Fly Tying- the John Storey

hot out Davie McPhail’s vise is a pattern that’s a billion years old an old English classic. apparently this little creature started its life as a wet fly but somehow dried out through time and started to float. at first glance we’ll notice that it doesn’t look like anything in the least bit like any one single bug and even less like an ‘upright’ or, any of the mayfly family at the just-hatched, drying-its-wings-off-and-riding-the-surface-current-before-flying-away stage but, well… game fish aren’t particularly bright and we lovem’ that way.

suffice to say, this is one of those gems on a hook that has stood up proudly to the test of time, to me it’s got fish-catcher written all over it.

john storey dry

“John Storey was a river keeper on the river Rye in North Yorkshire. He devised an artificial fly that has remained popular in this part of North Yorkshire since he first invented it in the 1900’s. It is such a popular fly in Ryedale that it is simply known as “The John Storey”

John made the body of his fly from peacock herl. Herl is the name given by fly dressers to feathers fibres. These particular fibres are found around the “eye” feathers in the spectacular plumage of a peacock’s tail. If you happen to have a peacock to hand, you will see that these fibres have a particularly interesting iridescence; they appear as either a green or bronze colour. Viewed in natural light, they have a real “insecty” kind of hue about them. If you happen not to have a peacock, fear not, many shops now sell peacock feathers as decoration; you could pop into the nearest furnishings department and have a sly look. You may prefer simply to take our word for it.

The use of peacock herl for the bodies of artificial flies was common at the time when our July fly first adorned the waters of the Rye. I would like to think that John Storey obtained his peacock feathers from the nearby Castle Howard Estate.

Spending so much time by the river gave John the opportunity to observe the behaviour of lots of different flies in the process of hatching. He particularly watched a family of flies called the “upwings”. He noticed that they had the habit of floating down the river, wings held aloft, a convincing imitation of a small sailboat. He also noticed that the trout and grayling population of the river ate these newly hatched morsels with great enthusiasm. So, Mr. Storey added a pretend wing to the herl body; he chose to use the tip of a feather taken from the breast of a mallard duck. This species of duck is very common on the rivers on North Yorkshire. It is not difficult to imagine our river keeper picking up moulted feathers and seeing their potential for dressing his trout flies. The first wings were sloped back over the body of the fly. Later on, however, in 1935 John’s grandson modified the wing so that it was made to slope forward over the front of the fly. This is the version that is almost universally used today and Steve has produced it here. To finish his creation, our hero wound around the front of his fly, the feather from the neck of a Rhode Island Red cock. This is called the hackle and helps the fly to float. Some of the angling elders of Ryedale will tell you that the John Storey will not catch fish unless it sports a genuine Rhode Island Red hackle. Well, I’m not so sure about that, but it’s a good story (sorry!).

The John Storey is a dry fly; it is smeared with oil to make it float. When it is cast upon the waters and when it bobs along the surface, the most obvious feature is that little wing. On a sunny day, that spoon shaped appendage also reflects the sunlight and becomes even more prominent. If the fish are looking for a wing to announce the arrival of lunch, that is exactly what they see first. This forward facing wing may well be what makes this fly so effective. Whatever it is, it features very regularly in the successful fly list of many Yorkshire rivers. It has also had a few trips down to the hallowed chalkstreams of Hampshire. I just wish that John Storey were alive today so that I could tell him that it fooled those trout hand over fist too.”

nuff’ said, here’s how to tie your own. enjoy !

quote and image source: Fishing With Style

note: the wing in the image is very different than the wing on Davie’s video. i’d go for the latter as the former is completely wrong on several levels; it’s in the wrong position, is too voluminous and will twist the fly whilst casting. looks pretty though…

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.

Fly Tying- a Blae and Black/Black Pennell two-in-one wet fly

blae
[bley, blee]
Origin
adjective, Scotland and North England
1. bluish-black; blue-gray.

“Ye must be fair starving, Paul,” quoth she softly with her hand on my arm, and I daresay my face was blae with cold and chagrin.
‘The Shoes of Fortune’, Neil Munroblae and black McPhail

now, what’s interesting in this fly’s name is that it doesn’t have any blue components.

ok, black materials almost always have either a blueish or reddish highlight reflection when/if the light hits it just right but it doesn’t matter a single bit because i’m rambling about something irrelevant instead of getting to the point which is: this a f’n awesome fish catching and beautiful fly.

as for the two-in-one and noted in the vid, this pattern is a Black Pennell with a wing. the Black Pennell wet designed by Mr H. Cholmondley (pronounced Chumley) Pennell is a classic that shouldn’t need any introduction to anyone born since 1870.

“Quoting from Fly Patterns and Their Origins by Harold Hinsdill Smedly; “H. Cholmondeley Pennel, 1837-1913, English poet-sportsman and author of The Angler Naturalist 1864; Modern Practical Angler, 1873; The Sporting Fish of Great Britain, Modern Improvements in Fishing Tackle, and Salmon & Trout , 1885, of which he was also an editor, was the originator of that type of hackle fly known as the “Pennell Hackle.” He also originated the turned down eyed and tapered hook which carry his name.
His choice and recommendation of that particular type of hackle fly was in three colors: brown, yellow and green. The body, instead of being bushy or soft, was hard, silk wrapped and thin. The hackle, tied very sparsely, was a little longer than usual.
Although he probably did not realize it when he recommended these patterns of thin bodies and lightly dressed hackles, he started something, for many tiers now recommend and say “dress sparsely,” but he was the first to realize that a lightly dressed fly was oftentimes better than one too heavily dressed.” *

history aside, whether this pattern needs a wing or not to be effective is most probably anyone’s guess and not the fish’s. what it will obviously do however is give the fly a bigger profile and make it look like a bigger somethingoranother instead of a smaller somethingoranother. the good thing about including a wing is it can always be trimmed off waterside with our nippers when big(ger) isn’t on the day’s menu.

enough talk, here’s how to tie the beast. enjoy !

since we’re Pennelling today and variety being the spice of life and all that, here’s an anorexic version of the standard BP tied by superman-tier Hans Weilenmann. following Han’s method you’ll be hard-pressed fitting a wing in there but we all know this fly doesn’t need a wing…

* quote source: Fly Anglers Online

Fly Tying Tutorials- the Silver Invicta

The Invicta was originally known as The Pride of Devon, The Silver Invicta is a variation of the original Invicta fly pattern. The Invicta Caddis wet fly pattern was first mentioned in James Ogden’s book “Ogden on fly tying” which was published in 1879.

that’s 136 years of being a classic fly that not only greatly appeals to fly fishing and tying history buffs but more importantly, to fish. designed to imitate a drowned caddis with its long wing and hackles that imitates legs and a yellow tail to probably imitate eggs, this pattern also works very well as a small bait imitation. primarily designed with still waters in mind used with various retrieves or ‘dead-drifted’ across a wind-swept feeding lane, i’ve had great success with this fly in rivers fished either across with little steady pulls of the line or with the standard ‘down-and-across’ swing.
sure to raise a few hackles from the purists and spurred from the at-the-time reluctance/apprehension i had to try to include matched wing slips to my flies, i’ve had great success by replacing said wing with marabou, fox hair, fine deer hair, swiss straw or simply taking a bunch of fibres from a feather that ‘looks about right’, folding them once or twice and tying the lot on top. although matched wing slips are beautiful at the vise or in the box and are a great way to get a lot of Facebook likes… i’m personally convinced they offer no ‘fishable’ advantage as they’ll just get matted and out of that lovely shape once wet and specially after a fish or two have nibbled on it for a bit.

as always with Davie McPhail’s tutorials, today’s treat not only shows how to tie this lovely Invicta properly but there’s also several tying tips and tricks that transfer over to many-many other patterns. enjoy !

 

When asked why she tied flies she replied, “Because they’re pretty”

“In a cottage in northern Scotland, Megan Boyd twirled bits of feather, fur, silver and gold into elaborate fishing flies – at once miniature works of art and absolutely lethal. Wherever men and women cast their lines for the mighty Atlantic salmon, her name is whispered in mythic reverence and stories about her surface and swirl like fairy tales.

With breathtaking cinematography and expressive, hand-painted animation, this film both adheres to and escapes from traditional documentary form, spinning the facts and fictions of one woman’s life into a stunning meditation on solitude, love, and its illusions.”

Kiss the Water, embrace the beauty. this one’s more than special.
reserve yourself an hour and be sure to watch it in full screen HD. enjoy !

EDIT– sorry folks, the video has been removed.
hopefully its replacement will be available soon. stay tuned !

Floating Flies and How to Dress Them

by Fredric M. Halford 1886 via Thefishingmuseum.org

halford 1

cold, depressed by closed rivers and the oncoming xmas onslaught ? here’s a little something that should distract you for at least a little while. regular readers will already know of my lack of affection for this Halford character but that doesn’t mean that he was all bad. the book is after all a classic and well worth the read, specially at work or hidden away in a back room during family festivities.

halford 2

see ? anyone that says grayling are silly can’t be all bad. click either image to access the complete online book. enjoy !

“ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE !!!

if you got here via a skull & bones/sucky music worshipping-type freak search go headbang elsewhere.

on the other hand, if you’re interested in the re-vamping of historical flies and beauty on a hook read the few excerpts below !

“The Black Prince wet fly is an old pattern. It is shown on the Lake Flies in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. It is also in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a popular pattern and has appeared in other publications as well. The Orvis version has a body made entirely of flat gold tinsel, while the later version in Trout sports a black floss body with a gold tinsel ribbing. Both have red tails, the version in Marbury’s book also has a jungle cock cheek.”
black-prince Don Bastian
“Like so many classic wet flies, trout do not see them, and one ace-in-the-hole trick you can tuck up your sleeve is to hit the water with something different than what everyone else is fishing. How about the Black Prince?”

those being the opening and closing lines of yet another great page on Don Bastion‘s Wet Fly blog, click His Majesty for the complete article, materials list and more on this classic fly’s history. enjoy !

Greenwell’s Glory: The History of a Classic Fly

via A fly Fishing History by Dr. Andrew N. Herd

greenwell

There are all sorts of variations on the story of how the first Greenwell’s Glory came to be tied, but there is no doubt that it was the invention of Canon William Greenwell of Durham, pictured above in his later years. In his early teens, Greenwell learned to fish on the Browney, a tiny beck which winds its way into the Wear within a few miles of where I am writing this article. Our hero was a mere whipper-snapper of thirty-three when he travelled up to Scotland with the Durham Rangers fishing club to their waters at Sprouston and at Henderside on the Tweed, and it was at Sprouston where the idea for the fly came to him. The canon had had a rather thin day’s fishing one day in May when the water was alive with March Browns, but the fish were to determined to take another fly which he couldn’t recognise. Make a careful note of Greenwell’s thoughts:

‘ I caught some of them, and came to the conclusion that the best imitation would be the inside of a blackbird’s wing, with a body of red and black hackle, tied with yellow silk. ‘

greenwell0

It just goes to show how they were conditioned to think in those far off days, because here were the fish rising to take insects on the surface, and yet the canon came up with a classic design for a fly – perfect in every way, but designed to be fished wet. Of course, dry fly fishing was only in its infancy in 1854 and capable fisherman though he was, Greenwell was no revolutionary. So he took his ideas along to Jimmy Wright’s humble abode and told him what was needed. Wright already was the best-known fly tyer on the Tweed and it sounds like he must have been a bit sceptical at first about the new pattern, but he soon changed his mind:

‘ Next day I had as fine a day’s sport as I ever remember, and going, on my return, to James Wright, he asked me what success I had had. I told him I had filled my creel. ‘Why’, he said, ‘but your creel holds 32 lb.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but I have got my pockets full as well.’ ‘Wonderful!’ he said, ‘with March Brown, no doubt.’ ‘No,’ I said, ‘almost all on the new fly. Dress me another dozen for to-morrow… ‘


apart from the vision of creels and pockets stuffed with dead fish… this is cool stuff.
i can’t get enough of these old finds because they continually remind me of all the things we think we discovered recently, but where already known hundreds of years ago…
click either pic for the complete article. enjoy !

a clip-on fly body.

absofrigginlutely brilliant !
clip-on fly TLC 14-11-13

the actual fly is tied on the B-C stem and then it seems to be clipped on to the hook once the silk tippet is tied in.
of a completely different concept but closely resembling the hook-changing possibilities we have with tube flies this is bloody ingenious and something the creative tier might want to experiment with.  since we’re mostly using modern hooks with eyes, my thoughts are we needn’t bother with making clips as the stem can be simply tied in fore and aft and easily trimmed off later if needed. this also brings up ideas of being able to quickly change foam bodies or other softy materials that easily get munched to bits after a few fish but i’m sure we can think of a lot of other uses.
a little research hasn’t shown whether Upton’s patent was a lucrative one or not but this deserves some special attention. be sure to pass on his name if you give this style a go.

(more HERE on the history of hook eyes and the beginnings of the tying vise) 

American Trout-Stream Insects

by Louis Rhead 1914 via OpenLibrary
Am. trout-stream insects TLC 8-11-13
without a doubt we can be pretty sure that hatch timetables and even bug species in the last ninety-nine years have come to be inexistent in some areas while others have taken their place, we’re still left with an enormous wealth of information regarding river-side insect life and how to put this to good use.
geared towards U.S. rivers, anglers from around the world will find similarities and usefulness for their own waters. besides, i’m not sure it really matters, it’s a great read regardless and maybe a reminder that bugs is bugs and fishes is fishes and fly fishing hasn’t changed all that much and there’s still a lot to learn from the past.
americantroutstr00rhearich_0053the many hand-drawn plates created by the author back up all the groovy buggy-fishy info with beauty, further sharing the notion that it’s not just a matter of fish food and catching fish but of creatures to be admired on their own and thank you Mr Rhead for that.
americantroutstr00rhearich_0001
click either image for 177 pages of old school coolness online or HERE to download PDF, Kindle and others to enjoy this offline.

How to Dress It and How to Use It.

not much to not like with a title like that..,
Salmon Fly-dressit, use it
but with topics such as: Underwater Experiments, The ‘Instrument of Satisfaction’ (my favourite !),  Diagnosis of Flies, Symmetry of Flies, The ‘Line-of-Pull’, Holding the Hook (tying these lovely flies by hand) and gorgeous plates like this, that it’s kinda turned into a love affair.

salmonflyhowtodr00kelsrich_0055
this one’s a really special find that i hope you’ll enjoy as much as i did. click either pic to access the complete 510 page book online on OpenLibrary or HERE to download it in pdf file or Kindle and other nifty ways to read it later when offline.

How to Tie Flies without saying a word.

from How to Tie Flies by E. C. Gregg, 1940

From How to Tie Flies, by E. C. Gregg, 1940

and if you think that’s cool and want more, click the pic to access the complete book on gutenberg.org. enjoy !

“And so with skill of the anglers the men circumvent the fish by the following artful contrivance. They wrap the hook in scarlet wool, and to the wool they attach two feathers that grow beneath a cocks wattles and are the colour of wax. The fishing-rod is of six feet long, and so is the line. So they let down this lure, and the fish attracted and excited by colour, comes meet it, and fancying from the beauty of the of the sight that he is going to have a wonderful banquet,opens wide his mouth, is entangled with the hook, and gains a bitter feast , for he is caught.”

little does it know it’ll be going back home in a few seconds without ever having left the water, but then deception is all part of the game i guess.

c&r TLC 6-9-13

title quote: the first written reference to fly fishing and fly tying- Claudius Aelianus 170-235 AD

the earliest flies ?

via The Eclectic Angler

” The earliest record of fly fishing in the known western literature is from Greece in the second century AD. Aelian’s “Natural History” described not only fishing with a fly but presented the first written fly pattern, translated here as “They fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax.” Andrew Marshall tied the four flies in this photo as possible alternatives to the fly described by Aelian. If you are interested in early flies and fly tying, then you need to pre-order a copy of Andrew’s “The History and Evolution of the Trout Fly”! “

early flies eclectic anglerthe first thing that popped into my mind after reading this comment and then seeing these flies is, apart from the silk tippet (and disregarding the use of an obviously modern/contemporary barbed hook), the basic designs could have been created yesterday and not nineteen centuries ago: leaving a somewhat droopy-strange feeling that not a whole lot has happened in the fly tying world since, at least not with your average trout-type flies.

for sure, more recent times have shown us some very unique and creative uses of feathers, such as Roy Christie’s Reversed Parachute style to name just one but the basics are pretty much covered in Marshal’s recreations above.  this also brings up questions like, was dubbing applied in say, the conventional twisted-around-the tying-thread method ? or simply lashed on Cro Magnon style and letting the loose bits roam free ?

is this telling us that trout haven’t evolved since those times and that our continuous need to reinvent the wheel by creating billions of fly tying materials and patterns is nothing but a pipe dream ?
so many questions !  (that only a pure geek could possibly care about… ) but this geek is looking forward to reading this upcoming book. i can’t find any reference to it on their site so, all of this might just be a (geek’s pipe) dream but by clicking the pic you can access Eclectic’s page and check out some pretty cool assemble-at-home reel kits and other out-of-the-box goodies. maybe if we pester them enough they’ll give us a little more info on when this book will be available. i hear that reel-makers are easily intimidated besides, pestering’s always fun…

The Trout Fly Dresser’s Cabinet of Devices

or How to Tie Flies for Trout and Grayling Fishing by H.G. McClelland  “Athenian” (yes, Athenian) 1898%22Athenian%22

some say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, i completely disagree.
i’ve been doing this all my life and to be honest, i seriously doubt that i’ve abandoned a book in mid-read more times than i have fingers on either hand (five) and two of those have been the miserably boring Moby Dick. (i wanted to be sure it wasn’t just a momentary ‘not in the right frame of mind’ thing).
anyhow, if today’s fly fishing literary blast from the past doesn’t entice by it’s understated mysteriousness and greenness then i don’t know what does…
book cover

quirky author names and greenness aside, (and  quite a few great ideas and suggestions on fly dressing that may or may not have held up through time), what brought me and undoubtedly you too to this page is ‘Athenian’s’ Machiavellian decision to use “Cabinet of Devises” in the title. that’s twisted but it’s a good twisted that did the trick.
a very fine read indeed filled with goodies such as advocating the use of peacock quill, how it “shows a well defined rib of color” but also how the young author met his untimely demise “just when the doors of manhood where opening to him… “

click either image to access this complete ebook gem on openlibrary.org
enjoy !
%22cabinet of devices%22

Quill Gordon, Theodore Gordon-style…

by David Stenström

” The Quill Gordon is undoubtedly one of the worlds most well known dry fly patterns. The flies tied by Gordon back in the day looked quite different to the version we are accustomed to today. The other day I was looking through some of my books and came across a few pictures of flies tied by Theodore Gordon himself, and realized…   “

funny thing is i’m not particularly attracted to the historical aspect of fly fishing or tying but i just can’t get enough of David’s flies. from one of the best tiers specializing in the Catskills style, the fly below leaves me breathless.

Theodore Gordon style 640p

for more awesomeness and modern variants of the Quill Gordon click the pic. enjoy !

The Vice (or, The Vise, if you live anywhere to the west of Ireland)

by Dr. Andrew N. Herd via A FlyFishing History

“Amazing though it may seem, the first mention of the vice was by Taylor in 1800. Prior to that it is simply not mentioned. This may seem strange, but there are good reasons why it should be so – very early tyers whipped their hooks directly onto the end of their line, which would have made it difficult for them to use a vice even if it had been invented in those days.”

halfvice

“Adopting the vice meant learning an entirely different way of tying flies, and while patterns were relatively simple, there wasn’t much reason to go to all the trouble of learning new tricks. Besides, a hand tyer could sit down and make flies anywhere, provided there is a patch of sun and a glass of beer to hand, while the vice shackled him to the bench. The ability to tie a new pattern by the waterside is one of the great advantages that we have sacrificed in the name of progress.”

quite interesting  how the tying vise came to be as the direct result of the invention and common use of eyed hooks. amusing as well is how little the basic design of what has become the most basic fly tying tool has changed over time.
as for the Vice vs Vise part i’ve done some sterile research but i’ve passed on the question to some historically-linguistically-minded friends and will update later if they ever make up their minds. my guess is it’s yet another savage North American deviation of the English language… 😛

click the pic for lots more Vice-Vise history. enjoy !

the Tummel fly, nudity and the Highlander

“Of all the original Scottish fly-designs, that of the old Tummel fly must be considered the most individual.  In no other part of Scotland is the dressing of a trout fly so severely curtailed in every respect.  It has been said that the Highlander liked two things naked – his whisky and his women – but the old Tummel fishers extended this preference to their trout flies, which in marked contrast to the rough-dressed flies commonly used for trout fishing in most Highland rivers, all are but naked also. Compared with the true Tummel fly, the daintiest modern nymphal representation is heavily dressed and bulky in appearance.

   The austerity of the dressing of the Tummel fly in itself constitutes the most conclusive refutation of a widely-held assumption that our forefathers could not dress the most dainty and masterly trout flies when they so desired or found it to be necessary.” 

straight from the land of fierce, gorgeous women and men in kilts, here’s a real gem from the now and past found on Donald Nicolson’s Historical Wet Fly & Spider Pattern Site. do yourself the favor of browsing through Donald’s site for an amazing wealth of old-fashioned yet timeless fishy stuff. enjoy !