Sunday, December 5, 2021

Historical, well maybe not. But it's close...

The masters of the North Country spiders were absolute wonders. Many of these gentlemen were able to craft flies that are still taking trout some one hundred and fifty years later. What has always intrigued me was how they researched the materials the chose to use. They obviously had staples such as grouse, woodcock, snipe and many other birds both game and domestic. In our time many of the feathers the masters used are no longer available or are so expensive that they can't be used by us average fly tyers.

Many times we seek alternatives to the historical feathers and many of these alternatives are pretty close to the originals and can just as effective. Below is an example of the North Country spider known as the "Snipe and Purple" a simple pattern of purple silk and a snipe feather.
 

 

 The Snipe and Purple...the only thing is the feather is actually woodcock. Is there a difference well maybe, will a brook trout be able to notice. I believe they can't.

 A underused North Country spider the "Black Magic"...again simplicity that's both elegant and deadly. When those little black stone flies are about come winter this is the fly to drift.



24 comments:

  1. There is nothing "average" about you and your fly tying. Do know if I mentioned it or not, but picking up a bird feather is against the law out here. Got to buy when you tie.

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    1. Not sure that I understand the logic of that Mark, yes killing a bird just for fly feathers ought to be a no no but just picking up the odd one that has moulted or been plucked by a thorny branch?

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    2. Mark Kautz
      Thanks
      Mark you have mentioned the law as it is in CA. We have federal laws here in CT that prohibit the possession of feathers from any of the birds of prey no matter how they are obtained. I'm sure if I look further into this I'll find more.

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    3. John, you think that's odd (it's a law), you should see some of the other weird laws in this state.

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  2. Hi Alan

    Thanks for sharing those beautiful flies......
    Those old boys from the Yorkshire Dales and Pennines certainly knew a thing or two about trout flies and fly tying!
    The 'Snipe & Purple' is a fly I have had average success with over the years (although it often makes a trip out on a three fly cast just in case). However, a fly I have tied (shown to me by an 'Old Boy' on the Tees) using the undercoverts of a Woodcock, a light Hare's ear dubbing and olive floss tag I have found to be absolutely deadly during a Caddis / Sedge Fly hatch.

    Take care and stay safe

    Alistair

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    1. Alistair
      Thanks
      Alistair what makes those old masters special is they never had blueprints to work with. That's a pattern I'll fiddle with.

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  3. Sometimes the old ways are the best, especially when they are tried and tested over the years...somethings are beyond improvement m'thinks

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    1. John
      Thanks
      John you are absolutely correct. Somethings never need improvement and should be left alone. North Country flies are historic and should not be changed.

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  4. I love that soft hackle for stoneflies. Sometimes in winter I will see small ones, maybe #16 or #18 gathered on streamside snow pack.

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    1. Sam
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      Sam watching black stoneflies on the white snow is one of the few pleasures of winter angling. If conditions are good the angler can have an awesome winter day.

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  5. Soft hackle wets and Catskill dry's, my preferred baits. I made up some of your stuffed chicken rolls you mentioned, a while ago. Turned out delicious! Don't forget Alan, sprinkle some poppy seeds around your doorway on christmas eve. Turns out the devil is as fond of poppy seeds as we carpatho-russians. He spots the poppy seeds and gets totally distracted and forgets all about entering your house. Stay safe Alan.

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    1. John Dornik
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      John your two choices in preferred types of flies are spot on. Thanks for trying the recipe. Chicken can be bland at times but spiced up a bit really wakes it up. Poppy seeds, I'll remember that. My focus this month will be clams...any suggestions?

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  6. These simple flies look so elegant in photos. I need to spend more time fishing them in order to gain confidence in them. A Utah killer bug saved me from getting skunked today and it is about as basic as you can get (but totally lacking in elegance).

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    1. Shawn
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      Shawn confidence is the name of the game. Like Alistair who is from the North Country has said before not all of the patterns work all of the time, but it's nice when you reach into the Wheatley and grab a spider that you have not fished before and on the second cast "wham"...yesterday was a nice December day I'm glad you were able to fish and find some takers.

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    2. I enjoy to trying new flies and the thrill that comes with seeing them work. The first time that any particular fly takes a fish is memory-worthy.That's why I appreciate all that you share as it gives a good mix of advice and inspiration.

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  7. Good morning Alan- A lot of American fly tyers don’t realize that it is illegal to possess feathers from any birds on the U.S. protected list. This includes common song birds, birds of prey and many other wild birds. Game birds are allowed as well as what the government considers “Nuisance birds” such as starlings. The reason for all of this has to do with the fact that at the turn of the century feathers were a massive part of the lady’s fashion trends of the day. The more exotic the better and the craze led to many South American birds like the Bird of Paradise almost going extinct. Common songbirds and birds of prey were being wiped out as well all in the name of fashion. I read somewhere that the single most expensive highest insured item lost on the Titanic was a crate full of exotic feathers. The recent book “The Feather Thief” details all of this and how early environmentalist convinced the fashion industry to stop using wild birds.

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    1. Dean F
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      Dean now that makes sense. I know of some Atlantic salmon files that have some rare feathers in their recipes. That's really something when the most expensive loss on the Titanic were bird feathers. Jungle Cock capes are my most exotic feathers. They are still legal.

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  8. The Snipe and Purple is my favorite for the early season little black stoneflies. Your Woodcock and Purple looks great and I am sure the trout would love it! Thanks for showcasing these incredibly effective classic flies.

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    1. NJpatbee
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      Pat it's amazing how the trout will focus in on such a tiny bland simple fly, but they do. Some nights I'll sit and tie just spiders...

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  9. Harold Howarth created the Henthorne Purple. He felt the snipe feather was too delicate so substituted a mallard wing covert feather.

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    1. wsbailey
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      Henthorne Purple, now that's one I have not heard of, but I will follow up and tie it. Mallard is easier to access then snipe, another plus.

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  10. Beautiful patterns from perfectly acceptable alternatives! You are a wiz at subbing these out Alan! Simplicity and perfection!
    Dougsden

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    1. Dougsden
      Thanks
      Doug one of the many things I learned from my time in the Army was to "improvise" you well know that you can run out of room and go broke if you buy "all" that is needed to tie flies.

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