Famous fishing fly is inspiration behind ‘Findhorn Killer’ brew

Seb Jones and George Lilley (pic: Ollie Pilcher)

The Forres creator of one of Scotland’s successful salmon flies has been immortalised – in beer.

George Lilley, 77, who has been fishing on the River Findhorn, Moray “since he was old enough to walk”, created the famous brightly-coloured Findhorn Killer fly to stand out in the peaty-coloured waters of the local rivers.

First tied in the early 1970s, it has since gained wide recognition as one of the most successful salmon flies used in Scottish rivers.

Now his local brewery has named its latest beer ‘Findhorn Killer’ to celebrate the area’s salmon fishing culture.

Managing director of the Forres-based Speyside Craft Brewery, Seb Jones (28), explained how the beer got its name. “The brewery supplies beer to a lot of fishing and shooting parties, so we felt we should mark that connection with a new beer,” he said.

“As everyone knows we like to name all our beers after local icons and our sales manager, Dan – himself a keen angler and regular user of the Findhorn Killer fly – came up with the name because of the colours of the fly reflected our new red India Pale Ale.

“We then discovered that a local angler had created the fly many years ago, and we’ve been trying to track him down for ages. Given that the fly was created in the 70s, we were beginning to fear that its creator had passed away but were delighted to find him in good health and still fishing. We invited him to the brewery to sample the beer and take in a tour. It was a great moment for all the team.”

Former Gordon Highlander George has spent his rich and varied life in field sports. He had his first fishing beat licence whilst still a junior, owned the Forres tackle shop, managed an angling river for a Scottish estate owner, remains an honorary member of the Forres Angling Club along with his wife, and until recently trained Springer spaniels to competition level.

One proud record he set in 1962 – and one he still holds – is for Light Machine Gun accuracy. He was a physical training instructor when in the army, and was part of a team that competed in the international shooting competition in Bisley, winning the China Cup for his regiment.

The accuracy attained by him and his team has never been bettered in more than 50 years.  He has made fly rods for the aristocracy and sporting celebrities, such as the Duchess of Westminster and golf’s Jack Nicklaus.

Speaking at the Forres brewery he revealed that he’d heard of the beer being named during a recent fishing trip with friends: “I did wonder why it had been so-called, but I can see the connection now,” he said.

“It’s very unusual for a beer to be connected with angling in this way, but if it’s as successful as the fly has been all these years I’m sure it’ll do well. However, I was glad to sample some to make sure it’s up to the mark!”

George explained how the fly developed, adding: “The Findhorn Killer was one of the first flies I tied using hair, as I couldn’t get the exotic bright feather material very easily at that time.

I first called it the ‘Findhorn fly’ as it was designed to stand out in the peaty water of that river. The full name came about when an angler customer tried it out, had great success and came back into the shop asking for several more, describing it as a ‘killer fly’. I liked the name and it stuck.”

The Speyside Craft Brewery names all its beers after Moray Speyside icons to help promote the area. These include Randolph’s Leap lager, Bottlenose Bitter, Lady Macbeth Ale, Moray IPA and Bow Fiddle Blonde.

Since its launch in September 2014, the Findhorn Killer has quickly become the brewery’s best seller.

For more information visit the Speyside Craft Brewery online.

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