Timeless fly tying advice

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PhilA
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Timeless fly tying advice

Post by PhilA » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:47 pm

Winter is a time to read books and tie flies. I have lately been re-reading a bit of G.E.M. Skues, whose insights are as relevant today as they were when he first laid pen to paper. The paragraphs below were first published in The Fishing Gazette and later in his book Silk, Fur and Feather. Written in typical Skuesian style, it is both eloquent and entertaining. Skues did not accept fly fishing orthodoxy, and his sharp wit often carried a sharp edge. It is directed below at some of fly fishing's established and often self-anointed experts.

At the risk of preaching to the choir here, Skues' 100+ year old fly tying advice is very astute. --Phil


Of those who have read these pages and take up fly dressing it is probable that the majority will not go very far. They will content themselves with securing a small stock of material and with mastering one or two of the simpler methods of dressing.

Those who are more ambitious will no doubt wish to go much further. To them I would say read, and read freely, all the works on trout-fly dressing on which they can lay hand, but, for goodness sake, read with wisdom and judgment. Do not be magnetised by names or reputations, however great. Learn all the methods of tying. It will be seen that I have only touched upon a few of the simpler. The subject is so extensive that I have merely scratched the surface. The methods are innumerable, and each has some merit of its own. Therefore it is well to master all, so as to be able to apply to any problem the most appropriate method. But do not take anything for gospel. The amount of error disseminated by men who have passed as authorities, and were doubtless often most successful fishermen, passes belief. Read then, to master method and the handling of material; and then, when you are competent, you can discard all the nostrums and take the natural insects you want to portray, and you can go to your task with a prospect of making as good a job of it as any of the authorities you have read.

You will find that many of these authorities have blandly copied from predecessors, and where you find them doing this you may infer that they are not necessarily very reliable.

In the patterns which I have described I have been giving you the best I know. But so probably were these others. Don't, for goodness' sake, make a fetish of these patterns, either mine or others. Tie to satisfy yourself, not to imitate me or another. And never rest satisfied – always try to be improving. So with practice you may gain for yourself a power which will add enormously to the delights of your fly-fishing days.
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tie2fish
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by tie2fish » Fri Nov 30, 2018 2:56 pm

Hear, hear!!
Some of the same morons who throw their trash around in National parks also vote. That alone would explain the state of American politics. ~ John Gierach, "Still Life with Brook Trout"
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ForumGhillie
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by ForumGhillie » Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:21 pm

Phil, wait a minute... what about "What the trout said"?

John
Hankinsfly
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by Hankinsfly » Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:59 pm

I like that! Thanks for sharing. I have never read any Skues. I like his message though- don’t limit yourself to any particular method or “proper” dressing. The great thing about tying is you can often improvise materials. I think, too, it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
joaniebo
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by joaniebo » Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:01 pm

Phil

Exactly why I dont subscribe to modern magazines! the reprint of "Silk, Fur and Feathers" is a good read.

"You will find that many of these authorities have blandly copied from predecessors, and where you find them doing this you may infer that they are not necessarily very reliable."

Bob
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by Greenwell » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:06 pm

One of my favorite passages from Skues, in this case from The Way of a Trout With a Fly is below:

"The number of ways in which flies can be dressed is incredible. There are hardly two books which lay down identical methods unless one is a crib from the other. And of all the methods in which I have experimented, from Walton downwards, I have never come across one which has nothing to recommend it, and I should be glad to be master of them all."

Skues was the greatest angling mind of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and his observations and advice are as fresh and pertinent as they were 100 years ago. Most think of him as being strictly a nymph fisherman and only on the Itchen but he fished dry flies at least as often as he did nymphs and traveled widely in Europe during most of his life. Almost everything one needs to know about classic fly fishing theory, meaning dry flies, wet flies and near surface nymphs, is in his books. He corresponded with many Americans from Gordon to Leisenring and had a profound influence on American fly fishing theory and development.

If you read Skues, along with Vincent Marinaro, Edmonds & Lee, Frank Sawyer, Leisenring/Hidy, Datus Proper, Theodore Gordon, and perhaps a few others, you will have missed very little of the best of fly fishing theory and thought and probably end up as a better angler.
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PhilA
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by PhilA » Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:54 pm

WiFlyfisher wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:21 pm
Phil, wait a minute... what about "What the trout said"?
John
John,
Well, Skues is not the only source of good advice. Datus Proper's What the Trout Said remains, in my opinion, the single best book ever published on fly *design*. And, the book does not contain even one fly pattern!

Then again, all such proclamations should be treated with suspicion.

Were you just drifting a fly over my holding lie? Or, have you cornered the market on used copies of Proper's book? --Phil
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by Hankinsfly » Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:24 pm

Well, I would argue the best source of info is time on the river. Any reading is just for pleasure. :mrgreen:
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by ForumGhillie » Fri Nov 30, 2018 8:52 pm

PhilA wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 7:54 pm
WiFlyfisher wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:21 pm
Phil, wait a minute... what about "What the trout said"?
John
John,
Well, Skues is not the only source of good advice. Datus Proper's What the Trout Said remains, in my opinion, the single best book ever published on fly *design*. And, the book does not contain even one fly pattern!

Then again, all such proclamations should be treated with suspicion.

Were you just drifting a fly over my holding lie? Or, have you cornered the market on used copies of Proper's book? --Phil
Phil, you know me too well, i am always looking for fish to bite.

But... I was also thinking of Datus' book, which I have read twice. I sent my copy to Eric to read last Spring. When I get it back I will read it again sometime. No rush, I have several new. old fly fishing books coming to read this Winter as I have time.

As far as fly design - I believe we have a tendency to way over think it.

PS - Jim S. called me tonight, he has a bunch of new hackle he is posting for sale!! Just say'in.
Greenwell
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Re: Timeless fly tying advice

Post by Greenwell » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:18 pm

Phil, I hope that you didn't think that I was implying that Skues was/is the only good source of angling advice; nothing could be further from the truth. Like Proper, Skues was someone who gathered inspiration from others and applied it to the problems he faced on the river. Remember, the basis for his early nymphal imitations were North Country Spiders and Clyde Style wet flies and he had much good to say about E.M. Todd, the author of Wet-Fly Fishing.

Datus Proper's What the trout Said is one of the most important, and at the same time, one of the most overlooked of American angling books. I devoured it when it came out and I probably quote Proper more often than any other author. The fact that he approached trout flies from a standpoint of design rather than pattern was revelatory. Proper had read and researched a tremendous amount of material, going back to the earliest literature. He also gave full credit to everyone who came before him and claimed very little to be original to himself, something that has become increasingly rare today. What the Trout Said is where I first learned about Roger Wooley, E.W. Harding, C.F. Walker and others and his bibliography became a checklist for me as I built my library.

I think one of the reasons that he's not read much now is that his book isn't one of the glossy, full color, coffee table tomes that are produced for today's short attention span readers. Which can also probably be said for most angling books pre-1990. If it ain't colorful, they just don't look at it.

Along with Marinaro, with whom he was close friends, Theodore Gordon, Eugene Connett, Edward Hewitt, and Swisher & Richards, (and a few others) Proper is at the top of the list of true American originals.

And while I may not have cornered the market on copies, I do own a fair number of them!
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