The Bredbo

Flies With a Story


The Storyteller: Alan Shepherd

Alan started saltwater fishing at a young age. In Sydney he was a deckhand on a charter boat for about 5 years. Returning to Tasmania in the late 1980's he got serious about trout fishing. Noel Jetson, one of Australia's leading fly tiers at the time, taught him how to dress flies. He has a Diploma of Applied Science in Aquaculture and whilst studying at university he discovered a love of researching and writing about fish and fishing matters. Alan fly-fishes the pristine rivers and lakes of Tasmania where trout are big, and in many locations, seeing another angler is a rare occurrence.

Fly Origin: Australia, circa 1896
Flies Tied By: Rob Knisely, KY

Alan's Home: Launceston, Tasmania
Alan's E-mail:


The Bredbo. Tied by Rob Knisely

 Photos by Peter Frailey

Order of Ingredients:

Hook: Size 12
Thread: Black
Body: Yellow floss
Rib: Gold wire
Wing: Hen pheasant wing feather
Legs: Three or four golden pheasant tippets tied in at the head, along each side
Hackle beard: Brown partridge back feathers tied in underneath


The First Australian Trout Fly

Did the early Australian settlers fly-fish? One would think not, they were hard workers with large families and very few comforts. To those hardy pioneers fishing was more than a sport; it was a way to feed the family. Nevertheless, there actually were some fly tiers and fly fishers even before the introduction of trout. During the 1860s Maria Shanklin was making flies for native perch (bass) in Gippsland waters. Maria was the eldest daughter of Alfred Ronalds the author of the classic English work ‘The Fly Fisher's Entomology’ published in 1836. Alfred Ronalds and his family were lured to Australia by the discovery of gold at Ballarat in August 1851. By 1853, there were more than 20,000 miners of many nationalities working on the field.

Many of those early colonists desperately wanted trout to become established as a sport fish so they might enjoy the sport they knew in mother England. After much expense and many unsuccessful attempts, viable Brown Trout ova were successfully shipped from England to Tasmania, the island state of Australia in 1864. The progeny of those trout were introduced into other Australian states, Victoria in 1871–72 and in New South Wales in 1887. Let loose in a new land of ideal conditions, the trout spawned readily and through the process of natural migration, populations dispersed rapidly. Having few aggressive competitors, plus an abundant food supply, the trout grew to record sizes.

It seems that trout flies and other fishing gear were imported from the House of Hardy or Ogden of Cheltenham. English fly rods and reels with braided Irish linen line or silk were used. A lot of fishing gear was home made, especially rods. Perhaps there were some locally made trout flies, however research has not been able to uncover any such patterns. Fly-fishers were scarce and bait fishing was the popular method of fishing, particularly grasshopper fishing in summer. Grasshopper fishing was accomplished by flicking a live grasshopper upstream using a general-purpose fishing rod. The problem was that they couldn't cast the hopper far and often, the casting action would flick the hopper off the hook, therefore a good supply of live hoppers was always required. The scene was set for the first Australian trout fly to be made.


In New South Wales at Jindabyne about 1896 Mr. C.R. Burnside and Dr. A.J. Bardy fished, what is believed to be the first Australian trout fly, a grasshopper imitation. The fly was designed to be fished wet in accordance with the convention of the time. It is unknown who actually tied the fly and Mr. Howard Joseland, a fishing acquaintance, may have dressed it. Joseland states in his book, “Angling in Australia and Elsewhere”, published by Art in Australia Limited, Sydney, 1921. “It was first tried” by Burnside and Bardy, not tied by them. These gentlemen were among the pioneers of fly-fishing in Australia and they were highly influenced by salmon flies.

The fly was named after the Bredbo; a little stream that begins high up in the Great Dividing Range and eventually flows into the Murrumbidgee River. Presumably this is the stream where the fly was first fished.

Compared to the traditional sombre looking English wet fly patterns used in those days, ‘The Bredbo’ is a rather bright looking fly. The use of golden pheasant tippets to represent the grasshopper legs was an extremely groundbreaking development. It is a trait, which has been utilised by most Australian hopper patterns ever since. In Mary Orvis-Marbury’s classic 1892 book ‘Favorite Flies and Their Histories’, there are no patterns whatsoever featuring flies with legs.

--Alan Shepherd

A later version of the Bredbo. Tied by Rob Knisely

Photo by Peter Frailey

Order of Ingredients:

Hook: Size 12
Thread: Black
Yellow floss.
Rib: Gold wire
Pheasant tippets
Speckled hen wing feather
Hackle beard: Brown partridge back feathers tied in underneath

Note: A 1906 ‘Eastways’ catalogue quotes a yellow body, yet other versions show orange


Elsa Lowrie's version. Tied by Rob Knisely

Photo by Peter Frailey

Elsa Lowry:

Elsa Lowrie was a legendary Australian fly dresser. She tied flies and fly-fished from her early teens until she was in her seventies. She died in 1991. She wrote in a letter that she believed ‘The Bredbo’ was Australia’s first trout fly.

Elsa's version:

Size 12
Lime green floss.
Binding: dark green floss silk (twisted)
Underwing: Two triangles of golden pheasant tippets
Brown Turkey (speckled black)



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