The real origin of the Black Sheep

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Steffen – Good to hear from that you like my Black sheep.

It is not new to hear that Mr. Hubert is claiming my fly. He did not originate the Black sheep he merely gave it its name after I tied it for the first time in 1976.

Three of Halli’s flies. The one in the middle is a classic Black Sheep and the one to the left is a variety. The third is a different fly, called Bliki. All three had seen a lot of action.

The Black Sheep is a lethal salmon fly that has for some reason been credited to Joe Hubert, the well known North American fly fisherman. The fly is though Icelandic through and through and we spoke to Halli Stefánsson, former fire chief of the former Nato base at Keflavík airport

Halli is now about seventy years old yet still going strong on the river banks: A lot of people seem to think that Joe Hubert tied the first Black sheep. Joe and me fished a lot together years ago when he used to come to Iceland. But Joe could never have tied the first Black Sheep because he never tied flies. He didn‘t know how to! He did however unknowingly give the fly its name. Me and Joe are in some books named as joint owners of the Black Sheep but that‘s not the way it was at all.

What happened was, that I was fishing on the Norðurá along with my usual friends from America. Joe was one of them. This was in the nineteen seventies and while tube flies had started to crop up, these fellows were so conservative that they didn´t want to use them. Only the old classic British  flies for them you see! However, although there were plenty of salmon in the river, for some reason they were not in the taking mood. So I decided to take a seat at the vice and try do tie some sort of fly that would resemble a tube, yet was still a fly, as I wanted the guys to try the tubes. A sort of compromise you see. The outcome was a long tail Black Sheep. With the colours I was thinking about the eal larve travelling from the Saragossa up north to various countries were they run the rivers just like salmon. I have this theory about the larger salmon feeding on the eal larve.  You don´t often see it anymore when the fly is tied, but according to the recipe there should be a deep green hue in the blackish body.

Halli, second from right, with some of his American freinds on the Norðurá in the eighties.

The fly had no name when I plucked it from the vice. But when I showed it to Joe, he stared at it as it lay in the fly box alongside the classic British flies, and said: „Halli, this fly looks totally out of place. It looks like the black sheep in the family!

“It seamed like the right name for the fly at the time, so we let it stick. To make a long story short, we went on to catch a lot of fish on the Black Sheep, I tied some more and the others used it as well. The fly has since established itself as a major salmon fly. Although Joe did not come near the making of the fly, he did on the other hand later design the Sheep family. The Sheep family of flies consists of among others, besides the Black Sheep, the Silver Sheep which is a very good fly, the Red Sheep which is a very good late season fly and the Green Sheep which is particularly good in colored water.“

Best regards Haraldur Stefánsson Fire Chief, retired.

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