Tweed Flies Part 2
first article I painted what was perhaps an idyllic picture of
In actual fact at the time when Stoddart, Younger and the others were angling to their hearts content, there were serious problems. In 1861 W.C. Stewart's now famous The Practical Angler was published, and it his chapter on Tweed he mentioned the effects of rainage ... manufactories, bleachfields etc" and in later editions he remarked that he had been severely taken to task by the Border Advertiser newspaper for expressing the opinion that "manufactories injure... the fishing."
If he had
been writing today, no doubt there would have been less counter reaction, but
it seems that the river was not always the heart of fishing. He also
commented that Mr Stoddart had said that the Gala Water (a tributary of
Luckily for all of us, then and now, this fate did not befall the river, and today it stands as one of the great rivers of the world. This could not be so, however, without the efforts of the Tweed Commissioners and the Tweed Foundation, to whom all should be grateful; better still, if you fish the river, join the Foundation and contribute to the research work that goes on daily for the betterment of the river and especially its fish stocks.
Fishing Up With Spiders
boek was published in 1857. He was a remarkable angler, renowned for his
ability to catch fish (despite the problems of the ‘noxious swamp'), and yet
he had only a few flies that he recommended to his readers. The patterns are listed below, but is comments upon the flies,
what they represented, and how to tie them are very important. He said
categorically that "spiders dressed with very soft feathers are ... for
fishing up rather than fishing down ", and that he felt that only the
Black, Red and Dun Spiders were needed on
emphasises throughout the text that the essential of a good fly is its
fineness; "bushy flies" he cautions, would defy even james Baillie
to "fill even a small basket in clear water with such tackle." The
Later in the century, in 1888, there appeared a slim volume entitled “How to Catch Trout ", the authors of which have never been determined. In it there is a wealth of information that is still valid today, regarding wet fly fishing, loch fishing and bait fishing, but the interesting chapter appears towards the end of the boek. This is the chapter on dry fly fishing. lt shows an interesting line of thought in that the authors tend to disparage dry fly as "cushie", and that no great accuracy is required "when we have so definite a target as the rise to be aimed at." They go on to say that "this appeals to the nature of the elderly angler ... who inclines to give up the more strenuous method for the easier if less scientific one." The proliferation today of both books and fly patterns to match the hatch makes one wonder if the authors did not have something after all, although they will probably be decried today as old fuddy duddies, and their methods totally antiquated. Me? I’m not so sure. Once more there is a listing of some of the flies mentioned by the three doughty anglers, witlk their tyings. I have illustrated a mixture of wets and dries, and they have been tied with traditional wool rather than artificial modern materials. But, before turning to the patterns, I would reiterate a caution that is a valid now as it was over 100 years ago:
“’Fine and far off’, that old down stream axiom, is sometimes correct, but often misleading. "Fine and near" were closer to the truth. Remember Stewart's dictum, that 'long casts are as useless as long prayers'."
W.C. Stewart's patterns:
The Black Spider
Body: Brown silk (James Baillie's method); nowadays often darkened with cobbler's wax
Starling neck feather. Today starlings seem to have shrunk, and I find the
best feather to be at the shoulder. lt is a good idea to tie the feather in
half way along the body and then half palmer it to the head, where you tie
Stewart said he had "never been without one" since shown the pattern by James Baillie.
The Red Spider
Body: YeIlow silk (and see Article 1)
Hackle: Nowadays a golden plover marginal will do the trick, but only use feathers from birds NOT in full mating plumage, when the yellow tip is too strong. This is a good substitute for the dotterel feather now unavailable.
(a winged fly)
Body: Yellow silk
Wing: woodcock wing slips
Hackle: a single turn of red feather (he does not specify, but I prefer hen feathers for all my wet flies).
There are other flies, but only a few. The three anglers however, draw on a larger box.
Flies listed in "How To Catch Trout "
As I mentioned above, I shall only use a few flies to illustrate the text, but they are still fishable today.
The Greenwell’s Glory
(see Arlicle No. 1 of this series)
March Brown (male and female)
The authors do not specify a pattern, but one that is first class is that of Pritt (1885):
Tail: two strands of a partridge tail feather
Body: pale orange silk dubbed lightly with hare's ear and mohair mixed; ribbed with yellow silk
Wings: from a partridge tail
Hackle: from the back of a partridge.
Body: Black silk
Hackles: Fore and aft, two sets of badger hackle, the front hackle slightly longer than the rear.
Skues’ Rough Olive
Body: brown olive feather fibre (goose or similar today), ribbed with fine gold wire Wings: dark starling slips set upright Hackle: Brown olive; Skues specified hen, and if this is tied full and rough, the fly will float well, and close to the surface.
lt is extremely difficult to present the fly fishing history of any river in just three articles. All I can reasonable do is draw attention to some of the great men who have fished the river and written about their fishing. The real experience comes when you go up to the Borders and find out for yourself. The Scottish Borders Tourist Board publish an Angling Guide (see below) which gives a wealth of information on the fishing available, where to get tickets, listings of tackle shops and other relevant establishments, as well as supplying details of hotels, guest houses and these most important holiday cottages.
The one my wife and I stay at even has a special salmon size deep freeze, which gets some use, although not as much as I would like! Remember, too, that the patterns of a century ago are still in use today by those who know!
Further information can be had from:
The Fish Conservancy Centre
Roxburgh TD6 9DJ
(Phone 01896 848271)
Scottish Borders Tourist Board
(Phone 01750 20555)