Fly Fishing Trivia

Besides his classic book Sunshine and the Dry Fly and subsequent correspondence, mostly by others, in angling journals, relatively little has ever been written about Dunne's fishing and fly dressings. They appear from time to time of course in some of the more learned reference works on such things. Perhaps more intriguingly, they have proved memorable enough to appear, and to continue to appear, in angling anecdotes and other less central writings of one sort or another. Here is a selection of those that have come to my attention. Notable afficionados include writer Arthur Ransome and broadcaster Jeremy Paxman.

1890sLawrence G. Green; Thunder on the Blaauwberg, Howard Timmins, 1966.
Chapter 2: While a teenager in South Africa, Dunne would sometimes go sea fishing for white stumpnose off the rocks of Blaauwberg village near Stellenbosch.
1904J.W. Dunne; An Experiment with Time, A.&C. Black, 1927.
pp.41-2: Wet-fly fishing with his brother in Austria, a brief mention.
1926J.W. Dunne; “The Fly on the Water,” in: W.A. Hunter (Ed.); Fisherman's Pie: An Angling Symposium, A.&C. Black, 1926. Republished in Farlows' catalogue.
Dunne's only other published work of fly fishing, besides a handful of correspondence in journals.
1929Arthur Ransome; Rod and Line, Jonathan Cape. Previously serialised in The Manchester Guardian.
(OUP reprint) pp.194-5: Dislikes the mathematical precision of the instructions.
3 lb. 2 oz.
Caught by Mr J W DUNNE in
June 16th 1934
Broughton Castle,
private display.
1955Arthur Ransome; Reader's Guides: Fishing, National Book League.
p.8: Virtues of his Black Gnat, p.25: His book is "Not to be missed.".
1967Richard Brautigan; Trout Fishing in America.
Probably the only time Dunne's flies have been namechecked in a work of fiction.
1970C.R. Pearce; “The Folk Tradition of Fly-Tying”, Trout and Salmon, November 1970. Reprinted in: John Wilshaw John (Ed.); The Best of “Trout and Salmon“, Virgin, 1994.
Virgin p.183. Namedrops Dunne.
1971T. Donald Overfield; “J.W. Dunne”, Trout and Salmon, March 1971. Reprinted in Wilshaw, John (Ed.); The Best of "Trout and Salmon", Virgin, 1994.
pp.207-9. Biopic, some useful comments.
1972T. Donald Overfield; Famous Flies and their Originators, A.&C. Black.
Chapter 13. Perhaps too heavyweight to really belong here, but it does includes hard-to-find descriptions of his hackles and tying silks (not to be confused with the "Cellulite" used for the main body).
1994Arthur Ransome, “Carpe Diem,” in: Jeremy Swift (Ed,); Arthur Ransome on Fishing, Jonathan Cape.
pp.140-1: Anecdote of using a Dunne type which loses its shape but its colour stays spot-on.
1995Jeremy Paxman; Fish, Fishing and the Meaning of Life
Repeats the Ransome Rod and Line anecdote and namechecks Sunshine and the Dry Fly.
2001A.N. Herd; “Sunshine and the Dry Fly, Dunne, 1924”, A Fly Fishing History,
Original url, withdrawn ca. 2017. Preserved by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine at
2008Timothy Benn; “Obituary: John William Dunne,”The Flyfishers Journal, Summer 2008.
2008Terry Griffiths, Donald Overfield and John Knott; Dry Flies in the Sunshine: J. W. Dunne and His Dry Fly Patterns, Creel Press.
A fine limited edition in three volumes, two of which comprise sample flies tied by John Smith.
2009Ed Quigley; Fly Fishing Advice from an Old Timer: A Practical Guide to the Sport and Its Language.
Occasional references in discussions of colour.
2010Luke Jennings; Blood Knots: A Memoir of Fathers, Friendship, and Fishing, Atlantic.
Several mentions and short discussions of Dunne. Wry comment on the exclusivity of his favoured fishing haunts.
2010Darrel Martin; “Terrestrials, Part I: Trout Cannot Live by Aquatics Alone,“ in: Jim Butler (Ed.); Fly Tying: 30 Years of Tips, Tricks, Patterns, Fly Rod & Reel.
pp.122-3: Occasional mention.
2013Rusty Dunn; “Fountains of Youth”, Newscasts, September 2013, Southern Wisconsin Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
Transparency techniques.

Updated 26 July 2019