Black Ghost, by Herb Welch, is one of the most recognisable patterns ever created. Originally designed in 1919, but it wasn’t until around 1927 that it became a mainstay in the fly boxes of American fly fishermen.
Herb Welch was a man of many talents. He is probably best know for the flies he designed, but he was also a skilled artist, who’s work can be found at the Smithsonian. He was also an expert fly caster, and was often a star attraction at fly fishing shows where he demonstrated casting.
Although Herb designed a lot of other patterns, many quite effective and well know, non became as popular and widely used as the Black Ghost. There’s something about that color combination that just works.
The technique used to tie the wing is a bit interesting. Rather than tying the cock hackle feather in simultaneously, and then adding the jungle cock “eyes” after the fact, the original method was taking one cock feather and one jungle cock eye and gluing them together. Then you would repeat the process with the other pair of feathers. You would then tie the pair in at the same time.
This method can be used to tie all patterns that have these kinds of feather wings, and can help to make the head a lot cleaner.
Throughout the years, fly tiers have tied countless variations of the Black Ghost and have made use of all kinds of new materials that have entered the marked since Herb tied it first. But the basic design is always the same. Black body, yellow tail and collar. White wing.
One of the most popular variation of the Black Ghost is tied with a zonker wing. “Zonker” is a synonym for a type of cut made on skins from various animals such as rabbit, squirrel and mink.
Recently, yet another variation was made public by the superbly talented fly tier Jón Stefán Hannesson. You can find more of his fly tying on his Instagram @arctic_murta
So whether you’re targeting brown trout, sea trout, arctic char or salmon, the Black Ghost should always have a place in your box.