A Catechism Of Fly-making
BY WILLIAM BLACKER
Question. What do you mean by Fly-making?
Answer. I mean the artificial assimilation of those beautiful insects
that appear on brooks and rivers during the summer season.
Q. What are these artificial flies used for in general?
A. They are principally used to afford gentlemen rural amusement and
recreation, by their taking both trou
and salmon with the rod, line,
Q. Name the different materials requisite for making the Artificial
A. The necessary materials for making the Artificial Fly are as
follows:--various kinds of feathers, furs, mohair, pig hair, dyed
hackles, silks, tinsel, &c., &c.
Q. When the tyro has all the materials prepared, and seated at the
table, how does he commence to make the fly?
A. First, the hook is firmly tied on the gut, and one eighth of an
inch of the end of the shank left bare to receive the wings (see plate,
hook, gut, and tail, tied on).
Q. How are the wings tied on?
A. They may be tied on the reverse way first, at the extreme end of
the shank, and after the tail, body, and legs are formed, turn up the
wings, divide and tie them down, and form the head.
Q. Is there any other way of placing on the wings of a trout fly?
A. Yes, by forming the tail, body, and legs first, and tie on the
Q. Having the wings the reverse way, to appear in strict proportion
over the fly when turned, what is the next part to be performed?
A. Next, I take hold of the shank opposite the barb in my left, and
here tie on a short piece of tinsel for the tip, roll it over two or
three times evenly, and secure it with a running knot, immediately above
this tie on the tail.
Q. When the wings are tied on reversed, the tip and tail secured, how
do you form the body?
A. I take hold of the hook in my left hand close to the tail, and
with my right draw out a small quantity of mohair, twist it round the
tying silk close to the hook, draw it gradually full under the fingers
to taper it, I then roll it closely over the shank to the root of the
wings and fasten it. Leave a vacancy to receive the hackle if rolled on
at the shoulder.
Q. If there is not sufficient mohair twisted on the silk to form the
whole body, what must be done?
A. When the mohair on the silk becomes short, I tie it down on the
centre of the shank, and tie in the point of the hackle here (see the
second and third flies in the plate of this process), and apply a little
more stuff to fill the shoulder, leaving a little of the hook to receive
Q. Having tied the hackle on towards the shoulder of the fly, how do
you strike it in its proper place?
A. I hold the hook in my left hand by the bend, and with the right
take hold of the stem of the hackle and roll it round the shank on its
back, and tie it down (the fly may be ribbed and hackled from the tail
like the fourth fly in the plate).
Q. The hackle, body, tail, and tinsel now neatly tied, how do you tie
on the wings?
A. I now hold the fly in my left hand by the body, drawing the fibres
underneath my finger and thumb out of the way, lay on the wings double,
catch them under the nails of the left and give two laps of the tying
silk over them, press them down at this place with the right nail divide
and let the fibres of the hackle spring up between them, cut off the
roots, lap the silk closely over the head and fasten with two knots (see
the cock tail at the bottom of this plate).
Note. The wings of this fly were tied on first,
as seen, and turned up last; the fuller the fly is
at the shoulder the more the wings will stand
upright on the back, and it often occurs that
when the wings of the fly lie flat on the back,
and it happens to be an end fly on the casting
line, which is usually under the surface of the
water, that the fish takes it for a drowned fly
eagerly, and the wings much longer than the bend
of the hook, this is not unnatural, as the wings
of numbers of the brown and olive flies seen on
the water have their wings much longer than the
body, and when not on the wing lie flat on their
I will here give a more easy way of making a Trout fly.
Q. How do you commence to make the Fly in this way?
A. I tie on the wings first, turn them up, tie down the head, and
finish the fly at the tail.
Q. When the wings are tied on first, and turned before you commence
the body and legs, how do you proceed?
A. I take a small hackle to suit the size of the hook, strip off the
flue, and tie it on by the root at the head, and a piece of tinsel to
rib the body.
Q. Having tied on the hackle thus, what is the next thing to be
A. I draw out a little mohair, twist it tightly round the tying silk,
roll it down to the tail and fasten it, and roll the tinsel over in like
Q. The body and tinsel being formed, how is the hackle struck on?
A. I take hold of the hackle in my right hand with either my fingers
or pliers, and roll it over the body to the tail, fasten and cut off the
ends, tie in a tail and the fly is complete. This is the style of the
fifth fly in the plate.
Q. When a fly is to be made in the above way without wings, called a
hackle fly, how is it done?
A. Having previously tied, I take two hackles of equal size, lay them
even together, and tie them on by the roots at the end of the shank, and
then the piece of tinsel to rib it.
Q. How do you form the body and tinsel after tying on the hackles?
A. I twist a very small quantity of mohair round the silk and roll it
to the tail, or a peacock's harl, and fasten it there, over this I roll
Q. As the hackles are a nice point to perform, how are they struck?
A. I take hold of the hackles with the pliers at the points, both to
stand the one way, give two rolls round the shoulder to make it full,
and proceed with them slantingly on their backs to the tail, let the
pliers hang with them and roll the tying silk twice over them, cut off
the superfluous fibres of the hackles, take two running knots, and lay
on a little varnish to harden the tying, press down the hackles with the
fingers to slope them towards the tail, and the fly is completed.
Q. When you wish to make a larger Salmon Fly, how do you undertake
A. I tie on the hook and gut firmly together, as in Plate I, ON
SALMON HOOKS, take hold of it by the shank opposite the barb, roll on a
piece of broad tinsel to tip it, tie on a topping for tail, with a black
Q. Having gone thus far, how do you manage the pig hair body?
A. Having laid before me two or three colours of pig hair, I roll a
piece of fine floss silk on first next the tail, I then twist a piece of
pig hair on the silk, roll it up towards the head, shifting up a little
and tie, take another piece of hair, and another, and do in like manner
(see the pig hair body of No. 2, ON SALMON HOOKS).
Q. How is the hackle struck on over the body?
A.-Having held the fly by the shank to form the body, I now turn it
and hold it by the bend, the hackle and tinsel previously tied in, as in
Plate II, ON SALMON HOOKS, I roll the tinsel up first and the hackle
next in rotation with it; Plate V. will show the tinsel rolled over the
floss silk body, and the hackle ready to roll on.
Q. Having rolled on the hackle, and turned a jay hackle over the
shoulder, how do you proceed with the wing?
A. I take two golden pheasant neck feathers and tie them on tightly
first, then sprig them at each side with various fibres of feathers (see
the wing in the plate prepared).
Q. How do you cover the lump occasioned by the quantity of tying silk
at the head?
A. I draw out a small quantity of pig hair, twist it on the tying
silk, and roll it over two or three times towards the root of the wings
tightly, give three knots, lay on a little varnish, cut off the silk,
and the fly is finished.
Note. If you make a pike fly, use large double hooks and gymp, with
broad tinsel, and make the body full with pig hair, large saddlecock
hackles for legs, wing them with peacock moon feathers, and add two
large blue beads over spangles for eyes, and green or red pig hair
towards the head. Fasten on the beads with fine copper wire, rolling it
over the head two or three times, and also three times through the eyes,
and tie down the wire tightly with the silk; roll the pig hair round the
silk and then over the head and between the beads, fasten it with three
knots, and lay on the varnish.
These large artificial flies kill pike or jack best on windy days with
rain; they will not rise at the fly on fine days, except there is a
strong ripple on the water. You humour the fly on the surface as you
would move a salmon one, using a strong rod, reel, and line. If he is a
large fish, he will rush off with the fly when hooked; but, if a small
one, lift him out when he makes a double quick shake on the top of the
water. I would advise the fisher to strike a jack quickly, for he often
throws the fly out of his mouth when he finds the deception.