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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    AYRSHIRE
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    667

    Default A meeting with Dusty Miller

    During May 2011 I was taking photos, of the Forres AA section of water, on the Findhorn, at Broom of Moy, for a future publication. While taking some photos my wife who was walking along the bank a little way off, was stopped by a gentleman to ask what I was doing. She told him who I was and why I was taking them. To this he replied “Oh I am quite famous as well”. “I’m Dusty Miller”. My wife was not fully tuned in and could not think of who he was. “It was myself that invented the Willie Gunn”. At this point I arrived back up from the river. In the past I had been commissioned to write a story about the Willie Gunn fly by an editor of a now defunct fishing magazine. During the research for the article I phoned Rob Wilson to get his angle on the story, since it was from his shop that the original Willie Gun first made its appearance to the angling world. I told Dusty Miller the story I got from Rob Wilson. He then proceeded to tell me his story of events. Always one to operate on a quid quo pro basis he told me that he had taken a handful of flies into the shop. As such he exchanged the flies for something else..
    The flies were then put under the glass topped counter. Willie Gunn a local ghillie, on the Brora came into the shop, saw the flies and took a liking to them. He was told to take them and go. The rest is angling history. During my chance meeting with Dusty he told me that the original fly was tied on a tube. It had a black body, and gold rib. The hairwing was well mixed with equal proportions of black, orange and yellow. It had however not been tied top and bottom as is so often wrongly account in many publications, but tied 360 degrees in a full collar configuration. In addition to these he later tied a fly with a pearl coloured body. Being in the RAF he had managed to acquire some “Chaff” an anti radar countermeasure device which consisted of thin pieces of aluminum, metalized glass fiber or plastic. The foil from these devices gave an iridescent pearl tone, not dissimilar to modern pearl tinsel. He also told me that a gold body version also proved very successful. A silver bodied and silver ribbed version was found to be quite successful as well, with the silver coming from the inside of cut up potato crisp packets.



    Dusty Miller

    Below is the short article as it was published in the magazine. You can compare the difference in the events which gave salmon anglers one of the most famous flies in angling history.

    THE WILLIE GUNN STORY

    Look through any river report and one fly that features regularly in the catch returns is the Willie Gunn. A lot has been written about the invention of the fly, however much of it is wrong. Here is the true story of how the fly was invented as told to me by Rob Wilson himself. At the time Waddington shanks had just become patented and a lot of the Helmsdale anglers were forming paper clips into Waddington type shanks. Also at the same time there was an explosion of hairwing patterns and colours on the new articulated bodies. Although the home made shanks were very successful they were inclined to be unreliable due to the softness of the metal. In an attempt to overcome this Rob Wilson engaged the services of a company dealing in the manufacture of stainless steel wire. Different gauges of wire was purchased so that light or heavy flies could be tied for a wide variety of water conditions. The popularity of this shank style became very successful and was soon to become the "Brora" style as known today. Since there was so many different fly patterns Rob Wilson decided to rationalise his "Brora" flies to only 20. It was during this streamlining process that the Willie Gunn was conceived. The fly was originally tied in 1970 by an R.A.F navigator called Dusty Miller who worked for Rob Wilson of Brora. The fly came about when Dusty was instructed to come up with a hairwing pattern of the famous Thunder and Lightening. The "new" fly consisted of a black body, gold rib and equal bunches of yellow, orange and black hair tied down on top and under the shank. The original fly did not have the hair mixed as so many fly tiers would have us believe. It is thought by many that the fly takes its name from the ghillie Willie Gunn, because he initially tied it, but this too is wrong. One day Willie Gunn a ghillie for the Countess of Sutherland walked into Rob Wilson's tackle shop and out of a selection of the 20 patterns lying on the counter picked up one which he thought looked good. It was in fact one of the new hairwing versions of the Thunder and Lightening. Willie was told to take it and go! What happened next made angling news around the globe. His first two outings with the fly gave him double figure catches. Needless to say there was great demand for the fly which Willie Gunn did so well with. The fly from then on was named the Willie Gunn. As time went on the fly was developed by Rob Wilson through trial and error. Eventually he arrived at the fly dressing so widely used today, with the hair being well mixed with equal amounts of yellow, orange and black.. This dressing proved to be more successful for autumn fish than the original fly tied with separate bunches of hair, which was originally tied for spring fish. Some might thing that it makes little difference, but Rob Wilson assures me that in his experience it does, the autumn salmon for some reason preferring the equal mixed hairwing version. The fly has taken countless salmon and although initially tied for spring fish it very soon become an accepted "all rounder", being tied on hooks from size 10 long shanked trebles for low water summer fishing, right through to 3 inch brass tubes for use during early spring or late autumn. Incidentally Rob Wilson tells me one of the most popular dressings now is tied on long shank trebles up to size 4, with the hair being at least twice the length of the hook. After that the "Brora" shank is better.
    Last edited by ABK; 05-06-2011 at 08:31 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    Clackmannan
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    3,123

    Default Dusty

    I bet that was a 'made ma day' kind of meeting for yourself,you previously being an instructor and still writing about a pastime you love.
    You just don't know who and where,you might bump into someone who has had such a massive impact on your pastime.
    Derek

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    AYRSHIRE
    Posts
    667

    Default

    Not everyday you happen across someone like Dusty Miller. I real character. Certainly made my week.

  4. #4

    Default

    that was a nice wee read for a sunday thanks for the post

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Banks of the Tyne
    Posts
    715

    Default

    I also met him on the bridge at Forres- he had quite a life story as well as being in the RAF I seem to remember him playing professional football or perhaps my memory is a bit clouded
    He was certainly a lovely bloke to chat to and very willing to help us get a fish.
    "Go easy...step tight...stay free".

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Clitheroe
    Posts
    1,033

    Default

    Many thanks for that, made interesting reading, not your usual SSF storey, thanks for sharing..

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at
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    8,053

    Default Off the Fishpal website.A nice addition to the story I thought.

    Without doubt this fly is the most successful hairwing pattern ever tied. The original fly was tied as a Waddington - Brora style - that is on a Brora shank with the hair tied in bunches round the shank. Many people are under the impression that Willie Gunn tied the pattern, but this is not the case. Evidently a local fly dresser on the River Brora by the name of Dusty Miller was requested by Rob Wilson, who owned the fishing tackle shop in Brora, to dress a number of flies based on traditional patterns using hair as the wing material. Local keeper Willie Gunn, who had never tied a fly, took a fancy to this hairwing imitation of the Thunder & Lightning and promptly landed 10 springers in two days on the pattern, and the 'Willie Gunn' was born.

    The fly was originally tied for spring fishing but as it's fame spread requests for smaller sizes were made. Dusty Miller realized that the bunched hair did not sit well on smaller flies, so he started to mix the colours and this became the standard tying. In general this is a fly for all seasons and rivers and fishes well on tubes, trebles and doubles. By varying the amount of the coloured bucktail ie. more yellow for the spring and coloured water, more orange for the autumn fishing and black for summer work - the permutations are endless - makes it an all-season pattern. I have yet to meet a salmon fisher that does not have this fly in his box and has not had success with it.
    "What do they know of fishing who know only one fish and one way to fish for him?"

    Jack Hargreaves OBE (31 December 1911–15 March 1994)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    West Bloomfield, Michigan
    Posts
    432

    Default

    Thanks for sharing Simon - Good story. Having fished the Brora on quite a number of occasions I am not surprised the fly did so well - There were not many people who fished the brora who would have been brave enough not have a WG on the end of their fly line, Cracking wee river to fish too.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Carlisle
    Posts
    694

    Default Willie Gunn

    I read somewhere of a lady fishing the Brora who called across to a man fishing the other bank, asking him whether he had had any luck. When he replied that he had not, she advised him (I imagine in rather patrician tones) "What you need is a Willie Gunn".

    The gentleman bowed slightly and said: "Madam, I am Willie Gunn."

    The fly is a firm favourite of mine but I find it hard to mix the different colours of hair as recommended for autumn fishing. Any advice would be welcomed!

  10. #10

    Thumbs up Dusty Miller

    great post ABK i know that sort of meeting with this man would have made my week as well.
    out of curiosity does anyone know how successfull the Dusty Miller salmon fly is and are there any interesting story's behind his own pattern?
    Last edited by salmohunter; 08-06-2011 at 08:45 PM. Reason: spelling

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