So you thought furnace was simple?

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So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby daringduffer » Sat May 14, 2016 4:51 pm

I am reading a new, to me, book and feel like shaaaring.

I have typed all this and it is 5 of the 133 pages in the book. The topic of furnace versus coch y bonddu has been discussed here before, and I suppose this can be useful information.

I have been wanting this book for quite a while but it has always been expensive. This copy cost me £1.98 + shipping. That is dirt cheap.

Frank Elder died before the book was printed. His son has a site you can visit.


"The Book of the Hackle", Frank Elder 1977;
Colour p51 ff

8. Furnace: At the present time it is generally agreed that a furnace hackle is one with a black list and the outer colour red. As with a badger, a good example is rare. A hackle which has the black extending only a short way up the shaft or even showing only at the base is very common, i.e. the 'Black-Butted Reds' of the Flyfishers' Collection. The wild Red Jungle Cock, the Indian sub-species in particular, has a well defined black list in the large neck hackles, but it disappears by the time the head is reached. Reasonably good quality and shape can often be obtained in this colour although it is difficult to produce one of the quality of a fine red. Unlike the badgers, where a poorly coloured list is often a fault, in the furnace, the list is almost always a good dark black. The outer colour, in the game breeds, is the bright shade of the true Red Game, but it can be obtained in the whole red range from dark ginger to very dark red.

At the present day it is generally understood amongst flydressers that a furnace hackle is one with a black list and red outside, while a coch y bonddu has a black list, red outside and the tips of the barbs are black; i.e. furnace: black/red, coch y bonddu: black/red/black. It was John Henderson (5), however, who pointed out that this difference has not always been accepted and when the back history is studied, a rather fascinating story unfolds. I am again indebted to Jack Heddon for his notes on this subject.

In 1836 Ronalds (6) specifies a furnace hackle for three of his flies. For his Downhill Fly (No 21) (called oak fly in later editions) he states, 'Legs. A furnace hackle (i.e. a red cock's hackle with a black list up the middle, and tinged with black also at the extremities of the fibres)'. In the illustrations of all three flies, the hackle is shown as having black tips. His furnace therefore is black/red/black, but unfortunately he does not tell us what he calls a hackle without black tips. His Marlow Buzz (No.30) is given the alternative names of 'Hazel Fly, Coch a bonddu, Shorn Fly' and the hackle is given as 'a dark furnace cock's hackle'. The illustration of the beetle of which the Marlow Buzz is a representation is a typical black and red.

Hofland (7) in 1839 appears to be the first author to give the name of 'coch-a-bonddu' to the hackle to be used for the Coch y bonddu fly and gives the colour as 'red and black'. Francis Francis (8) gives a 'dark red hackle with a black streak up the centre' for his Coch Coch y bonddu fly. Many other writers could be quoted.

Up to this point therefore the point accepted by all dressers was that the hackle to be used to represent the Coch y bonddu Beetle should be dark red with a black list. Some specified that the tips should be black; others did not.

In 1885, however, G. M. Kelson (4), who wrote extensively on salmon flies for the Fishing Gazette, decided that the names for these hackles should be standardised and he wrote a letter to the editor of that magazine stating that furnace was black/red and and a coch y bonddu black/red/black. He went even further, producing the names white furnace and white coch y bonddu to name the hackles that we now lump under the name of badger and even blue furnace and blue coch y bonddu. The interesting thing is that in the considerable correspondence that followed his letter, not a single person agreed with him. Fly-dressers who had been brought up in North Wales where the coch y bonddu was popular were adamant that both names could be and were used for the same hackle. One writer suggested that furnace was the English name and coch y bonddu the Welsh. Halford summed up the discussion by writing, 'I am diffident of expressing an opinion opposite to that of so experienced a fly-dresser as Mr Kelson, but think the majority of your readers will agree with me that the terms coch-y-bonddhu and furnace as applied to hackle are synonymous'.
When challenged Kelson admitted that he had made up the names white and blue furnace and coch y bonddu and gave as his only authority for the difference between furnace and coch y bonddu that he had smples put up by his father in 1836 which were labelled this way. He does not examine the possibility that his father like others in Wales at that time used both names for black/red hackle with or without black tips.

The interesting point is that although no one agreed with Kelson, his names gradually came to be accepted. In 1892, when Hale (9) published his book on salmon flies, he followed Kelson's nomenclature and gave diagrams of these hackles. In 1895 Kelson's own book was published and named illustrations of the hackles were again given.

Up to 1885 either name was used for black/red or black/red/black hackle, but from then a gradual change took place until eventually Kelson's names were used as it is today.

All this would only be of academic interest were it not for the fact that a fly-dresser when tying a fly introduced a long time ago must appreciate that this change did take place and that the black and red cock's hackle spcified may not be the one that goes by that name today. The outstanding example is the famous 'Greenwell's Glory'. Courtney Williams (10) states that he had seen a letter in Canon Greenwell's own handwriting giving the tie and he gives this dressing in his book. The canon specified a coch y bonddhu hackle. It is probable that a hen hackle was used for the original and that it was fished as a wet-fly. I have never seen what we now call a coch y bonddu - black/red/black - in a hen hackle and Skues stated that they did not exist. Therefore the original fly would almost certainly be black/red and a fly in possession of the Flyfisher's Club, said to be original, bears this out. Therefore although Canon Greenwell called it coch y bonddu, the hackle used was what we call furnace.

The furnace and coch y bonddu seem to be doomed to muddle for there is even disagreement as to how their names should be spelt. Atkinson (11) calls the game cock of this colour 'furnace' and says it was so called because it resembled the flames rising from the black coals in a furnace. In the correspondence in the Fishing Gazette in 1885 it is suggested that the correct spelling is furness named after the Old English Game popular in the Hundreds of Furness in Lancashire. In his book Harrison Weir (12) also supports this spelling. Both the birds and the hackles are frequently spelt furness today and although I must admit that Harrison Weir's explanation sounds to me a little more likely than Atkinson's, I have used furnace since this is the spelling that seems to have been used by all the writers in the early part of the nineteenth century.

Taverner (13) says that Ronalds spelt it furniss. This, however, is not correct. In his first edition Ronald spells it furnace, but in one of the later editions it appears as furniss due, no doubt, to an error in type-setting.

The name coch y bonddu has been written in many different ways. Every book seems to have a different spelling. I have no knowledge of the Welsh language, but Horsfall Turner (14) in an excellent article gives a very full discussion of the subject and I follow his spelling, which I am sure is correct.

We are now very used to calling a hackle with black list and red outside furnace, so I consider that we should accept it as the name for this marking and colour.

Accepting furnace for the normal bi-colour, what should we do with a furnace with black tips to the barbs? Does it deserve a special category? Should we retain the name coch y bonddu? Personally I can see no reason for doing so. A furnace of pale or medium red with black tips to the barbs is rare, very rare. A very dark red furnace frequently has black tips, in fact if it is a really dark furnace such as you would choose to tie a coch y bonddu fly, it will almost certainly have black tips. The badger frequently has black tips and yet no one but Kelson has thought it neccessary to give this hackle a special name. Is it essential for any fly that the hackle should have black tips? Is not the shade of colour the important thing? I suggest, therefore, that we should discard the bulky name of coch y bonddu since it serves no really useful purpose and we should refer to this hackle as a 'dark furnace'. If the dresser considers that black tips are desirable, he can say so:' dark furnace with black tips'.

Recently I have come across another version of the meaning of the word coch y bonddu. In the commercial hackle market, this can be taken to describe a cape where the tip of each hackle is black, not the tip of each barb. Since the colour of the tip of a hackle can be of no importance, since it is always tied in or cut off, this description is pointless. I suspect that it arose owing to commercial pressure to supply the demand for coch y bonddu capes. Capes where the hackles have barbs with dark tips are not common but furnace capes where the point of the hackle itself is black are not uncommon particularly in imported capes. Surely this is another reason why we should dispense with this name which has always caused confusion.

Now we come to another name which seems to have come into use in the last thirty years: 'Greenwell'. The 'Greenwell's Glory' tied by the famousTweed fly-dresser James Wright for Canon Greenwell was, we believe, a wet-fly, but it has become so famous that the fly tied with a stiff cock hackle and fished dry is called by the same name. As I have indicated, although the original tie was written as a coch y bonddu hackle, what was certainly used was what we now call furnace. If, as we presume, the hackle was a hen hackle, then not only must it have been without black tips, but was almost certainly a pale furnace, for while a furnace with a bright red outer is common in a cock hackle, it is very rare in a hen. The normal hen furnace hackle is brown with a black list. It is therefore almost certain that the original fly as tied by James Wright had a brown hackle with a black list, but I cannot see that there is any real reason for producing a special name for a hackle of this colour, when a 'pale furnace' is equally adequate.

Commander Walker follows Kelson and lists blue furnace and blue coch y bonddu, which is surely a mistake. By blue furnace Kelson meant a hackle with a blue not a black list. This is a complete muddle. His furnace is red with a black list and his white furnace is a white with black list, but his blue furnace changes the colour of the list not the outer colour. If a hackle with a blue list is called a blue furnace, where do the blue dun bi-colours come in? Honey dun must disappear. He says that in his blue furnace, a name he admitted he made up, he gives the outer colour as 'sometimes grizzly, grey, a honey or a golden', in other words a honey dun. So let us finish with blue furnace. I wonder whether a honey dun hackle with blue points and which could therefore be called blue coch y bonddu has ever been seen.

Kelson also describes a 'kneecap' and Walker has followed him. This is said to be a very rare hackle with red list and edges and black between. He says that it comes from a cross between a Polish and a Malay fowl. I have never seen one and I know of no tie which specifies this hackle. If it is required, it can easily be dscribed under off-colours, so I see no purpose in retaining this name.

4. Kelson, George M. 'The Salmon Fly', London, 1895. 'The Fishing Gazette', 1885.
5. Henderson, J., 'Cochybonddu and Furnace Hackles', Flyfishers' Journal, Vol. 25, Spring 1936.
6. Ronalds, Alfred, 'The Fly-Fisher's Entomology', London, 1836.
7. Hofland, T.C., ' The British Angler's Manual....', London, 1839.
8.Francis, F., 'A Book on Angling...,1867; fifth edition, London,1880.
9. Hale, J.H., 'How to Tie Salmon Flies', London, 1892.
10. Williams, A. Courtney, 'A Dictionary of Trout Flies', 2nd edition, London, 1950.
11. Atkinson, Herbert, 'The Old English Game Fowl', London, 1891.
12. Weir, Harrison, 'Our Poultry', 1902.
13. Taverner, Eric, 'Fly-Tying for Trout', London, N.D. (1942).
14. Turner, Eric Horsfall, 'Cocky Bonne Dee', 'Flyfishers' Journal', Vol. 58, Winter 1969.

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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby redsedge » Sun May 15, 2016 4:04 pm

Good score on the price of that book, Stefan. You now have only 128 more pages to share with us. :D
Seriously, thanks for those five pages. I have always wondered about the Furnace, Coch y Bonddhu, Greenwell's distinctions, and if they really mattered.
Cheers, min vän!
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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby Johnno » Mon May 16, 2016 2:25 am

Very interesting. What does he say about Cree?
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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby daringduffer » Mon May 16, 2016 2:59 pm

His No. 9. is Cuckoo; "A white or near white hackle with black transverse bars".

His No. 10. is Creel; "As with cuckoo, but the cross bars are red not black. This comes from the Old English Game fowl called by this name, now a very rare variety. The shortened name cree is also used for this bird. Creel is frequently used to describe the black and white hackle, but I think that we should reserve the name creel for for the red/white and call the black/white cuckoo.

Very frequently one finds a barred cape whose hackles have all three colours, the bars being black and red, and these are often very beautiful hackles. I suggest that those should not be given a special classification, but should be called 'creel with black' ".

His No. 11. Grizzle:"I retain this name to describe a hackle of any colour which has a barring distinctly or indistinctly marked. Ginger grizzle, blue dun grizzle etc".

His hackle classification is as follows:


1. White; Pure white.

2.Cream; From off-white to dark cream.

3. Ginger; From dark cream to pale red.

4. Red; From pale red to dark red.

5. Black; Jet black.


6. Badger; Black list, outer white or cream. Tips of barbs sometimes black.

7. Yellow Badger; Black list, outer from cream to pale or medium ginger. Tips of barbs sometimes black.

8. Furnace; Black list, outer from ginger to dark red. Tips of barbs sometimes black.


9. Cuckoo; Black and white bars. Pale to dark can be used to describe the general coloration of the whole hackle.

10. Creel; As cuckoo but ginger or red replaces the black.

11. Grizzle; Not a colour on its own, but a description of the marking, e.g. ginger grizzle is a ginger with a certain amount of
barring showing.


12. Dun; A pale dun colour all over.

13. Blue dun; From pale grey to near black. Brownish overtone to a lesser or greater amount.

14. Rusty dun; A blue dun spangled with rust colour. If pale, medium or dark is used this should refer to the shade of the blue dun

15. Honey dun; Blue dun list, outer normally honey colour but can be from cream to near red. If pale, medium or dark is used,
this should refer to to the shade of the blue list, the shade of the outer colour to be described if required.

16. Off colours; All other hackles which cannot be placed in any of the classes and have to be described.

He goes into great detail regarding colour, shape, quality and so on.

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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby hankaye » Mon May 16, 2016 4:59 pm

dd, Howdy;

This gentleman truly lays out the colors so that they can be understood.
Just looked the book up, found it on Amazon; ... 0707302234
just under $50.00 :shock: . Reckon it'll have to wait awhile to find a home here in N.M.

Striving for a less complicated life since 1949...
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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby Johnno » Tue May 17, 2016 3:37 am

Great. Thanks!!!!
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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby Smuggler » Tue May 17, 2016 2:44 pm

Incredible. Makes you think where in the world do some of these hackle names come from.
Furnace is a favorite of mine and I rarely pass a nice one up at tying shows. I've never seen a "Coch y Bonddu" and from the sounds of it, probably never will!
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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby daringduffer » Tue May 17, 2016 4:05 pm

Smuggler wrote: I've never seen a "Coch y Bonddu" and from the sounds of it, probably never will!

My source has bucketloads of them. They were shipped from India. Probably available in US too. Quality cannot compare to genetic capes but colour and variation easily can. Some of the descriptions are poetry. I think Ken Sawada is a possible source too.

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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby Smuggler » Wed May 18, 2016 7:23 am

You're right Stefan. Ken probably has a couple. He's got some beautiful capes!
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Re: So you thought furnace was simple?

Postby wsbailey » Sun May 22, 2016 10:38 am

This picture shows Kelson's knee Cap hackle feather:

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