North Country spider article

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Anherd
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Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Sun Feb 02, 2020 12:51 pm

Roadkill wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 12:14 pm
Anherd :)
Good to know, I have spent countless hours trying to find an old fly I think of just in my small library of fly fishing books .
ImageIMGP9948 by William Lovelace, on Flickr

I can't imagine the scope of your "problem"! :lol:
Hey, you have the same problem too? There is a cure. Just become a writer. Then you can put everything you need down in a book, and your problems are over. Until you put the book on the shelf and can't find it. Danged thing has to be around here somewhere...
Johnno
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Location: Nelson New Zealand

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Johnno » Sun Feb 02, 2020 1:20 pm

Mr Herd, a wee question from the bottom of the world where wets and soft hackles are, alas, as rare in most angler’s flyboxes as dodo quill....

You mention in the article:

“....Today the custom is to tie these game hackle patterns very sparsely, with the bodies as thin as possible whether silk or dubbing is used, with a hackle wound once, or one and a half times at most. However, the old masters didn’t lay down any firm rules, and tied their flies to last. The result, as a friend once complained to me, hardly looks like any kind of fly at all, but believe me, they work, and they get better the more hackle the fish chew off....”

Most pics of old flies I see ( and happily a few that I have) have a lot more hackle than that. I’d suggest two three or Sometimes even more turns ?

So. If more hackle turns was the norm back in the day,( if that was the case) when did that change and why?

Cheers!
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redietz
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by redietz » Sun Feb 02, 2020 1:22 pm

Anherd wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:30 am

I must have got you wrong on Edmonds and Lee, though, because I don't complain anywhere in the 54Deanstreet piece about them fishing on the Wharfe.
That was my point. You took Smith to task for concentrating on the Wharfe, but not Edmonds & Lee.

Again, I thought this was a minor nit, and I always enjoy what you write.
Bob
Anherd
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Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:29 pm

Johnno wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 1:20 pm
Mr Herd, a wee question from the bottom of the world where wets and soft hackles are, alas, as rare in most angler’s flyboxes as dodo quill....

You mention in the article:

“....Today the custom is to tie these game hackle patterns very sparsely, with the bodies as thin as possible whether silk or dubbing is used, with a hackle wound once, or one and a half times at most. However, the old masters didn’t lay down any firm rules, and tied their flies to last. The result, as a friend once complained to me, hardly looks like any kind of fly at all, but believe me, they work, and they get better the more hackle the fish chew off....”

Most pics of old flies I see ( and happily a few that I have) have a lot more hackle than that. I’d suggest two three or Sometimes even more turns ?

So. If more hackle turns was the norm back in the day,( if that was the case) when did that change and why?

Cheers!
Hard to pin an exact date down, but none of the nineteenth century dressers gave much guidance at all on the subject—you are quite right, in order to produce longer lasting flies, they made the bodies fairly thick and used a lot of hackle. There is another piece in the pipeline about this, but the change happened later than you would imagine. I went through literally hundreds of old angling magazines with a fabulous guy called John Austin and we eventually pinned it down (as near as we could) to Roger Fogg's A Handbook of North Country Flies. In his book, Roger wrote that, “One turn is enough, and one and a half turns certainly is the maximum”, but when I spoke to him on the phone not long ago, Roger confirmed that it was no more than his personal preference for tying North Country patterns. His one and a half turns went viral because there was no other advice around at the time, and even I think it looks better than tying the whole hackle in. Yet, just about the only nineteenth century tyers who said anything were Jackson, who tells his readers to use the entire length of the hackle, and Wade, who says, “Twirl it around twice, or thrice”.
Anherd
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Joined: Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:06 am

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Sun Feb 02, 2020 3:30 pm

redietz wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 1:22 pm
Anherd wrote:
Sun Feb 02, 2020 4:30 am

I must have got you wrong on Edmonds and Lee, though, because I don't complain anywhere in the 54Deanstreet piece about them fishing on the Wharfe.
That was my point. You took Smith to task for concentrating on the Wharfe, but not Edmonds & Lee.

Again, I thought this was a minor nit, and I always enjoy what you write.
Ahhhhhh. Gotcha!
Johnno
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Location: Nelson New Zealand

Re: North Country spider article

Post by Johnno » Sun Feb 02, 2020 10:29 pm

Thanks for that!

I guess it’s a classic example of how one persons thought, idea or opinion can change everything!

In this case how many hackle turns are required... but a minor detail ... 😂
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tups
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by tups » Mon Feb 03, 2020 9:33 pm

Dr Herd. “The Fly” has given me many hours of enjoyment, so many thanks for that.

I am under the impression that the Lister manuscript (c. 1712) and all those that followed are dominated by hackle patterns at the expense of winged flies. If that is true, then how to explain Pritt’s statement (1885) on this issue: “In one important matter the fancy of Yorkshire anglers, and indeed of anglers all over the north of England, has undergone a change during the past twenty five years. It is now conceded that a fly dressed hacklewise is generally to be preferred to a winged imitation.”

This seems to suggest that soft hackled flies only became the dominant style circa 1860. If this is true then perhaps the ancients were not as influential as we had thought. Pritt would have been in a good position to know these things, but perhaps he was exaggerating for whatever reason. Having never seen the manuscripts I can only wonder which is correct. Are soft hackles the products of Romans and monks or did they develop in time alongside dry flies?
RobSmith1964
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by RobSmith1964 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 10:24 pm

A work of hubris. Sadly, Mr Herd wrongly assumes that all North Country anglers fished their flies upstream. However, these anglers fished their flies in a variety of presentation methods including Across & Down as well as Down & Across all of which are referenced in numerous North Country publications.
Secondly, I find Mr Herd’s argument that the monks of northern England solely kept carp in ponds rather than taking the opportunity to fish the very rivers their monastic centres were built beside rather blinkered in the extreme. He fails utterly in the distinction between fishing for food and fishing for sport. What Mr Herd fails to grasp is that religion was the super information highway of the early centuries and that religion had a profound effect on the everyday lives of the people of this time. Throughout European literature there are examples of early sport-fishing practices within religious centres, one only has to look at examples such as the Haslinger Breviary Fishing Tract which sets down the dressings for simple hackled wet flies for fishing in teams. As members of these various religious orders travelled freely throughout Europe, it should be safe to assume that the knowledge of various fishing practices followed in their wake. Even Yorkshireman John Jackson in his book The Practical Fly Fisher speculates on the early deeds of these religious orders
“ We are told that the “Monks of old,” renowned as well as good cheer, as charitable deeds, and noble works, introduced the Grayling to the streams near their principal residences; which is probable as it is in perfection when the trout is out of season.”
So why are monks stocking rivers with species of game fish if they only use ponds?

Mr Herd also goes on to write that I stated, “that the monasteries of the North then traded wool with continental Europe in part exchange for even more flies.” This is factually inaccurate and is a total misinterpretation on Mr Herd’s part.

Being blinkered is also something that Mr Herd also accuses me of in the title of my book, with his ill-founded accusation that I ignored the wider North Country region. This is despite my inclusion of patterns from Durham, Westmorland, Lancashire and Cumbria. And, the inclusion within the book of several short biographies on many anglers and fly-dressers from outside of the Yorkshire region including William Nelson and Thomas Charleton.
Mr Herd also falsely attributes the term Soft Hackles to Sylvester Nemes, when in fact this term has its origins within E.M. Todd’s publication of 1903. Surely someone of Mr Herd’s arrogance would have researched this fact more thoroughly!

In his further discourse about the fishing literature of the North Country Mr Herd dismisses John Kirkbride's The Northern Angler, published in 1837 which in his word’s “neither contains much of interest to the North Country spider fisher.” This despite Kirkbride’s publication containing numerous North Country spider patterns and discourse on dressing the patterns. Hubris on Mr Herd’s part no doubt!

To make matters worse Herd goes on to suggest that the term Soft Hackle would be better replaced by the term Game Hackle Flies, because in Mr Herd’s words “because the distinguishing feature of these North Country patterns is that they are tied with hackles taken from game birds.” This is, of course, wrong on all counts and highlights a total ignorance of the subject. Anyone taking a cursory look at the patterns contained within Pritt’s book will find fly patterns dressed with various hackles taken from Tawny Owl, Wren, Starling, Black Hen, Lapwing, Swift, Sand Martin and Blue Tit, none of which are or can be classed as gamebirds. Sadly Mr Herd later builds on his ignorance with the statement “Once you appreciate this nuance, it becomes easy to distinguish a North Country spider from one of Stewart’s spiders, because the Scots flies were tied with hackles from birds of little interest to shooters, like starling, landrail and dotterel.”

However, I would like to point out a couple of patterns to highlight Mr Herd’s ignorance in the form of The Large Sun Fly from John Swarbrick which uses a hackle of Landrail, and William Robbinson’s Dotterel Blow which of course uses the overcovert of a male Dotterel. Indeed, if Mr Herd had bothered to take a closer look at other North Country publications he would have also found further patterns dressed with such hackles as Cuckoo, Merlin, Fieldfare and Jay which would have stopped him from further adding to his original mistake by wrong informing us “The one exception to the game hackle rule is the use of waterhen's wing, in North Country spiders, the waterhen hardly being a challenging item to shoot.”
Sadly, there are numerous mistakes within Mr Herd’s article, and whilst he seems to have some personal vendetta against me and my publication. I do not share his feeling of animosity. Maybe hubris on his part has led to his desire to attack me at every quarter, or has blinkered his judgement of the facts, or maybe he just doesn’t like other writers giving an alternative view.

“I am sufficiently proud of my knowing something to be modest about my not knowing all.”
Vladimir Nabokov

PS. When I buy Andrew a coffee at the BFFI I will put him right on when the number of hackle turns comes from. It certainly isn’t Mr Fogg!
DUBBN
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by DUBBN » Mon Feb 03, 2020 10:28 pm

DUBBN wrote:
Sat Feb 01, 2020 3:39 pm
It is kind of fun to watch feuds between so called experts.


😉
;-)
RobSmith1964
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by RobSmith1964 » Mon Feb 03, 2020 10:31 pm

Is he the Halford to my Skues 😂
I’m not an expert by the way, I’m an enthusiast!
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