Palmering, Pilgrims, fly tying history, the Worm and the Plague

thanks to this great comment left by reader Phil Foster on yesterday’s brainwashem’ young- Julian’s Wouf-Wouf salmon fly in regards to my mentioning “in the fly tying world, ‘palmering‘ means winding a hackle around the hook shank, not pulling hackle fibres back before winding/palmering the hackle to the hook shank.”

palmerworm 3“Per “The Fly Fisher’s Illustrated Dictionary” authored by Darrel Martin…….PALMER
A forward-spiraling hackle, a running hackle, with or without stem gaps; also called a ‘buzz hackle’; any fly tied with palmer hackle. The tying technique of spiraling a hackle laterally along the shank or body of a fly; the hackled, artificial fly resembling the Palmer worm, dated 1651; an artificial resembling a Palmer-worm, a hairy, wandering tineid moth larva. The term ‘palmer’ comes from the wandering pilgrim-beggar or palmer, “… the Palmer got its name from the pilgrims who walked …to the Holyland in fulfillment of a vow. When they came back home they wore pieces of palm leaves in their hats to signify they had made that long journey and were called palmers….Because a caterpillar , with all it’s legs, does a lot of walking, it likewise became a palmer” ( Harold Smedley, ‘Fly Patterns and Their Origins'[1950]. The medieval Palmer wore crossed palm leaves to indicate his travels.” The Palmer Worm is a small worm covered with hair, supposed to be so called because it wanders over all plants”( Charles Bowlker, ‘The Art of Angling’ [1839]”

which got me to wondering about how the verb ‘Palmering’ originated (actually, i’ve been wondering about this for years but never took the time to do a little research…) and found some interesting if not mostly completely non-fly tying related results yet they’re all related to this very stylish and hairy bug. enjoy !


Dictionary

palmerworm
noun palm·er·worm \-ˌwərm\
Definition of PALMERWORM
: a caterpillar that suddenly appears in great numbers devouring herbagepalmer worm

“I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increased, the palmerworm devoured [them]: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD”

“Ancient Palmer Worm. THE Palmer-Worm, or Pilgrim-Worm, mentioned in Joel i. 4, and Amos iv. 9, was a voracious, hairy caterpillar, which was, with the locust, a scourge of the East. Even before it reaches the winged state it is very destructive, but after it attains that period, its ravages are terrible.”

“That which the palmer-worm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the canker-worm eaten; and that which the canker-worm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten.”

suffice to say, and for our fly tying purposes, even if it is somewhat amusing to see how our prickly friends where transformed into crawling, earth-sucking  Mothra-esque demons, we can completely ignore all this biblical stuff, safely continue our fly tying activities and sleep well at night knowing how the hackling technique got its name.
 
palmerworm 2 it’s a little sad to see such a lovely creature get so much bad press but in the end, we’re still around to admire its beauty and be thankful for inspiring early fly tiers to create what is one of the most basic tying techniques there is.

4 thoughts on “Palmering, Pilgrims, fly tying history, the Worm and the Plague

  1. Thank you for your kind words Marc. I find it interesting that almost every American fly fisher’s personal fly tying history begins with the Wooly Worm and the palmered hackle technique. It was the first fly that I taught both of my children to tie and the tradition will continue with my grandchildren.

    Regards, Phil

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