Knot tying remembered

March 24, 2013 at 11:15 pm

This week I celebrated my 43rd Wedding Anniversary, getting married at the end of March to claim back our tax paid that financial year. In those days you could also offset one third of your mortgage interest against tax, as an incentive to get on the housing ladder and we had scraped together enough for a deposit to begin married life in a house without furniture. With nothing left for a honeymoon, a day at the Ideal Home Exhibition had to do.  A delayed honeymoon was planned for later, a week in a cottage on the banks of the West Lyn in Devon. Two 8 ft 6 in glass Shakespeare fly rods were bought and being an instrument  maker with an understanding foreman, I machined up a pair of light weight aluminium fly reels, these fitted with McHardy’s mill end lines. Flies were too expensive to lose, so I made up a simple set of tools, a freestanding vice, bobbin holder, hackle pliers and dubbing  needle, all copied from the McHardy catalogue  and set about teaching myself to tie flies.


Small, sparse, winged, wet flies were needed for the Lyn and with pheasant wings and tails available from shooting, along with wool pulled from the jumpers of workmates, for dubbing and milk tops for tinsel, I was soon turning out reasonable copies of flies on show, courtesy of McHardy. I made a copy of a whip finish tool, but without YouTube, I had no idea how it worked, so never used it, but with good eyes and deft fingers, whip finishes became second nature by hand. My fly box was a cigar tin with strips of rubber glued in. My foreman had a saying “Butchers don’t buy meat”, which we applied to anything that we could make.

That holiday was memorable. A half hour searching out the pools of the West Lyn next to the cottage, would provide breakfast of trout on toast, followed by a visit from a holiday cat, that would wait at the door for the left overs. Days were spent fishing the tumbling rivers Lyn and Heddon. Being pocket waters, my young wife became  expert at casting to these, hooking and landing some nice browns, along with young sea trout, although being very girlie and blonde, she never mastered the technique of taking them off the hook. No sooner would I return to my rod, than she would land another for unhooking.  Casting up to the heads of the pockets, those early wet fly imitations worked well, many of the trout hooking themselves in the fast flowing runs.

We have visited Lynmouth and fished it’s rivers many times, always finding something new each visit, the winter floods creating pools and changing others, while some are now out of reach, the ability to leap from rock to rock, long gone from our legs. In the same light, it was time to finally give up on my home made flytying tools and accept the gift of a boxed kit for Christmas. This meant visits to YouTube to learn how to use whip finish and dubbing tools earlier this year to create some new still water lures for rainbow trout, my old McHardy catalogue now superceded by the Internet. With the trout season looming, it was time  to open up the new box of tricks and produce a few tried and tested old favourites, some of which had become a challenge in recent years, but were now back on the agenda.