Ray’s study of Mayflies led to the publishing of a very limited book titled Mayflies of the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia. This work contained not only a full description of the Mayflies in that region but included a full range of flies and the materials that were used to make them. I believe only forty copies were privately produced. Today if ever one of these very rare books comes onto the market, you will have to just about take out a mortgage to purchase it.
I first met Ray over 30 years ago. At that time he was living in Adelaide and had been tying flies professionally for some time prior to our first meeting. Many would say that trout fishing in South Australia was almost nonexistent; well let’s just say it is a well kept secret.
What was different about Ray’s approach to fly tying was his intense interest in Entomology. You might say he was a Mayfly specialist and designed his flies to match. Very early in the piece he befriended the eminent Entomologist Philip Suter, who now works out of Albury in New South Wales.
Part of Ray’s work has been to match his flies to the key species that
represent the major hatches that are found in Tasmania. The three key mayfly
species that are found mostly in the highlands are the Lambda Dun,
A.australis, A.superba, the Penstock Brown and the Large Grey Dun or
Highland Dun, T.lacustris. The last
two species are endemic to the highlands of Tasmania.
At first glance you could say they are all so similar that the one fly pattern could act for all three mayflies but there is always the chance that Old Speckles will go on one of its selective feeding episodes and leave you high and dry. Plus you should also consider matching the size of the individual species which can vary as the season progresses. The major issue to consider is that all three of these species can and do emerge numerous times throughout the season and theoretically you could be witnessing all of them coming off on the same day (could you be so lucky?).
The actual differences between the three species are:
Atalophlebia australis is found in the lowlands as well as the highlands of Tasmania. It has an inverted “Y” pattern in its wing. The wings also have a defined dark fore-edge and are a little darker in appearance than Superba. The size can range from hook size 12 to 10. The male is always larger than the female. There is a slight dusky orange tinge to the body; this is caused by the orange spinner that this species throws.
The Nymph of Atalophlebia australis
Right: The Nymph of Atalophlebia australis
Ray has tied for a select group of individuals but as with other leading commercial fly tyers, has serviced the needs of our leading fly fishing outlets. When you tie flies for a living you need all the work you can get.
Atalophlebia superba has a tan brown wing colouration and the “Y” is not fully defined. The wings are also pointier and lighter than A.australis. The centre tail fibre is very fine and can often break off during emergence. The size range can vary from 12 to 10. Some tyers prefer to use longshank hooks to accentuate the size. The body is darker than its cousin, with light creamy banding along its body. It throws a dark brown almost black spinner with a dark fore-edge on its wings. Both of these species will emerge up through the surface film. So it is very wise to carry emerging patterns to match these two species. The nymphs are very similar and pre-emergers should also be in the fly box.
Tasmanophlebia lacustris is the large Grey Dun as named by Tillyard in 1917. Today it is known as the Highland Dun. It is grey with a slight tan tinge to the body. In fact there are two versions that can and do come off at the same time; one is actually darker than the other. The secondary wing is large, it is almost a third of the size of the main wing. The wings are more speckled than the other two species. Again, the size can vary from 12 through to 10. This species rarely emerges through the surface film; instead it prefers to crawl up a reed stem along the shore line, or anything else that it chooses. Sometimes it will crawl up a reed that is protruding well out into the lake. Once emergence is complete it will step off and drift on the surface, giving the impression that it has just surface hatched - very confusing and misleading to the uninformed.
The flies as designed by Ray Brown to represent the three key mayflies of Tasmania’s highlands are shown here. Ray is very much into parachute hackles as he feels they sit better and hold that wing upright. As you can see the construction is similar but there are those subtle differences; note the orange tonings in the body of his A.australis and the pale wings on lacustris. Subtle, yes, but they make the difference.
I have not included the patterns simply because they are Ray’s and his dubbings are of his own blend; a bit of a trade secret. I can tell you this he prefers long shank hooks in 14 and 12. His dubbing for his nymph is seal’s fur based and the winging materials are from the Enrico Puglisi Trigger Point International collection.
Let’s put it this way, if you are not a fly tyer, I’d rather buy flies direct from a local expert than those made in Africa or China. You have to ask yourself how would they know what T.lacustris looks like? To me that only makes sense. I can tell you now there is nothing like having your own personal fly tyer who really knows the waters and their bugs.