North Country spider article

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Greenwell
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by Greenwell » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:39 am

ForumGhillie wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 7:39 am
Now I know the true orgins of the "Friday night fish fries" that I so enjoy.

After the potato was introduced to Europe circa 1570 - 1590, the inhabitants of the monasteries were divided into two groups depending upon their kitchen duties; Fish Friars and Chip Monks!
Those with unusually fine culinary skills were sent to cook for the Royal Household and awarded the "Order of the Tartar (Sauce)"
RobSmith1964
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by RobSmith1964 » Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:40 am

Here are a few items relating to James Whitaker, one of the forgotten men of the North Country tradition. Known as the “Duke’s Fisherman”, Whitaker was the Beck-Watcher on the Bolton Abbey Estate in Wharfedale. The photos show his profession of Fisherman & Fly Maker in his census entry of 1861. The manuscript lists numerous Wharfedale patterns as well as Whitaker’s own list of flies which he sold commercially. The notebook has passed through at least 4 hands as the handwriting changes throughout the later pages. The annotation which you can see in the second image states “So Lister said” is reference to Sylvester Lister who like James Whitaker was a founder member of the Burnsall club. These annotations were written by Richard Pilkington another member of the Burnsall Angling Club of which this collection belonged.
The interesting thing with regards to this notebook of flies is that it contains numerous North Country patterns that are not found in other lists or publications and seem to be peculiar to the specific author of each individual entry. Also, Whitaker’s entries of flies start about a third of the way through the book, which leads to the question of who’s are the earlier entries? There are flies found in other manuscripts such as Thackray & Robinson in the earlier pages, so it could possibly originate with one of these two anglers.
The problem with trying to attribute particular patterns to particular people, is that these notebooks get regularly passed between families and anglers. In Wharfedale there are four possibly five key families of Beck-Watchers/Flydressers who are passing various fly lists and manuscripts around between themselves. Some of these flies get published and find there way into the wider angling world, however there is still a tiny proportion that don’t, an example of which Whitaker’s notebook gives us as it contains about 30 north country fly patterns that even I have never heard of.

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Over to you Andrew!
Anherd
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:29 am

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Over to you Andrew!
[/quote]

That's great—the flies show really well how many turns of hackle were used by some anglers (not all, obviously) in those days, and the top two flies can't be said to have slim bodies, either, so if these flies are from Whitaker then he tied them to last, which is what you would expect given his job. One of the reasons why there are so many fly patterns that we have never heard of is that the flies that turn up in the lists and books only represent a fraction of all the ones that got tied. Much the same is going on today, and you and I will both have tied flies that we thought were great, but didn't stand the test of time, and so will other people—all of those will probably go unrecorded, which is just as well.
And, for anyone else reading this, some flies that did work got lost too, because there are manuscripts which just give names of flies where we have no idea how the fly was tied, because the dressings for those names don't appear anywhere else. Manuscripts are more likely to record flies that would otherwise have got lost than books are, for the (maybe obvious) reason that someone who goes to the effort of writing a book doesn't usually fill it with failed experiments. If people reading want to try to imagine this, say there were, just for example, 600 North Country flies out there, of which the books record say 300, and the manuscripts 300, with a good deal of overlap between the books and the MSS, so they maybe share 200 patterns (remember these figures aren't real, they are just for illustration). That leaves us with 300 flies that weren't recorded anywhere, 50 that only appear in books, 50 that only appear in manuscripts and 200 that appear in both books and manuscripts. Again, the way I like to think of it is that 200 in books get famous, the 50 that are only in manuscripts become exciting discoveries—and the 300 get flushed down the pan of history, among which are likely to be some flies that would have allowed us to understand why the survivors ended up being preserved.
These unrecorded flies are why I am always wary of tracing patterns back from fisherman to fisherman, because people moved around a lot even in those days, and you never know who they met and where they got stuff from—there is always a good chance that two people with the same fly both got it from a third party. On top of that, again for readers, getting flies by mail order from tackle shops was routine as early as 1756 (sounds amazing, but it was). So flies could come from anywhere.
But those are pretty typical nineteenth century soft hackles (well, actually, they are mostly game hackles, but I can't say that because Rob comes from south of Harrogate) and they are a nice set. If you look closely, one of the flies has a herl head, which is a style that died out—more or less—way back, but I can't think why, because if you tie flies that way, they still work.
RobSmith1964
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by RobSmith1964 » Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:51 am

I was born in Kettlewell, north of Harrogate :D
joaniebo
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by joaniebo » Wed Feb 05, 2020 10:59 am

One of the MANY things I've enjoyed about this string of posts is that it "somewhat confirms" my own meager efforts as I tie flies that are over-hackled with fatter bodies (like me - body-wise, not hackle-wise!) and seldom exactly as shown in the old (or new) dressings, with only a few exceptions where I "stick to the rules".

My "variations" sometimes work well and at other times just allow me to practice my casting and scare the local fish. Regardless, I enjoy tying my "variations" and have fun splashing the waters while enjoying the scenery and companionship of friends.

Thanks to all for your postings.

Bob
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ForumGhillie
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by ForumGhillie » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:07 pm

Greenwell wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:39 am
ForumGhillie wrote:
Wed Feb 05, 2020 7:39 am
Now I know the true orgins of the "Friday night fish fries" that I so enjoy.
After the potato was introduced to Europe circa 1570 - 1590, the inhabitants of the monasteries were divided into two groups depending upon their kitchen duties; Fish Friars and Chip Monks!
Those with unusually fine culinary skills were sent to cook for the Royal Household and awarded the "Order of the Tartar (Sauce)"
John, hilarious response! :lol:

Rob thanks for your insights!
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letumgo
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by letumgo » Wed Feb 05, 2020 12:56 pm

"Chip Monks!"

Now that's funny! :lol: :lol: :lol: :D
Ray (letumgo)----<°))))))><
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RobSmith1964
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by RobSmith1964 » Wed Feb 05, 2020 3:58 pm

Andrew as you know manuscripts are open to interpretation and copy. If you look into Les Magee’s book which you so highly recommend. You will find Magee’s listing of Lister’s patterns contained with his 1898 manuscript. However, if you had spent some time going over Magee’s listing of the Lister patterns and referenced the few in the photograph which Magee provides, you would have found one of many fatal floors within his book. Magee quotes Lister’s dressing of the Dark Bloa/ Waterhen or Blue Dun as being dressed as follows.

Feather from under waterhen wing as season advances, feather from woodhawk’s back. Head magpie herl, silk purple well waxed.

However, what Magee is listing is in fact Lister’s dressing of the Spring Black! The photograph Magee provides proves this. This is because the Lister manuscript is in written on an enlarged cheque book style layout, it is easy to drop a line and jumble up certain pattern dressing as one scan across the long wide pages. This is in fact what Magee did, which in turn means that of the 4o Lister patterns listed within Magee’s book, only the first one is in fact correct!
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redietz
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by redietz » Thu Feb 06, 2020 12:56 am

letumgo wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:57 pm
Zoom in on the fish. By the shape of the head, and size, I’m pretty sure that is a pike...
I believe you're right.
Bob
Anherd
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Re: North Country spider article

Post by Anherd » Thu Feb 06, 2020 4:46 am

redietz wrote:
Thu Feb 06, 2020 12:56 am
letumgo wrote:
Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:57 pm
Zoom in on the fish. By the shape of the head, and size, I’m pretty sure that is a pike...
I believe you're right.
It has to be said that there was Les's way of doing things, and the wrong way, so it is probably a good thing that he isn't around on social media right now, or the pair of us would be dodging bullets.

Les made his share of mistakes, like spelling Chippindale as Chippendale all the way through his book, and putting down Norman Nellist Lee as Norman Nellis Lee. At least he only missed the T out of Lee's middle name once and didn't repeat it. You would have thought a proof editor would have caught the howler about Norman Nellis Lee, but I guess that there can’t have been one.

However, my favourite is on page 193, where he calls Herbert Maxwell, Robert Maxwell (brain fade, I imagine, what with the newspaper Maxwell being in the headlines all the time). Does it undermine the book? Nah, not really, we all knew who he meant.

But for all that, Magee’s isn't a bad book, because the mistakes are sporadic and they don't undermine the integrity of the book. Don't forget that when he wrote, it took fifty times as long to get anything researched, and also that there was hardly anything else written about the history of North Country flies at the time. In a way, criticising Les (and he could be a real curmudgeon's curmudgeon) is a bit like criticising John Waller Hills. Both of them paid their dues, did the groundwork, and paved the way for future historians, like thee and me. So I have to tip my hat to him. It would be seriously ungenerous to do otherwise.

With that out the way, and with me clutching my wooden stake and clove of garlic just in case he comes back (here, you hold onto them), lets get stuck into Les.

First, his table on page 38 was a crazy idea. The vast majority of the patterns in the lists he puts in there were named after an insect—so just correlating the names against the other lists conceals the problem that the patterns were completely different. You probably fish a pheasant tail, Rob, and so do I, so the names on 'our' lists would correlate, but we might be using completely different flies. There is other stuff like that in Magee, but again, it was the time he lived in, and mostly Les wasn't too far out (Roger Fogg rang him up by the way, because he got the date of The Art of the Wet Fly out by nine years).

Now before we go anywhere with this, I did spend time going over Magee's book, and I would like to ask what evidence you have that I didn't do so, Rob?

I will discuss stuff in an adult fashion more or less forever, but if you are going to rely on the type of language you have used at the top of this email, count me out, because I gave up that kind of foolishness when I was a child. If you didn’t mean it, fine, say so.

So this is a trial. I will always be polite to you, I won't make any observations about how thorough (or not) I might think you are, I will not make any observations on your character either, because otherwise, the good people here will think less of me. And you, my friend, will agree to do the same. If that is OK, then I will post the two lists side by side, and the people here can decide for themselves, rather than taking your or my word for it.

Deal, or no deal?
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