"No. 17 - Evangeline" by Kelson, George M.

Author Kelson, George M.
Book The fishing gazette: On the description of salmon flies, Major Traherne's Patterns
Book Edition N/A

From "The fishing gazette" - November 29nd, 1884

Before proceeding to comment further upon the subject of wings, let us just look through our list of implements for fly dressing, which revision perhaps comes better late than not at all.

In the first place, then, are our old fly-maker's scissors worthy the name? No. Rather an inelegant and abrupt summing-up that, but the word comes in pat for the purpose.

"Use is second nature," we know; but let me tell you that those "old friends," however much we may become accustomed to them, are nothing like so handy and so appropriate as embroidery scissors. Yes, with these we are far more accurate; they get where others won't go, and are directed so much more easitly. Their points should be ground very fine above and below to admit of our cutting the stump of wings to what we like - that is, to a perfectly true taper; and, later on, I will note what we gain in reference to this. Then, to my mind, where do we see a proper pair of tweezers? The "catch" is always too bulky, not in width or length, but in thickness, and only bites at the mouth, especially those made of steel. "Where else should they bite?" it may be inquired. All along the nipping part, I fancy, which is that space alluded to as the catch.

Then would the "hold on"; "rotten hackles" be an expression of the past; and we should never be unpleasantly reminded of a gavourite corn, and find no occasion to mutter unbecomming adjectives, which some people set down as curses.

The objection may appear slight; I merely desire to notice the disadvantage.

The remedy is to untrim them, for the spring to lose its control, and when so opened, to file the jaws thinner; but the brass sort can be bent and regulated with a pair of pliers, to shut truly, and need no filing at all.

The vice quesion, I am told,  has been ventilated in the GAZETTE. I did not see the controversy; at any rate (speaking of myself again, which I always seem to be doing), I cannot work precisely with a vice, and so never use mine, even for the smallest trout flies. Of course professionals do, because they can progress more rapidly; but whether in such diminutive flies they work is up to our standard is enitrely another quesion. That it is very servicable to dressers who work elaborate bodies of salmon flies from the head end of the hook there can be no two opinions.

Of the stiletto I have spoken previously. The ordinary bull-necked stumpy sort are still to be seen with mother-o'-pearl handles in "ladies' companions," but they are not so suited to us as those sold by Wilcox and Gibbs, which, in dimension, shape, and temper, exactly answer every purpose. To use an ordinary needle for picking out bodies is unquestionably a dangerous business - it penetrates too easily, and it frequently detaches and liberates fur spun round and round the tying silk, and consequently loosens the tinsel forming the ribs.

The strokes of our stiletto should be pretty much after that of an artist's pen in shading, and should begin at the head end of the fly, the operation being directed towards the barb of the hook. The light and rapid movements "draw down" rather than "pick out" the accumulation, which should incline, as nearly as possible, in the line of march, as the fibres of the hackle. But it may be observed that the performance is not to be thought of until the fly is completed; in fact, it is the finishing touch.

And let me repeat how very usefly this little article is from the beginning to the end of the work, and how frequently it is put into requisition when we are fishing.

Neither should we be without spirits of wine, for the least touch of floss silk bodies with a dampp hand soils them. With that, or even a little eau de cologne, to moisten the corner of a towel to clean the fingers, and one will be more at home with a somewhat ungovernable inconvenience; but when the sumptom returnes, which is sure to happen at the most delicate moment, drop the work and use the towel again.

The next item can be ticked off, I hope, without hesitation; however, in my estimation, cobbler's wax is the best of all. We should only use it when fresh; it is apt to deteriorate, and it loses much of its consistency when dissolved, which, in no single instance, is desirable for fly work.

Nor will the next item detain us long. Flies we must have, and we cannot get them too fine or too sharp.

And now what about our feathers? How important it is - let me say in preface - to collect them at the proper season of the year. I cannot hold to the cruel and unnecessary practice of plucking birds, neither need we torture them, although it is an absolute advantage to robe them of their winter jckets. A little extra protection from the piercing winter winds may be easily provided in the fowl house after any free use of the scissors; but really the few feathers or hackels we generally take are never missed at all. I have seen necks of roosters, grisly, shrivelled up, and otherwise spoilt from constant pulling, so much so that the birds are only fit for breeding purposes - nothing more.

Coch-y-bonddus and Knee-caps are the most useful natural hackels, and the most diffifult to find. I believe Farlow and Co. are the only people in this country who can provide the true knee-cap; some day, I think, we shall hear a good deal more of this valuable eather.

Perhaps there are no necks that change so much between winter and summer months as "blue duns"; the best time to be after them is at Christmas, when the birds have quite recovered from moulting. I can only call to mind teal and golden pheasants as exceptions. The latter completes its annual and new outfit here long before other birds show signs of casting off their seedy summer garb and we never see a really good speckled teal feahter till the middle or end of February.

Another most useful bird to all fishermen is the mallard - the brown mottled flank feather. But I had better leave that now, and refer to our illustration, as "time flies"! So it does, fast - very fast; it stirdes on - it weaves on, yet is it ever new, and, but for that simple reason, it would remind one of the barque that never sets an anchor - rolling forward, ever on its way.

And now, what of Miss Evangeline? Whether she be "Miss" or "Mrs." heaven only knows. At least, arrayed in all her charms, she is very "taking" young lady. If she has not "taken" - as a fisherman says - it may be that she has never been tried;
  "But, if in nupital union she should last,
  'Twill be th' Goss'mer silk' that holds her fast."
That she, however, will unite to angling society, and be always confined to perpetual admiration, is, in my opinion, beyond the shadow of doubt.

it may be assumed, from my initmation, then, that Evangeline is "fresh from non-existence"; in other words, the anniversary of her first birthday in the ordinary course of things will take place in 1885, and therefore I may be excused from jumping at further conclusions of her inherent capability. But that she will not be destitute of friends in the opening of the season is my firm and sure conviction.

There is, perhaps, no living fisherman who has more faith in a fly than myself; yet I can but reflect - even with all these beautiful and modern specimens - that could we dive deeper into the vast ocean of Thought our reward would be the discovery of numberless resources, which are waiting for us, and as yet undreamt of "in our" (piscatorial) "philosophy." There, and there only, could we permeate our work with any close and loving observation of nature.

Foresight, we do know, as well as firmenss, proves a successful combination to the salmon angler; then let us take special care of our stock of flies just now; let us put plenty of napthaline crystal in our packets, and let them be put away in coy recesses now - now while winter's gathering dirge comes whispering in.

Evangeline may be described as follows:-

Tag: Silver twist and golden topping coloured silk.
Tail: Topping.
Butt: Black herl.
Body: In four equal divisions - the first two of silver tinsel, butted as before, with two blue chatterer feathers (in each) top and bottom, as illustrated; the third and fourth, floss silk and butted, the former being the colour of the "tips" of the four red crow's feathers, which are placed as shown, the other red claret silk, the crows being repeated. Both of thse sections are:
Ribbed: Silver tinsel.
Throat: Two jay's - one on either side.
Wings: Two yellow feathers from the blue macaw.
Cheeks: Summer duck, with golden topping over.
Horns: Red macaw.
Head: Black herl.
N.B. -  It should always be understood, when reading "the sections are butted," that the head "butts" the final one.

Tags traherne, kelson, fishinggazette,


  • Tag: Silver twist and golden topping coloured silk
  • Tail: Topping
  • Butt: Black herl
  • Body: In four equal divisions - the first two of silver tinsel, butted as before, with two blue chatterer feathers (in each) top and bottom, as illustrated; the third and fourth, floss silk and butted, the former being the colour of the "tips" of the four red crow's feathers, which are placed as shown, the other red claret silk, the crows being repeated. Both of thse sections are
  • Ribbed: Silver tinsel
  • Throat: Two jay's - one on either side
  • Wings: Two yellow feathers from the blue macaw
  • Cheeks: Summer duck, with golden topping over
  • Horns: Red macaw
  • Head: Black herl.