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Classic Atlantic Salmon Flies- Designed To 'Catch' Fishermen, Not Fish!-This HubPage deals with my salmon flies.
Sherbrook Salmon Fly
MacPherson's Salmon Flies
- MacPherson Salmon Flies
Text and images of my classic, Atlantic salmon flies
A Single Atlantic Salmon Fly
Featherwing Salmon Flies
Another Pair of Atlantic Salmon Flies
Atlantic Salmon Flies
Chapter 2/"Night Fishing"
This is the second chapter in my new book entitled "Fishing". This new work is about my fishing experiences from birth to the present. Up to now my book writing has been fiction. Someone asked me to write about my life. I thought what better way to describe my existence in this world than to use fishing as the verbal vehicle to tell my story. Below is chapter two.
One of the most productive yet sometimes scary times to fish is at night. Just after the sun goes down the schools of largemouth take advantage of the calm water surface to feed on insects. When the water looks like glass the rising bass are easy to locate and then pursue. The drawback with totally calm water is that fish are more aware of an approaching boat. When there is a little bit of chop to the surface the fisherman can get near to the reward without being detected. This holds true for both trolling and casting. Dusk is my favorite time for fishing. Besides the chase of the schooling bass, it is beautiful to view the sky on a clear evening. Even as a young boy I took delight in God’s creation of a beautiful sunset. Just seeing the reds and oranges of the western horizon would remind me of the sailor’s poem… “red sky at night, sailor’s delight!” This was usually a good forecast for a nice, sunny day following.
As the nights wore on back in my youth, the environment became a little scary, particularly when there was no moonlight. I would often imagine all kinds of monsters in the dimness. I think I could see about three or four feet in any direction on nights like that. The noise of frogs croaking and the peepers were a soothing sound to me. Every now and then as I rowed the shoreline a bass would surface and take a dragonfly or other large insect such as a white Hexagenia . Though the dark frightened me to a certain degree there was also the anticipation of stirring up a large largemouth as my Gitterbug bubbled its way along about thirty feet behind the boat. At night I would usually troll the shores as I had kind of a second sense about how far I was from land. Night fishing for largemouth bass generally didn’t produce many fish, but when the explosion of a bass in the dark happened my heart would jump into my throat. And, I could often count on the fish being a good fighter at night. Exactly why this was true I’m not sure. Maybe because the bass had a trembling heart too!
X X X X X
It’s always good to have a little insurance when fishing in the late evening. My most needed policy was to lather up with bug dope before heading out. Most nights I would wear a long sleeve shirt to protect my arms and pants that reached my shoe tops. That left only the need to apply some Cutters to my wrist, hands and head. It seemed that just when I approached a known bass hangout the mosquitoes would swarm around my exposed parts. It took a little faith to avoid slapping at the blood consumers. If I brushed my hands and face too much it would eventually expose bare spots and make me more vulnerable to skeeter bites.
Bass after June 15th had to be at least ten inches in length before they could be kept. And, you were only allowed five fish a day to stay within the limit. I used a stringer to keep my catches alive until I arrived back at the boat dock on our beach. There were five large snaps on a three- foot chain dangling from the back of the boat. Only on a couple occasions was I able to fill the stringer at night. Of course, if I caught some bass during the day that would limit my bag at night. The snaps went through one of the gills and out through the mouth before being closed. The stringer was like a series of large snaps and swivels. Very seldom did any bass die while on the stringer attached to the boat. Sometimes when I hooked the stringer to the boat dock before going to bed, otters or snapping turtles would eat on the stationary bass. I didn’t worry much since even at that early age I had an understanding of the food chain. It’s all part of God’s Plan.
X X X X X
When I was ten years old and my brother was fifteen, Jonnie caught the biggest largemouth bass that was ever taken from Long Pond. It weighed a little over six pounds. It was probably about four pounds more than I ever took from the pond where our camp was located. Jonnie had a photograph taken by our mother of the monster bass and it appeared in our local newspaper, ‘The Register-Herald’, which was published in Pine Plains, New York. The newspaper was printed right across the street from our home there. My mother bought several copies of the paper when the photo came out. We gave most of them away to relatives and friends.
Speaking of giant fish, I had an experience one dark night on Long Pond that I will never forget. I was trolling a Gitterbug along the eastern shore. It was very still. All of a sudden I heard a loud splash some fifty feet behind the boat. I couldn’t see it, but it sounded like someone had dropped a bowling ball from a great height. It scared me and I thought about going back home right after it occurred. But something made me linger and I continued trolling. Then another explosion happened in another direction. This time I could vaguely make out the splashing water off to my left. As quickly as this took place after the first splash a third and fourth one sounded in other places off to the right and in front of the boat. I wondered if it could be an airplane dropping large objects, but I could hear no plane. Was it large fish breaking the surface? Or was it beaver flapping their tails against the surface? I just couldn’t figure the situation out. Before I finally decided to row back home there were probably another eighteen or twenty of the mysterious noises. My friend, Pete, was sleeping when I went into the house. Pete was staying with me for a week. That particular evening he didn’t want to go out fishing, so I had no one to authenticate the unexplainable occurrence. I woke Pete up to explain to him what had happened. He thought it was just large bass feeding on surface insect life. I mentioned to him that the splashes were much bigger than what a large fish could produce. I was terrified after he said, “Maybe you just imagined it”. To this day I’ve never been able to explain this very weird phenomenon.
My Uncle Forrest had a sailboat mooring located about twenty feet out from our raft. Some of the summer he had his small sailboat moored there and the rest of the season he had it situated on Candlewood Lake, near Danbury, Connecticut. When his Long Pond mooring was vacant of its craft my friend from school, Alvis Upitus, and I tried fishing with worms near the anchored mooring at night. As I remembered, Alvis had the first strike at a depth about a foot up from the pond bottom near the anchor. He pulled the fish up on that moonlit night and we beheld the first yellow crappie I’d ever seen in ten years of fishing on the pond. It was about ten inches in length. Alvis was happy to catch the strange looking, black speckled panfish. I was totally mystified by the event. I had only seen this one crappie in all my years of fishing, but we both had seen them in books and magazines.
We continued dropping our lines down with worms applied to our hooks and over a period of maybe an hour we caught about twenty of these strange looking creatures. That night we showed our catch to my father, who wasn’t really surprised by our night’s reward. My dad said that the crappies were not particularly good to eat. So we took our stringer of fish to the compost pile where we just dropped them. Though the compost was some fifty feet from the house, in two days time we could smell the crappies’ rotting flesh. A couple days later all that was left of our surprise catch were partially eaten carcasses and a mess of maggots. I’ll tell you the constantly moving mass of maggots almost made us sick to our stomachs. That was certainly a fine kettle of fish!
X X X X X
On rainy nights we would often go outside the house to pick up nightcrawlers. They would usually measure about seven inches long and as big as an half inch in diameter. You might think it was easy picking up these hermaphrodites. It wasn’t. Aided with a couple empty coffee cans with some dirt and two flashlights, we would go out to collect these slimy, evasive, underground dwellers. If you pointed the direct beam of the flashlight on the slippery worms, they would escape down their holes in the grass. We soon learned to shine only the perimeter of the beam, where the light was duller, on the elusive nightcrawlers. Very carefully yet quickly, we would grasp the head end of the worms and hold them from slipping back into the soil. Then, very slowly, we would pull the whole worm free from the earth. On a good night’s picking we might catch twenty or thirty of the earthworms that were many times caught as they were copulating. Earthworms, as I mentioned, are hermaphrodites and they each contain both sexes. The male organ is at one end while the female organ is toward the other end. They copulate by situating themselves so that the head of one is alongside the rear end of the other. The two worms would in this way impregnate each other… something we referred to as soixante-neuf.
X X X X X
There’s another form of night fishing. Some would say it’s symbolic fishing. Some of us whom you might call odd fellows do some of the most productive fishing at night from an armchair. Thus the name ‘armchair angler’ has another meaning other than reading fishing books and magazines while reclining in a padded recliner. I don’t want to get too deep into this, but suffice it to say that some of the biggest, and most wary fish, are caught without using a hook on the terminal end of the line. Can it be possible to catch fish in this way? Some would say I’m nuts, but I don’t think so.
The Savior, Jesus Christ, taught his disciples that they should be hanging around with sinners. Why do we want to spend all our time trying to save people who have already been saved?. They don’t need to be saved.
Christ instructed his followers that it was better to teach the Plan of Salvation to sinners. How else could they be saved?
All people are connected by invisible threads in such a way that each person’s action has an effect on all others. Just by being associated with others we can cause changes in them, hopefully for the better. Describing this phenomenon too much could end me up in an asylum. Does anyone understand what I am talking about? Jesus did not speak too much about the metaphysical aspects of our world, but there is a scientific principle that states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. It’s part of the cause and effect of everything that is done. As I mentioned in ‘Chapter One’, fishing is both a literal and a figurative process. I can’t say this too many times. We are all fishing all of the time! It doesn’t matter if you believe in Christ or not. You are still a fisherman and you are still fishing. Some are looking for material things, fame or power. In many cases people are fishing for all three. Jesus Christ taught people how to fish for souls.
As I sit here in my home I often think about friends and relatives who are going through troubling times in their lives. Some can hardly make ends meet each month. They suffer for being without some of the necessities of life and have to watch their budgets very carefully. Others have children who are into alcohol or drugs or are into these things themselves. People suffer worldwide. Reaching out to people who need help is sort of like fishing. How can we do something to help these poor souls overcome their trials and tribulations?
There are forces of good and evil operating at any one given time in this world. But I believe that, in the long run, good will win the final battles. There are a lot of evil things going on in the world, but there are good things too. We each are given a very special gift when we come into this world… free will. We all have the ability to make choices and are also held accountable for what we choose. The only perfect individual is Jesus Christ. All of the rest of us are imperfect. That’s why we are here… to try to become perfect. I’m imperfect; you’re imperfect. But by striving to help each progress toward perfection, we are doing God’s will. That’s what fishing is all about.
X X X X X
Enough preaching, let’s get back to the literal world of fishing. Most of the time it’s a lot of fun and sometimes produces meat on the table and tales to tell others. In the next chapter I am going to talk a little about times when you catch nothing, or next to nothing.
A couple years before my mother died, she embroidered a fishing scene of a fisherman fishing at one end of a body of water and a fish at the other end of the piece of artwork. The caption to the embroidered picture read, “A Fisherman Is A Jerk At One End Of The Line Waiting For A Jerk At The Other”. This wonderful keepsake of mine tells the whole story of my life as a fisherman.
My father instructed me in the art of fishing for various species of the piscatorial wildlife in this wide, wide world. This excursion, that would be the framework of my existence, started when I was about four years old. That is, the physical part of fishing. In actuality, we are fishermen from the beginning of our lives. Even as a child we spend every minute of our lives fishing in a metaphysical sense. Kids begin fishing in a figurative way, though it might not seem like that to the adults around them. In every move of their young bodies babies are reaching out in a proverbial way to try to capture a fish. And they will do this throughout their existence.
Fishing with a rod, reel, line, hook and bait was an integral part of my life as my dad took me down to the edge of a pond in my hometown during those early years. And, as I look back on my life in this sixty-sixth year of my mortal probationary period on this globe, he taught me well! Starting with a simple casting rod, casting reel, some twenty-five pound test line and a hook baited with a small earthworm from the compost pile, my father reached over my skinny shoulders to help perform the act of casting the bait ten feet out into a watery world of which I knew nothing. Or did I?
As I look back on those early experiments of trying to catch a fish, I think I somehow understood that I did know what fishing was all about. Over all the years since then I realized that the act of fishing was embedded in me body and soul. It took many years to understand that fishing was more than a trout on the table.
I am a Christian. In this day and age most people are afraid to acknowledge that fact, even though they go to Church at least once in a while. I am not afraid to say it. I believe in the living Jesus Christ… the One who is actively present in this world… the One who can make us fishers of men!
My son, Seth, recently hit a man coming out of a bar in Florida and killed him. The man was intoxicated. My son was going the speed limit and not violating any other laws. But the shock of hearing this tragedy has devastated both Seth and me. I prayed that this incident would not land my dear son in jail, but only time will tell the whole story. I know that God knows that my son is not to blame for the poor man’s death. I pray that the dead man’s loved ones will be comforted in this tragic occurrence. I only hope that the Savior’s net of love will take the man home to a pleasant resting place in Heaven. My Lord Jesus Christ’s love will surely prevail in this seemingly unhappy event.
X X X X X
I was kind of a skinny runt of a child with a sunken chest and tall frame for my early age. Though I was a weakling who often had sand kicked in his face by bullies, I somehow endured my frailty and wrapped myself up in fishing when the weather was right and sometimes during the storms of life. I have always believed in God. I saw His handiwork in everything around me and still do to this day.
In my youthful summer days I would spend most of the days fishing on ‘Long Pond’ in West Copake, New York where my father, mother, brother and I had a vacation home. The ‘Pond’, as we called it, was about a mile in length and one hundred yards in width, although the shoreline was not a perfect rectangle. We spent weekends at the camp during the regular school year where my father introduced me to ice fishing in the colder months and bass, pickerel and bluegill fishing from a wooden boat in the warmer weather. Though I wasn’t a very strong kid, I had good endurance and could row our boat for long periods of time and either ‘troll’ or cast to areas that hopefully had a waiting fish for my bait. I would often spend several hours out on the water fishing with worms during my grade school years. Dad only had to ignite the spark to set my angling fire ablaze. After those initial teachings I pretty much learned how to sneak up on waiting sunfish and carefully drop a worm near their spawning beds. Patience is a great virtue in this life and I learned very early how to wait for success. We learn through failure and trial and error. This is not a perfect life and all of us make many mistakes in our lifetimes. But a constant, ongoing faith that we will persevere ultimately beckons us on. My father told me, just before he died, “Don’t give up!” I’ve kept that advice close to me in the last few years as I’ve struggled to make some of my dreams come true. The act of fishing is a great teacher of that quote. As I practiced my techniques they became more refined and productive in fishing and in all of my other pursuits.
Fishing for bluegills, which are similar in shape to ‘pumpkinseed’ sunfish, occupied my earliest experiences with fishing. I had to be very precise in my castings of worms. If I placed the bait too close to these fish it would spook them and they wouldn’t go for it. While spawning, the bluegills would be on their beds so I had to carefully lay the bait on the edge of the beds and often they would take the worm. After I had caught four or five of these strong fighting panfish, I would clean them and mom would fry them for the whole family. This produced a good feeling in me for having helped to feed my family. Dad and my brother, Jonnie, taught me how to properly clean a fish. First the head was cut off with a sharp knife just behind the gill plates. Then we would slit the bellies open by inserting the tip of the knife in its vent hole and slicing forward to reveal the guts. After pulling the guts out, the fins would all be removed carefully so that we weren’t pricked by the sharp spines on the dorsal fins. Then we would scale the sides of the fish by drawing the blade from tail to where the head had been located. After rinsing the fish thoroughly they would be taken to the kitchen where mom would dab them in flour and dosed liberally with salt and pepper. Then bacon fat from a Campbell’s soup can would be tossed into the frying pan to fry the fish. I can still almost savor the taste as I write this!
Over the years I caught and cleaned hundreds of bluegills and pumpkinseeds. As I approached perhaps sevens years of age I turned most of my fishing to the pursuit of largemouth bass and pickerel. Trolling along the shores of the pond would often produce a largemouth or two as I passed sunken tree trunks and other obstructions. I became very adept at predicting where my trolling would produce a strike. This kind of fishing was dome with spinning equipment and six -pound monofilament fishing line. On the end of the line was tied a snap and swivel which allowed me to change my lures. The most common lures used at this point in my younger years were a ‘Flatfish’, a ‘Jitterbug’ or a rubber worm equipped with orange beads and a small spinner. The Flatfish was a weird looking lure that was drawn a couple feet under the surface of the water as it undulated from side to side in a rhythmic manner. Early on this was my deadliest lure. The Jitterbug was a surface lure that floated on the top of the water and pulsated back and forth while making a gurgling sound to boot! This lure was especially effective at night when the sound of it attracted some bigger bass. These two lures were very effective but I switched to the rubber worms, with three hooks along their bodies, in later years. All three of these lures could be used for casting as well, although my favorite was the rubber worm. It only cost me sixty cents. Generally a rubber worm would last for fifteen to twenty fish, after which they became so mutilated they had to be retired.
Another of my angling methods was to approach a school of surface feeding bass from behind and cast to the forward most fish and reel in the lure, bringing it through the entire school of fish until one would strike. This was usually a surefire technique to hook a bass. I’d hook a bass almost every time I did this. The only drawback was that the fish were usually smaller than the ones caught close to shore. Also rowing the boat into position from behind the moving school of fish was difficult because the path of the school would often change. Sometimes I would stand up in the boat and row from that position and often could observe as many as thirty or forty bass feeding on the surface insect life. I referred to this method as ‘stalking’. It took a good deal of practice and endurance to follow a school while it moved about the surface.
I did not always keep the bass I caught, as my parents did not like the ‘muddy’’ taste of them. My brother and I did not mind eating bass. We would occasionally keep what we caught, clean them and have a ‘Friday Night Fish Fry’.
X X X X X
After a day (and sometimes a night) of fishing I would write in my fishing log what kind of fish I caught, the length of each fish, the date, the approximate time, the lure used, the weather and the location of where the fish were caught. I kept a record for several years. That is, until I turned sixteen or thereabouts, when girls started to look like a better quarry for me!
This morning I am at McDonalds in Plymouth, New Hampshire waiting for a car rental enterprise to open at eight o’clock. My Subaru WRX crashed into a guardrail on the Massachusetts Turnpike about a month ago and I’m taking it to a body shop to have it fixed. I will be using a rental car for about a week while Mark at ‘Finishing Touches’ does his magic to put my car back into its original shape. The accident happened on my way down to Pine Plains, New York where I went to visit relatives and friends in my hometown. I did not get hurt physically but was emotionally distraught from the incident. You might wonder what this has to do with fishing? Well, in general, everything has something to do with fishing, at least from my point of view.
Though I didn’t take my conventional fishing tackle with me to New York, I brought my guitar and some recording equipment with me. With these tools I often tried to catch fish of a human nature. In fact, I look at all of my hobbies as methods of going fishing. In my wandering about I usually come in contact with at least one individual who, in my opinion, needs to be caught. When I am playing music in front of a bunch of listeners, my goal is to captivate them with my music. Music is designed to capture peoples’ attentions, while the lyrics are what I am selling. The messages in the songs are often about spiritual things. As I mentioned earlier I see God’s presence in all things. As a disciple of Christ I always want to pass along a bit of information that will lead people to Him. Sometimes I do this by speaking directly about Christ’s saving grace. Other times I act and speak in a way that sets an example of His love. Most of the time I fish for people in social situations where I don’t even know the group members. Once in a while I have a particular fish that I plan to hook and set about my plans to carefully place the bait where it will do the most good.
Many times a fish will go for the bait and engulf it but miss being hooked. This is devastating at times and often makes me unhappy. But after a few moments I think about returning another time to snag the elusive prospect. Also, there is the chance that another fisherman will come along and embed the business end of the bait in the fishes’ jaw. Persistence pays off many times and then again a fish can be wary and selective of what it will strike. And, once in a great while a really big fish will come along, take the bait, get well hooked and eventually be landed. I’m sure you get the drift of this line.
I’ve caught quite a number of various species of fish in my life, but after catching a lot of one kind, I became centered on catching some big ones. Quality catches replaced quantity landings. From catching hundreds of baby bullheads of about half an inch in length to landing a lake trout of twenty-six pounds, most fishermen seem to run the course of size and numbers. If you want to do really good fishing you have to accept that there will be many small catches and a much smaller quantity of giants.
About a quarter mile south of our camp was a boat dock that extended out from the western shore of the pond. The Grau family, who had a nice summer home right on the water, would come up from New York City on weekends like we did in the spring and fall months. They were up all summer too. Their camp was just to the north side of the boat dock. My friend, Terry O’Hanlon, who came from Brooklyn, would come up on some weekends and stay most of the summer as well. Terry was my age. We became blood brothers at about twelve years old. Because of this pact we spent a lot of time together. The boat dock was near his camp too, but his house was situated farther away from the water’s edge than the Graus. I can picture that dock clearly today. It was one of the first places I went after coming up following school on Fridays. The dock went out about fifteen feet from the shore to its end where it was supported by two inch steel pipes on each side. The depth of the water at the end of the dock was about six feet. The bottom of the pond there was full of various odd shaped rocks both large and small.
Obstructions, like docks and rafts, always gave us better chances of hooking different species of fish. This particular dock was home to a lot of rock bass, a weird looking specie about the size of a large sunfish, but with the color and markings of a largemouth bass. The large red eyes of the rock bass made them almost prehistoric in appearance. They would hide beside or under rocks where they could lie in waiting for insect life and smaller fish to pass by. They were a very cautious breed and difficult to entice with a worm. But worms were about the only bait Terry and I could use to catch them. Generally we had to drop the baited hook down and watch closely as we would drift the bait toward the underside of a rock. Sometimes this fishing technique would take as much as a half hour before the rock bass would bite or we became bored and gave up. I didn’t like giving up. Terry was not as devoted to fishing as I was. As my friend headed back to his camp, I concentrated harder on luring one of these prize catches. Though only about seven or eight inches in length, they were great fighters. Employing two of the necessary virtues for reluctant rock bass, patience and perseverance, I would usually prevail in hooking and landing the rock bass. I caught my share of these feisty fish in my younger years, but I never ate one. I’d generally let them go if pulling the hook out of their mouths did not injure them. If they were hurt to the point that they couldn’t swim away, they became a meal for the otters, turtles and other scavengers. .
X X X X X
My cousin, Danny, would sometimes come up to our camp in the summer to stay for a week when we were in our early teens. I don’t think Danny really understood fishing. One mid-morning we were out in the boat near some lily pads on the western shore near camp and we tried our luck for pumpkinseeds. Actually we were in among the pads, which at that time of year had beautiful white flowers with yellow centers and had a wonderful fragrance. I was catching sunfish left and right at one end of the boat while Danny at the other end was catching nothing… even though we were both using the same bait… worms. I thought my cousin had probably had his worm taken without hooking a fish. So, I asked him to bring up his line and check his bait. When he did I saw that he had weeds all covering his baited hook.
“That’s the problem Dan,” I counseled my cousin. “You have weeds all over your hook!”
“That’s alright,” Danny said. “The weeds make good camouflage.”
I laughed profusely! Then I thought to myself, without scolding Danny, that fishermen have different tactics in applying their art of angling. It could have been that he wanted to give the poor fish an equal advantage in the game of fishing. Needless to say I spent most of the rest of Danny’s stay with me fishing alone. My cousin read comics and watched our one snowy channel on television while I angled. I can’t remember Danny fishing in the traditional manner ever again! Danny watched a couple of Yankee games on the TV… which I guess could be construed to be a figurative method of fishing. Mostly he fished in a Triscuit box while watching the games! That’s okay Cuz. I understand your fishing methods. I was a baseball fan too, but I’d rather play it than watch it on a black and white television screen.
My double cousin, Neil, also was not much of a conventional fisherman. He just didn’t get it. He’d rather spend his time destroying things, like the time we secured some ‘ashcans’ from Terry O’Hanlon who got them through the black market down in Brooklyn. Neil took great pleasure as we went out in the boat to catch mud turtles of many different sizes. I guess I was part of Neil’s dastardly deeds on one occasion when we took five of the beautifully decorated turtles, wedged ashcans into the front of the poor creatures’ shells, lit the fuses and them dropped them into the water. Well, I won’t go through the gory details, but Neil’s idea turned me even more into an avid angler. I swear I never did anything like that again!
Yes, each young fisherman has his own unique strategy for accomplishing his piscatorial endeavors. My mother use to tell me periodically that variety is the spice of life. If every angler fished using the same methods nothing new would be learned. One thing I learned that was new to me one summer occurred when I was fishing among a bunch of pickerel weeds in a cove on the eastern side of our pond. I was around thirteen as I recall and casting from a standing position in the middle of the boat so that I could grab the oars and maneuver the boat every few casts. Using a rubber worm with three salmon egg colored beads and a spinner device I casted toward a clump of pickerel weeds in the middle of the cove. After starting to reel in my line slowly, I had a powerful strike! The big largemouth bass jumped several times as they often do. Then it meandered amongst the weeds and used them as leverage to curtail my efforts in reeling him into the boat. I pulled a little too hard and the six -pound monofilament snapped. Not only did I lose the fish, but my new plastic worm that cost me a good part of my allowance for that week was lost too!
Two weeks later I was trolling past some pickerel weeds, about a hundred yards south of where I lost that large bass, with a new worm bought that morning at Ernie Englebert’s Store in West Copake. But somehow I thought this new plastic worm had some special magic to it as there were four beads on it instead of the usual three. I had a strike, but not the usual type of resistance as I started to reel in the catch. After a short battle, which felt like hauling in a log, I lifted the bass into the boat and gasped at what I saw. The rear hook on the new plastic worm had caught the eyelet of the old worm that I had broken off fourteen days ago! When I related this story to my parents and brother they all thought I was pulling their legs. But, I can say that this tale is true. Though the bass was not too healthy, (I guess), from having carried that worm around in his jaw, I just knew it had to be the same fish I had lost two weeks previous. No fish tale!
"Lady In Red"
Lady In Red
Salmon flies have captured my attention again. I hadn't dressed one in almost a year. I recently purchased a macro lens for my SLR camera, so am able to shoot things extremely close. The fly above uses a single Indian Crow feather over the tail (it tends to blend in with the tippet wing). The cobalt blue 'cheek' is from a Blue Chatterer while the wing is composed of four, overlapping Amherst Pheasant tippet feathers dyed red. The hook is a lady's 1/0 'Bartleet' style broach pin. Maybe I'll give it to someone special! All I can say about this is the bug has bitten.
Beginner Fly Tying Classes
Tonight I will be teaching a beginner's class in fly tying up in Ashland, New Hampshire. There will be six classes through the month of December. The theme of these classes will be 'learning basic fly tying' techniques. Each successive class will introduce a new part of the learning process. Next Spring we will help those who have tied their first flies to catch fish on the actual flies they tied. This is always a fantastic thrill to land a trout or other species on something you have fashioned.
Beginner Fly Tying Books
- Amazon.com: Fly Tying For Beginners: How to Tie 50 Failsafe Flies (9780764158452): Peter Gathercole:
Amazon.com: Fly Tying For Beginners: How to Tie 50 Failsafe Flies (9780764158452): Peter Gathercole: Books
The "Sunset" Video
Below is a video I made about a year ago of an original atlantic salmon fly named "Sunset". I gave three brooch pins of this pattern to 'The Brotherhood of the Jungle Cock' for young folks who are learning the rudiments of fly tying and fly fishing. My friend, Alan Erdossy, has been involved in this organization for many years. If you would like to know how to put a salmon fly together watch this video. It shows most of the procedures need to fashion classic flies. This fly shows the colors of Autumn and the setting sun one evening while I began creating this fly. I've been dressing classic, atlantic salmon flies professionally for over 32 years.
Video of the "Sunset"
Fly Tying Classes
I'm giving fly tying classes for beginners this October, November and December up in Ashland, New Hampshire. The six classes will explore the rudiments of fly dressing and will start with a very simple fly and then progress to more involved techniques. In the Spring we will go fishing to catch trout or other species of fish on the flies the students tie. I will probably video the classes and then put the short movies on the internet. Below is a movie of a salmon fly being dressed that I made about a year ago. The fly is called the "Blue Breeze".
The "Blue Breeze"
Playing & Fishing
This last weekend (September 16th through the 18th of 2011) we traveled to Stowe, Vermont where we attended the 'British Invasion' car show. In the late afternoon a group of four of us went to visit the 'Fly Rod Shop' just south of Stowe. I bought a St. Croix, graphite fly rod (2-weight/6') and a 2-weight matching reel with backing and floating fly line. Some people would call it a toy, but I think it's a very nice set up for trout fishing. The reel is a 'Grey' which is a subsidiary of Hardy, a noted fly reel manufacturer from Alnwick, England. I will try it out in my back yard as soon as the weather improves. Here's a photo of the rod and reel with my McPherson guitar. Also in the photo is a Simms fly fishing vest.
Third Catalog of Salmon Flies
In 1986 I had my third atlantic salmon fly color catalog published. I use to advertise the little information booklet in such magazines as 'Fly Tyer', 'Rod & Reel', 'Fly Fisherman' and many other smaller publications. The catalog featured short articles on several different types of classic salmon flies including authentic classic full dress salmon flies, mixed wings, Speys, Dee-strips, Plain wings and low-waters. There also was a page on hooks ( both antiques and more modern) in several sizes and shapes. Each chapter in the catalog has brief explanations of the various categories. All three of my colored plate catalogs are now collector's items. The photo of pages 8 and 9 is included below.
12 Authentic Atlantic Salmon Flies
Famous Classic Salmon Flies
One of the most famous classic, atlantic salmon flies is the 'Jock Scott'. The first well known versions of this traditional pattern were immortalized in George Kelson's lavish book "The Salmon Fly"-1895. The pattern has a good blend of colors both dark and light, and it uses Toucan, Indian Crow, Blue Chatterer and Speckled Bustard in its construction. Another version of the Jock Scott was popularized by T.E. Pryce-Tannatt in his 1914, first edition of "How To Dress Salmon Flies". The bodies of the Kelson and Pryce-Tannatt patterns are almost identical, while the wings though similar have some differences to them. These two flies are pictured below. They were dressed by one of my students, Michael D. Johnson, about ten years ago. The hooks used to 'busk' them are 7/0 Bartleet, tapered shanks with silkworm gut eyes. The hooks are over 120 years old!
Kelson's 'Jock Scott' (1895)
T.E. Pryce-Tannat's 'Jock Scott' (1914)
Fly Dressing/Cock of the Rock
The Cock of the Rock performs for his female counterpart by dancing around in a clearing in the jungles of northern South America. He is very much like the Birds of Paradise in various locations around the world. If he wins a mate he gets to have sex with her and thus the specie continues. These birds are protected and on the endangered species list. When they were legal to kill back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the skins made their way back to the British Isles to adorn ladies' hats and other clothing. When fly tiers got ahold of them, all gaudiness happened!
Fly Fishing Show
- Broadside International Exhibition | Max Flies
March 5th, 2011- I was invited as a guest by Broadside International (Alan Erdossy and Angus Boeseman) to a fly fishing show in Pelham, NH. Had a great time dressing salmon fly brooch pins and giving them away. Made new friends and met old ones.
The "Blue Breeze" Video
- Blue Breeze Video
This link leads you to the video of my latest creation, The "Blue Breeze". It's about 14 minutes in length and features musical excerpts from my first album, "Big Plans". The fly in the video is for sale as well as a DVD of it.
"Blue Breeze" (no brooch pin)
"The Blue Breeze"
Ariel Toucan/ Jock Scott
- Max Flies | Salmon Flies, Music & Books
There are photos of Ariel Toucans here and a photo of a "Jock Scott" classic, atlantic salmon fly dressed by expert dresser Michael D. Johnson. There is also a link there to lead you to information on the Toucan
Indian Crow/Red-Ruffed Fruit Crow
Video of the Making of The "Sunset"
- Video of the Dressing of The "Sunset" Salmon Fly
This video shows various excerpts of my construction of my original full dress salmon fly called The "Sunset". It is an instructional short subject with the displaying of the basic steps in creating a simple salmon fly. I hope you like it!
Fly Fish New Hampshire Show
- Fly Fish NH Show
This link leads you to my website where I have information on a fly fishing show in Manchester, NH that I have been invited to as a guest fly dresser. I will probably be tying a "Jewel" and a "Sunset". My frames will also be available to peruse.
The "Jewel" #2 Salmon Fly Video
- The "Jewel" #2 Salmon Fly Video
This is a link to my recent homemade video of the dressing of a very attractive, full dress salmon fly. It is about 13 minutes in length. It shows the basic construction of a full dress salmon fly. Also, the brooch pins of this fly are for sale.
The "Jewel" Salmon Fly As Described Above
- Max Flies | Salmon Flies, Music & Books
Check out this wonderful photo of my "Heavenly Lady" and read about the exotic feathers that go into her. There's also some general knowledge on the Victorian Era in Great Britain when salmon flies evolved and flourished.
My "Heavenly Lady"
Here's Another Pretty Lady
The 'Jewel' In Fancy Box
My Fly Dressing Desk Is Complete!
My First Framing Work In Two Years!
Closeup Of The Three Flies
"Green Highlander Variant"
Fly Without A Name...Yet!
"Lady In Red"
"Lil' Boy Blue"
Charles Bowlker's "The Art of Angling"-1829
Poem At The End of Bowlker's Book
"The Angler envies no man's joys
But his, who gains the greatest sport;
With peace, he dwells far from the noise
And bustling grandeur of a court."
Plain Wing Salmon Fly
"Baron" Salmon Fly
- Baron/Classic, Atlantic Salmon Fly
This classic fly was dressed by me about twenty years ago. It is authentically dressed from a recipe in T.E. Pryce-Tannatt's "How To Dress Salmon Flies"-1914. It uses Blue Chatterer, Indian Crow, Speckled Bustard and Eurasian Jay on a blind eye hook.
Max MacPherson, Jr.'s Salmon flies
- Max's Classic Salmon Flies/Authentically Dressed
These are my authentically dressed, classic, atlantic salmon flies which I gave to Paul Schmookler to go into a book he had planned. They never flew! Then Paul put them up for sale on this page for $400. I never saw the money or the flies again!
Frontispiece of "The Book of The Salmon" by 'Ephemera'
Atlantic Salmon Fishing/Tom Hennessey
- Max Flies
This drawing was done for one of my "Atlantic Salmon Flies" catalogs back around 1986. The drawing was made by my friend Tom Hennessey who is well known for his angling pictures. Click on the link below and you will see more of his work!
Tom Hennessey/Sporting Art
- The Sporting Art of Tom Hennessey: Home
Here is some more of Tom Hennessey's exquisite sporting artwork. He's been at this for longer than I've been involved in dressing salmon flies (32 years). He often has prints available for most of his art.
Pages 2 & 3 From "Atlantic Salmon Flies" by Maxwell MacPherson, Jr.
Classic Salmon Flies
This type of Atlantic Salmon was first created back in the early to mid 1800s. They were simple flies made to catch atlantic salmon. Later on in the 19th century, with British involvement around the world (Victorian Era), birds' feathers were brought back to the British Isles for use in the hat making trade (millinery). Every form of artistic expression back then made use of many gaudy products and fly tying was no exception. My hobby and semi-profession for the past 32 years was to create these exotic salmon flies in the manner they were constructed in the Victorian Age.
I don't have a lot of photos of my creations, but will be photographing some flies in the next few days. Come back and check on this hub to see some spectacular artwork. I will be describing some of the materials that go into these pieces of art and how they are applied as well as where they originated.
History of the "Black Dog"
- The Black Dog Salmon Fly - Fly Fishing About Fly Fishing
Clicking here will take you to a Webpage where, after scrolling down a ways, you will see a "Black Dog" from George Kelson's "The Salmon Fly"-1895. I have included some history of this salmon fly and the dressings as it evolved during the 1800's.
Atlantic Salmon In Russia
HMH Standard Fly Tying Vise
- Fly Tying Vise
HMH Standard Fly Tying Vise - I've been using this vise professionally for 32 years, dressing classic, atlantic salmon flies. The vise has performed extremely well during that time. I'm buying another one to use as a teaching tool for students of ASF
Fly Fishing/Fly Tying Store
- Welcome To Stone River Outfitters
The company use to be known as 'Hunter's Angling Supplies' back in the late 1970s into the 21st century. Bill Hunter ran the small shop out of his house in New Boston, NH. He moved downtown there after a few years and expanded to a larger store.
Here's Some History On Antique Atlantic Salmon Hooks
- Ronn Lucas Sr
Ronn Lucas has some interesting information here on the history, types and sizes of old atlantic salmon fly hooks. The old hooks, especially the tapered shank types, (which require a silkworm gut eye), are scarce and valuable.
- Fly Fishing History: Silkworm Gut
Silkworm gut was used for doctors' sutures many years ago. In the 19th century it was employed by the fishing industry to make eyes for blind eye hooks and for leaders to go between the fly line on a fly rod and fly reel. Some still do this today!
Covers of My 1982 & 1986 Catalogs
"Atlantic Salmon Flies" Catalogs
I have two copies of each of my 1982 and 1986 salmon fly catalogs. These little informative 'bookalogs' are now collectors' items. They contain numerous color plates of classic salmon flies as well as hairwings. Because I have so few left I am offering them for sale at $100 each. The plates are excellent and there is much educational information on the types of classics. There are full dress flies, Speys, Dee-strips, low waters, silkworm gut eyed, authentically dressed flies, plain wings and my version of 'mixed wings'.
Ancient Salmon Flies
Here's Some Gaudy Salmon Flies
- Paul Schmookler - Classic Salmon Flies by Hrur Filipsson
This link takes you to some really fancy looking salmon flies. Some of them are Schmookler's own concoctions. Very rare, exotic feathers are used in many of the patterns on this page. You have to check these out!
"Green Highlander" Classic Atlantic Salmon Fly
- Green Highlander "Fly of the Week #62 - FAOL
Green Highlander-This link tells a little of the history of this well known, classic salmon fly. Versions of this fly date back to the mid-19th century. The materials used to dress it and instructions for tying it are also included in this link.
My Fly Dressing Desk
Classic Atlantic Salmon Flies
- Welcome to Maxflies
This is my main website devoted to classic salmon flies. It displays over twenty salmon flies in full color. The intricate design will dazzle you. There are other aspects to the site. Feel free to jump around and check out the information and images!
Feathers For Fly Dressing
- The Feather Emporium; feathers for fly tying and feather crafts.
This is an excellent website for reading about some of the rare feathers that make up an authentic classic atlantic salmon fly. There are also photos of most of the exotic birds that were so common a hundred years ago or more.
The "Blue Chatterers"/Genus-Cotinga
Indian Crow (Pyroderus scutatus)
Life Cycle of Atlantic Salmon
- Life Cycle of The Atlantic Salmon
This site shows images of the various stages of life for the Atlantic Salmon. It also does the same for the five species of Pacific Salmon and Steelhead. Here you will learn the differences between the life cycles of the Atlantics and the Pacifics.
"Dunkeld & Benchill"
"Dunkeld" & "Benchill"
The top fly in the above photo is a "Dunkeld". It's wing is made with 'married' strips of Golden Pheasant tail, Speckled Bustard and colored strips of Swan shoulder feathers. The various wing feathers that are 'married' are put edge to edge and then stroked until they all adhere to one another to form a 'skin'. Other embellishments are then added. Cheeks of Jungle Cock are then half covered with Blue Chatterer. Finally, a yellow topping goes over the top. The topping is from the neck portion of a Golden Pheasant.
The lower fly ("Benchill") has an inner wing of paired GP tippets set back to back on top of the hook. Then skins are formed of GP tail, Speckled Bustard, Peacock wing and colored slips of blue and red dyed Swan shoulder sections... all married together. This fly has cheeks of Jungle Cock. Legal JC is now available in this country... but it's expensive!
Golden Pheasants are indigenous originally to China, but are now raised in large numbers in the US. Speckled Bustard is available from collectors and salmon fly dressers, but they fetch up to $200/feather (Kori). They come from southern Africa and India in various types and sizes. Blue Chatterer (Cotinga family) are located live in northern South America as are the Indian Crows (Pyroderus scutatus). But don't go down there to kill some and bring them back. They are protected birds and the jails in SA are not much fun!
Three Classic Salmon Flies
"Sir Herbert", "2001" & "Lady Amherst"
The top fly (Sir Herbert) is also dressed with back to back GP tippets applied as an inner wing. Over top of this is a married skin of Speckled Bustard, light blue, red and yellow dyed Swan shoulders sections placed toward the top of of the tippets on both sides of the fly. Peacock 'sword' feathers are put on as sides, followed by Jungle Cock cheeks. A GP topping for the tail and cap of the pattern.
The colored fibers you see on the underside front of each fly are usually fashioned from dyed rooster or hen hackles, added by a method known as 'doubling' a hackle. More on this later. Often the 'throat' of a fly will have two or three hackles from various species of birds. The Lady Amherst has a throat of Teal wound around just behind the head of the salmon fly.
The middle fly above is made of an inner wing of Himalayan Pheasant. These 'eyed' feathers really make the fly simple but extremely attractive! There are Indian Crow feathers back to back over the GP topping. Indian Crow half covered by Blue Chatterer act as the multiple cheeks.
The bottom fly above is a "Lady Amherst". It has an extended Jungle Cock placed on top of the hook shank and covered by two pairs of Amherst Pheasant tippet feathers (white with black marking). Jungle Cock and Blue Chatterer act as double cheek.
The hooks used in the three fly photo are gold colored.
"Abigail"-The Socialite's Sister
Classic, Atlantic Salmon Flies For Sale
All the Atlantic salmon flies seen on this page are for sale in attractive framed settings. If you are interested in them, leave a comment with a way to get back to you and I'll give you the prices. I currently have about 35 frames of from one to three flies in each frame.These salmon flies are collectors' items. They are expensive and are sought after by salmon fishermen around the world.
"Doubling A Hackle"
Let's see if I can explain this process with just words. A hackle is a feather from the back of a bird, generally from a rooster or hen chicken. It can be a white hackle dyed whatever color needed or a natural hackle from any large bird, such as a Guinea Fowl, Heron, Turkey, etc. Usually a single feather is used for 'doubling' at any one time.
The base of the hackle is held by a tool called, appropriately, hackle pliers. It is genrally made of metal and acts like a small yet strong clothes pin. While the pliers, holding the base of the hackle, are held between the little, ring and middle finger and the palm of one hand, the tip of the feather is grasped by the index finger and thumb of the other hand. This frees the index finger and thumb, which is still holding the hackle pliers, to stroke the fibers of the feather by pinching them toward the tip of the feather and drawing this pinched stem from the tip back toward the butt of the hackle. Wetting the bottom of the forefinger and thumb of the stroking hand will certainly aid the folding of the fibers into a 'V'.
After the doubling of the hackle is completed and you are satisfied with it, the tip is tied about a quarter inch behind where the head of the fly is to be made. Then all is needed is a winding of the hackle from three to five times around the hook shank... each succeeding turn just ahead of the previous wind. Tie off the hackle with your bobbin and tying thread and 'Voila'... you have formed the 'throat' of the fly! The purpose of the doubling process is to effectively have the fibers of the hackle all pointing toward the rear of the fly as seen in the photos above.
In a future part of this 'hub' I will talk more thoroughly about the process known as 'marrying' feathers. To most beginners it looks complicated, but it can be taught in a matter of minutes!
'Marrying' Salmon Fly Wings
Link To My "Heavenly Lady" Salmon Fly
- The Heavenly Lady, Tied by Maxwell MacPherson, Jr.
The Heavenly Lady, Tied by Maxwell MacPherson, Jr. This fly was dressed by me around 2001. It was a 'one of a kind' production. I'm not sure if others have produced it or not. The dressing for it is included on my 'Maxflies' website.
"Lady Amherst"/Materials Used & Dressing Instructions
- Lady Amherst "Fly of the Week #41 - FAOL
Lady Amherst- This is a fly I dressed for my "Maxflies" website back in 2000. This link describes the ingredients that go into fashioning it and the instructions for putting one together. It is my wife Darlene's favorite classic salmon fly.
A Very Attractive Salmon Fly Site
- Classic Atlantic Salmon Fly Gallery
A very colorful website with nice classic, atlantic salmon flies. One important aspect of learning about and studying salmon flies is to see other talented fly dressers' work. After several years you will develop your own 'signature' or style.