I get the feeling upon reading The Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers that
Colonel Michael Childers may have been considered something of a black sheep by the rest of this
military family. Hugh C.E. Childers goes on to become an Admiral in the British navy, among
other things, while the only mention of Michael in this memoir is as follows:
"Colonel Walbanke Childers, my grandfather, who was
for many years on the staff of the Duke of York, both at the Horse
Guards and in the Low Countries. He commanded his regiment,
the 11th Light Dragoons, as did his brother, Colonel Michael Childers,
C.B., an officer of distinction in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, and at
Bhurtpore. He was keen sportsman, and the "Childers" fly is well
know on the Tweed. "
That appears to be it. Perhaps the lure of field and stream was just too much, and he was led astray
and never realized the ambitions that characterized the rest of the family, we'll never know.
But as for me, I say a life well spent. As far as the fly goes, it's a classic in every last
sense of the world, and a real favorite of many of us who do these. William Henderson, in his book
My Life as an Angler, gives Childers a lesson in worm fishing after a chance encounter,
and has this to say of the get together:
"I cannot close my narrative of this short campaign without some reference to the two gentlemen with
whom on its first day we had the pleasure of becoming acquainted. The names of both may be considered
historical. Colonel Childers had been for many years a leader in the sporting world, and an authority
whose opinion was considered decisive in almost every description of sport."
Childers' name peppers the
fly fishing literature of the day, as in this example from a trip to the Awe from Seventy Years' Fishing
by Charles George Barrington:
"Two well-known sportsmen, Major
Pearson and Colonel Childers, were wont, in bygone days,
to stay at Taynuilt for the summer fishing. Major Pearson
and Colonel Childers ' were both credited with having
killed a fish of 40 Ibs. "
H. Cholmondeley-Pennel gives the following dressing for the fly, with comments, in his
classic work Fishing, from 1886:
Tag: Silver twist and light blue silk.
Tail: A topping with strands of red macaw, powdered blue macaw,
Butt: Black herl.
Body: Two turns of light yellow silk continuing with light yellow
seal's fur, leaving one-fifth at the shoulder for scarlet seal's fur.
Ribbed: Silver lace and silver tinsel.
Hackle : A white furnace hackle dyed light yellow.
Throat: A scarlet hackle and light widgeon.
Wing: Golden pheasant tippet and tail, turkey, silver pheasant, pintail,
summer duck, bustard, powdered blue macaw, parrot, red macaw,
and gallina, with two strips of mallard above and a topping.
Horns: Blue macaw.
Head: Black herl.
"This fly is an old favourite, having been introduced about the year
1850. Dressed large or small it kills well in any part of the three
kingdoms. Originally Colonel Childers, who was the inventor, ' formulated '
this fly without a topping, but there is some justification for the
addition of one, as, to use his own words, he 'always put one when he
could get it.' The black ' list ' down the centre of the hackle has a very
telling effect in the water.
It is as well to note that ' turkey,' unless when otherwise indicated,
means the brown mottled feather. "
It's interesting to note that this recipe comes through many authors' books virtually
unscathed, though almost all replace the Silver pheasant with Amhurst pheasant. Then of
course there is always Pryce-Tannatt, who could never leave a good thing alone. I've got
to quote one of the fine fly dressers of the modern era here, Wolfgang von Malottke from Germany,
whose favorite fly is the Childers. He says on his web page, after giving the recipe for Colonel
Michael Childers' beloved fly:
"The Childers is my own personal favorite - - the absolute perfect combination of colors, The originator
was a Colonel Childer, and according to my research he developed this excellent piece of artwork sometimes
around 1885. Like other classics there are many variations on this one , everyone has his right to an
opinion I suppose. But to do as Pryce-Tannatt seemed to do, and completely devastate such a beautiful fly
pattern is beyond my comprehension."
As you can see, passions run high where this fly is concerned. We all make little tweaks on these flies as
we do them, many times dictated by material availability and suitability. Dr. Pryce-Tannat went way beyond little
tweaks, often changing the fly into something else altogether. Here is another version of the fly from Kelson:
Tag: Silver twist and light blue silk
Tail: A topping, strands of red and powdered blue macaw, and pintail
Butt: Black herl
Body: Two turns of light yellow silk, followed by light yellow seal's fur, and three turns of scarlet seal's fur at the throat
Ribs: Silver lace and silver tinsel (oval)
Hackle: White furnace hackle, dyed light yellow [badger is specified elsewhere, and makes more sense]
Throat: A scarlet hackle and widgeon
Wings: Strands of tippet, and tail of golden pheasant; brown mottled turkey, Amhurst pheasant, pintail,
bustard, summer duck, parrot (green), powdered blue and red macaw, gallina, mallard and a topping
Horns: Blue macaw
Head: Black herl
Credits: The Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers by Lieut.-Col. Spencer Childers, C.B.;
My Life as an Angler by William Henderson;
Fishing by H. Cholmondeley-Pennel; Seventy Years' Fishing by Charles George Barrington;
Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin; Classic Salmonflies,
Wolfgang Von Malottke
Eric lives in Delaware, Ohio and fishes for brown trout in
the Mad River, a beautiful spring creek. More of his flies
are on display here:
Traditionalflies.com -- Classic salmon and
trout flies of Europe and the Americas.