Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Researching The Wet Fly

For my money, the classic wet fly is one of the best looking flies ever created.  A sleek body with sweeping wings and that classic English look usually associated with that so called 'golden age' of fly fishing or the rough and rugged sport of Atlantic Salmon on a fly.
My post a few days ago had a small image of a wet fly superimposed onto a trout skin.  As these thing often do, my drawing inspired me to sit down and tie up a dozen or so of these winged beauties.  I am not a very goo fly tier, and truth be told, I would greatly profit of a lesson or two from the likes of Hopper Juan or SmallStream.  Despite that admission, my lack of expertise has never been an obstacle that has stopped me before so I gave it a shot.
I suppose the reason I have never tied up many we flies in the past is two fold.  One is that nearly ever wet winged fly I have ever seen has been an Atlantic Salmon fly and well, Atlantic Salmon seldom venture south for the winter so whats the point.
Second is that the classic wet flies for trout seemed to have gone out of style over the years in favor of the small midges, streamers, and emergers of American tiers.
In fact after a quick bit of research through my library of books as well as recently published books, I was hard pressed to find many anglers that swear by the wet fly much less any specific wet fly pattern.  Most of the information I have found on these classic flies come from anglers who view the traditional wet fly as specifically an Atlantic salmon fly or simply a curiosity of the past; a relic to be admired but never fished.
Now whether this trend is due to that obsessed cult of fly fishing enthusiasts (I might fall into that category if secretly observed from shore) that ring their hands together over their fly box struggling to find just that perfect fly to match the hatch, I'm not sure. However, in his book, 

Fly-Tying Techniques & Patterns

  , John Van Vliet says that's precisly the reason and in the late fifties the wet fly began to disappear from fly boxes across the nation.
Another prolific publisher of fly tying books is Dave Hughes and in his Wet Flies book he goes into great detail on the history of the wet fly and how they are to be fished.  A great book but as I surf the blogs for wet flies and wet fly patterns I come across very few.  I end up looking back to books published before the 40's when some of the main ingredients were 'wood pecker' and 'blue jay' feathers.  My neighbors may think I am a bit nuts if I began shooting birds off my fence for the tying material (not to mention this practice is now quite illegal).  There was that squirrel incident last year but that is about as far as I am willing to go.
One thing is for sure, these corner stones of fly fishing have gone by the way side in favor of the midges and emergers of today.
Those that follow my ramblings and outsider art might be able to tell that I like the old, vintage styles of the past.
I like how the fathers (or mothers in the case of Mary Orvis) of the fly fishing movement did things.  Their ingenuity and inventions in a time when not many things were readily available for the every day angler is an inspiration to those that care to take a look.  Google books often has many of these old anglers books of file and from time to time I download them and read how they use to do things.  A recent download for me was a 1903 publication of Wet-Fly Fishing (Treated Methodically) by Ewin M. Tod.  These books are a surprising wealth of knowledge if one can muddle through the old world language and slang of the time
Today I toast the Classic Wet Fly with another classic the English have given us (or at least made popular in the 17th century).  RUM. This brand isn't that old but it sure to do the classic rum proud.  Let the Kraken be unleashed.


Brk Trt said...

While I don't carry many classic wet flies, I do carry and use several lesser known wets.
The classics are truly beautiful works of the tyers art.
Some references for you.

Don Bastian
Andy Brasko
And a book by Ray Bergman...."Trout"

Mark Kautz said...

Hey Joel. Don't know if I've mention this to you, but if I have, indulge me I'm old. Dave Bargeron (Blood, Sweat, and Tears)is doing a book on flies named after Jazz greats. The book is only in production, but I think you will find it interesting. Here is the link to his site.


Bigerrfish said...

This was a great read Joel!

Unknown said...

Brk Trt -thanks for the names, I'll look into their work
Shoreman - Thanks for the link. I'm always on the lookout for a new book
Bigerrfish - Thanks again

jbalk said...

Hi Joel,I thought about buying some Kraken when I saw it recently. I was not ready to cheat on my friend Captain Morgan yet though. But I may have to give it a try. ;)

e.m.b. said...

I was just tying up some "Professors" last night...have gotten into a bit of a wet fly kick as of late. Things of beauty they is rum. :) I agree, it is somewhat sad that these classic wet flies have disappeared from boxes...they're "classics" because they work! I had great luck last season with European "spiders"...soft hackle wet flies. Great post! Cheers!