Thursday, 11 August 2016

folk flies

 What does a horse, a seagull and a sheep have in common? 
Well today at least, they have all unwittingly donated fly tying materials to my cause. Yesterday I arrived in Cornwall. I'm planning to fish for native trout in the fast bright streams here. 

I thought it would be an interesting challenge to leave my fly boxes at home, arriving only with some basic tying tools, a packet of size 14 hooks and some grey thread. I will scavenge some fly materials directly from the local landscape and see if I can tie up some passable kebari and catch some trout with them.                 

I have been thinking about folk fly patterns that have evolved from materials locally to hand and about the resourcefulness of fly-tying artisans living remote in time or space from any Orvis shop. How much more their fly patterns must resonate with the landscape for being a product of it. I hope that I can find a stronger connection too by getting out and scavenging my materials from the land.

So this morning I am up on Bodmin Moor and walking  amongst the sheep to look for some wool for my dubbing. Little scraps are blowing around and some is caught here and there and I collect a little in my bag. It's creamy coloured and oily and will make a nice dubbing rope for my kebari bodies. I would like some dark wool too for contrast but there are no black sheep here.

Later and I am walking on the Atlantic cliffs. There are some dark coloured horses here and I can see some little tufts of horsehair clinging to some barbed fence wire. Perfect! Although I've never tied with horsehair before.. it's quite coarse and dry compared to wool but I think it will give a nice 'buggy' texture to my kebari bodies.

More challenging is the need for some feather for hackles. Descending from the cliffs and down into a rocky cove, sea birds wheel overhead. Herring gulls mostly, and before long I find some stray sea-wet feathers stuck on the rocks. They grade in colour from chestnut through greys, cream and white. They are very oily and the filaments are too long and stiff to wind hackles from. But with a bit of trial and error I find I can remove the filaments separately from the central flue and stack them around the hook shank and tie in.  
They aren't going to win any fly tying competitions but I'm really quite pleased with the results of my early attempts. I have learned a lot from working with unfamiliar materials. 

It's been fun too scavenging - in fact I don't recall being this excited by a tying project for quite a while! A whole new dimension has been added to my tying and fishing, and while my horse, seagull and sheep patterns are still to be tested they just feel so right here in Cornwall, and after all confidence is the larger part of success. I have found an old tobacco tin in a local junk shop. It seems a fitting fly box for my motley (but soon to be growing) little collection of new folk flies.  


  1. I like your style. Back to basics. Perfect.
    Have fun (and success)

    1. Thanks David, that's very kind. Lots of future folk flies planned..