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Trout Flies of Devon and Cornwall, and How and When to Use Them

Trout Flies of Devon and Cornwall, and How and When to Use Them
Author: Soltau G. W.
Title: Trout Flies of Devon and Cornwall, and How and When to Use Them
Release Date: 2019-01-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
Count views: 44
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Transcriber’s Notes

All punctuation errors repaired.

Page 12—ancle is an obsolete spelling of ankle, so has been retained.

The corrections listed in the Errata have been applied to the text.

These are noted at the end of the book.














“And thus our life exempt from public haunts,
“Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brook,
“Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”










It will be remarked that the Flies furnished by the makers, do not, in all cases, exhibit the same tints as those shown in the drawings; this arises from the difficulty of colouring exactly from the original Flies. I have examined the patterns manufactured by the parties referred to in p. 40, and find they correspond precisely with my own. I would therefore recommend those persons, who are in the habit of making their own flies, to procure patterns from the makers and imitate them, rather than take those in the lithographed sketch for their guide.


Page 9, line 16, for to apt, read too apt.

Page 15, line 7, for variest, read veriest.

Page 20, line 10, for aught, read naught.

Page 35, line 8, for lace, read Laced.

Page 99, line 8, for falshood, read falsehood.



I am induced to offer the following pages to the youthful aspirant after piscatory fame, from the belief, that the various treatises, which have appeared from time to time on Fly-Fishing, do not contain those minute details, which are so essential to the ready acquirement of the art, and which are generally learnt by slow degrees; either from some experienced angler, or by the accidental discovery of the noviciate.


My chief object however, is to furnish the sportsman, who for the first time is about to wet his line in the west, with a list of flies; which, for a period of twenty years, I have found the most effective, in the Rivers of Devon and Cornwall. I have no doubt, they would be equally successful in Somerset, in the smaller Rivers of Wales, and in some of the Irish Lakes; but, as I cannot vouch from personal experience, I must leave to others the task of testing their more general application.

My remarks are restricted to Fly-Fishing; partly, because I hold this to be the most skilful and pleasing of the various ways by which man secures the wily fish; and also, from the length to which this paper would extend, if I were to enlarge on the numerous other devices adopted to entrap the finny tribe.

Worms, kill-devils, salmon-roe, minnows, cock-chafers, &c. &c. &c., are to be met with in the catalogue of the fisherman’s stock in trade; and, [7]if we extend our researches to distant climes, we find even birds are classed among the fishing implements.

The Cormorant, an aquatic bird of China, and other countries, is an excellent swimmer and diver, and also flies well. It is very voracious, and as soon as it perceives a fish in the water, it darts down with great rapidity, and clings its prey firmly, by means of saw like indentations on its feet. The fish is brought up with one foot; the other foot enables the bird to rise to the surface, and by an adroit movement, the fish is loosened from the foot and grasped in the bird’s mouth.

Le Comte, a French writer, describes the mode in which the Chinese avail themselves of this angling propensity on the part of the cormorants: “to this end,” says he, “cormorants are educated as men rear up spaniels or hawks, and one man can easily manage one hundred. The fisher carries them out into the lake, perched on the [8]gunnel of his boat, where they continue tranquil and expecting his orders with patience. When arrived at the proper place, at the first signal given, each flies a different way to fulfil the task assigned it. It is very pleasant on this occasion, to behold with what sagacity they portion out the lake or the canal where they are upon duty. They hunt about, they plunge, they rise a hundred times to the surface, until they have at last found their prey. They then seize it with their beak by the middle, and carry it without fail to their master. When the fish is too large, they then give each other mutual assistance; one seizes it by the head, the other by the tail, and in this manner carry it to the boat together. There, the boatman stretches out one of his long oars, on which they perch, and being delivered of their burden they then fly off to pursue their sport. When they are wearied he lets them rest for a while: but they are never fed till their work is over. In this manner they supply a very plentiful [9]table—but still their natural gluttony cannot be reclaimed even by education. They have always, when they fish, a string fastened round their throats, to prevent them from devouring their prey, as otherwise they would at once satiate themselves and discontinue the pursuit the moment they had filled their bellies.”

Local information, is at all times, most valuable to the fisherman; without it, his money is often wasted, and his patience, sorely taxed. He purchases flies, which frighten, rather than attract, the fish. A sportsman should seek instruction from every quarter, and not take for granted that the experience he has acquired in his own neighbourhood, will serve him when he roams from home. But many are too apt to rely on their own judgment; they procure flies, which are totally inapplicable to our rivers; they sally forth on a piscatory trip well provided with these monsters; they have little or no sport; are disgusted with our rivers; and seek in some distant land that [10]amusement, which under more favorable auspices, they might have obtained in these counties. Not that our fish generally run so large, as in some parts of the kingdom—they are however very strong, and one of a half pound, will afford better sport, than one of double the weight in some of the more popular streams.

Let not the reader flatter himself, that the closest attention to the suggestions I shall shortly offer; nay, that all the information contained in the numerous books, which have been written upon this interesting subject; will, at once, enable him to supply the larder or gratify a friend; they are only facilities to the acquirement of the science; practice and patience, are required in large proportion to form the expert fisherman. The days, the weeks, which he must devote to the attainment of his wishes, will not however be unprofitably passed, if he avail himself of the numerous opportunities which will offer for the study of those works of nature, with which his [11]path will be abundantly strewed. He will find opportunities for acquiring an insight into the natural history of the finny tribe; into the natural history of the busy fly, or beauteous moth, that tempt the wily fish. The lichen and the moss—the thousand plants that line the rivers bank, or the stately trees and shapeless rocks that shade its waters; all, are subjects, which the more he contemplates, the more he will wonder and admire. And, when by practice, he finds himself an adept in the art, and looks with pleasure on his captured prey; it may suggest the fate of those, who attracted by the glittering tinsel and allured by the gaudy show, follow these dangerous snares and fall a sacrifice to the pomps and vanities of life.

The expert fisherman must be temperate in all things: the steady hand and quick eye are indispensable; the drunkard must quit our ranks,—the feverish temperament,—the blood-shot eye,—the giddy head, bespeak the peril of the man—not [12]of the fish. The epicure must follow his boon companion;—the bloated cheek—the shortened breath—the gouty ancle, are more likely to furnish food for fish, than fish, for food. That temperance has characterised many of our best artists, is evidenced, from the extreme age that several have acquired; for it cannot have been from mere accident, or from their having originally stronger stamina than other mortals, that so many have lived to an age far exceeding the ordinary term of human existence.

Henry Jenkins, who lived to the age of 169, and who boasted when giving evidence in a court of justice, to a fact of one hundred and twenty years date, that he could dub a fly as well as any man in Yorkshire, continued angling for more than a century, after the greater number of those who were born at the same time, were mouldering in their graves.

Dr. Nowell was a most indefatigable angler, allotting a tenth part of his time to his favorite [13]recreation, and giving a tenth part of his income and all the fish he caught to the poor. He lived to

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