The Teesdale Angler Part 5

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1. House Fly,–lark’s quill feather,–light brown silk,–ribbed with dark Ostrich herl for body,–legs grizzled hackle. 2. Small Olive Blue,–wings Starling’s feather stained with onion peelings,–yellow silk for body,–legs olive stained hackle. 3. Dark Grey Midge,–wings dark grey feather of a Partridge,–body brown silk,–legs grey Partridge hackle.


Body greenish herl of Peac.o.c.k,–ribbed with gold tinsel,–wrapt with red silk,–red hackle over all.


Body dark Peac.o.c.k’s herl,–ribbed with gold tinsel,–green silk, black, brown or red hackle over all.



These flies, which are known as May flies, afford great sport. Trout and Greyling are so partial to them that they refuse all others during the time they are on the water, but they are not common to all rivers.

The Driffield, Derwent and other Yorkshire streams, have them in great abundance. The best chance with the artificial May fly, is when there is wind stirring sufficient to cause a pretty considerable curl on the water. The _Yellow Drake_ may be made in this way,–a Mallard’s back feather dyed yellow; for wings, c.o.c.k’s hackle dyed yellow; underneath the wings to make them stand upright, yellow camlet, ribbed with brown silk for body; tail, two hairs from Squirrel’s tail. _Grey Drake_,–wings from Mallard’s back feather, black c.o.c.k’s hackle underneath; body sky blue camlet ribbed with copper coloured Peac.o.c.k’s herl; tail from Squirrel. _Green Drake_,–same as yellow except the wings, which must be from a Mallard’s feather dyed a yellowish green.

I have not deemed it requisite to introduce any ill.u.s.trations of flies, because I cannot conceive that any really beneficial results are obtainable by merely showing the difference on paper between natural and artificial flies. Catch the natural fly, imitate it as closely as possible; put your made fly into a tumbler of clear water, then if the size and the prevailing colours as to body and wings resemble your copy, you are all right. This appears to me the best comparative ill.u.s.tration.

I beg to suggest to those who have opportunity and leisure, that they might at the cost of a little trouble, make a collection of all the flies that come on the waters, where they are accustomed to angle. They are easily caught and preserved, and if cla.s.sed according to the months during which they were found, would be useful and interesting to themselves and friends, if only to refer to when manufacturing flies.


Take a hook of the required size, between the finger and thumb of your left hand, with the point towards the end of your finger, place the gut along the top of the shank, and with the silk bind them tightly together, beginning half way down the shank, and wrap the end, take two turns back again which will form the head of the fly; lay the feather along the hook, the point towards your left hand, and take three turns over it with the silk, clip off the points of the feather, and bind it neatly round till the fibre is consumed, bring the silk round the root of the feather to bind to the end of the tail of the fly. Cut off all superfluities and fasten off by the drawn knots, then with a needle trim the fibres and your fly is made.


Have your materials ready, wings silk &c., of the colour you require, then take a hook between the forefinger and thumb of your left hand, with the point towards your forefinger, place the gut at the top of the shank, and with the silk bind them tightly together, bind all tight within two or three turns of the shank of the hook. Take the feather for wings, lay the feather’s point the proper length between your finger and thumb along the hook, and take two or three turns over it for the head of the fly, and bind the gut between the second and third fingers of your left hand, and with the scissors clip off the root end of the feather, wrap the silk back again once under the wings, setting them upwards; with the point of the needle divide equally the wings crossing the silk between them. Lay the hackle for legs, root end towards the bend of the hook, wrap your silk over it and so make the body of your fly, then take the fibre end of the hackle, rib the body of the fly neatly with it, till you reach the silk hanging down, wind the silk twice or thrice over the hackle, fasten with the usual knots, and your fly is complete.


In the manufacture of winged flies a great variety of feathers are required. Procure those of a Mallard, Teal, Partridge, especially the tail feathers; also, the wings of a Starling, Jay, Landrail, Waterhen, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Pheasant Hen, Pewitt’s Topping, Peac.o.c.k’s Herl, green and copper coloured, black Ostrich herl, Snipe, Dottrel, Woodc.o.c.k and golden Plover’s wings, the tail feathers of the blue and brown t.i.tmouse, and also Heron’s plumes. Dubbing is to be had from old Turkey Carpet, Hare ears, Water Rat’s fur, Squirrel, Mohair, old hair cast from young cattle, of a red, blue, brown, black and fawn colour from behind a Spaniel’s ears, and from the fur of a Mouse, and note, Martin’s fur is the best yellow that can be had. In regard to Silks be careful to suit the colour of the silk (at least as much so as you possibly can,) to the hackle you select for dubbing with. Thus with a Dun hackle, use yellow silk; a black hackle, sky blue; a brown or red hackle, red or dark orange do.

The above selection of silks and dubbing are for Palmers and winged flies generally. It is a good plan however to take and wet your dubbing previous to making use of it, because when dry it may appear the exact colour you need, yet wetted quite the reverse. To acquire an accurate knowledge of any dubbing, hold it between the sun and your eyes.

Mohairs may be had of all colours, black, blue, yellow and tawny, from _feuille morte_ a dead leaf, and Isabella which is a whitish yellow soiled buff.


Take a length of fine round silk worm gut, half a yard of silk well waxed, (wax if possible of the same colour,) take a No. three or four hook, hold it by the bend between the forefinger and thumb of the left hand, with the shank towards your right hand, and with the point and beard of your hook not under your fingers, but nearly parallel with the tips of them, then take the silk and hold it about the middle of it with your hook, one part laying along the inside of it to your left hand, the other to your right; then take that part of the silk which lies towards your right hand between the forefinger and thumb of that hand, and holding that part towards your left tight along the inside of the hook, whip that to the right three or four times round the shank of the hook towards the right hand, after which take the gut and lay either of its ends along the inside of the shank of the hook, till it comes near the bend of it, then hold the hook, silk and gut tight between the forefinger and thumb of your left hand, and afterwards put that portion of silk into your right, giving three or four more whips over both gut and hook, until it approaches the end of the shank, then make a loop and fasten it tight, then whip it neatly again over both silk, gut, and hook, until it comes near to the end of the hook, make another loop and fasten it again; now wax the longest end of the silk again, then hold your Ostrich strand, dubbing on whatever you have selected, and hook as at first with the silk just waxed anew, whip them three or four times round at the bend of the hook, making them tight by a loop as before, then the strands to your right hand and twisting them and the silk together with the forefinger and thumb of the right hand, wind them round the shank tight, till you come to the place where you fastened, then loop and fasten again, then take your scissors and cut the body of the Palmer into an oval shape, that is, small at the head and the end of the shank, but full in the centre; don’t cut too much of the dubbing off. Now both ends of the silk are separated, one at the bend, the other at the end of the shank, wax them afresh, then take the hackle, hold the small end of it between the forefinger and thumb of your left hand, and stroke the fibres of it with those of your right, the contrary way to what they are formed; hold your hook as at the beginning, and place the point of the hackle on its bend with that side growing next to the c.o.c.k’s neck upwards, then whip it tight to the hook, but in fastening, avoid if possible, tying the fibres; the hackle now being fast, take it by the large end and keeping that side which lies to the neck of the c.o.c.k to the left hand, begin with your right hand to wind it up the shank upon the dubbing, stopping every second turn, and holding what you have wound tight with the fingers of your left hand, whilst with a needle you pick out the fibres unavoidably left in; proceed in this manner till you come to where you first fastened, and where an end of the silk remains; then clip off the fibres of the hackle which you hold between your finger and thumb close to the stem, and hold the stem close to the hook, afterwards take the silk in your right hand and whip the stem fast to the hook, and make it tight: clip off the remaining silk at both bend and shank of the hook, and also all fibres that start or don’t stand well, and then your fly is complete.


Take the hair of a black Spaniel for dubbing, ribbed with gold twist, and a red hackle over all.


The same dubbing as for the Golden Palmer, silver twist over that, and a brown red hackle, and note, when you make Golden or Silver Palmers, and when whipping the end of the hackle to the head of the hook, do the same to the twist whether Gold or Silver, first winding on the dubbing, observing that they lie flat on it, then fasten off and proceed with the hackle, or you may wind the hackle on the dubbing first, and rib the body with either of the twists afterwards. Palmers may be made so as to suit all waters by making them of various colours and sizes, and it is a good plan to fish with a Palmer until you know to a certainty what fly is on the water. Hackles for Palmers should consist of red, dun, yellow, orange and black, they should not by any means exceed half an inch in length. A strong brown red hackle is exceedingly valuable.

Any person who can make a Palmer will make winged flies without difficulty.


Select a feather the colour you want, and whose fibres are of the length suitable for the size of the fly you wish to dress. Strip off all superfluous fibres, leaving on the stem of the feather no more than you require for your fly, then having previously waxed about half a yard of fine silk of whatever colour you deem best, take your gut or hair and hook into your left hand, lay the gut inside the shank of the hook nearly down to the bend, then whip the gut and hook, at the end of your hook together, then lay your feather the reverse way from the top of the feather on to the gut and hook, make fast the feather with your silk, then wind your silk on the hook as far as you intend the fibres to extend, holding the hook, gut and silk in your left, with your right wind the fibres down to the silk and make all fast, then wind the remaining part of the gut and hook as far as nearly the bend of the hook with your silk, and fasten; wind your silk back again to the feather, make all fast, cut off the remains of the silk, smooth down the fibres, press them between your finger and thumb, and having arranged them to your mind, the fly is completed. Instead of carrying the silk back again to the feather from the bend of the hook, you may finish there, if you prefer doing so. I prefer the former. Making hackle flies is such an easy matter, that any person with any ingenuity and attention, may soon become a proficient in fabrication of them, and by diligent observation as to the size, colour, and peculiarities of the great variety of natural flies, which make their appearance on the water at particular seasons and hours of the day, he will at all times be enabled to pursue his diversion with the best chance of success.

Nature best followed best secures the sport.


You may take Trout in February with the worm if the weather is mild, and continue to do so until the end of October. It is a most alluring and destructive bait, and requires more skill to fish it properly than is generally supposed. After rain, when rivers or brooks are somewhat beyond their usual bounds, a well scoured lob worm will take the best of fish. For worm fishing you must have a yard of good gut attached to your cast line, which line ought to be of the same thickness from the gut to the loop of your reel line, your hooks may be a trifle larger in the Spring than in the Summer, and should be tied on to the gut with good strong red silk; two No. 4 or 5 shot corns, partially split, and then fastened upon the gut about five or six inches from the hooks, and from two to three from each other, are generally sufficient in a strong water to sink your worm to the requisite depth, but in low and fine waters, use two of No. 6, and sometimes one will be sufficient. In worm fishing never attempt to fish down, but always up a stream, and when you are aware that you have a bite, slacken your line a little in order to give time to the fish to gorge, then strike quickly, but not too hard, and land your prize without delay; you need not make more than two or three casts in one place, because if there is a fish he will in those casts either take or refuse your bait. In summer when the water is low and fine, and the thermometer about seventy-five Farenheit, capital sport may be had with well scoured Brandlings, perhaps this sort of fishing is _nulli secundus_, inferior to none in the exercise of skill and ingenuity. The immortal Shakespeare, must surely have fished the worm in clear waters, for he says, “the finest angling ‘tis of all to see the fish with his golden fins, cleave the golden flood, and greedily devour the treacherous hook.” In the Spring you must give your fish more time before you strike them than in the Summer; because having been sickly and altogether out of order, and not yet having recovered his usual strength and activity, he bites but languidly, and does not gorge so quickly as when in prime condition. When you find Trout pulling or s.n.a.t.c.hing at the worm, which may be termed runaway bites, and when in fact they neither take it nor let it alone, it is a sign they are full, and the best plan to effect a capture under such circ.u.mstance is to strike that moment they touch your bait, for if you do not succeed by a snap, but allow them time, they will only play with it for a few moments, and then finally leave you in the lurch. In concluding my observations on worm fishing, I can with confidence affirm that it is, as a bait for Trout, the most destructive and certain agent the angler (taking the season through) can make use of.

The author of Don Juan certainly did not flatter a worm fisher, one part of his a.s.sertion however is undoubtedly true, the worm was at one end, but it did not necessarily follow, that a fool was at the other.

His poetic and satirical lordship probably never saw Trout taken with the worm in a clear stream, if he had I think he would have been satisfied that there was nothing foolish about it. Osbaldiston in his _British Field Sports_, under the head of _Allurements for Fish_, recommends the gum of ivy, he says, “take gum ivy and put a good deal of it into a box made of oak, and rub the inside of it with this gum; when you angle, put three or four worms into it, but they must not remain long, for if they do, it will kill them, then take them and fish with them, putting more into the worm-bag as you want them. Gum ivy flows from the ivy tree when injured by driving nails into it, wriggling them about and letting them remain for some time; about Michaelmas is the best time to procure it. Gum ivy is of a red colour, of a strong scent, and sharp pungent taste.” When fish are disposed to feed, you need not use gum ivy; the attractions of a bright and clear scoured worm are quite sufficient without any such adjunct.


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