Archive for the ‘Fly Fishing Tackle’ Category

Missoula’s Paul Bunyan

October 8, 2018

Today’s Missoulian, the local newspaper of Missoula, Montana, features an article on legendary Montana fly fishing figure Norman Means, aka “Paul Bunyan.” Means is probably most widely  known as the creator of the “Bunyan Bug” fly, fished in Norman Macleans’ A River runs Through It. The article, by Kim Briggeman, is based upon the many mentions of Means in various editions of the Missoulian published during the last century.

For instance, Briggeman offers this quote from a 1928 article: “Norman is a believer in the use of Western Montana products. He makes all his own fishing tackle, and turns out a few fly rods for his friends. These rods have life and endurance, and they are peculiarly adapted to Montana streams because their maker puts them together knowing exactly the kind of water they will be used in.”

It’s a great article, for those interested in Montana’s early and often enigmatic fly tiers. Read it here: “Missoula Rewound: Bunyan fished, Means danced through the heart of the 20th Century.”

A Means tied Bunyan Bug and a Jack Boehme Balsa Bug. They sit on a 1989 edition of A River, featuring wood engraved illustrations by Barry Moser. Boehme was another renowned Missoula fly tier.

Ed Shenk, East and West

August 31, 2018

Last weekend, I visited a few small streams with my dog and a favorite rod. The rod is my 5’2″ 4 wt glass rod built by the legendary angler, author, and fly tier Ed Shenk. I bought the rod when I lived in Central Pennsylvania, and I have not used it much since returning to the West. Last week, I found that it was well-suited to some of the little streams that hold native cutthroat trout near my home. Of course, while fishing, I got the thinking about Pennsylvania, the short rods that Shenk favors, the body of angling literature produced by Shenk and his Pennsylvania peers, and more.

Since then, I have noticed that the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum Association will be honoring Shenk during their annual fund-raising dinner this year. They will be honoring the late Lefty Kreh as well.  If you are in the area, you might consider attending in order to help support the PFFMA preserve the legacies of Shenk, Vincent Marinaro, Charlie Fox, and so many other famous anglers from the region.

Halford’s Flies

August 9, 2018

I was just looking through a few personal pictures of antiquarian angling books, hoping to find some lost files I need for a publication. I did not find them, but I did come across these pictures I took of the deluxe edition of Frederick Halford‘s 1897 Dry Fly Entomology (London: John Bale & Sons for Vinton & Co.,). I am sharing a few pages, below. The flies on the plates are actual flies attached directly to the pages.

 

 

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.


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