The Durham Ranger

The Durham Ranger

Originally tied for fishing in the River Tweed, the Durham Ranger in its purest 1840's form, was actually quite a dull and unattractive fly, unlike the one shown above. George Kelson stated that the original fly was tied by that prolific and splendid fly dresser, Mr. James Wright of Sprouston near Kelso, however, this has long been disputed, and there is a valid argument that it was actually produced in England by a Mr. William Henderson of Durham around 1840, If only by virtue of its name, this makes sense. William Henderson was also a member of the Durham Fishing Club and regularly fished on the Tweed, so his link to the fly, the name and the location gives credence to this story. However, further research revealed in Henderson's own book, casts some doubt on this.

The Kelso and James Wright association that Kelson may have mistaken, appears to have evolved due to the fact that the said Mr. Henderson, once instructed a friend, a Mr. Forrest of Kelso, in the tying of the fly and somehow Kelson linked James Wright, Kelso and the Ranger together. A plausible, but probably incorrect conclusion. It is without doubt that Sprouston's James Wright would have tied the Durham Ranger commercially from his Kelso premises, following its success on the River Tweed. I can find no reference to James Wright claiming the fly for himself, unlike a host of his other incarnations which are well documented.

Other stories also prevail, one being that it was originally tied for the Bishop of Durham, which may be true, but by whom? Another story which is actually documented in his own book 'My Life as an Angler' published in 1879, states that a Mr. Walton Scruton of Durham was the true inventor of the Durham Ranger and that he, Henderson, had some very successful outings with it, especially on the Tweed.  Confusing to say the least, however, like many of our classic flies, the actual truth remains in the mists of time and as yet, are still waiting to be discovered. The origins will no doubt be debated for many decades to come, but this is what makes tracing the history of these flies so interesting.

The Durham Ranger was the first of the Ranger series, the others being the Blue, Black, Red and Silver. and they still remain favourites of many anglers to this day. 

There are a number of variations to the original inventors design, (whoever he may be), and one such pattern can be found in a detailed account in Kelson's 'Salmon Fly' (1895). For those who have followed Kelson's history, you will probably know that he had a bad habit of changing other peoples designs, so how far removed from Henderson's/Scruton's original design is unknown.

Additional information from followers of this site, also suggest that the fly was tied by a Scottish ghillie who befriended an angler from Durham, and tied the fly for him. Sadly no name or corroborated evidence of this can be found, but it does add to the intrigue.

Francis Francis, Pryce - Tannatt, George Kelson and others have also put forward their own designs,  all differs slightly from the original. In essence, the fly was thought worthy by all these great men to warrant some minor tweaks and its longevity proves beyond a shadow of doubt, that it was, and remains a great fly to this day.

* With the scarcity and availability of genuine materials, the picture shown is a modern variation of the Durham Ranger of which the tying materials are readily available.

Durham Ranger (Francis Francis Pattern) 

Tag: Silver Tinsel and Gold floss

Tail: One Topping

Butt: Two turns of black Ostrich herl

Body: Light orange floss, dark orange claret and black pigs wool in equal measure..

Ribs: Silver twist and silver tinsel

Hackle: Over the length of the body a red-orange coch-y-bondhu hackle

Throat: Two turns of black hackle, followed by light blue hackle

Wings: A long pair of jungle cock feathers (back to back) double tippets on either side, one topping overall

Horns: Blue Macaw

Head: Black



Dear Barry,
Thank you for your comment regarding this fly which I have published in the interests of accuracy.
The original Durham Ranger was a very dowdy affair (See Francis-Francis pattern in Michael Frodins book ‘Classic Salmon Flies History and Patterns).
You will note in my blog, that I mentioned that there are many variants of the Durham Ranger since its inception in 1840 by William Henderson.
The fly published was taken in good faith as one of those variants, I stand corrected by your comment.
Would it therefore be possible to direct me to your source so that I can correct the blog accordingly?
If sufficient data can be located, I can then place a further blog to highlight the ‘Sherbrooke’ of which I personally had not come across.

Again, thank you for your comment and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kev Rose

Framed Flies

The picture shown under “Durham Ranger” is in fact a “Sherbrooke”

Barry Grewcock

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