How to tie the Willie Gunn Flamethrower

Tying the Willie Gunn Flamethrower

The Willie Gunn is a salmon fly that needs little introduction. And for many anglers it's the first one they reach for when gazing into their fly box at the start of the fishing day.

Regarded as one of the most successful Atlantic salmon flies ever devised, it possesses a colour combination that is hugely appealing to salmon across the entire duration of the fishing season. 

The fly was born in the 1940's on the river Brora, a north of Scotland spate river, and from there it has spread across the globe, accounting for innumerable salmon and seatrout.

Rumour has it the pattern was originated by RAF flight lieutenant 'Dusty' Millar, who produced flies for another well known Scottish angler at the time, Rob Wilson, of Brora. It is said that Wilson was inspecting a delivery of Millar's patterns in his shop when in walked regular customer, Mr Willie Gunn, who was there to stock up on flies for a day on the river Brora. So taken was he with the pattern when he laid eyes on it that the two men agreed it should be named after him.

Gunn went on the land six fish that day, with a further four the following day! Word quickly spread across Scotland and beyond. The rest, as they say, is history!

The fly has many variations in terms of the tying materials used, the ratio of colours used and hook or tube types it's tied on but, in the main, they can all easily be identified as a willie Gunn. With an ever increasing range of new and innovative fly tying materials being made available to the fly tyer, the pattern continues to evolve and change. Historically, materials used consisted of bucktail, floss and tinsel; however, in today's fly tying world materials such as Arctic fox, Arctic runner, Nayat, new and innovative tinsels, flosses and flash, have been added to the mix to produce a range of variants that are arguably even more effective than those of the past.

The video below shows the dressing of a variant I consider to be right up there among the best. Extremely mobile Silver fox fur has been tied over relatively stiff bucktail to provide a wing that moves in separate layers when swimming through a stream.

All materials required to dress this pattern are available here.


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Malcolm Brown

Malcolm Brown

Excellent fly tying video tying of the fly well explained

Mark McLoone

Mark McLoone

Thanks, John

John Saxton

John Saxton

Great tying Mark. You have total control of the materials.

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