I started dressing fishing flies after obtaining a small fly-dressing kit from Brown’s fishing tackle shop in Belmont Street, Aberdeen. The kit contained all the materials required to dress about six trout flies. I was then fortunate enough to receive instruction from Bill Phillips.  Bill was a salmon angler who made wooden Devon minnows on a lathe and dressed all his own flies by holding the hook in his fingers. 

Bill was retired and extremely strict in his approach to fly dressing. This early instruction gave me a sound foundation and an injection of enthusiasm that is still as strong today as it was all those years ago.  Over the years, I have been extremely lucky, and learned an immense amount from the greater knowledge and experience of numerous individuals.


For me, fly dressing has always been a very enjoyable and extremely important part of fly fishing.  When I first started dressing flies, finding decent hen or cock capes was extremely difficult or almost impossible.  This has dramatically changed and today we can find with ease a range of neck and saddle capes to satisfy the most pernickety fly-dresser.

Despite the excellent and vast array of readily available synthetic  materials, I am always drawn back to natural materials and enjoy the challenge of trying to produce subtle colours by using local plants and roots including everyday items such as onion skins.  I record the results of my dye experiments and a book detailing my notes on the use of natural dyes was published in 2016 by Coch-Y-Bonddu books. I enjoyed the experience leading up to the publication and am grateful to Paul Morgan for giving me the opportunity to publish the book.

I have always enjoyed reading old angling books and am continually impressed at the levels some of the fly dressers/anglers of days long gone went to in pursuit of their sport. I admire the way they communicated without the availability of modern-day computers, fast broadband, and mobile phones. They documented everything in meticulous detail, without their books and records a significant amount of history would be lost to the passage of time.

After reading articles on old horsehair fly lines, I have made a tapered horsehair line and the strength of the hair has surprised me. Individual strands of hair were placed together and twisted together to form a lynk or snood.  They were then joined by knots to other lynkys.  To build on the experience of making the first line, I have plans to make a knotless line.

I continually strive to get a better understanding of the skills used and the problems met by fly dressers/anglers of days long gone.  Achieving that level of understanding will add to the satisfaction I already receive from this fascinating and rewarding passion.

 

The Black Silk

 

Dressing:
(Ernest Crosfield - The Salmon and Trout Magazine - January 1923)
Tag: Silver tinsel and yellow floss.
Tail: Golden Pheasant topping and tippet in strands.
Body: Black floss ribbed with oval silver tinsel.
Body hackle: Claret.
Under wing: Tippet in strands, the point of a golden pheasant breast feather and one or two toppings.
Throat: Blue Jay.
Over wing: About six strands of a golden pheasant's tail and about two strands from an  Amherst pheasant's tail to be tied on together on the left side and again on the right side.
Roof: Two narrow strips of dark mallard.

 


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