Trout & salmon flies
- history

Fishing instructor, fly fishing tuition and fishing trips based in Scotland. Salmon and trout fishing advice, flies and articles.
fly fishing brochure

A short history of trout and salmon flies and fly tying

trout flies tied on gut
Old trout flies dressed on gut snoods - now very fragile!

Trout and salmon flies come in a huge variety of sizes shapes and colours. Wet flies, dry flies, nymphs, emergers, hoppers, streamers and each of these general types has a multitude of variations and tying techniques. Salmon flies are also divided into a host of types, classic patterns, hairwing flies, dry flies, bombers, bugs, tube flies, bottle tubes, temple dogs, skaters and shrimp flies. Fly tying has even become an art, the creation of amazing patterns of fur and feather on a hook that will never get wet, an expression of flair, skill and patience. It is therefore with some trepidation that I have tackled fly tying on the site because it is such a vast and difficult subject, but how could a fly fisherman's site avoid doing so? I know that this contribution is woefully small in comparison to the volumes of subject matter available, in mitigation some of the flies are original and very successful patterns that have become favourites all over the world. Allys Shrimps, Cascade, Allys Fancy and a bunch of lesser known but very good flies. My range of special flies are illustrated on the downloadable brochure.

salmon flies gut eyed
Old salmon flies dressed either onto gut snoods or with simple (not twisted) gut loops and hand made hooks circa 1800

To start with however a look at some of the flies that were used in Scottish rivers and lochs hundreds of years ago, and which no doubt would still catch a few fish today. All of these flies were tied onto tapered shank hooks with natural gut strands or snoods tied underneath the dressings to allow the flies to be attached to the "cast" (the word leader is a comparatively recent term). Materials on these flies are simple and easily obtainable, no fancy feathers were available because the Victorian era of bird collecting had not started when these were made, some of these flies are believed to be over 200 years old and they remained in good condition in a paper accounts book that an angler had used as a fly wallet. It is dated 1790 and despite the fragility of its contents, especially the gut, most of the flies survived in pretty much the state that they were in last time they were used. It's a pity that the book does not contain the story of it's life, I often wonder who the owner was and where he fished. He certainly would not have foreseen that his flies, so skillfully tied in the hand could now be seen on the world wide web!

Fly fishing in the British Isles was practiced in the 15th century and it may have started some considerable time before that because the Roman's recorded the construction of artificial flies in the 1st century and the Chinese probably caught fish with artificial flies many years previous. Hooks made of copper were recovered from the period of the Shang Dynasty (16 century to 11 century BC) and there are records of silk fishing lines from the same time. And so we modern anglers with all the latest tackle and gadgets are still trying to catch fish with an artificial fly and after thousands of years I suspect that we are very little nearer understanding our quarry and that is why fishing is such an amazing sport.

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Copyright 2007 Alastair Gowans AAPGAI and FFF Master and THCI, APGAI. All rights reserved.