September 24th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Is Anything New?
By James Clarke, UK

When I took seriously and exclusively to flyfishing (admittedly I had fished in other ways before, but don't tell anyone) I was working for my family firm of gunmakers and tackle dealers. This was an old-established (1811)company in Belfast and attracted fishermen of every persuasion from all over Ireland and from many corners of the globe.

We sold a vast number of flies, tied by Hardy's, Walker-Bampton, Alex.Martin (of Glasgow) and Crow of Redditch to name but the most noteworthy. Quite a few local, almost amateur, tiers reached an acceptable standard and we bought flies from them when they were offered. Beauty and consistency were everything!

The patterns used then would be regarded today as from a bygone age. I could list them interminably but...boring! Just let me throw in a few-- Defiant, Invincible, Red Spinner, Kingfisher Butcher, Waterhen Bloa, Snipe and Purple, Dotterel and Yellow, Le Fanu, Pink Wickham, Heckham Peckham. How many of these do you have in your flybox?

That is not the reason for this little letter (it might make the subject of a later one.)

Rather the difference in patterns to those we use today. We had quite a few customers of the old school who had an odd habit. It was the custom to tip out a box of, say, twenty flies onto the glass counter-top so the buyer could pick through them to find, say, six that matched his ideas of neatness and uniformity. When selected, these would be rolled between forefinger and thumb, resulting in a fly unrecognizable from a few seconds ago! (these are wet flies in question) This apparent destruction of well set wing and a beautifully arranged hackle appeared sacrilegious but was defended on query as being how the fly would look after frequent casts had taken their toll of the fly's pristine beauty, not to mention the savage treatment by the teeth of a few trout. Many fishermen firmly held that flies would not catch fish until they had acquired that weathered look.

Flies have changed considerably since then and our preoccupation with looks, strict adherence to the original pattern and copycat similarity to each other now appears nit-pickingly unneccesary.

BUT THINK! What is a battered Black Pennel but a Black Buzzer! Bedraggled Red Spinner...Red Buzzer; Grouse and Green with only shreds of wing left...Damsel Nymph; Invicta, Soldier Palmer or Wickham's Fancy...all hatching sedge imitators had we but paused to think. We knew that Butchers, Alexandras and Teal Blue and Silver looked like fry or little fish but all these were available as dry flies!

Think that one out ! ~ James Clarke, UK

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