light) wound together – dull sides together. Feathers should be first carefully matched at pointed ends, waste clipped off before tying in near eye of hook. Two turns in front of wing, one turn behind, then thread passed back through hackle, head formed and tied off. Then the oversized wing is shaped by clipping off waste to resemble the natural fly. I also clip the hackle tips square beneath the hook to avoid the fly rolling over with the prominent wing.

I avoid having too much hackle – the fly should be sparsely hackled with a dominant visible wing, not bushy like so many of the commercially tied ones I have seen others using. (To me they look like feather dusters!)

To assist with flotation & visibility in rough weather conditions I sometimes tie a longer tail ( as  well as an oversized wing).

Written by Charles Peck.            Fly tied by Charles Peck Photo: Jack Barker    Copyrite 2022 Charles Peck, all rights reserved.  

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