The Coch-y-Bonddu is an excellent all rounder, and seems to be equally effective fished either wet or dry. This is a very old pattern and it has been difficult to trace its origin. I have ascertained, however, that an artificial referred to as the Welshman’s Button or Hazel Fly was well known in the seventeenth century; the dressing is so similar I have little doubt that the present day pattern is a development from it. The first reference I found to this early pattern is in a late seventeenth century book called The Angler’s Museum by Thomas Shirly, while the same dressing is also listed in that well known book of the same period, The Art of Angling by Thomas Best. The dressing they give is a body of mixed peacock and ostrich herl with a black hackle, and red wings from a partridge tail.
During the latter part of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century the dressing was slightly modified, with a furnace hackle replacing the black hackle and red wings, and this is how it appeared in Ronalds’ The Fly-Fisher’s Entomology, dated 1836. He also prefixed the name Marlow Buzz. All these authorities seem to agree that this pattern was originally tied to represent the Coch-y-Bonddu, Bracken Clock, or June Bug (Phyllopertha horticola) as it is known in different areas. This is a species of beetle common in both Wales and Scotland, where it is to be observed amongst fern or bracken.
A terrestrial species, they are often blown onto waters in considerable numbers on windy days throughout the month of June. Their bodies and legs are black, the thorax metallic green, while the wings are reddish brown. When these or similar species of beetle are on the water, the artificial should be fished on the top dropper just in or under the surface. As previously mentioned this is also effective fished wet on a sinking line, and like many of these old patterns may be used throughout the season. It is interesting to note that this was very popular as a wet fly on rivers throughout the last century.
An easy pattern to dress, the first step is to tie in a short length of red or orange floss (or fine gold tinsel or wire). This is used to rib the body, which is formed from two strands of herl from near the eye of a peacock feather. This should be tied in thickening towards the shoulder, and is then ribbed with the floss. Finally a furnace cock hackle (red with black tips) is tied in sloping back over the body. Use four turns if a semi buoyant fly is required, but only two turns for a pattern to be fished wet. Some of the older dressings suggest a small tag of red or white wool.
Hooks: Size 8 to 12.
Rib: Orange or Red floss silk.
Body: Bronze green peacock herl – 2 strands.
Hackle: Furnace cock with black tips.
N.B. With the present shortage of good furnace hackles an acceptable alternative is to tie in a small black cock hackle, one to two turns, followed by a large red cock hackle, two to three turns.