Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Tackle’ Category

John Betts’ handwritten Legacy

June 8, 2018

John Betts of Colorado has authored several, beautiful books devoted to angling topics. His 1980 publication, Synthetic Flies, first brought him wide attention. Even Sports Illustrated  highlighted the fly tying innovations represented in Synthetic Flies. In 1981, SI published an article on Betts, authored by Robert Boyle, titled “Gotcha! Hook, Line, and Lingerie”  Since then, Betts has written about making split wood fly rods (note, bamboo, used in split cane rods, is a grass), hand-building fly reels, and more.

What I admire most about Betts’ work is that his creativity extends beyond the topics of his books to the creation of the books themselves. He hand writes, rather than types, and personally illustrates each book. Moreover, the meanings of his words run much, much deeper than subjects at hand. Indeed, he writes poetically about tackle construction and other matters. In recent years, Betts has worked with editor and publisher Michael Hackney, of Reel Lines Press and The Eclectic Angler (and initially in association with The Whitefish Press), to make his books–old and new–available. I purchased a copy of the latest Betts book, Patterns.

Hackney writes of Betts’ texts, on the Reel Lines Press web page, that “each book is a work of art unto itself.” This is certainly true of this newest book. The content, writing, drawing, and paintings are wonderful. It is soft covered, and only 200 copies will be produced. Even if you do not need a new fly tying book, which (on the surface) is primarily what Patterns is, you owe it to yourself to examine a Betts book. No doubt, he has already written about a topic that will appeal to you.

Betts describes his creative process, including his use of a Rotring pen.

 

Betts discusses Frederic Halford and other historical tyers, in Patterns.

 

An example of Betts’ tying instructions, in Patterns.

Fly Fishing Royalty

May 24, 2018

It is well-known that fly fishing has a place in the traditions of Britain’s Royal Family. This is, in part, due to fact that tackle manufacturer Hardy has long publicized their Royal Warrants. Hardy, which dates back to 1872, has held four warrants from British Royal Family members over the years. Currently, it holds a warrant from Charles, Prince of Wales, who is now one of only three Royal Family members who can issue them. Anyone who uses Hardy tackle is familiar with the emblem of this warrant, below. Hardy also uses a castle logo, though this has to do with their being based in the Northumberland town of Alnwick and their proximity to the famous Alnwick castle.

Lately, many eyes have been focused upon Britain’s Royal family, due to the marriage of Prince Harry to American Meghan Markle. Personally, I have little interest in such things, as what some might call a salaried proletariat and despiser of celebrity culture, but I do obviously have an interest in fly fishing history. Here, then, I share a bit of information about the current princes’ interest in the activity.

At this link to the photography of Leslie Donald, you can view some great pictures of Prince Charles teaching his son Harry to cast. In one photograph, Harry has clearly hooked his father with a fly. Any fly fishing parent, royal or not, can relate to this.

It turns out, though, that the ‘official companion’ to Princes William and Harry (and personal assistant to Charles) also had a hand in boys’ angling education. Below, you can see this woman, Alexandra Shân ‘Tiggy’ Pettifers (formerly Legge-Bourke) wading across the River Dee in Wales with the two boys. Tiggy has described her love of fishing with the Royal Family and practicing other field sports. In fact, after leaving royal service, she became a fly fishing guide. She now runs a bed and breakfast, featuring trout and salmon fishing on the River Usk, in Wales, called Ty’r Chanter.  She was born to a rather high-class family herself, and the B&B is located near her family estate, Glanusk Park. She is also a fund-raiser for the Atlantic Salmon Trust, which is dedicated to the preservation of wild Atlantic salmon.  She seems to focus her attention, as a guide, on teaching kids and women to fly fish.

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‘Friends for life: the princes in the River Dee with Tiggy’ Photo: Reuters

A Legend Passes

April 18, 2018

I wrote previously about Dr. Dan Klein, in my ‘Art, Friendship, and Dan Klein’s Flies‘ post of 2016. Dr. Klein was a legendary Montana fly tyer and the father of my oldest friend. His tying fame extended well beyond the banks of his beloved Henry’s Fork.  Essays about him even appeared in Esquire Magazine and, more recently, in Joe Beelart’s book, “Howells: The Bamboo Fly Rods & Fly Fishing History of Gary H. Howells” (Whitefish Press).

Sadly, Dr. Klein has passed. His obituary, written by his loving daughter, Janet, appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle today. Those who read it, will see that Dr. Klein lived a full and admirable life, and that fly fishing featured heavily.

One of these days ….

March 3, 2018

One of these days, in the middle of a salmon fly hatch, I’m going to try out one of Norman Means’ famous “Bunyan Bugs.” If they worked almost 100 years ago, they should work now.

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Pflueger 1394, Jack Boehme “Balsa Bug,” Norman Means’ “Bunyan Bug.”

Acknowledgement

November 27, 2017

“The Trout” and old Peetz “Reel Time” clock.

The items in the picture above usually sit on a shelf above my desk, at home. The reel on the left and the flasher in the background feature designs by Native artist Jason Henry Hunt. Hunt, a Kwaguilth descendant, collaborates with Peetz Fishing & Outdoors to produce their “Artist Series” of products. Hunt’s hand-carved 5-inch reel, called The Hunter, is particularly nice. Peetz offers laser-engraved versions of Hunt’s designs as more affordable alternatives to the hand-carved reels.

“The Hunter.” Photo from Peetz website.

The native fish of the the northwestern United States and western Canada are particularly important to many Tribes or First Nations. Therefore, some of the Tribes are actively involved in fisheries rehabilitation and conservation. Many Nonnatives simply consider tribal members as competitors for the same fish; they don’t understand the roles that Tribes play in ensuring the fish are there in the first place. Nor do they understand the sacred value the fish have for most tribal members. Peetz does understand these things. If you do too, you might look into ways that you can help support Native crafts-persons like Hunt or otherwise acknowledge the First Nations in the region, who help protect the waters we now share and the denizens therein.

The Reel in Black: Abel’s Johnny Cash Limited Edition

November 1, 2017

Abel has released a Johnny Cash themed “Super Series” fly reel. It is available in 5/6 and 7/8 sizes, which make it useful for fly fishers pursuing trout, steelhead, bonefish, and more. However, because the reel costs a minimum of $1,355.00, I suspect that most of the 250 reels made will sit on shelves.

Johnny Cash was a champion of the downtrodden. Some of his most popular songs focused on cotton pickers, prison inmates, and alcoholics. He devoted an entire album, Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (1964) to Native Americans, helping to draw mainstream attention to the growing Native American civil rights movement. Despite experiencing a significant backlash for his advocacy, Cash became a major figure in American popular culture. I remember watching him on TV, sprawled on the floor of my grandma’s house in Dillon, Montana. Despite his somewhat dark past and what many considered to be radical views, people like my grandmother enjoyed watching and listening to him.

It’s a bit of a shame, then, that the cost of the reel memorializing him is so high. It is not a reel for the masses–the people about whom Cash sang.  Still, it’s a beauty, and Abel’s products are always high quality. So, do go ahead and take a look. And if you are one of the few who ends up owning one, I hope you use it. It always saddens me a bit when beautiful pieces of utilitarian art do not get put to work. I’m pretty sure that the Man in Black felt the same.

 

M.W. Reynolds: “Shooting, Fly Fishing, Motorcycles, Apparel”

September 26, 2017

I was recently in Denver, Colorado for a conference. While there, I took the opportunity to visit the M.W. Reynolds store at 1616 Stout Street.  On it’s storefront window, M.W. Reynolds proclaims that it specializes in “Shooting, Fly Fishing, Motorcycles, and Apparel.” Behind the glass sits an early Norton Commando motorcycle. Inside the store is a 1960s Moto Morini and two Triumph motorcycles. Of course, there is also fly fishing tackle and a lot of other merchandise.

The fly fishing tackle includes a wide selection of graphite, fiberglass, and bamboo rods. Among the latter, you can find examples from such notable makers as D.L. Whitehead, Tim Zietak, and Gary Lacey. The store also sells a variety of reels, including beautiful s-handle reels from Bellinger and Saracione. To round thing out, the classic-minded angler can find vests and bags from Filson. Importantly, though, the store also sells plenty of more affordable fly fishing equipment. For instance, they stock Fenwick and Redington glass rods and entry-level Loop and Redington reels.

Amidst tables and racks of bags, motorcycling and sporting clothing, and grooming supplies, there is  large collection sporting books. These range from texts like Jim Corbet’s classic The Maneaters of Kumaon to Graydon Hilyard’s Bogdan, devoted to Stanley Bogdan’s masterpiece fly reels.

The staff are relaxed and very accommodating. If you are expecting them to be a bit stuffy, based upon the high-end nature of the merchandise they sell, you are completely wrong. So, if you are in Denver, be sure to visit the store. For those who enjoy contemporary classic tackle, it is a must. You can also find M.W. Reynolds online.

Magic Wands, Castles, and Fly Rods

July 18, 2017

The other day, my daughter caught her first trout with dry flies. She has fly fished in the past, catching trout with streamers and pan fish with dries. Indeed, I drag her to my favorite rivers, streams, and lakes regularly. More often than not, however, she is more interested in looking for tracks, watching birds, and spotting four-legged wildlife than she is in fishing.

Her second trout on a dry fly.

She caught these recent trout using a Hardy “Flyweight” reel and a Hardy fiberglass rod, named the “Aln.” These were given to her, when she was only three or four months old, by dear friends. During the morning of the day we fished, I happened to tell her about the River Aln and the town of Alnwick, in Northumberland, England. 

Most readers probably know Alnwick as the location of Hardy’s domestic tackle factory and museum. My daughter, however, was more interested to learn that Alnwick is the home of Alnwick Castle, which was used as the fictional “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” in the first Harry Potter film. We had just watched this movie the previous day, and we were still talking about it.

The author, at the Hardy Tackle Museum.

My daughter just recently began reading JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books. So, it was fun to tell her I visited the Hogwarts of the first film with the very friends who gave her the rod and reel she used later that day. I also took pleasure in showing her that the the castle logo on her rod and reel actually refer to that same place.

My daughter’s rod and reel, with a Bozeman “SC” reel.

The Hardy castle and other imagery.

Like author and fly fisher, John D. Voelker (pseudonym Robert Traver), I sometimes view trout fishing with flies as a type of magic. Seeing my daughter catch her first trout with dry flies was one of the greatest manifestations of this magic. At that time, her rod was almost like the wands used by the characters in Rowling’s books. Therefore, it makes a strange but perfect sense that her rod carries the stylized image of Alnwick Castle, or, from my daughter’s perspective, Hogwarts.

Alnwick Castle, as seen by viewers of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Copyright Warner Bros Pictures.

Alnwick Castle, as seen by the author.

Fly Fishing, en Vogue

June 2, 2017

Vogue Magazine recently featured an article on fly fishing in its “Living” section at Vogue.com. The article, authored by Etta Meyer, is titled “Fly Fishing through India’s Final Frontier.” For those of us who know Vogue only as a fashion oriented magazine, it seems odd to see such an article from them. However, the magazine and other periodicals published by Condé Nast provide coverage of many topics far removed from fashion and style. In fact, a glance at Vogue.com reveals article on politics, literature, film and more. The article by Meyer describes a trip the author made to India with her mother and some other women to fly fish for mahseer (Cyprinid fish belonging to the genus Tor).

Many fly fishers think of mahseer as one of the fish targeted by European colonialist fly fishers, in the era of the British Raj or Crown Rule in India. Indeed, the revered British tackle company, Hardy, manufactured numerous tools marketed specifically to those Europeans seeking these fish. A faint hint of the romantic attitude sometimes held by colonialists can be identified in Meyer’s piece. For instance, the reference to a “Final Frontier” in the title of her article–a title most likely assigned by an editor, to be fair–implies an attitude of discovery and conquest. This attitude toward the land traveled by Meyer and her companions is certainly not shared by those who actually live there. On the other hand, Myer highlights the fact that her guides and trip organizer, of The Himalayan Outback, are Indians themselves. She also writes respectfully of the many locals she meets. And, the truth is that a little romance may be an unavoidable result of the wonder that we all feel, when encountering new places and experiencing new things.  All in all, the short, well-written article is worth a read. You can find more of Meyer’s work at her website, ettadynamite.

Hardy advertisement, page 98 of The Mighty Mahseer and Other Fish; or Hints to Beginners on Indian Fishing (Madras: Higginbotham & Co., 1903) by Cecil Lang [Skene-Du]

While I don’t necessarily recommend it, you can find a more stereotypically Vogue take on fly fishing here. By following the link, you can read about a 2009 fishing-themed photo spread by photographer Tom Munro, that was featured Vogue China. The models wear leather fishing waders by Prada, among other things.

Photograph by Tom Munro. “Fishing Day,” Vogue China, October 2009.

Ruth Sims and Fly fishing, via Filson Life

May 4, 2017

Filson recently posted a great article in their Filson Life blog. In the story, “Navajo Fly Fisher: A Journey Towards Understanding” (May 1 2017), author Ruth Sims describes her discovery of  fly fishing and how it relates to her identity as an engineer and Navajo woman. She writes, “My love for our land and water goes beyond fly fishing, I consider it my calling in life to help take care of our earth…its just that fly fishing happens to be a beautiful bonus.” Sims’ article is a nice piece of writing, and photos by Megan Taylor complement it well.

Photograph by Megan Taylor.

Fishing is a central part of many Native American cultures, particularly in the Northwest (and there is some evidence that fly fishing existed historically, alongside spear fishing, dip netting, and so on). Not surprisingly, Sims explains that her introduction to fly fishing came from friends belonging to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai (and Pend d’Oreille) Tribes of Montana, who have fished for centuries

Filson, as most readers know, is a well-established Seattle-based manufacturer of outdoor clothing and gear. They have long offered some basic fly fishing items, such as vests and wading jackets. I personally love my Filson fly-fishing gear, particularly my strap vest (now discontinued), and it has held up very well. While not cheap, these items are so durable that they have proven to be a good investment. Filson expanded their fly fishing range for 2017, adding some nice items. Ms. Sims wears some of them in photos accompanying her story.

Unfortunately, Filson’s newest offerings are priced so extravagantly that they unaffordable to those of us who spend as much time on the water as we can. This contradicts the image that Filson  promotes of itself as an outfitter to miners, loggers, and others, who live and play hard outdoors. With few exceptions, those of us who prioritize living close to the land, sacrifice any possibility of greater income to do so.

Still, some Filson items remain reasonably priced, and the company’s aesthetic can be enjoyed for free via its blog. Of course, Ruth Sims story stand alone as an interesting bit of writing. So, give it a read at Filson Life, and check out some of the others pieces of writing as well.


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