We inherited much of our fly pattern designs and fly tying from our English ancestors. Tom and I thought we should provide a perspective on a few early fly patterns that were considered state-of-the-art at the time these recipes were documented. We have chosen fly patterns that were considered highly effective for March. Ironically the same fly design was also used by the Swiss about a half-century later as an August fly pattern.
Ancient Flies - The Dun Fly and the August Fly
William Caxton was born in Kent, England in 1420. Later in 1441 he left England for Cologne where he learned the art and business of a printer. He returned to England and set up a printing press in London and eventually printed 96 books, one of which was The Boke of St. Albans. After he died in 1491, his German assistant Wynkyn de Worde took over the press and reprinted The Boke of St. Albans with a new additional volume on Angling, A Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle. Years later the Treatyse was attributed to an abbess called Dame Juliana Bernes without any documented evidence that she ever existed. There is certainty to Wynkyn gathering materials contained in the Treatyse from across Europe. Some believe the abbess is fictitious.
The Dun Fly was one of twelve fly patterns designated the fly to use in March or in the early season in Dame Juliana Bernes’ A Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle published in 1496. The original recipe was simple.
The Dun Fly
Body: Dun wool
Head: (not given, but assumed) Black thread
At that time, a gut fly was used. No eye, simply a piece of gut whipped to the hook shank. The thread was course, so the head of the fly was sizable as well. It is believed the fly pattern was simply a body and two feathers tied in place somewhat like a spent style or delta style. We of course tie the fly on a modern size 14 hook. The fly pattern most likely imitated a dun colored aquatic insect that would end up on the surface, floating downstream with wings spent.
Conrad Gesner of Zurich published De Piscum et Aquatilium Animatium Natura or Of Fish and of Aquatic Animal Life, the fourth volume of a large tome called Historia Animalium in 1558. He began the section on fishing flies with instruction to fabricate diverse kinds of worms and winged insects from the feathers of birds in various seasons (worms probably meaning the larvae and nymphs of aquatic insects). Zurich published twelve fly pattern recipes from Switzerland along the same line of which fly to use which month, without a name. For the fly pattern, we present, we named it the August Fly which was the month designated for it use. There were two recipes, thus we have August Fly No.1 and August Fly No.2.
more to come ....