I know, you're asking yourself "What is he talking about,
Snowie's #1 for the Shin?" I had the same reaction when I
first saw a fly tied by Femming Dam Nielson for The Salmon
Flier publication called Snowie's #2 for Loch Ness. Was
it good in the winter? Well, all was explained when Reed Curry,
a friend in New Hampshire, sent me A Book On Angling
by Francis Francis. Published in 1867, this book is a revelation
on many levels.
Mr. Snowie was a fly dresser from Inverness, Scotland,
characterized by Francis Francis as "the best authority
for flies upon the rivers in Inverness, Nairn, Elgin, Ross,
Sutherland, and Caithness." He must have also been well
versed in the river Suir in Ireland, and the rivers Shin
and The Gary of Lock Ness in Scotland too, because Francis
Francis lists flies from him for those locals as well. He
lists them by number for these rivers, so Snowie's #1 for
the Shin is the first pattern listed in A Book On
Angling for the river Shin. Snowie's #2 for Lock
Ness is the second pattern listed for The Gary of Lock Ness.
I found many of the patterns from Francis Francis and his
acquaintances to be somewhat more dour, a bit less gaudy
than those that came later from Kelson and Pryce-Tannat.
They are described as Gaudy flies, but they are not nearly
as flamboyant. I like this personally, and I think that's
what drew me to Flemming Dam Nielson's fly immediately. These
are very much flies for fishing, and Francis Francis must
have been one of the greatest fishermen who ever lived. He
fished for everything, from carp to dace to trout to sea trout
to Atlantic salmon. I'm not sure that technically there has
been much new written about fly-fishing since this book. His
approaches to fishing are as sound today, as they were 150
years ago. In addition, he's a marvelous writer, with a
wonderful sense of humor and a great turn of the phrase. If
you can find this book anywhere, it's a terrific read. I'm
indebted to the Curry lending library for the loan of this
copy. Thanks Reed, this is the second great book you've brought
to my attention.
So much for the book report. The fly is relatively straight
forward, and I will leave you with the recipe exactly as it
appears in the book. Seal has been substituted for pig's wool
in my version. The word "ribs" as used by Francis Francis
refers to what we now call "horns":
Tag: Gold tinsel and orange floss.
Tail: One topping.
Butt: Black ostrich herl.
Body: Two or three turns of gold-coloured(sic) floss,
half yellow and half bright claret-red pig's wool.
Hackle: Black hackle, light claret at shoulder.
Under Wing: A tippet.
Upper Wing: Strips of peacock, gold pheasant tail, mallard,
peacock stained pale yellow.
Topping over all: Blue macaw ribs. ~ EA
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA