Photograph by Steve Barnett

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Independence and Influence from the USA

First of all, a Happy Fourth of July to you readers in America!  It is customary for your faithful blogger to wish you all well on this day each year and this year is no exception. 

Today is a good day to acknowledge how, in less than 100 years after your independence, American know how and improvements in materials had already influenced fly fishing in general and dry fly fishing in particular here in Great Britain.  It was two way traffic though, because the new materials led to changes in rod design here that wended their way back to the USA where they were then developed even further on both sides of the Atlantic, to the benefit of dry fly fishers everywhere.

"What the Devil is Regular Rod on about?" you may wonder.

You may recall mention in these posts of James Ogden, a Victorian fly fisher and entrepreneur who set up in business in the 1840's to supply his floating flies by mail order.  His business grew and by the 1860's he was supplying much more than his flies.  By then he had trade links with manufacturers and suppliers of materials from around the world including the USA.  Of particular note were the new silk fly lines that were available from makers in several different countries.  Most of these lines had an inbuilt flaw due to the manufacturing process.  They had little bits of silk sticking out along their entire length due to the sections of silk each having a start and an end.  This was not a big deal to anglers at the time because for centuries they had used and many still did use, lines made of lengths of horse hair, which had the same problem of bits sticking out.  The style of casting a line then was to lay the line out in one go using a long rod, a boy may have an eleven or twelve foot rod and a man's may be as long as eighteen feet although rods of sixteen feet were more commonly seen.  It worked.  Fish were caught.  The pleasures of angling were enjoyed.  So why worry?

The art of selling sometimes relies on helping folk realise that they actually do need what you have and that a new way may be better for them.  James Ogden did this for fly fishers.  He imported his silk fly lines from America and these lines were dressed with a tough coating that sealed in all those sticking out ends of silk.  They were smooth.  Unlike the other lines they would pass through the rod rings (guides) very easily and didn't jam up.  Some anglers discovered that it was possible to extend the cast by shooting these smooth running lines through the rings.  James Ogden noticed this and realised that a long rod was unnecessary if you used the "shooting a line" technique.  So he introduced a range of short rods, some only eight feet long, under the name "Multum in Parvo" ("Much in Little"). 

American idea of six sides, English made rod, American FISH!
The combination of the smooth American fly lines and a rod of around eight feet became the rig to have.  It was a small step from the first Multum in Parvo rods of solid timbers such as Greenheart and Blue Mahoe to the beautiful built cane versions of the 1880's, which were in turn based on the American idea of using six strips of cane, built to make hexagonal section rods.  The influence of the Multum in Parvo rod stretched back to the USA and nearly all single handed fly rods became "short".  In the middle of the next century this influence was to come back over the Atlantic with Lee Wulffe (Joan Wulffe too) and Lefty Kreh demonstrating that very long casts were possible with even shorter rods (only six feet long), thanks to their double haul casting techniques.

Below are a few snippets from an Ogden catalogue of the period.  It would seem fly lines have always been pricey items.  6/6 in labour content in those days would be £183.10 today ($236.80) !!!

Well here is at least one dry fly fisher who is very glad of the American influence on our Sport, wishing you all another "Happy Fourth of July"!

Regular Rod

Monday, 3 July 2017

High Summer Puzzle

Yesterday was a lovely day.  A short bike ride in the morning to get the legs buzzing, luncheon with family and then downriver in the afternoon and staying on for the evening rise with Henry.  It was hard going in the heat as there are no connecting "rides" mown into the very long grass in the top meadows, so we walked briskly down river by the waterside, scaring the fish as we travelled.  Never mind, by the time we turned to work our way back up river the fish would be calm again and feeding in earnest.


"There!  Did you hear that?"

We had some fine Sport in Elliott Holme Wood.  Your blogger with fish eating midges. Henry hearing pheasants (but, in obedience to his friend, not going after them).

"Sneak in here Dad!"

He knew that a pause by the run above Elliott Holme would be likely and kindly waited for me to sneak in on hands and knees as usual...

Experiments in the past with attempts at making the perfect fake midge have all so far ended with the Scottish verdict "not proven".  The conclusion being it might be better to simply carry a choice of tiny Sturdy's Fancy and Grey Duster flies instead of the new experimentals... So a small Sturdy's Fancy was deployed and the grayling and wild rainbow trout conveniently tried to eat it. 

Sturdy's Fancy - A "midge" on a "Mosquito" (the rod's name)

The grayling seemed to follow the fly for a yard or two before taking it and the fly had to be correctly placed on the conveyor belt before they would begin to follow it.  On the other hand, the rainbow trout would move almost as much as a yard to intercept it and an almost sloppy cast would do.  Quite distinctive differences in the way the two species behaved.

The sun went below the horizon just as we reached a pool where we face into the west.  This is a very convenient position to be in during an evening rise, as the water reflects the colour of the sky and the fly can be seen quite well even though it is going dark.  The rise forms were now clearly the oval shape of fish feeding on spinners so the Poly Prop Sherry (PPS) was put into service with a fresh length of tippet just in case the older length had picked up any damage, such as abrasion, during the previous few hours.


At last we found brown trout.  Much appreciated as the wild rainbow trout and grayling are, some brown trout make the day perfect.

Here is the puzzle though.  During the day not a single Blue Winged Olive dun had been seen.  The fly on the menu was midge. 

So where did all the adult female Blue Winged Olives (the Sherry Spinners) come from?

Where were the duns in the daytime?

The answer is that the bulk of the duns round here. in high summer, seem to hatch at two or three in the morning.  Those Sherry Spinners are the adults from at least the previous night.  It will change again as the summer ends but right now, if you see a dun flying about in the heat of the day it is unlikely to be a Blue Winged Olive.

(As ever just click on a picture for a closer look...)

Regular Rod