Robert Barnwell Roosevelt.

Superior fishing; or, The striped bass, trout, and black bass of the northern states. Embracing full directions for dressing artificial flies with the feathers of American birds; an account of a sporting visit to Lake Superior, etc., etc., etc online

. (page 13 of 18)
Online LibraryRobert Barnwell RooseveltSuperior fishing; or, The striped bass, trout, and black bass of the northern states. Embracing full directions for dressing artificial flies with the feathers of American birds; an account of a sporting visit to Lake Superior, etc., etc., etc → online text (page 13 of 18)
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piece by the butt in the right hand, lay it on the side
of the hook next to you, and holding it with the left
pass two turns securely, but not so tight as to de-
range the feather ; then catching the silk, pull the
butt fearlessly into its proper place, and passing
another turn firmly, hitch the sUk under the gut, and
bring it over the reversed way on top of the wing.
Cut ofi" the butt and taking the hook in the left hand
with the head towards the left, apply and hold the
other wing with the right hand. Still keeping the
hook reversed and wind two turns of silk with the
left hand from you, and having arranged the butt
pass another turn and hitch the silk again under the
gut, so as to reverse it for the second time. If the
wings are in their proper place, equally on each
side of the hook, restore the latter to its original
position in the left hand, and having cut off the butt
neatly, pass as many turns as you think advisable ;
then having with your nails stripped off the fibres
from the butt end of an ostrich herl, tie it in with the
point towards the left and the elevated ridge of its
stem above. Hitching the thread again mider the
gut, wind with the spring pliers the herl in close
coils to form the head ; secure and cut it close, and
then stopping one end of silk under your forefinger
whip the other over it three turns and draw all tight.
Apply a little varnish at the head and your fly is

To strengther. the fly, it is well to use a little var-
nish before the head is commenced, and even before
the wings are laid, but the writer's experience goes to


prove that the wings are the last part of the fly to
give out. The head will be smaller if instead of the
ordinary tying silk three single strands of floss are

To make a handsome fly, fasten the hook, the tag,
the tip, and the tail as directed, then preparing an
ostrich herl as for a head, tie it in and wind seve-
ral coils close to and covering the butt of the tail,
holding the hook in the right hand with the silk
coiled up out of the way, and using the pliers to guide
the herl. Secure the end, apply with the left hand
at the nearer side of the hook, the tinsel, and after-
wards at the further side floss, for the body. Coil
the tying silk out of the way, and with the left hand
wind the floss half way up the shank and secure it ;
then tie in a hackle and some dubbing as heretofore
directed, and having spun the latter on the tying
silk with the right hand, work it up towards the
head for the second division of the body, and secure
it firmly. Hitch the silk under the gut, and thrust-
ing the butt of the hackle down through the gut
loop, with the pliers sprung on to the tinsel, and on
the left forefinger coil the tinsel up as far as the
hackle ; withdraw the latter from the loop, hold it
and the hook in the left hand, and with the right
forefinger continue the tinsel to the head. Secure
it ; wind and secure the hackle as heretofore, and
apply a new piece of tying silk composed of strands
of floss.

Select a few fibres of various feathers, Avhich, com-
bined, will produce a pleasing effect, and holdijig


them all together in the left hand twist the lower
half, that nearest the stem several times, and break
it with the nails of the right thumb and linger, till
the fibres are softened at the spot where they are
to be tied to the hook. Include with them a piece
of herl, and applying them with the right hand to
the hook, hold them and it wifh the left, while you
take sufficient turns of silk with the right, hitch the
silk and springing the pliers on to the herl, wind and
fasten the head and finish off.

There may be as many joints or divisions as fancy
shall dictate ; and they can be either of floss silk,
mohair, or other material. To conceal the joints
herl may be wound like a head or a few turns of
hackle taken, or two small feathers from the golden
pheasant's neck may be applied, one above and the
other below, and after being loosely tied they may
be drawn down by the butts till they are separate
round the entire joint. The favorite feather for the
tail is the golden pheasant top-knot, but in many
flies scarlet worsted is preferable, and the fibres of
other feathers may be substituted. In making a
mixed wing as it is called, separate thig fibres as
much as possible, and after the wing is fastened, a
long golden pheasant top-knot tied over it will
often improve the effect. It is common to add to the
wing two fibres of blue macaw, one on each side,
and to tie them properly the silk should be reversed
by passing it under the gut, as directed for tying
simple wings. Care and experience are requisite to
the selection of a handsome mixed wing, and fibres


Df mallard or wood duck, plain or dyed, are usually
a component part. Delicate feathers produce a finer
effect than coarse ones.

In tying in an entire plume reduce it to the
proper size by pulling off the fibres, and if the stem
is large pare it away and always flatten and work it
with the nails ; then tie it loosely till it is properly
arranged, and finally, secure it with a number of
turns. It will slip unless made unusually firm, which
the smallness of the head will readily permit.

Where the tail is worsted, it may be made of
several thicknesses, left longer than necessary, and
pared down and picked out after the fly is finished.
As it is essential that in making a head, the ridge of
the stem of the herl should be above, and as it is often
obstinate in its refusal to take that position, it may
be wound either way, — that is, from you or towards

Care should be taken with simple wings that each
is in the same relative position to the body, and that
the fibres are not separated ; with this object not
only must the thread be reversed as above directed,
but cohesive feathers should be selected. Some are
exceedingly difiicult to tie, while others, such as the
pheasant and turkey, retain their place readily. They
should be selected from feathers taken from the
opposite sides of the bird; and if two or more differ-
ent kinds are to be used, the first wing should be
completed before the other is commenced, and before
the thread is reversed.

In rolling an ordinary feather in j^lace of a hackle,


tlie same course may be taken as with the latter, but
the better way where it is large enough is to strip off
the fibres of one side, and then pare away the stem
with a sharp knife. This requires care lest the knife
slip and cut your hopes in twain. The same may be
done with a simple hackle where great neatness is
required, except that the stem does not need paring.

The tinsel may be double, tied in on opposite sides
of the hook and wound contrary ways, but the effect
is hardly better than a simple twist. In the latter
avoid too many coils ; they should not exceed four
on hooks numbered not lai-ger than one and a half.

Two hackles, which, if the colors are well con-
trasted, produce a fine effect, are usually rolled to-
gether, but may be wound one after the other if
care is taken to pick out the fibres. They are tied
in at one time and handled as though they composed
but one.

A trout-fly maybe made in the manner heretofore
directed for salmon-flies, omitting as much as you
please, or the wings may be laid together back to
back or face to face, held in that position in the left
hand, and applied to the hook after the fibres have
been pinched with the nails at the proper place.
Being secured in that way they resemble the wings
of the ephemeroe closely ; whereas to make one of
the phryganidm a few fibres of one side may be
stripped off and tied on alone, lying close clown upon
the hook. Remember the ephemeridoe have
whisks, the phryganid(B have none ; the wings of
the former stand up, of the latter lie down. Coarse


fibres of hackle, or golden pheasant breast and back,
are usually employed for whisks ; and two strands of
floss carefully waxed with a small edge of the wax,
will make a tying silk as strong and large as should
be used for a small fly. If well waxed, the finer the
silk the firmer it holds ; if not waxed no silk what-
ever will hold.

Another way of tying a trout-fly, by which more
life is supposed to be given to it, is by commencing
to fasten the gut at the bend and finishing at the
head, holding the hook reversed ; then change the
hook to its proper position, and reversing the thread,
lay on the wings, which are composed of two strips
of feather folded, so that they shall point up along
the gut ; secure them firmly and cut off" the butts
close, divide them with the point of the picker and
pass the thread through the opening each way several
times, and if necessary above them both, but not on
the root of the wings, till they stand up, then push-
ing them into their original position tie in below
them by the larger end a hackle and a piece of
round tinsel, and spinning a little dubbing on the
silk, wind it toward the bend ; hold the thread with
the catch, and with the pliers wind the tinsel and
afterwards the hackle, and fasten both at the bend ;
and finish off with two half-hitches. The silk com-
posing the material in which the round tinsel is
wound may be left for a tail, the coating being
pulled off; or the tip of the hackle may be so left,
or proper whisks may be introduced. The wings
being drawn into their appropriate place will remain


there, and offering resistance to tne water are sup-
posed by some to imitate motion. Those tied in this
manner are not handsome, but are great favorites
with certain fishermen for their assumed killiug qua-
lities, and are considered ruined if the silk covers
the roots of the wings, as is done by most Irish fly-

Flies may also be finished at the shoulder under
the wing ; a course that seems to offer no advan-
tages and to combine most disadvantages. Or the
body may be tied, beginning at the shoulder and
finishing at the bend, as last described, omitting the
wings and leaving a place for them till the last ; a
new piece of thread is then applied, and the wings be-
ing tied in their natural position, the second finish
is made at the head.

To pi-epare two single strands of floss as tying
silk, hold one end between your teeth, twist the silk
and rub it lightly with a small edge of wax. If the
weather is cold the wax may require thumbing be-
fore it can be used or will stick to the silk. There
will be found considerable difierence in the strength
of strands of floss according to the color, and in
very small flies this may be suited to the insect
intended to be imitated, and the necessity of any
other body avoided.

The word buzz, which is taken from the buzzing
motion of an insect's wings when moved rapidly, is
applied to the hackle wound more or less along the
body, and supposed thus without wings to repre-
sent that motion. The hackle may be carried all


the way from the bend or only part of the way, or
merely tied very full at the head. In this matter,
as well as concerning palmers, writers differ. A
palmer is properly a long-bodied fly with two small
hooks, and hackles wound the entire length, to
represent a caterpillar and its hairy ornaments.
The hooks are often made double expressly for this
purpose. A hackle has but one hook and a shorter
body. Tlie word midge is another word that leads
to mistakes ; there are only a few proper midge-flies,
such as the gnat, ant, etc., but any fly may be
dressed on a minute hook and called a midge-fly,
although this is not an accurate use of language.
Horse-hair is sometimes used as a substitute for gut
by old-fashioned anglers, but it is weaker, more apt
to slip, and more perceptible to the fish.

An excellent plan for preserving feathers conve-
niently and safely, is to put them in envelopes suited
in size to their length, and to stow them, together
with a piece of camphor, in a tin box. If they are
looked over occasionally, and the camphor renewed
as it wastes, they will remain untouched by moth ;
but if they are to be kept for a long time unhandled,
they should be deposited in a linen bag. The enve-
lopes should be large, for if the fibres are bent they
will not make handsome wings, and the different
classes of feathers may be tied in separate bundles.

The following wax is recommended in the Appen-
dix to "Fly-fishing in Salt and Fresh Water:"—
Melt some resin in a small vessel over a slow fire,
and whilst it is on the fire and after it has become


fluid, take a pure white wax candle, light it and let
it droi3 into the melted resin ; there is no rule as to
the quantity. Pour out upon a board either greased
or rubbed with wax from the candle, one fourth of
the composition ; then drop more wax into the re-
mainder and pour out one fourth more. Proceed in
the same manner with the other two fourths, and
thus you will have wax of four degrees of hardness ;
that with the least wax dropped from the candle
being for use in hot weather, the others for different
degrees of temperature of the seasons. After the
composition has become cool on the board, it should
be well worked on the board as shoemaker's
wax is.

To make soft wax to use upon very delicate silk,
dissolve some common shoemaker's wax in spirits of
wine until it becomes of the consistency of butter,
then put a small quantity on the inside of a piece of
an old kid glove, and draw the silk gently through
it. Or put a piece of shoemaker's wax the size of
a walnut in a small bottle, and pour over it an ounce
of eau-de-cologne ; shake it occasionally till it dis-
solves, when it is ready for use ; then taking a drop
between the finger and thumb, draw the silk through
it. It may be carried in a metal bottle with a
screw stoi:)per, and if well corked will keep for

In Scrope's Days and Nights of Salmon Fishing,
is found the following description of a few favorite
salmon flies : —


Ko. 1. KiNMONT Willie.

Wings. — Mottled feather from under the wing of
a male teal.

Head. — Yellow wool.

Body. — Fur of the hare's ear.

End of Bofy. — Red wool.

Tail. — Yellow wool.

Bound the body. — Black cock's hackle.

Kg. 2. Lady op Mektoun.

Wiiigs. — ^Mottled feather from under the wing oi
the male teal.

Head.- — Crimson wool.

Body. — ^Water rat's fur.

End of body. — Crimson wool.

Tail. — Yellow wool.

Bound the body. — Black cock's hackle.

End of body. — ^A little red hackle.

No. 3. ToppY.

Wings. — Black feather from a turkey's tail tipped
with white.

Head. — Crimson wool.

Body. — Black bullock's hair.

End of body. — Crimson wool.

Tail. — Yellow wool.

Body. — Black cock's hackle.

End of body. — Small piece of red cock's hackle.


No. 4. Michael Scoit.
Wings. — Mottled feather from the back of a drake

Head. — Yellow wool with a little hare's fur next
to it.

Body. — Black wool.

End of the body. — Fur from the hare's ear ; next
to the hare's ear, crimson wool.

Tail. — Yellow wool.

Round the body. — Black cock's hackle.

JEnd of the body. — Red cock's hackle.

Round the body. — Gold twist spirally.

No. 5. Meg with the Muckle Mouth.

Wings. — From the tail of a brown turkey.
Head. — Crimson wool.
Body. — Yellow silk.
End of body. — Crimson wool.
Tail. — Yellow or orange wool.
Round the body. — Red cock's hackle.
Round the body. — Gold twist ; over it hackle
mixed with color, as above.

No. 6. Meg in her Braws.

Wings. — ^Light brown from the wing of a bittern.

Head. — Yellow wool.

Next the head. — Mottled blue feather from a jay's

Body. — Brown wool mixed with bullock's hair.

Towards the end of body. — Green wool ; next to
that crimson wool.


Tail. — Yellow wool.

Round the body. — Gold twist ; over that cock's
hackle, black at the roots and red at the points.

" Concerning these flies, I will note one thing, which
is, that if you rise a fish with the Lady of Mertoun,
and he does not touch her, give him a rest and come
over him with the Toppy, and you have him to a
certainty, and mce-vcrsa. This I hold to be an in-
valuable secret, and is the only change that, during
my long practice, I have found eminently successful.

Another method of dressing ISTo. 3, Toppy ; wing
feather from rump or tail of turkey, which is black
below and strongly marked with a white tip, to be
set on Tweed fashion (that is to say, the wings
parted and made to lie open like a butterfly's wings).

"Body black mohair; three turns of broad silver

" Blue or black heron's neck-feather at the shoulder ;
if heron's feather cannot be procured, a good-sized
black cock's hackle ; orange or yellow wool, for tail."

The long transparent bodies which are made in
imitation of the epherneridm^ and are rather more
admired by the fancy angler than by the fish, are
composed of small pieces of gut, whalebone, or other
similar material, which, after being cut to the proper
length, are fastened on at the shoulder, together with
a thin flat end of gut, such as comes in the covered
part of every hank, and which, after being well
soaked in warm water, has been smoothed down
with the finger nail. The latter, while still damp
and pliable, is wound evenly round the material of


the body, including the hook, for several turns, and
then round the body alone, and secured at the ex-
tremity by passing a couple of tiirns over the end
and drawing it through. As this is transparent, it
will show the color of the substance below, and may
even be wound over floss-silk bodies which do not
project beyond the hook, and while adding brilliancy,
will protect them from injury. The whisks may be
included with the solid material of the body, and
an upper section may be added ; the hackles are to
be introduced, and the wrings secured afterwards ;
but although a very perfect imitation, it is not gene-
rally so killing as the ordinary artificial fly.

In giving the preceding directions, it is by no means
intended to advise that the table vice should be
discarded ; but, on the contrary, a small or hand-
some fly can be tied much more easily with its assist-
ance. A little practice with the fingers alone will,
however, greatly increase one's expertness, and re-
move an awkward difficulty in case the vice should
by any chance be left behind. The great objection
to tying a fly with the fingers is the risk of mussing
the feathers, especially in summer, when perspiration

I am indebted to Mr. J. James Hyde, a gentle-
man who, although an amateur, is one of the most
finished anglers and neatest dressers of a well-imi-
tated trout-fly in the United States, for the follow-
ing directions for tying all Ronalds?s flies with the
feathers of our American birds, so that the angler
who may be unacquainted with the English feathers


can make an accurate imitation, and not, as is too
common in this country, produce some wretched
abortion for a well-known fly, and may at the same
time avoid the unnecessary outlay of importing
expensive foreign materials.

The following list of flies is taken from Alfred
Ronalds's " Fly-Fisher's Entomology." This work
has been selected because its descriptions are imita-
tions of real flies, and not of traditional or conven-
tional nondescripts, which, although the delight of
professional dressers, might be safely worshipped
without breaking the commandment, since they are
not the "likeness of any thing in the heaven above,
nor in the earth beneath, nor in the waters under the

Some alterations have been made for the purpose
of facilitating the reader in his choice of materials,
and the feathers indicated are, in most cases, those
of our own bu-ds, which may be easily procured, and
are quite as suitable as the foreign ones given by
Ronalds. Mohair is the best material for the bodies
of trout-flies, and though others are sometimes
named as being an easier method, the experienced
amateur will prefer mohair, with which he will pro-
duce the same efiect, without any of the objections
to which all other materials are liable; and by a judi-
cious mixture, any shade of color may be obtained.

Ronalds's work being descriptive of English flies
only, it has been deemed advisable to substitute
their American prototypes m all cases where they
are known j and although the trout are not perhaps


thorough entomologists, the scientific fisherman will
always prefer to use a fly which exists in the waters
he frequents, to an English resemblance, restricted
perhaps to a confined locality some thousands of
miles away. As a general rule, there is no doubt
that the best imitations of the fly the fish are taking
will be the most successful ; yet there are excep-
tions, of which the ibis fly is a glaring instance. It
is also desirable at times to vary the sizes of flies,
and to make the imitations larger than the living
flies — when, for instance, the water is rough or thick;
but these variations are not of absolute importance.

No. 1. The Blue Duisr.
This fly is the earliest American ephemera^ and
may be found on warm days in February. In
March it is abundant. It lives three or four days,
and then becomes the red spinner.


Body. — Mouse-colored mohair, sj)un very thinly
on yellow silk.

Tail. — Two fibres of gray mallard.

Wings. — From a quill-feather of the robin's wing.
The third or fourth feather with a tinge of reddish
brown at the extremity of the fibre.

Legs. — Two or three turns of a blue or ginger
dun hackle. One side of the hackle may be stripped
off" for the ephemeridm.

No. 2. The Red Spinnek.
This is the blue dun in its perfect or imago state.


It is now of a reddish brown, and its wings are near-
ly transparent. It lives four or five days, but if
the weather be hot, will be found more at even-


Body. — Of bright reddish brown mohair, ribbed
with silk of same color.

Tail. — Two whisks of a red cock's hackle, or of
the red body-feather of the golden pheasant.

Wings. — From a thin, transparent mottled grey
feather of the mallard or wood-duck.

JLegs. — Plain red cock's hackle. The wings of the
ephemeridoe stand upright on their backs.

No. 3. The Water Cricket.

This insect lives upon small flies, etc., whose blood
it sucks in a manner similar to that of the land
spider. It runs upon the water and darts upon its
prey while struggling on the surface. In the sum-
mer months it is provided with wings.

Body. — Orange mohair, spun on black silk, and
ribbed with black silk.

Legs and Wings. — A black cock's hackle. This
fly is always made buzz. The wings are very trans-

No. 4. Great Dark Droi^e.

This fly is found upon the grass in a torpid state,
until the sun warms the air, when it takes wing ;
and afterwards, if there be a breeze, it is found upon


the water. They are of great variety of color, hut
the hlack is the most common.


Body. — Black mohair spun thickly on black silk
Wings. — The dun feather of a mallard wing. The

wings lie flat upon its back, and the upper fibres of

the hackle should be cut off.

Legs. — ^A dark grizzled hackle. This is a late fly.

No. 5. Cow-Dung Fly.

This fly is to be found throughout the year. It
is most abundant in March, and during a high wind
it is blown upon the water. The color of the male
is a tawny yellow ; that of! the female a greenish

Male. — Imitation,

Body. — Yellow and light-brown mohair mixed,
spun on light brown silk.

Wings. — ^The wing feather of the brown thrush,
or of the rail (corncrake).

Legs. — A ginger-colored hackle.

Female. — Olive-colored mohair body; wings and
legs the same. The wings lie flat, and the upper
hackles should be cut off.

ISTo. 6. Peacock Fly.

This is a small beetle, very abundant on warm
summer days. It often falls upon the water in its
flight, or is blown upon it by the wind. It is highly


praised by English writers, and is described by
Arundo, in *' Practical Fly-Fishing,'* as " the little


Body, — Copper-colored peacock's herl.
Wings. — The darkest part of a robin's wing-

Zegs. — A dark purple-dyed hackle.

No. V. March Beown.

This ephemera is the next in season after the blue
dun. It is a handsome and attractive fly, and is
eagerly devoured by the trout. The male is of a

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryRobert Barnwell RooseveltSuperior fishing; or, The striped bass, trout, and black bass of the northern states. Embracing full directions for dressing artificial flies with the feathers of American birds; an account of a sporting visit to Lake Superior, etc., etc., etc → online text (page 13 of 18)