"No. 18 - Long Syne" 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" - January 10th, 1885

No. 18 - Lang Syne

THERE are other feathers on the wild duck besides those which I mentioned that are occasionally useful, and are distinguished by the name of "grey mallard." They are delicately speckled, and found immediately below the flank of the bird; but are only patronised in our more sombre patterns.

On the pintail duck - a much larger species, 2ft. in length - these feathers are similar, but more finely pencilled, let alone the speckles being more defined; while those from the teal are undoubtedly the favourites for all bright, gaudy flies.

However, to my mind, "brown mallard," for all general purposes, is one of the most valuable feathers in our collectino, though one of the most difficult to manipulate. The rich, brown colouring extends deeper down the fibre in old birds, and so takes the place of the well-known, objectionable, ash-coloured [??], which is a terrible eyesore in wings.

No bird gives us greater variety in colour, streak, and speckle than the turkey. I dare say I have four or five dozen different specimens, perhaps more, and all of them are turned to good account.

I have once met with the gingered double white, and used it successfully on the Tweed, &c. The next particularly noteworthy are the double white, and the black and ginger mottled. The former supplies the wing for a favourite Kelso fly. By their rarity these especial birds command a good price. Wright, et Sprouston, has the best I ever saw, not only for the perfection in marking, but in fibre. Turkeys' feathers that are wolly and limp, however good the colours may be, in my opinion, are valueless; life and animation with such [??] strands is everything. Of course, if you get colour too, so much the better, though that can be provided on the hook in maby other ways - by silks, seal's fur, and small feathers. But for the reason given, I am particularly wedded to the largest white-tipped assortment under the tail, from very old male birds, and we profit still further by their consipicuous metallic hues, which snatch a grace beyond the reach of art, and which are always very distinct on the dark part of these feathers. These literally flash in the water, they are not so coarse in [??] as the others from the wings or tail, are better in shape, and considerably easier to control, whether in strips or in strands.

I have no desire to enter into theories, but I rather fancy fish beat us at [??], for they seem marvellous judges of light, shade, and colour. All the dyes in creation, as far as I know, cannot desceive salmon in this particular respect, for dyers are unable to get that metallic, lustrous sheen to have a natural, or anything approaching the same effect in the water.

The apparently perfect resemblance to the eye - produced by chemical combination, or procured by over-boiling feathers or seals's fur - is, therefore, practically speaking, a dead failure. When seal's fur took the place of pig's wool, I accidentally produced this lambent flame and made a large stock of flies, which I soon found were quite useless unless the water was stained.

Now, we will take the peacock. The green hackels of this bird are very popular and successful here and there, especially on the Towy, but they are [??] only at the throat of the fly. As far as the herls are concerned, I think I have already exxplaned how necessary it is to be provided with new feathers - of course, I mean when required for the wings. Old strands are more brittle, if possible, than a piece of African bustard, and it is only waste of time to work them. Even when bodies are made with these herls, they have to be spun on the tying-silk in much the same way as we spin mohair; but new ones are more effective in the water when laid on their sides regularly in close coils.

I hope, one of these days, to give an illustration of an admirable invention by an excellent amateur fly-dressat at Usk, but his process a right and left wing - entirely of peacock's helr - can be tied on back to back without the least trouble.

Mr. George Horne, of Hereford, has quite spilt the market for the wing feathers of the peacock; he has crossed the Amhers pheasants with complete success and the splendid speckle in these feathers that he has for sale at this address put the old, useful, standard specimens from the wings of this bird almost in the shade, and which, for fishing with in bright water, can bear no comparison at all.

Unquestionably, the king of birds for salmon flies is the golden pheasant; it is remarkable for the beauty of its plumage, and is a native of China. the prevailing colours are red and yellow; the crest upon its head, which can be raised at pleasure, supplies the superb golden toppings, and are, perhaps, the most valued of all. These elegant feathers should be properly packed on their sides, for although they can be easily set to any bend by holding them in the steam from a boiling kettle of water with the pliers, they never keep their shape so well on the fly when once they have become distorted in keeping. The quil or stem in the centre is so strong that the fibres do not droop over the wing as they should do in the water unless the stream is rapid; but, on the contrary, they "lag about" on one side or the other, sometimes destroying the play of the hackles. I have always held that the best made flies in skilful hands are far ore superior to the [??]-balanced and cheap goods, though we know salmon will take "dead flies," as we term them - flies that are jumpbled together and not "played" at all. But I will reserve this subject for "Odds and Ends."

Then the tail of this pheasant is longer, more richly tinted than the European species, and not quite so brittle. This feather, in its own particular class, has no rival. It can be advantagoursly used either in strips or in strands, and when the former is desired, they never lose their shape if properly fixed on at first.

The brown tints appear brighter and more transparent in the water than out, and the black seems to be blacker. They vary in values considerably: personally, I would rather have an inch of a new leading feather than the whole tail from a moulting bird - not for one, but for every reason. For variety they can be dyed most colours, but show best dipped in Bismarch brown.

The red breast feathers from this bird are utilised either whole - as in the "Butcher" - or wound on for hackling at the throat, and behave very well in the water either way; in texture they are similar, but slightly preferable, to those on the rump, which are yellow. Passing away for to-day from this subject, let me preface my final remarks upon this magnificent collection of salmon flies, but informing my readers that "Lang Syne" is the last of these patterns which I have the pleasure of illustrating and describing. Indeed, it is not too much to say there is a sort of realism in all of them, and one might almost suppose that the living shape of the author's fancy had been summoned into existance.

I think I have said before that the art, or rather the knowledge, required here is scated upon a height which is not altogether inaccessible; and, in my judgement, Major Traherne has reached the top of the hill, and can not only look back over the rough road which he has travelled, but can sit quietly in the respose of complete victory.

There is an admirable finish in his compositions, in all of which experience is plainly visible; in short, he is an  impersonation of entological shrewdness.

It cannot be said now that we are not provided with that "thorough change" which I have always held to be of so much importance to us.

There may, however, be the privileged few who may assert that fly-making has been done to death by romancers of a too effusive school. Still, it is only the angler in all his experience - in all his bounding impulses, who can discover, arrange, and determine ways that are still left of adding charm to novelty in this interesing work; and in setting aside my pen, I have only say that this gentelman has made for himeself an undying name in the piscatorial world by materially adding to the artistic renown of this most important branch of our amusement.

This fly may be dscribed as follows:-
Tag: Silver twist, and golden topping coloured silk.
Tail: A topping, and two red crow.
Butt: Black herl.
Body: In four equal sections - the first two of orange floss silk the same shade as the tippets, with two jay points top and bottom in each as shown, and butted as before; the other two of red claret silk, with jungle fowl instead of jay, and butted.
Ribbed: Silver tinsel.
Wings: Four Amhers pheasants tippets dyed a bright green,
Cheeks: Two golden tippets extended, summer duck, and blue chatterer. Golden topping over.
Horns: Blue macaw.
Head: Black herl.

Tags traherne, kelson, fishinggazette,


  • Tag: Silver twist, and golden topping coloured silk
  • Tail: A topping, and two red crow
  • Butt: Black herl
  • Body: In four equal sections - the first two of orange floss silk the same shade as the tippets, with two jay points top and bottom in each as shown, and butted as before; the other two of red claret silk, with jungle fowl instead of jay, and butted
  • Ribbed: Silver tinsel
  • Wings: Four Amhers pheasants tippets dyed a bright green
  • Cheeks: Two golden tippets extended, summer duck, and blue chatterer. Golden topping over
  • Horns: Blue macaw
  • Head: Black herl.