George Barron's approach

ackroyd

Well-known member
Points
18
In his book "At the End of the Line" George Barron expresses his dislike for woollen or material tails on loch flies such as the Clan Chief, and by implication the Zulu. His view is that such tails lack movement and he much prefers GP crests, dyed or undyed, for that reason as I understand him. He advocates the use of hen hackles and soft partridge hackles for the same reason. Far be it from me to say that such a great angler is wrong in his assertion about tail wool or materials, but I have to admit to some doubts about his reasoning. It seems to me, in all humility, that if you pull any fly through water back towards the boat or the bank, the effect of the water will be to straighten out the tail during the fly's journey, water actually being quite a heavy fluid. When I ponder the regular success of such flies over many decades, my doubts about George's concern are reinforced, all the more so since some other great anglers do not seem to harbour the same objection. We might ponder Cap'n Fishy's many variations of the Kate Maclaren which appear elsewhere on this forum, or Stan Headley's Melvin Octopus. While I do follow George's reasoning in regard to the use of hen hackles, a point made previously, I think, by Stan Headley, because the hackle is being pulled back through the water at an angle to the direction of the fly's travel, I am puzzled by the point George makes in regard to these kind of tails. Equally, I don't follow Stan's preference for straightened GP tails. What do you gentlemen think?

Elsewhere on the forum others have taken issue with George's preference for pigeon slips to mallard slips for wings because they too are softer, and therefore easier to tie down to the shank. It's a point which had not struck me, and might be one that is well made, but I do think that with practice most tyers would be able to cope with duck slips. Although I have shot pigeon, I am none too fond of handling them indoor since their feathers seem to be rather powdery, which makes me worry about psittacosis. For that reason, I always pluck pigeon out-of-doors. What do others do? Has there been a movement in fly-tying circles towards using pigeon slips, I wonder?
 

diawl bach

Well-known member
Points
83
I've used goose biots for tails which, of course, are rigid, and they work. My view is the bright coloured tail is a trigger in trad wet flies rather than a mobile lure and that the hackles and fur fulfil that part of the attraction. I'd be stuffed if I had to validate the view scientifically but it works for me.
 

philm

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
nottinghamshire
I don’t think that a GP crest moves much more than wool. It is however is more translucent which I value on some flies especially if I am trying to represent shucks when I will straighten the crest. Wool/floss has the advantage of delivering a more solid block of colour and I feel that sometimes this is important too. If I want a mobile tail I’ll use marabou, rabbit or similar.

I find that a soft hackled wet fly holds lower in the water than one with a stiff hackle, I tie some patterns in both styles for different effects.

We all have our theories about what works and why, it would be very boring if we all shared the same ones.:)

Phil
 

ackroyd

Well-known member
Points
18
All well-made points, gentlemen. Thank-you. I agree that marabou gives terrific mobility, and I use it myself, but it does tend to break down over time, especially if deployed on the tail fly, I find. Something to do with turnover, I suspect. I think you point about a solid block of colour is very well made, philm, and I think that goes a long way towards explaining the solid history of success adorns which such flies. It's very helpful to find my views shared to a large degree on this issue; it's true to say that reading George Barron's book (which contains some really lovely patterns, it must be said) did give me pause for thought. But the great advantage of tying one's own flies is that many variants from many sources can be tried. All part of the fun, and I do mean fun.

I am now in my 70's and have caught some decent fish in my time. Only a busy professional and family life prevented me from fishing more often, but with age, I have lost what I would call that desperate drive to fill the bass with big fish, and the thought of fishing competitively fills me with horror. I enjoy the fun of fishing with other anglers in a boat, reminiscing here, teasing there, musing on life over coffee and sandwiches, and reflecting on what others have to say about flies and fishing. We do not know we are born, we anglers who live in Scotland. We have nothing to complain about and plenty to enjoy, whether or not we do well on any particular outing. Even if we are driven off a loch by a vicious gale, we still see a red-throated diver here, or an osprey there, or again, a tern hovering over a crannog, seeking to deter an approaching boat from its nest. I always enjoy being out on the loch, even if I have to come in early with an empty bass. I couldn't agree more with your last sentence, philm, although I do feel we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to innovating tyers like like George Barron, whether or not we endorse everything they say.
 

iainmortimer

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
West Sussex
Personally when thinking about material choice and colour my first consideration is not the amount of movement but what it’s role is in the fly. So if you take the Kate McLaren, the GP tail is mimicking the shuck of the hatching fly as its dibbled across the surface. The tail movement is irrelevant in my view as the hackle provides more than enough activity to grab the trouts attention. On the Zulu I see the tail as a colour hot spot to grab the fishes attention with the movement coming from the hackle. Personally I think that’s the case for most trout flies tried in that style and as such I also disagree with George’s view. In the main the only time I think tail movement is important in a trout fly is on a lure. That’s very different to salmon flies however where generally I want tail movement and believe that is why ‘modern’ shrimp patterns are so effective. However, it is thinking tiers like George that have moved us so far forward in material choice and developing new patterns and if he believes it and has more confidence as a result, or gives others the same confidence then they’ll all catch more as a result. I therefore don’t mean to knock him for he’s a far better producer of flies than me! Clearly he’s not stuck with that concept of movement though or I’m sure he’d have a different tailing material on his Peter Ross variant.
 

Wee Jimmy

Well-known member
Points
63
Location
Fife
I think what we like the look of in a particular fly as individuals is important because if it doesn’t tick all the boxes for us ,it’s unlikely that we will fish it with enough belief or confidence.As Phil says ,we are all different and maybe helps explain why certain patterns work for some and not for others.?
I have also noticed many many times where fluorescent tailed flies having a definite advantage over a natural coloured one and vice versa .Light levels and water colour have their part to play in this so it’s wise to stay flexible as possible on this.

While we all like a nice fly,I’m sure we all know guys who can charm fish out of nowhere with sheer ability and with flies that resemble a superglue coated hook rolled in belly button fluff.Id rather have that knack than a box full of nice flies any day of the week.
 

dave b

Well-known member
Points
48
Location
UK
I think Jimmy has raised possibly one of the most important points in angling and that is confidence. Whether it is confidence in your own ability, method or confidence in a fly, it all ties in, (excuse the pun), regardless of whether it's fly fishing or other aspects of the sport.

I don't know any fly angler who would argue the effectiveness of hot spots, regardless of whether it is mylar tinsel, jungle cock. fire orange thread or holographic tinsel on the bend of the hook or thorax or a wool, white biot, or antron tail.

I think an epoxy buzzer which has absolutely no other mobility than that induced by the angler sums it all up. If a fly is representative in it's composition and has movement induced by either the angler, undercurrent or wind, a fish with a natural curiosity and an instinct to feed, will when the opportunity presents itself, take a pattern readily as fish have an ingrained instinct/habit of mouthing an item they deem to be food before either rejecting it or swallowing it.

A buzzer, pheasants tail, a Montana and sawyers nymph are time proven patterns of flies with very limited ranges of natural movement yet they are some of the deadliest flies ever produced. Regarding top of the water patterns how much natural movement does a muddler have? Its it the natural movement of the tail or the wake created by the bulbous deer hair head that trout find hard to resist or is it simply the fish has seen something within it's field of vision possibly injured and trying to escape that triggers it's natural instinct to smash it.

Like Iain has stated the role of the fly plays an important role, how the angler fishes it is another matter. Going back to Jimmy's point if the angler is confident in his or her ability to make a pattern work, then chances are in the right conditions on the right day it will work very effectively.

I struggled with pheasant tails when I first started fly fishing. 2 yrs later I had a red letter day, my confidence in the fly grew and it is now one of the first patterns out of the box.

I think Bob Wyatt's simplistic approach and views sum a great deal of it up as we as anglers often look far too deep into things instead of learning from experience and accepting that some things simply work.
 

m r roid

Well-known member
Points
43
I think Jimmy has raised possibly one of the most important points in angling and that is confidence. Whether it is confidence in your own ability, method or confidence in a fly, it all ties in, (excuse the pun), regardless of whether it's fly fishing or other aspects of the sport.

I don't know any fly angler who would argue the effectiveness of hot spots, regardless of whether it is mylar tinsel, jungle cock. fire orange thread or holographic tinsel on the bend of the hook or thorax or a wool, white biot, or antron tail.

I think an epoxy buzzer which has absolutely no other mobility than that induced by the angler sums it all up. If a fly is representative in it's composition and has movement induced by either the angler, undercurrent or wind, a fish with a natural curiosity and an instinct to feed, will when the opportunity presents itself, take a pattern readily as fish have an ingrained instinct/habit of mouthing an item they deem to be food before either rejecting it or swallowing it.

A buzzer, pheasants tail, a Montana and sawyers nymph are time proven patterns of flies with very limited ranges of natural movement yet they are some of the deadliest flies ever produced. Regarding top of the water patterns how much natural movement does a muddler have? Its it the natural movement of the tail or the wake created by the bulbous deer hair head that trout find hard to resist or is it simply the fish has seen something within it's field of vision possibly injured and trying to escape that triggers it's natural instinct to smash it.

Like Iain has stated the role of the fly plays an important role, how the angler fishes it is another matter. Going back to Jimmy's point if the angler is confident in his or her ability to make a pattern work, then chances are in the right conditions on the right day it will work very effectively.

I struggled with pheasant tails when I first started fly fishing. 2 yrs later I had a red letter day, my confidence in the fly grew and it is now one of the first patterns out of the box.

I think Bob Wyatt's simplistic approach and views sum a great deal of it up as we as anglers often look far too deep into things instead of learning from experience and accepting that some things simply work.
Might be worth trying dyed arctoc fox tail. The same mobility, but a bit more durable than marabou
 

tangled

Well-known member
Points
48
I wonder whether any of it matters much?

There are lots of exceptions where very specific flies work and others don't, and you have a red letter day, but as a general rule it seems to me that most flies work most of the time and will pick up fish here and there. If the fish are in the mood they'll take, and almost anything will do. Getting obsessed with minor differences in materials seems to me to be more a human OCD trait that something that's important to the fish.

I'm more of a fan of the bird watchers 'giss' - pronounce 'jiz' - general impression shape and size - and try to make generalised imitative patterns with few materials.
 
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