The art of tying a traditional fly lure

The most commonly used fly lure patterns, today commonly known simply as classic salmon flies, have been in use since the late 1700’s, created by and proven effective by Scottish fishermen of the time. The flies were always hand made and came in two variations, the peacock and the dragon fly, they were often tied on demand by craftsmen, using nothing more than raw materials and a small bench top vice. These lures are raw in their objective, as they were made simply to catch fish, there was no market for lures at the time it was simply a hobby, or rather an obsession, that lead to this small group of Scots creating the perfect trout fly.

As the interest and sport of trout fishing became popular, it soon became the interest of the english to modify these designs for sport and commerce. Soon these salmon flies were made using exotic materials such as peacock feathers imported from india, ostrich and jungle-cock feathers from South Africa, and various other species from as far as South America. This gave rise to many more variations in flies and basically set the standard for years to come.

Today feathers from such creatures are extremely hard to come by, in some cases the species used have become extinct. However as the years progressed, pigment discovery and invention meant that we were able to create out own synthetic materials to rival or even potentially exceed those used from living animals. There is however still a huge following in making fly lures the traditional way, such as using hair from horses, feathers from almost every type of bird and other small fibres from many other animals and plant species.

Professionals in traditional fly lure creation in some circumstances tie flies by hand, it is a passion that far exceeds that of people using off the shelf type lures, almost like comparing the creation of a Ferrari to the owner of one. While the love and admiration is still there, the passion is forever heightened with knowing and being involved in the trade. Fly tying is as much an art as it is a means of catching fish, you will be hard pressed to find even a regular fisherman who does not admire the work and dedication that goes into those lures made by hand.

The creep of modern technology however means that the majority of flies in circulation are mass produced, either by machine or by hand in a factory, hand made flies often sell from Pakistan today, while machine produced flies are common in Japan and China. However for the true fly fisherman, nothing is more special than walking into a classic fly tying shop in Scotland, visiting the son or daughter of by gone generations whom still practises the age old art of fly tying, and seeing the true beauty, inspiration and skill that has gone into every one of the hand made traditional style lures.

While fishing for salmon using them is somewhat of a upper class niche in Scotland, a sort of gentleman’s club in comparison to other countries, this all has to do with keeping the purity of the sport how it was for generations. A select few with the skill, knowledge and know-how to make the most of an art many in other countries take for granted.

Introduction to carp fishing (European carp and Tench)

Carp fishing is fun, but can be frustrating at times. While the fish are extremely good at sucking up anything that seems foodworthy from the bottom of a river, they are also fussy eaters and will blow back out any bait that they consider suspicious. While you will often be lucky with baits such as dead worms threaded onto a hook, when it comes to man made baits, finding the correct type can be a challenge. Nothing beats the feelign though of a carp hooked up to your line, as they jump and fight their way loose, and you fight back hoping that the hook has set properly.

Carp will also surface feed if you provide them with things like trout pellets, cat biscuits, frozen peas, bread and canned corn. These baits are cheap and effective, just attach them to a small size 6 hook and go fishing, most times bread proves the winning bait, especially for people new to carp fishing.

For the pellets and biscuits, dip them quickly in some water before you leave home, then place them into a sealed plastic bag, after about an hour they will be soft enough to place on a hook. Always have a back-up bait such as bread, dough balls, or corn though, just incase the pellets / biscuits become too soggy. Soggy bait doesn’t go to waste however, just throw it in the region where your corn or bread is floating and it will sit in the water column, attracting not only carp but also perch, tench and trout!

Once carp are interested in feeding you will often see them floating around the area of your bait, give them time to feel that the bait is safe to take from the surface, as they are quite fussy with surface baits and the slightest sign of a human nearby will have them swimming for their life, and unlikely to return. You will need to have some stealth about you, avoid sudden movements and wait until you are sure the bait has been taken before setting the hook.

Another method can be to throw whatever you are using for bait into the water first, until you see them eating it from the surface, at that time, from a distance the carp can not see your movement, cast out the bait on a hook, the carp will often be in a feeding frenzy at this time, so will try to quickly snap up your bait before competition arrives. This method can be extremely enjoyable and fun, as you get to see every little bit of the action.

Things to remember when carp fishing:

Carp will always taste food before they fully inhale it, if they don’t like the taste they will spit it out in fear and will not return.

Large carp such as those found naturally in Europe are much heavier, and require a much heavier line to sustain them, most people prefer to use a 50lbs line with a smaller, 20lbs or so leader when targeting them in their natural range.

Although tench are a little different to carp, most carp fishing techniques will work well with tench too, tench are great eating and far superior in taste to european carp.

European carp (and european perch) love the taste of strawberry, if fishing with bread, dipping it in some strawberry essence mixed with water can add extra attraction to your bait.

On all baits, you can use a 3 foot leader with a float attached if you need some extra distance. Otherwise dough balls are usually a good weight for casting a fair distance, they will float if you added yeast to the mix beforehand, or if you want a sinking bait just avoid using self-raising flour, or regular flour with added yeast or bi-carb soda.

Don’t forget that the 3 foot leader must be of a 10lbs rating or higher, 12lbs is preferred for regular sized carp. This can be regular mono-filament and doesn’t need to be anything special, the good thing about fishing for carp is you can keep your costs down, so there is often no need for fancy line or equipment, but of course, sometimes there is! 😉

Keeping a good amount of bait as an attractant is the most professional way of catching carp, pre baiting a fishng spot for one or two days earlier at the time you plan fishing the third day can get the local fish in that area accustomed to when food is available, making the third days fishing much more productive.

Remember to keep patient, avoid fast movements, and keep hidden from the carps line of sight for all to work out well!

Good luck and tight lines!