Best times to fish, these Barker doth descry.
To strike, play, land thy prize, he tells thee how;
Art angling teachers all to him must bow.
Keep thee but from S. Peters net, and then
Blest be thy soul for aye, Amen, Amen.
We will begin to make the Palmer-flye. You must arm your line on the in-side your hook, then take your sizzers and cut so much of the browne of the Mallards feather as in your owne reason shall make the wings, then lay the outermost part of the feather near the hook, and the point of the feather next toward the shank of the hook, so whip it three or four times about the hook with the same silk you armed the hook with , so make your silk fast; then you must take the hackle of a cock or capon, or a plovers top feather, then take the hackle, silk, or cruell, gold or silver thred, make all fast at the bent of the hook, then begin to work with the cruell, and silver thred, work it up to the wings, every bout shifting your fingers and making a stop, then the cruell and silver will fall right, then make fast, then work up the hackle to the same place, then make the hackle fast; then you must take the hook betwixt your fingers and thumb in the left hand, with a needle or pin part the wings in two, so take the silk you have wrought with all this while, and whip once about the shank that falleth crosse betwixt the wings; than with your thumb you must turn the point of the feather towards the bent of the hook, so view the proportion. “
As you will note, this palmer is winged. He uses the brown of a mallard’s wing, folded back over the shank of the hook, as would be if tied reverse style, to make the wing. The patterns however, list no wing. The instructions are clearly not just for a specific pattern, but are a composite designed to cover several similar type flies. Barker continues his instructions as follows:
For the May-flye, you must work with some of these grounds, which it is very good ribbed with a black hair; you may work the body with a cruell, imitating the colour, or with silver suitable to the wings.
For the oak-flie, you must take orenge-colour tawny, and black for the body, and the browne of the Mallards feather for the wings. If you do after my directions they will kill fish, observing the times fitting, and following former directions.
If any worthy or honest Angler cannot hit of these my directions, let him come to me, he shall read and I will work, he shall see all things done according to my foresaid directions. So I conclude for the flye, having shewed you my true experience.”
"My Lord, I will shew you the way to angle with a flye, which is a delightfull sport. The rod must be light and tender, if you can fit your self with a hasel of one piece, or of two pieces set together in the most convenient manner, light and gentle. Set your line to your rod, for the uppermost part you may use your own discretion, for the lowermost part next your flye it must be of three or four haired links. If you can attain to angle with a line of one hair, two or three links one tyed to another next your hook, you shall have more rises and kill more fish. Be sure you do not overload your self with lengths of your line. Before you begin to angle make a triall, having the wind on your back, to see at what length you can cast your flye, that the flye light first into the water, and no longer, for if any of the line fall into the water before the flye, it is better uncast than thrown. Be sure you be casting alwayes down the stream with the wind behind you, and the Sun before you. It is a speciall point to have the Sun and moon before you, for the very motion of the rod drives all the pleasure from you, either by day or by night in all your anglings, both with worms and flyes, there must be a great care of that. Let us begin to angle in March with the flye. If the weather prove windy or cloudy, there are severall kinds of Palmers that are good for that time. "
" First, a black Palmer ribbed with silver. Secondly, a black Palmer ribbed with an orenge-tawny body. Thirdly, a black Palmer made all of black. Fourthly, a red Palmer ribbed with gold. Fifthly, a red palmer mixed with an orenge tawny body of cruell. All these flyes must be made with hackles, and they will serve all the year long morning and evening, windy or cloudy. Without these flyes you cannot make a dayes angling good. I have heard say that there is for every moneth in the year a flye for that moneth; but that is but talk, for there is but one monethly flye in the yeare, that is the May-flye. Then if the aire prove clear you must imitate the Hawthorn flye, which is all black and very small, the smaller the better. In May take the May flye, imitate that. Some make it with a shammy body, and ribbed with a black hair. Another way it is made with sandy hogs hair ribbed with black silk, and winged with Mallards feathers, according to the fancy of the angler, if he hath judgement. For first, when it comes out of the shell, the flye is somewhat whiter, then afterwards it growes browner, so there is judgement in that. There is another fly called the oak-flye that is a very good flye, which is made of orenge colour cruell and black, with a brown wing, imitate that. There is another flye made with the strain of a Peacocks feather, imitating the Flesh-flye, which is very good in a bright day. The Grasse-hopper which is green, imitate that. The smaller these flyes be made, and of indifferent small hooks, they are the better. These sorts which I have set down will serve all the year long, observing the times and seasons, if the angler have any judgement."
Sounds interesting. Bon apetite!
Thomas Barker Flies:
#1 Hook size: 14-16
For the body I used mohair.
#2 Hook size: 14-16
Body: Tawny Red
Here I used lambs wool in the body.
#3 Hook size: 14-16
Here I used black lambs wool in the body.
#4 Hook size: 14-16Body: RedRib: GoldHackle: RedHere, red capon was used for the hackle with lambs wool in the body.#5 Hook size: 14-16Body: Orange CrewelHackle: RedI used a furnace hackle for this one.#6 Hook size: 14-16Body: WhiteHackle: White
Mohair and natural white game rooster hackle
Hook size: 16-18Body: Peacock herlYes, size 18 hook, tied in hand.GrasshopperHook size: 10-12 2x longBody: GreenHackle: Red capon
This one was also tied with a well marked furnace hackle to see how it would look. See the fly with actual red capon in the group shot below.
Hawthorn flyHook size: 14-16Body: BlackWing: Black
Further research leads me to believe that the wing on this fly might have actually been wound as a hackle.
Hook size:8-10 2x longBody: ShammyRib: A black hairWing: Mallard wingI used yellow dyed chamois goat, but I am thinking thatif Barker meant a thin strip of leather wound aroundthe hook, it would be a very interesting fly.Mayfly #2Hook size: 12-14Hook size:8-10 2x longBody: Sandy hogs woolRib: Black silkWing: Mallard wingAs per custom, a little yellow wool is added to the hogs wool.Oak flyBody: Orange crewelRib: BlackWing: Brown mallard
A Brother of the Angle must alwaies be spedWith three black Palmers, & also two red, And all made with Hackles: in a cloudy day, Or in windy weather, angle you may: But morning and evening, if the day be bright, And the chief point of all is to keep out of sight. In the moneth of May, none but the May-flye; For every month one, is a pitiful lye: The black hawthorn flye must be very small, And the sandy hogs haire is sure best of all For the Mallard wing'd May-flye; and the Peacocks train Will look like the flesh-flye to kill Trout amaine. The oak flye is good, if it have a brown wing, So is the Grashopper that in July doth sing, With a green body, make him on a midle siz'd hook; But when you have catcht fish, then play the good Cook. Once more my good brother, Ile speak in thy eare, Hogs, red Cows, & Bears wooll, to float best appear, And so doth your fur, if rightly it fall; But alwayes remember, make two and make all.Thomas Barker, “The Art of Angling” second edition 1659http://ebooks.gutenberg.us/Renascence_Editions/barker1.html
My grateful thanks to Monte Smith for the lovely photos of the flies. All copyrights are his.