Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by ForumGhillie » Wed Dec 05, 2018 5:09 pm

dd, I think Jimmy is out of silk now. :D
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by Greenwell » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:01 pm

Bazzer69 wrote:
Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:07 pm
Thanks for posting. Although I hail from the country once called Great Britain this is the first time I’ve seen a genuine Saywer Nymph. Is there any chance of a close up of his Red PT and the Killer Bug? I’m interested to see the colour of the wire etc he used. He did write a very small book on his upstream nymphing which I once owned but sadly do not any longer. I suspect his source of wire was the lacquered red that was found in small transformers and the like. What strikes me the most about these photos is the fact that they all are pretty “scruffy”. Look at the difference between the top Killer Bug and the bottom one.
Barry

Barry,

The wire color in the Sawyer nymphs I have on the original cards is much more a copper brown than the red that everyone expects. I will try to shoot a couple close up photos of them if I can. In the meantime, here is a shot of one of my PTs tied with wire that is very close to the original. (I have experimented with various wires for PTs for many years and have found that color doesn't seem to matter: size and suppleness are more important. The very best that I have found is some inexpensive stuff from India!)
Pheasant Tail Nymph.jpg
Pheasant Tail Nymph.jpg (158.96 KiB) Viewed 1200 times
This fly is on a TMC 3769 size 14, a shorter hook than Sawyer used but one that has been my choice for these flies for over 30 years. Sight fishing with PT nymphs is by far my favorite method of fly fishing. It's a stalker's game and demands a great deal of observation and concentration. I have never tired of it.
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by Bazzer69 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:22 pm

I agree that the color of the wire is and was not all that important. According to Franks book, as best as I can remember, the nymph was originally designed to be cast upstream in the Hampshire Chalckstreams were downstream fishing was banned. He used a long leader which, when cast from a dry fly rod, arched and the fly landed with a little plop upstream of a Brown trout. The copper wire was to aid this little “plop” rather than to sink the fly. Back in his day, I think he was a gamekeeper on the Nether Wallop, fishing only took place during a hatch and to rising fish. Unfortunately I was never privileged enough to be allowed to fish any of those streams and had to be content with reading about it. Such is the dumb and unfair class system in the uk.
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by ForumGhillie » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:37 pm

Greenwell John, what wire are you using?

John
PS - Wait until PhilA sees you discussing wire. :lol: :lol:
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by Bazzer69 » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:46 pm

ForumGillie wrote:
Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:37 pm
Greenwell John, what wire are you using?

John
PS - Wait until PhilA sees you discussing wire. :lol: :lol:
For years I’ve used salvage wire from small transformers such as those we throw away from all those disused low voltage appliances we no longer need. It’s generally natural copper coloured or red lacquered. If you want really small stuff try dismantling a pair of old headphones or a small radio speaker.
Barry
Yep, seems silly discussing wire! Fish will be laughing there socks off!
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by PhilA » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:19 pm

Ahhh ... copper wire for Sawyer Pheasant Tails and Killer Bugs has been a continuing pastime – some would say obsession – of mine for more years than I care to confess.

This is but a part of my stash of Sawyer-inspired wire...

Image


Sawyer described his copper wires in Nymphs and the Trout (1958; expanded in 1970), which is an outstanding guide to sight fishing with nymphs in slow waters (spring creeks for example). He described wire used for Pheasant Tails and the color of the finished fly thusly...
"Give the hook an even covering from bend to eye with fine red-coloured copper wire. The wire I use is very little thicker than a human hair and this one can obtain at little cost from various sources. It is used for the windings in small transformers, dynamos, or electric motors. ... When wet this pattern has a translucent effect and one can see the red of the wire showing through the pheasant tail fibres. The artificial has a very good entry to water and will sink deeply when required."
That's all that Sawyer wrote concerning size and color of his wire, but it's enough to identify pretty closely what the wire was. Its size is "very little thicker than a human hair". The diameter of human hair varies globally a lot, but the diameter of hair shafts of the average adult European published in the medical literature is 0.075 mm, which equals 0.003 inches. Thus, the wire is a little thicker than 0.003".

The engineering standard for wire manufacture is the "American Wire Gauge" (AWG). For example, AWG41 wire is 0.0028" in diameter, and AWG35 wire is 0.00561". (These are averages, with set limits on variation). Given Sawyer's description, it seems reasonable that he used wire somewhere between AWG35 and AWG41. (AWG standards refer only to the strand of copper, not any insulation that surrounds the copper, which will add about 0.001" to the diameter.)

What about color? That's easier given that Sawyer wrote his book in 1958. Copper wire is as bright and shiny as a new American penny, and any color comes from the insulation. Magnet wire today is available in a rainbow of colors, but the insulation choices in 1958 were limited. The most popular insulating material prior to 1939 was oil-based enamel (a natural resin). Wires insulated with "plain enamel" are a dark purplish red. After 1939 and through the 1950's, the most popular insulation was "Formvar", a synthetic polymer (polyvinyl formal) invented by General Electric. Formvar wires are brighter than plain enamel wires and are brick red with an orangish tint in color. The photo below compares AWG38 plain enamel wire (left) to heavy Formvar wire (right). I don't know the manufacturing date of the plain enamel wire, but the Formvar wire is vintage 1951.

Image


Given the length of time that Sawyer and his family tied Pheasant Tails, the exact color of the wire must have varied over the years, but I suspect that it remained in the plain enamel to Formvar color range. Bob's, Stefan's and John's photos above support that. Sawyer himself downplayed the importance of color in his nymphs.

I've tied with magnet wires from AWG35 (0.0056") to AWG41 (0.0028"). In my hands, AWG40 and AWG41 break too easily. AWG35 builds up bulk too quickly. AWG37 (0.00445") and AWG38 (0.00397"), however, are like one of Goldilocks' bowls of porridge ... "just right".

Where to buy magnet wires of the right size and color? I will gladly send some. Just send me your mailing address as a board message. [Full disclosure: I'll not send plain enamel- or Formvar-coated wire, as I don't have large amounts of either. Instead, I'll send a more modern AWG37 or AWG38 wire whose color is similar to Formvar. This is a busy week for me and, depending on the number of requests, I'll need a week or so to spool the wires onto sewing machine bobbins and sent them off.]

If, however, you are sucked down the vortex of magnet wires, Ebay is your friend. Just search for "magnet wire". Then click on the box at the left that limits the search to "Wire Gauge (AWG) 36-40". Then, find a color, size, and quantity that suits your fancy. Small quantities and plain enamel- or Formvar-like colors are not terribly common, so you'll probably have to keep looking regularly.

I keep various colors of reddish Sawyer-inspired wires in bobbins at all times and use it for lots of flies. For example...

Image

Image

Image


Obsession you say? WHAT obsession?

Phil
Last edited by PhilA on Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:34 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Bazzer69
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by Bazzer69 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:32 pm

Yep, your obsession is copper wire! Wanna send some red stuff!
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by Bazzer69 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 9:39 pm

Frank Sawyer didn’t seem to be to bothered about the color or the diameter of the copper wire. As far as I can see no two nymphs of his were dressed the same. He was more concerned with the size and presentation of the fly. But I dress mine with the whip finish behind the thorax. But this a fly which I would ch choose in any one fly contest.
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by hankaye » Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:59 pm

PhilA, Howdy;

Don't forget that British Pennies were a different "colour" when new then our pennies.
Here's some from 1950. I'm sure you taken all of that into account. For the others, here's
a link.

https://www.google.com/search?q=new+195 ... 17&bih=706

hank
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Re: Frank Sawyer's Nymphs

Post by Bazzer69 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 11:03 pm

hankaye wrote:
Mon Dec 10, 2018 10:59 pm
PhilA, Howdy;

Don't forget that British Pennies were a different "colour" when new then our pennies.
Here's some from 1950. I'm sure you taken all of that into account. For the others, here's
a link.

https://www.google.com/search?q=new+195 ... 17&bih=706

hank
There’s a reason that when pennies were in circulation they were referred to as “coppers”. Still don’t think the colour makes little or no difference. 😎
Love both fly fishing and fly tying, been doing it for a while
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