Differences between the Dee & Spey [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Differences between the Dee & Spey

Willie Gunn
01-16-2005, 10:51 AM
From the Chartreuse Fluffy Dee" thread
The wing on a dee style fly helps keep the fly riding hook point down on a swing in faster water. And the wing on a spey helps keep the fly riding hook point down on a swing in slower water. Also, the scissors shape of the dee wing adds quite a bit of subtle movement as it swings. The mallard wing on a spey fly also helps keep the hackle on the bottom and sides of the hook, which aides in movement below the hook shank and in preventing the apparent fly size from changing from small to large diameter. A tented hackle tip wing on a spey fly adds some subtle movement to the top of the fly, in addition to keeping the hackle below the hook shank.

Admittedly, dee wings, spey wings of bronze mallard or of tented hackle tips are not the easiest to master and tie in properly; but the result is worth the trouble and time to learn how to tie them.

The Spey is a faster flowing river than the Dee, in fact; ----- the Spey is famed for the strength of its flow------John Ashley-Cooper


Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I was under the impression that the spey flies were used on the Spey in pools and guts (or edges) - the slower water-, not in riffles, and that dee flies were used in all water types on the Dee. I have also understood that the Dee is a much larger river than the Spey with a fairly uniform flow in its longer pools and runs and that the Dee carries a much larger volume of water than the Dee making its current look much slower than it is.

I thought it was unfair to clutter up that thread with a geography lesson on Scottish rivers, most of the following information is from John Ashley-Cooper’s book “the Great Salmon Rivers of Scotland. I am a John Ashley-Cooper fan and really enjoy his books, as you might notice.
The Dee like the Spey are snow fed rivers, which allows a constant supply of clear cold water throughout the spring. The Dee tends to be clearer and less peat stained than in bigger rival. In fishing terms this means that fly sizes are usually smaller. The Dee flows on average 12 ft/mile in its upper reaches but less so further downstream. On the Dee, John Ashley-Cooper says, “ it has an endless succession of lovely and varied pools, some rocky and some gravely intersected by sharp rapids; all forming ideal water for fly fishing”.
When discussing the Spey he starts,” That the Spey is the most magnificent of Scottish rivers few would deny” and being a Scot this probably makes it one of the most magnificent rivers in the world. “ The Spey is the third largest river in Scotland after the Tay and Tweed, but it is a BIG river by British standards and is second to none in grandeur and speed of flow. At normal height the Spey’s current is more formidable than that of any other British river, as those who attempt to wade in it or boat it soon discover,
The Spey can be divided in two at Grantown the upper Spey which is less renowned as a salmon river is slow moving and falls by six feet /mile. Below Grantown where all of the famous beats are the flow is greatly increased and averages 12 ft/mile. I again can do no better than to quote from John Ashley-Cooper,” Already at Grantown the Spey is a big river, and a fall so abrupt is unparalleled elsewhere in Britain for a river of this size. In fact one might reasonably describe the Spey at Grantown as leaving a plateau over which it has ambled peacefully for many miles and tumbling quickly down to the sea with a never decreasing impetus over half its long course. This is in curious contrast to most rivers, which run faster in their upper reaches and more slowly lower down”.

I know nothing of traditional salmon flies whether Dee or Spey and always admire the skilful way they are tied so I am unable to comment on the different wing types. I struggle to tie modern hairwing flies, good enough to catch fish, but not fishermen.

On a personal preference I am a Speyman having tried and failed to catch a Dee salmon last year, this year I will succeed, I am beginning on opening day at Park and later the same week at Cairnton, a beat you may have heard about. In April I have a day on the queen’s Balmoral stretch, assuming I pass the security checks. (Memo to self, leave the 12 bore at home that day). The Spey is just that little bit bigger and to finish with one final quote from John Ashley-Cooper “ Normally the fisherman needs long trouser waders and has to wade deep, while sometimes the use of a boat, particularly on the wide pools of the lower Spey becomes essential. To be able to throw a long line, the longer the better, ranks high among the Spey fisherman’s needs.”

Wade deep and throw a long line.

G Ritchie
01-16-2005, 12:42 PM
Yes, the Dee while still being a large river by Scottish standards, is smaller than the Spey. The Dee also tends to be much shallower and much clearer than the Spey. The Dee fish will lie in surprisingly shallow water and are frequently disturbed by inexperienced anglers. While deep wading is commonplace on the Spey and is indeed essential in covering some of the pools effectively, on the Dee this is usually discouraged unless the configuration of a particular pool requires it. I have frequently on the Dee (and other rivers) heard deep wading described as the Spey disease and many Dee gillies will tell you that if you are more than knee deep you are wading too far out. On the Spey pools which are running faster and deeper than typical Dee pools, you will find that the salmon also tend to hold in heavier water than on the Dee. Dee fish tend to hold in smoother glides out of the main flow whilst Spey fish are frequently found right in the main flow except in high or very cold water.