Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thomas Barker, Fisherman and Oliver Cromwell's Cook

Tackle, Baits, Fish-haunts, skilfull Cookery,
  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.
John Perch
                                     Armig.

Thomas Barker, who was he?
               First published in 1651, “The Art of Angling” by Thomas Barker shows that not only was he a first rate fisherman, but he was also a very good cook, as his recipes and dishes will attest to anyone who reads beyond these words that I write.   W. H. Lawrie writes of Barker that he “was a Shropshire man, a Cromwellian, a seasoned angler and above all a cook.”  While it is for his writings on the art of fly fishing that I am most interested in him, for those of a more culinary bent, I shall include a recipe or two as well.  Writing in 1775 of him, Sir Henry Hawkins says, “This Mr. Barker was a good humoured gossiping old man, and seems to have been a good cook.”  He not only dressed fish for most of the ambassadors that came to England, for over forty years, but was paid by the Lord Protector (Oliver Cromwell) for doing this.  Hawkins continues, “He spent a great deal of time, and,  it seems money too, in fishing; and, in the latter part of his life, dwelt in an almshouse near the gate house at Westminster.”  He describes Barkers book as a most diverting book due to the singular vein of humour that runs throughout. 

               Thomas Barker was, as far as I know, the first person to publish written instructions for the tying of flies.  His book lists roughly a dozen fly patterns and mentions several others, including one for salmon.  There are also the instructions for tying the flies, though they are somewhat difficult to apply to each pattern.  These twelve flies can be broken down into two basic types, the Palmer, a fly with a hackle running the length of the body and usually not winged, and the winged “May flie” as he called it, a fly with a wing, and perhaps a hackle, under the wing but not along the length of the body.  What I find interesting here though is that while in his written instructions for the Palmer, he is very clear about there being a wing, what it was comprised of, and how to tie one in, his patterns list no wings.  This leaves one to either assume the wing was the same on all Palmers, and so did not need mentioning, or, that like the palmers written of by later authors, the wing was actually absent.  It is also possible that Barker’s palmers were not anything like later palmers, but instead were in fact tiny winged flies with hackles, much like modern the Henryville Special caddis pattern.  Here is what Barker says about the dressing of trout flies.  I have retained the old verbiage and spelling to give you an idea of the style of writing from that time. 

               “Now, I will shew you how to make flyes. Learn to make two flyes and make all, that is, the Palmer ribbed with gold or silver, and the Mayflye. These are the ground of all flyes. 
    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 other flyes, if you make the grounds of hogs wooll, sandy, or black, or white, or the wooll [of] a beare, or of a two-year old red bullock; you must work all the grounds upon a waxed silk, then you must arm and set on the wings, as I have shewed you before.
    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.”

               Some of Barker’s patterns however, leave much to be desired as far as details go.  Reading through the following descriptions, one is left wondering such things as, just how does one copy the Hauthorn flie or the grasshopper? I am also wondering, just what exactly is “shammy” and how is it used in this context?”
So let us go angling with Mr. Barker, and see how it was done. 


              "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."
              "Note the lightest of your flies for cloudy and dark, and the darkest of your flyes for the brightest dayes, and the rest for indifferent times; a mans own judgement with some experience must guide him: If he mean to kill fish he must alter his flyes according to these directions. Now of late I have found that hogs wooll of several colours makes good bodies, & the wooll of a red heifer makes a good body, and beares wooll makes a good body: there are many good furres that make good bodies: and now I work much of hogs wooll, for I finde it floateth best and procureth the best sport.”

               Barker’s choice of materials was rather simple compared to those of Charles Cotton and other writers of the times.  Brown mallard wings, and wool or crewel bodies for the most part, with red bullock or heifer, bears under-fur or pigs wool also for some of the patterns.  Pigs wool is not the easiest of materials to dub with, especially on small flies tied in hand, so I am left to wonder if, like some other authors, he may have cut his pigs wool with wool or crewel perhaps, to make it easier.  The spikiness and glossiness would still be readily obvious, but the dubbing would be that much easier. 
               I also get the feeling that while Barker has listed his dozen or so, he knew of many others that for whatever reason he did not include.  He writes of a White Palmer for example, used in times of darkness, and mentions a salmon fly with as many as six wings, though he does not give a dressing for either of these.  
            Thomas Barker is also known for being one of the first, if not the first to mention the use of a reel, or as he calls it a “winder.”  He shows a rather enigmatic diagram of one in his section on salmon fishing.  Barker also describes rather nicely his fly rods, including what I believe to be the first reference to a wire loop at the end, for the purpose of running the line through, now known as the tip-top.  This was on his salmon rod, and not mentioned as being on his trout rod. 
               As I have already mentioned, besides angling, Thomas Barkers other vocation was that of cooking.  He cooked for Henry the seventh, and so must have been rather good at it.  Here, I leave the reader to ponder the following two recipes, and with any luck, try them out.  

               “To fry a dish of Trouts you must take such a quantity of suet as you shall think sufficient to fry them, and put it in your pan, and be sure that it boyle before you put in your fish, being cut on the side and floured, you must keep them with sitting all the time you are frying them: being fryed sufficiently, when you have dished them the sauce must be butter, vinegar, and some lemmon, but very small, and beaten with your butter and vinegar, then poured on your fish for the service.
               The best dish of stewed fish that ever I heard commended of the English, was dressed this way: First they were broiled on a charcoale fire, being cut on the side as fried Trouts, then the stwe pan was taken and set on a chaffingdish of coles, there was put into the stew-pan half a pound of sweet butter, one peniworth of beaten cinnamon, a little vinegar; when all was melted the fish was put into the pan, and covered with a covering plate, so kept stewing half an hour, being turned, then taken out of the stew-pan and dished, be sure to beat your sauce before you put it on your fish, then squeeze a lemmon on your fish: it was the best dish of fish that ever I heard commended by Noblemen and Gentlemen. This is our English fashion.”
Sounds interesting.  Bon apetite!
Thomas Barker Flies: 
#1 Hook size: 14-16
Body: Black
Rib: Silver
Hackle: Black
For the body I used mohair.

#2 Hook size: 14-16
Body: Tawny Red
Hackle: Black
Here I used lambs wool in the body.
                
#3 Hook size: 14-16
Body: Black
Rib: Silver
Hackle: Black    

Here I used black lambs wool in the body.

#4 Hook size: 14-16
Body: Red
Rib: Gold
Hackle: Red
Here, red capon was used for the hackle with lambs wool in the body.
#5 Hook size: 14-16
Body: Orange Crewel
Hackle: Red
I used a furnace hackle for this one.

#6 Hook size: 14-16
Body: White
Hackle: White
Mohair and natural white     game rooster hackle
Flesh-fly
Hook size: 16-18
Body: Peacock herl
Yes, size 18 hook, tied in hand.  
Grasshopper
Hook size: 10-12 2x long
Body: Green
Hackle: 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 fly
Hook size: 14-16
Body: Black
Wing: Black
Further research leads me  to believe that the  wing on this fly might have actually been wound as a hackle.  
Mayfly #1
Hook size:8-10 2x long
Body: Shammy
Rib: A black hair
Wing: Mallard wing

I used yellow dyed chamois goat, but I am thinking that 
if Barker meant a thin strip of leather wound around 
the hook, it would be a very interesting fly.
Mayfly #2
Hook size:8-10 2x long
Body: Sandy hogs wool
Rib: Black silk
Wing: Mallard wing
As per custom, a little yellow wool is added to the hogs wool.  
Oak fly
Hook size: 12-14
Body: Orange crewel
Rib: Black 
Wing: Brown mallard 



     A Brother of the Angle must alwaies be sped 
With 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 1659
http://ebooks.gutenberg.us/Renascence_Editions/barker1.html

My grateful thanks to Monte Smith for the lovely photos of the flies.  All copyrights are his.

Rrevisiting the Treatyse with Leonard Mascall in 1590

“A Booke of fishing with Hooke & Line, and of all other instruments thereunto belonging.  Another of sundrie Engines and Trapps to take Polecats, Buzards, Rrattes, Mice and all other Kindes of Vermine and Beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all Warriners, and such as delight in this kinde of sport and pastime.” 
by Leonard Mascall, 1590

            I read with great pleasure this quaint little volume, though in truth, the edition I had before me was not a first edition, but in fact was the 1884 reprint with the preface and glossary added by Thomas Satchell of W. Satchell and Co.  and lucky was I that this was so.  It was this preface that enabled me to put the book into proper context and see it for what it was, rather than just dismissing it as yet another plagiarized bastard version of the Treatyse.  Because, though Mascall did borrow almost all of the Treatyse and bits of several other texts for this book, he included much of his own material interspersed among the pages, and they reveal him to be that rare thing for his time... an ardent conservationist as well as an angler and sportsman.  However, rather than try to rewrite what is already perfectly well stated, I shall simply bow to the custom of Mascall's time and borrow Satchell's preface as written, for he states much better than I could the value of Mascall and this little book. 

            “The little black-letter volume here reprinted is very rare.  Most of the copies which remain are now preserved in great libraries, and I am not aware that any example has been offered for sale for many years past. 
            The full title is as follows:  “A Booke of fishing with Hooke & Line, and of all other instruments thereunto belonging.  Another of sundrie Engines and Trapps to take Polecats, Buzards, Rrattes, Mice and all other Kindes of Vermine and Beasts whatsoever, most profitable for all Warriners, and such as delight in this kinde of sport and pastime.  Made by L.M. (Woodcut.)  London Printed by John Wolfe, and are to be sold by Edwarde White dwelling at the little North doore of Paules at the sign of the Gunne.  1590”    The first part ends with page 50.  The second part has a fresh title-page with a repetition of the woodcut.  The pagination is continuous throughout.  There are editions dated 1596, 1600 and 1606, but I have not had the opportunity of examining them.  This Booke of fishing with Hooke and Line is a compilation made by a practical angler from “The Treatyse of fyshynge wythe an angle,” from “L'agriculture et maison rustique” of Charles Estienne and other sources.  The compiler, generally believed to be Leonard Mascall, has omitted the introductory portion of the “Treatyse,” and some other paragraphs, but, with the exception of some corrections and additions, he has left the instructions as he left them.”

            Satchell goes on to describe the book and its’ eighty-seven chapter divisions and headings, which are very similar to those used in the Treatyse.  It is from the chapter headings that one can get an idea of the diverse contents of the book.  Throughout the preface, Satchell continually, and correctly in my opinion, refers to Mascall as a compiler rather than as an author.  The preface continues, describing the differences in layout between the original Treatyse and Mascalls’ work, much of this, though interesting to myself and others interested in historical writings, would be of little interest to modern readers in search of historical fly patterns and so I will omit further discussion of it here. 
            There is an interesting bit about the introduction of carp into England.  That several times in the text it is asserted to have been a recent introduction, and in one instance, Mascall himself is credited with the introduction in 1514, is blatantly incorrect.  The fact that the Treatyse devotes a chapter to them shows that they were present at the time of publication, if not before.  Since the Ttreatyse was written before 1496, this would put the introduction date at least 1496, and considering that the Treatyse may have actually been written as early as 1540, the carp would have to have been in England at least that long.  Mascall may have brought carp into England, but he is not the first to introduce them. 
Now, if it it is only for the fly patterns that you have come here, I am going to have to disappoint you.  As with so much of this book, Mascall copied them exactly from the Treatyse, with no difference what so ever.  The flies are illustrated in a previous blog article, (Izaak Walton and the Dame’s dozen), and the patterns given there-in also, so I will not repeat them here. (go here for the patterns.  http://seventeenthcenturyflies.blogspot.com/2010/07/you-are-to-note-that-there-are-twelve.html)
            Readers of this book will find Mascall very different from most other authors of his time, and even later, in his strong conservation ethics.  In the chapter on Anglers and Fishers, (pg. 19) he talks at length about how he wished that the months of March, April and May would be left to the fish, as it being their chief spawning time, they need to be left undisturbed to increase the stock. He complains about how there are so many people who would kill the fish in whatever way they could at any time, with this lack of regard making “fresh fish so dear, and so scant in rivers and running waters.”  My edition is missing page 30 and 31, but page 32 continues a serious criticism of those using nets, the size of the nets and how destructive they are, as well as ideas for regulating net sizes and usage on rivers, especially in placed where the land-owners lease the stretches with no regard for the fish what-so-ever. He also urges that those who own the rivers should do much more towards maintaining the stocks of fish there-in and offers as a profitable fish, the Poult.  This fish, apparently introduced from Holland into the Fens near Peterborough is so plentiful in its home waters that the locals feed their pigs with them.  Prolific and pleasant tasting as well as good sport, he sees it as a way to keep an abundant supply of fish, which would be “good for the Common wealth.” 
            Mascall also compares the rules in England with those in other countries of Europe, citing France as an example where, night fishing and the damaging of streamside bushes and reeds during spawning season are punishable offenses and are banned.  The selling of fish and shellfish that are out of season in markets is banned as is the taking and eating privately of said fish also banned and punishable by forfeiture of their fishing tackle.  Using nest with mesh sizes less than four inches is also banned, to protect the smaller fish  He goes on to say “I would to God it were so here with us in England, and to have more preservers, and less spoilers of fish out of season and in season: then we should have more plenty through this Realm.” 
            Mascall has a lot more to say on the conservation of fish, both complaining about the abuses and advising on stocking techniques.  He is ardent in his defending fish against all “devourers” animal and human alike.  Unlike many fishermen and writers that would follow, he differs in that instead of espousing the “save the fish by killing all the fish eating birds and animals” philosophy, he instead argues that along with the killing of the fish eating birds and animals, human activities, being so much more destructive, need to be regulated severely, for the good of all the people, not just landlords and fishermen.  This sets him apart and in my opinion makes him one of the earliest conservationists I know of.  A link to this most excellent book and its compiler can be found here. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Macedonian Beginnings


In approximately two hundred AD, a man, a Roman commentator named Claudius Ælianus, wrote an account, most likely received third hand, that has caused no end of controversy to the present day and more then likely, for ever after as well.  It concerns a method of fishing, with a fly, as practiced at the time in Macedonia, and is pretty much the first written record of a fly pattern, however incomplete, that we have today.  I will not go any further into the man we call Aelian, Dr. Andrew Herd in his lovely history, found at http://www.flyfishinghistory.com/aelian.htm has done a far better job than I could.  I highly recommend the reading of this site for those of a historical mind. 

The fly and the method of its use is described in the following passage, from the translation by Radcliffe, in his “Fishing from the Earliest Times,” Murray (1921). 

“I have heard of a Macedonian way of catching fish, and it is this: between Borœa and Thessalonica runs a river called the Astræus, and in it there are fish with speckled skins; what the natives of the country call them you had better ask the Macedonians. These fish feed upon a fly peculiar to the country, which hovers on the river. It is not like the flies found elsewhere, nor does it resemble a wasp in appearance, nor in shape would one justly describe it as a midge or a bee, yet it has something of each of these. In boldness it is like a fly, in size you might call it a midge, it imitates the colour of a wasp, and it hums like a bee. The natives generally call it the Hippouros.
These flies seek their food over the river, but do not escape the observation of the fish swimming below. When then the fish observes a fly on the surface, it swims quietly up, afraid to stir the water above, lest it should scare away its prey; then coming up by its shadow, it opens its mouth gently and gulps down the fly, like a wolf carrying off a sheep from the fold or an eagle a goose from the farmyard; having done this it goes below the rippling water.
Now though the fishermen know this, they do not use these flies at all for bait for fish; for if a man’s hand touch them, they lose their natural colour, their wings wither, and they become unfit food for the fish. For this reason they have nothing to do with them, hating them for their bad character; but they have planned a snare for the fish, and get the better of them by their fisherman’s craft.
They fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cock’s wattles, and which in colour are like wax. Their rod is six feet long, and their line is the same length. Then they throw their snare, and the fish, attracted and maddened by the colour, comes straight at it, thinking from the pretty sight to gain a dainty mouthful; when, however, it opens its jaws, it is caught by the hook, and enjoys a bitter repast, a captive.”

I have put in italics the pattern, and include below a few other translations of this pattern to show how different it can be, depending on the author. 

“Round the hook they twist scarlet wool and two wings are secured on this wool from the feathers which grow under the wattles of a cock, brought up to the proper colour with wax.” Bibliotheca Piscatoria, Westwood and Satchell, 1883.

“They wrap the hook in scarlet wool, and to the wool they attach two feathers that grow beneath a cock's wattles and are the colour of wax” Scholfield Translation

I have examined these texts and find that despite the differences, the gist of them remains, and pictured here are my interpretation of the possibilities these patterns present. 

Sources:

               

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Izaak Walton and the Dame's Dozen 1496-1653

“You are to note, that there are twelve kinds of artificial-made Flies to angle with upon the top of the water.” So writes Izaak Walton in 1653, paraphrasing the words of Dame Juliana Berners which read “Thyse ben the .xij. flyes wyth whyche ye shall angle to ye trought and grayllyng and dubbe lyke as ye shall now here me tell.”

The following twelve flies are some of the earliest written in the English language, indeed some of the earliest patterns written that we know of. Originally found in Dame Juliana Berners “ A Treatyse of Fyssynge Wyth an Angle,” published in 1496 by Wynkyn de Worde, they have been translated and copied ever since. Most of us might also recognize them from Izaak Walton’s great work, "The Compleat Angler," wherein they form his list of twelve, only slightly changed from the originals, and that change being simply translation differences between the English of 1496 and 153 years later in 1653

Both authors have the patterns listed by month, a tradition kept there-after, well into the 18th century. I am keeping to it here but, to avoid confusion and also to aid researchers, I will first present all of the patterns for each month, from the Treatyse, (in italics) with translation from various sources for each fly individually for that month, as listed below. Then I will present the pattern from the 1938 edition of "The Compleat Angler". After that I will list it in modern standard format, with notes as applicable.

Marche
The donne flye. the body of the donne woll & the wyngis of the pertryche. Another doone flye the body of blacke woll: the wynges of the blackyst drake: and the lay vnder the wynge & vnder the tayle.

March
The Dun Fly: the body of the dun wool and the wings of the partridge (March Brown?)

Another Dun Fly: the body of black wool; the wings of the blackest drake; and the jay under the wing and under the tail. (Olive dun?)

Walton:
“The first is the Dun-fly, in March: the body is made of dun wool, the wings of the partridge's feathers.”

1: Dun Fly 1 (March)
Body: dun wool
Wing: partridge feathers
Notes: could be either Cotton #’s 14, 15, or 16, probably 15, so size average is 14
Silk probably black or yellow




“The second is another Dun-fly: the body of black wool, and the wings made of the black drake's feathers, and of the feathers under his tail.”
2: Dun Fly 2 (March)
Body: black wool
Wing: black drake and under tail of drake
Notes: could be either Cotton #’s 14, 15, or 16, probably 14 or 16, so size average is 14
Silk probably black or yellow



Apryll
The stone flye. the body of blacke wull: & yelowe vnder the wynge. & vnder the tayle & the wynges of the drake.

April
The Stone Fly: the body of black wool, and yellow under the wing and under the tail; and the wings, of the drake. (The Stone fly)
“The third is the Stone-fly, in April: body is made of black wool, made yellow under the wings, and under the tail, and so made with wings of the drake.”

3: Stone fly (April)
Body: Black wool made yellow under wings and tail
Wing: Drake
Notes: doesn’t correspond to anything in Cotton, but the sizes average this month is 14. The Stonefly of May is size 10-12 2x long
Silk probably black or yellow


In the begynnynge of May a good flye. the body of roddyd wull and lappid abowte wyth blacke sylke: the wynges of the drake & of the redde capons hakyll.

In the beginning of May, a good fly: the body of reddened wool and lapped about with black silk; the wings, of the drake and the red capon's hackle. (Great Red Spinner?)

Walton:
“The fourth is the Ruddy-fly, in the beginning of May: the body made of red wool wrapt about with black silk, and the feathers are the wings of the drake; with the feathers of a red capon also, which hang dangling on his sides next to the tail.”

4: Ruddy Fly (beginning of May)
Body: red wool
Rib: black silk
Hackle: red capon saddle, palmer
Wing: drake
*Hook Size: 12
Silk probably black or red
May
The yelow flye. the body of yelow wull: the wynges of the redde cocke hakyll & of the drake lyttyd below. The blacke louper. the body of blacke wull & lappyd abowte wyth the herle of the pecok tayle: & the wynges of the redde capon with a blewe heed.

May
The Yellow Fly: the body of yellow wool; the wings of red cock's hackle and of the drake dyed yellow (The Mayfly or Yellow May Dun?)

Walton:
“The fifth is the yellow or greenish in May likewise: the body made of yellow wool, and the wings made of the cock's hackle or tail.”

5: Yellow or greenish fly (May)
Body: Yellow wool
Hackle: red capons neck or saddle (palmer)
*Hook Size: 12-14
Notes: #26 in Cotton, silk yellow could also be #35 the Mayfly, hook size 8-10 2x long


The blacke louper. the body of blacke wull & lappyd abowte wyth the herle of the pecok tayle: & the wynges of the redde capon with a blewe heed.


The Black Leaper: the body of black wool and lapped about with the herl of the peacock's tail; and the wings of the red capon with a blue head.

Walton:
“The sixth is the Black-fly, in May also: the body made of black wool, and lapped about with the herle of a peacock's tail; the wings are made of the wings of a brown capon with his blue feathers in his head.”

6: Black Fly (May)
Body: Black wool
Rib: peacock herl
Hackle: brown capon
Wing: blue as hackle?
*Hook Size: 8-10 2x long
Silk probably black or yellow

I have presented three possible interpretations of this fly due to the ambiguous nature of the descriptions given.  I do not claim any one to be correct, only offer possabilities.  I leave it to the reader to decide and offer comments if they feel so inclined.


lune
The donne cutte: the body of blacke wull & a yelow lyste after eyther syde: the wynges of the bosarde bounde on with barkyd hempe. The maure flye. the body of doske wull the wynges of the blackest mayle of the wylde drake. The tandy flye at saynt Wyllyams daye. the body of tandy wull & the wynges contrary eyther ayenst other of the whitest mayle of the wylde drake

June
The Dun Cut: the body of black wool, and a yellow stripe along either side; the wings, of the buzzard, bound on with hemp that has been treated with tanbark. (A sedge perhaps?)

Walton:
“The seventh is the Sad-yellow-fly in June: the body is made of black wool, with a yellow list on either side, and the wings taken off the wings of a buzzard, bound with black braked hemp.”

7: Sad-yellow fly (June)
Body: black wool with a stripe of yellow on each side
Rib: black braked hemp
Wing: buzzard
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long
Silk probably black
Corresponds to Cotton #32

Braking refers to dying the hemp in the liquid obtained from crushed walnut husks.

The Maure Fly: the body of dusky wool, the wings of the blackest feathers of the wild drake. (The Alder fly?)

Walton:
“The eighth is the Moorish-fly: made with the body of duskish wool, and the wings made with the blackish mail of the drake.”

8: Moorish fly (June)
Body: duskish wool
Wing: blackish mail of a drake
*Hook Size: 12
Silk probably black






The Tandy Fly at St. William's Day : the body of tandy wool; and the wings the opposite, either against the other, of the whitest breast feathers of the wild drake (Either a Dung fly or the Oak fly ?)

Walton:
“The ninth is the Tawny-fly, good until the middle of June: the body of tawny wool, the wings made contrary one against the other, made of the whitish mail of the wild-drake.”

9: Tawny fly (middle of June)
Body: Tawny wool
Wing: made contrary to each other, from the whitish mail of the wild drake
Notes: suggests whole feather wing
*Hook Size: 12
Silk probably black or red

Iuyll
The waspe flye. the body of black wull & lappid abowte with yelow threde: the winges of the bosarde. The shell flye at saynt Thomas daye. the body of grene wull & lappyd abowte wyth the herle of the pecoks tayle: wynges of the bosarde.

July
The Wasp Fly: the body of black wool and lapped about with yellow thread; the wings, of the buzzard. (A wasp)

Walton:
“The tenth is the Wasp-fly, in July: the body made of black wool, lapped about with yellow silk; the wings made of the feathers of the drake, or of the buzzard.”

10: Wasp fly (July)
Body: Black wool
Rib: yellow silk
Wing: drake or buzzard
*Hook Size: 10-12
Silk probably black or yellow



The Shell Fly at St. Thomas' Day: the body of green wool and lapped about with the herl of the peacock's tail; wings, of the buzzard. (The Grannom)

Walton:
“The eleventh is the Shell-fly, good in mid-July: the body made of greenish wool, lapped about with the herle of a peacock's tail, and the wings made of the wings of the buzzard.”

11: Shell fly (mid July)
Body: Greenish wool
Rib: peacock herl
Wing: Buzzard
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long
Silk probably yellow



August
The drake flye. the body of blacke wull & lappyd abowte wyth blacke sylke: wynges of the mayle of the blacke drake wyth a blacke heed.

August
The Drake Fly: the body of black wool and lapped about with black silk; wings of the breast feathers of the black drake with a black head.

Walton:
“The twelfth is the dark Drake-fly, good in August: the body made with black wool, lapped about with black silk; his wings are made with the mail of the black-drake, with a black head.”

12: Dark Drake fly (August)
Body: Black wool
Rib: Black silk
Wing: Mail of the black drake
Head: black
*Hook Size: 12
Silk probably black


“Thus have you a jury of flies likely to betray and condemn all the Trouts in the river.”




http://www.luminarium.org/renascence-editions/berners/berners.html
http://www.flyfishinghistory.com/treatfly.htm
http://www.flyfishinghistory.com/treatyse.htm
http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/68657#1
http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/izaak-walton/
http://www.flyfishinghistory.com/walton.htm

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Flies of Charles Cotton, 1676



Charles Cotton was not the first Englishman to publish a list of fishing flies.  I say fishing flies as these flies, even though meant mostly to catch brown trout, were also expected to catch grayling and even sea-trout, perch and other coarse fish, though the fly angler of the time probably did not purposely pursue coarse fish with his tackle. 
    Prior to Charles Cotton, there were the works of Col. Robert Venables (The Experienced Angler, 1662), Izaak Walton, (The Compleat Angler, 1653), Richard Franck (Northern Memoirs, written in 1658, actual publication date 1694) and of course Thomas Barker with “The Art of Angling” published in 1651, reprinted as “Barkers Delight” in 1657.  Though all of these angling authors were of great interest, only Barker and Walton really contributed greatly to the sport of fly-fishing with their books.  Barker was the first to include instructions on how to tie flies, and Walton is justly famous for his wonderful advice, fly list and basic instructions.  That is not all though, appended to his 1676 edition is to be found the delightful work of Charles Cotton "Instructions how to Angle for a Trout or Grayling in a Clear Stream."
    Cotton, as well as giving plenty of good sound advice, listed no less then sixty-five trout and grayling flies, all of which appear to be original and many designed on the principles of close examination and imitation of the natural insects.  Though the language is a bit quaint by modern standards, the patterns almost alchemical in the list of ingredients needed, (though nothing like later authors were to get) the patterns are easy enough to understand once one gets the hang of it, and relatively easy to identify with modern patterns where insects are actually being copied. 
Cotton also gives very detailed instructions on how to tie these beauties, and here is where the interest of the purist fly tier should be aroused.  These instructions date from before the fly vise was commonly used, and so are all done “in hand.”  The following list of flies is taken directly from The Compleat Angler, a 1953 reprint that I have, and compared with the 1859 German edition.  It is also cross referenced with W. H. Lawrie’s 1969 American printing of “English Trout Flies” where-in can be found the following quote that about sums up the legacy of Charles Cotton:  “Dissolute, and perhaps a better poet, despite his lapses of bawdiness, than a prose writer,  yet Charles Cotton, by this one work, has ensured that so long as rivers run, and so long as Man seeks to match his wit and cunning against those of the fishes which inhabit them, his name will never be forgotten.  His writing shows him to have been an all-round angler of ability, and some of his advice is remarkably up-to-date and modern.  But then that is precisely why his work was a great one: otherwise it would not have endured.” 
I present the Flies of Charles Cotton, with excellent photography by Monte Smith, who holds copyrights to all photos on this page.(http://nwflytyer.wordpress.com)  All flies are tied on modified vintage hooks, with twisted horse-hair snoods of three, two or even one single strand, and tied with original materials as much as humanly possible to date.  All flies are also tied as per instructions given by Charles Cotton, ie, they are all tied “in-hand” meaning there was no vise used.  I have simplified the patterns though for easier comparison and modern use. Hook size was determined by much research and comparison with modern equivalent patterns where possible.  Then I found them listed in the German translation of Cotton and used those.  Paul W. Jones of Historic Angling Enterprises (http://www.historicanglingenterprises.com)  provided much encouragement and advice and materials, as well as the lovely copy of Cotton, in German.  A must have/must read for all fly tiers.  It contains much material that is not in the 1953 reprint or other English editions I have seen.  Bill Bailey (wsbailey1@msn.com) also provided much encouragement and materials, and has been especially helpful in deciphering some of the more peculiar questions about materials and old methods that have arisen in the course of this research.  He has the cobblers wax, mohair, pigs wool and other exotic materials, all dyed the correct colours using period dye stuffs and methods.  Bill is also a fount of knowledge concerning old textile dye practices.  Thank-you Paul, thank-you Monte and thank-you Bill.  With out your support and encouragement, this project would not have been the rewarding success it is becoming to me. 

The Flies of Charles Cotton
January flies
1: Red Brown
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: black cur fur over-dyed to make it red-brown dubbed on red silk
Wing: mallard, almost white
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long

2: Bright Dun Gnat
*Tying thread: Yellow  
Body: marten's fur mixed with white hare scut
Wing: white and very small
*Hook Size: 18-20
Yes, this is actual marten's fur, mixed with the white hair from under a hare's tail (or scut).  Hook size shown is size 18.
February flies
3: Lesser Red Brown

*Tying thread: Red 
Body: black pig’s wool on red silk
Wing: mallard, almost white
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long


                            
4: Plain Hackle (Palmer)
*Tying thread: Black 
Body: Black Spaniel’s fur rough, or black ostrich
Hackle: red capon
*Hook Size: 12-14
I used black spaniel and it should have been rougher I think.



5: Lesser Hackle

*Tying thread: Black
Body: black
Rib: silver twist
Hackle: red capon 
*Hook Size: 14-16
I used black rabbit here as nothing was specified except colour





6: Great Hackle
*Tying thread: Black 
Body: Black
Hackle: red capon
Wing: the tip of the hackle laid back over
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long
These look an awful lot like modern stones and caddises

7: Great Hackle
 *Tying thread: Yellow
Body: Black
Rib: gold twist
Hackle: red capon
Wing: the tip of the hackle laid back over
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long


8: Great Dun
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: dun bear's hair
Wing: grey mallard near unto his tail
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long
The two versions of Cotton I have describe this and the next fly differently.  The German version describes them both as palmers so...

"near unto his tail" the small and very pale feathers down there...

9: Great Blue Dun
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: dun bear's hair from the roots, mixed with a little blue camlet
Wing: dark grey mallard
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long
...I tied a version of each. 
The small dark feathers on a mallard drake's wing is what is being called for here I think

 10: Dark Brown

*Tying thread: Red 
Body: brown hair from a brended cow
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12-14

Brended, archaic term for brindled as far as I can make out.




March flies
 11: Whirling Dun (not the Whirling dun)
*Tying thread: Yellow
 Body: bottom fur of a squirrel's tail
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 14-16 
Underfur of a squirrel's tail, not a problem!  When I originally tied this fly, I forgot that in England at the time, it would have been the red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) that they used, and I, thoughtlessly used Eastern grey (Sciurus carolinensis).  S. carolinensis has been introduced into Europe to the detriment of the native squirrels, and has also been introduced onto the west coast of the USA, with similar detrimental results.  It is the squirrel most Americans think about (it is all over city parks).  I have since retied it and the photo is of the correctly tied fly.  For more information on the European Red squirrel follow the link.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Squirrel

12: Bright Brown

*Tying thread: Red
Body: brown of spaniel or cow's flank
Wing: grey
*Hook Size: 12-14
Cow's flank on this version. 




13: Whitish Dun

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: roots of camel's hair
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12-14







14: Thorn-tree fly

*Tying thread: Black 
Body: absolute black mixed with 8 or 10 hairs of Isabella-coloured mohair
Wing: bright mallard feather
Notes: as little as can be made
*Hook Size: 14-16

Just what Isabella coloured means I eventually found here. 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isabelline_(colour)



15: Blue Dun

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: the down combed from the neck of a black greyhound
Wing: As white as possible
*Hook Size: 12-14



16: Black Gnat

*Tying thread: Black 
Body: black water-dog or young coot's down
Wing: mallard drake, as white as possible
Notes: small
*Hook Size: 14-16
Black water-dog, as in Labrador or even a Portuguese water-dog.  It will also eventually be done with young coot's down also.

17: Bright Brown
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: Abortive calf after dipping in a skinners lime pits, a bright gold colour
Wing: feather of brown hen
*Hook Size: 12-14

April flies
18: Small Bright Brown

*Tying thread: Red 
Body: spaniel's fur
Wing: light grey
*Hook Size: 14-16






19: Dark Brown
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: dark brown and violet camlet mixed
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 14-16
Camlet:  The big dictionary  consulted originally preferred the definition to mean angora goat based materials... so I have been using dubbing of angora goat.  Wikipedia says http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camlet I may be right or I may be wrong.

20: Violet fly
*Tying thread: Dark violet 
Body: dark violet stuff
Wing: grey mallard drake's feather
*Hook Size: 14-16
Wiki gave me my first clue, but the great big dictionary defines stuff as the felted left-over fibres from weaving woolen cloth.  I took a pair of carders, cut my wool into 1/4 inch or less bits, carded it over a white piece of paper and then poured the results into a bag for storage.  The felt looks not unlike dryer lint but dubs well and can be mixed easily with other colours by the same process of 'felting' the strands.

21: Whirling Dun
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: ash coloured fox cub down
Rib: yellow silk
Wing: pale grey mallard drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12-14
Getting fox cub down is a bit of a stretch.  This is in fact the underfur, and it is from a young fox, or at least a fox of very small proportions relative to other foxes.  In Europe, it is the red fox that was used, as it is the fox they have there, so I followed suit.

22: Yellow Dun

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: camel's hair and yellow camlet or wool mixed
Wing: white-grey
*Hook Size: 12-14






23: Little Brown
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: dark brown and violet camlet mixed
Wing: grey
Notes: slender body
*Hook Size: 14-16


24: Horse-flesh fly
*Tying thread: Dark Brown
Body: blue mohair with pink and red tammy mixed in, a dark brown head
Wing: light coloured
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long
Turning to the great big dictionary again, tammy seems to be left over fibres from certain woolen industry practices.


 

May Flies
25: Turkey fly
*Tying thread: Yellow
Body: Blue stuff
Rib: yellow silk
Wing: grey mallard drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12
Exactly what shade of blue was the big question here. 



26: Great Hackle (palmer, yellow body)
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: Yellow
Rib: Gold twist
Hackle: red capon
Wing: mallard dyed yellow
*Hook Size: 12-14
Replace the mallard wing with elk hair and you have an Elk Hair Caddis, or add an over-wing of mallard primary and you have a Henryville Special

27: Black fly

*Tying thread: Black 
Body: black spaniel
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12-14

 





28: Light Brown
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: light brown on red silk, thinly dressed and well picked out to expose the silk
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12-14


29: Little Dun

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: bear's dun on yellow silk
Wing: grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 14-16
Here I had to remind myself that to be period correct, the bear to use would have been European Brown bear.  I used grizzly as they are the same species and are close enough.  

30: White Gnat

*Tying thread: Black 
Body: White with black head
Wing: pale
*Hook Size: 14-16






31: Peacock fly
*Tying thread: Red
Body: Peacock herl with red head
Wing: mallard
*Hook Size: 14-16




32: Dun-Cut
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: Bear's dun with a little blue and yellow mixed in
Wing: large, dun coloured
Head: two horns made of squirrel tail hair
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long


33: Cow-Lady
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: peacock herl
Wing: red feather or red cock's hackle fibers
Notes: a little fly
*Hook Size: 14


34: Cow Dung Fly
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: light brown and yellow mixed
Wing: dark grey drake's feather
*Hook Size: 12



35: Green Drake

*Tying thread: Green or rather yellow waxed with green wax 
Tail: sable or fitch tail
Body: camels hair, bright bears hair, the soft down combed from a hog's bristles and yellow camlet mixed, the body long
Rib: green silk or rather, yellow silk waxed with green wax
Wing: white grey mallard dyed yellow
Notes: on a large hook
*Hook Size: 8-10 2x long

36: Gray Drake

*Tying thread: Black 
Tail: black cat’s beard
Body: down of hog bristle and black spaniel’s fur mixed
Rib: black silk
Wing: black grey mallard
Notes: same size and shape as the Green Drake
*Hook Size: 8-10 2x long

37: Stone fly
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: bear's dun with a little brown and yellow camlet very well mixed, so tied as to make the fly more yellow on the belly and towards the tail then else-where
Rib: yellow silk
Wing: long, large and dark grey mallard
Notes: add 2 or 3 black cat's whiskers to the arming made to point almost upwards and widely spaced
*Hook Size: 10-12 2x long

38: Black Fly (palmer)
*Tying thread: Black 
Body: black ostrich herl
Rib: silver twist
Hackle: black cock's over-all
*Hook Size: 12 2x long



39: Little Yellow May-fly

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: bright yellow camlet
Wing: white grey mallard dyed yellow
Notes: exactly the same shape as the Green-Drake only smaller
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long




40: Camlet fly

*Tying thread: Light green, fine 
Body: dark brown shining camlet
Rib: small light green silk
Wing: double grey mallard
*Hook Size: 12-14



June Flies
 41: Owl fly

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: white weasel's tail
Wing: white-gray
Notes: for night fishing late in June
*Hook Size: 12-14
White weasel, known also as ermine.




42: Barm fly

*Tying thread: Yellow
Body: yellow-dun cat fur
Wing: grey mallard
Notes: Named for it’s yeasty colour
*Hook Size: 12-14







43: Hackle fly

*Tying thread: Purple
Body: purple
Hackle: red capon
*Hook Size: 12-14







44: Gold Twist Hackle 
*Tying thread: Purple 
Body: purple
Rib: gold twist
Hackle: red capon
*Hook Size: 12-14
I used purple mohair





45: Flesh Fly

*Tying thread: Black
Body: black squirrel's fur and blue wool mixed
Wing: grey
*Hook Size: 12-14
Natural black squirrel






46: Little Flesh Fly
*Tying thread: Black
Body: peacock herl
Wing: grey mallard drake
*Hook Size: 14-16




47: Peacock fly
*Tying thread: Black
Body: peacock herl
Wing: peacock
*Hook Size: 14-16




48: Flying Ant or Ant fly

*Tying thread: Red
Body: brown and red camlet mixed
Wing: light grey
*Hook Size: 14-16







 49: Brown Gnat

*Tying thread: Red
Body: brown and violet camlet mixed
Wing: light grey
Notes: body very slender
*Hook Size: 14-16






50: Black Gnat

*Tying thread: Black
Body: black mohair
Wing: white-grey
*Hook Size: 14-16







51: Green Grasshopper
*Tying thread: Green
Body: green and yellow wool mixed
Rib: green silk
Hackle: red capon over-all
*Hook Size: 10-12 2x long





52: Dun Grasshopper
*Tying thread: Black
Body: dun camlet
Hackle: dun hackle at the top
Notes: slender body
*Hook Size: 10-12 2x long




July Flies
53: Orange Fly

*Tying thread: Orange
Body: Orange wool
Wing: black feather
*Hook Size: 12-14 







54: White Dun

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: white mohair
Wing: blue of a grey heron's feather
*Hook Size: 14-16







55: Wasp Fly

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: either dark brown dubbing or black cat’s tail fur
Rib: yellow silk
Wing: grey mallard
*Hook Size: 10-12






56: Black Hackle

*Tying thread: Black 
Body: peacock herl
Hackle: black hackle at the head
*Hook Size: 12-14







57: Black Hackle
*Tying thread: Black 
Body: peacock herl
*Hook Size: 12-14 






58: Shell Fly
*Tying thread: Yellow
Body: yellow-green Jersey wool with white hog's wool mixed in
Notes: should be a moss-green fly
*Hook Size: 12-14 2x long




59: Black-Blue Dun
*Tying thread: Black
Body: Black Rabbit with a little yellow mixed in
Wing: blue pigeon's wing
*Hook Size: 12




August Flies
 60: Ant Fly

*Tying thread: Red 
Body: black-brown cow’s hair with a little red warped in for the tag of his tail
Wing: dark
*Hook Size: 14-16






61: Fern Fly

*Tying thread: Red 
Body: fur from hare's neck the colour of bracken ferns
Wing: darkish grey mallard
*Hook Size: 12-14







62: White Hackle
*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: white mohair
Hackle: white hackle all over
*Hook Size: 14






63: Harry Long-legs

*Tying thread: Yellow 
Body: bear's dun and blue wool mixed
Hackle: brown over-all
*Hook Size: 10-12 2x long





September Flies
64: Camel-Brown fly
*Tying thread: Red 
Body: pulled from the lime of a wall
Rib: red silk
Wing: darkish grey mallard
*Hook Size: 12-14

65: Badger Fly

*Tying thread: Yellow
Body: black badger hair mixed with softest yellow hog’s wool
*Hook Size: 14-16







* are notes taken from the German translation
Tying thread unless specified is Pearsalls gossamer, defaulting to black or white if I did not have the "correct" thread at the time.

Photography by Monte Smith, who holds copyrights to all photos on this page, even the ones I have edited.(http://nwflytyer.wordpress.com)