The Driffield Dun

The Driffield Dun

Phone rings - "Do you sell maggots?"

"No, we're a fly fishing shop, we only sell flies", I reply - since opening the shop, I have this conversation at least twice a week.

At the beginning of the year, I took a call that would spark my investigative gene. It was from a member of the West Beck Preservation Society asking if we had a fly called the Driffield Dun? - "Not yet!" was the answer, "but we'd love to". This is exactly the sort of fly we like - invented locally (allegedly) and something a little bit different, and so the research began ...

For those of you who are not aware, the most northerly (fishable) chalk stream in Europe (Driffield Beck) is right on our doorstep (well, about 15 miles away - we can actually see the chalk hills that are its source from our shop doorway). The West Beck Preservation Society is a fishing club who are the custodians of parts of the famous Driffield Beck. 

NB. West Beck is the common name given to the upper section of the old River Hull, as it rises in the foothills of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Over the next few weeks our conversations continued and it transpired that a club member who used to tie this specific fly for all for the other members was retiring (from tying them). So, they needed to find an alternate source for these little crackers, and as we were very local, thought we may be interested - too right we were!

As you may (or may not) know, I am just starting out on my 'fishing book collecting' journey, depleting company funds at every opportunity that comes my way to expand the collection. The Driffield Dun gave me a chance for them to come in really useful, I could research the pattern and get something tied which would do the fly justice. I eventually found that the origins of the fly are shrouded in mystery - no one seems to know who (or where) it was invented.

The only references I could find to the fly were in the following books:

Modern Trout Fly Dressing by Roger Woolley - which just gives the basic dressing.
Anglers Cavalcade by Eric Horsfall Turner - The fly is referenced a few times throughout the book, but nothing on who or where it was invented, just that it works!
50 Favourite Dry Flies by T Donald Overfield - This has the most information, a couple of pages on the fly and it's tying, but again no reference to its originator - just a reference to an article in the Flyfishers' Club Journal called "Sarcelle" (Spring, 1922). If anyone has a copy I would love to see it!

I did find a reference to the fly in A Dictionary of Trout Flies by A Courtney Williams, but this seems to suggest that the fly is fished 'wet' (see image above), which I am not sure is correct.

After a few attempts were exchanged with the aforementioned 'Driffield Dun experts' we had the makings of a fly which we could produce commercially, but was still a pretty accurate representation of the original, and here it is:

That looks great I hear you say, but when and why should I use one?

Well, as you may be aware, once the mayfly season is over and the water levels start to recede, the trout seem to get very picky on the offerings we pass across their noses. This is the time of year when small and imitative is the key. We had these Driffield Duns tied for us in sizes 16, 18 & 20 (we shunned the larger sizes as we wanted a fly that would be successful in the summer months).

 They don't just look good, but they really work. Here's a recent communication from a very happy customer:

"I had an interesting afternoon on the Taff on Sunday. Weather was nice and overcast with some light showers and plenty of fish rising. The only issue was the trout are very easily spooked on the smoother water at this time of year and despite using very light tippet and tiny CDC patterns I was managing to put one fish down after another. Just one careless cast was enough. I walked upstream for two miles with the same result in every pool I fished despite trying desperately not to disturb the small pods of trout rising steadily and taking small duns on the surface. I did get some fish to rise to my fly but they were “coming short” which was really frustrating. I tied on a selection your emerger patterns thinking that was the issue but with no luck. Finally on my way back downstream I cast across and slightly downstream to reduce the drag using a size 20 Driffield Dun to a quiet rise and I saw a beautiful one pound brownie follow it downstream and absolutely smash it much to my surprise. This time I made sure and got him safely into the net despite a great fight on such light tackle ….a cracking trout with striking well defined magenta spots on his flanks. He was quickly released and I smiled with relief as I watched him cruise back into his lie. It had taken me nearly three hours to catch one trout but it was all worth it. I trudged home through the cow pats and daisies tired but happy. Great fly the Driffield Dun….I’ll never be without them from now on!" - Richard Hughes, July 2021

Just treat it as you would a standard dry fly, but try using a longer leader and fish as delicate as you can get away with.

Ok, you've sold me on then "What's the price?" I hear you ask - we are making these flies available to you as individuals for only £1.75 each. Generally, if you're in the UK you will receive your order the very next day.

(for more detailed images and to buy the fly, click on any image or button above)

Fancy Tying One Yourself?

If you would like to have a go at tying one for yourself, here's the closest we can find to the original tying recipe:


Hook: Size 14 Dry Fly
Thread: Grey Silk
Tail: Pale Ginger Cock Hackle Fibres
Ribbing: Yellow Silk (unwaxed)
Body: Rabbit Fur (lead coloured)
Wing: 2 x Pale Starling Wing Slips
Hackle: Pale Ginger Cock

I found it really interesting researching the origins of a very local and special pattern to me. If you think there are any other patterns - especially if it has an interesting back-story - please let me know and I will see what we can do!

Hope you enjoyed reading that!

Tight lines & stay safe.