Friday July 27, 2018

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Not only has the wisdom of the years changed my priorities, but the passing of the years has curtailed my ability to pursue the vices of my youth. That magic hour on a Friday night when I headed out to indulge in all the activities my parents had warned against is replaced –at exactly the same time- by pouring a malt and opening a book, hoping that chapter and dram will both be finished before Morpheus arrives.

For a number of years now the book of choice has been fishing related, and the majority instructional. This in the belief that any knowledge so absorbed will somehow, eventually, reappear at the front of my brain at the vital moment. Fly tying has featured prominently. Designs, techniques and tales of wondrous catches attained by these marvellous creations fill my dreams and drive me to the tying table and the vice.

As with most vices, this one is addictive and to assuage the cravings yet more hard-earned cash has to be spent. There is always the conviction that this particular, harmless “hobby” is saving you money, but a quick look at the bench, tools, gadgets and accumulated materials leads to the realisation that I will have to tie thousands of flies to recoup the investment to date. The addict is lying to himself, as all addicts do.

Time for a change. Cold turkey. The temptation of trying out the new substitute Jungle Cock will be resisted, the 32 page fly tying catalogue will become a firelighter. But a withdrawal from all things piscatorial proves impossible.

Have you seen the price of lures these days? Rapalas at a tenner each, Kynoch Killers six quid. Painted wood with hooks attached! Wading sticks £40- it’s a stick for Pete’s sake! I’m going to make a mint.

The seed is sown, and the plant grows rapidly, nurtured by the evil Internet temptress- Amazon. “Buy now with one click”, “Customers who bought this book also bought”, “Buy all three together for… Click, click, click.


Basic Fishing Lure Carving” by Greg Hays, Schiffer Publishing Ltd. (from £8)

From the US where the Colonials have a greater number of species to chase with lures than in the UK and some interesting patterns and colours. Light on text but heavy on colour pictures the sixty-four pages take you through every step of carving a lipped, jointed “Pro Runner” lure and a box to present it in. Aimed at the novice carver just about every cut is explained and photographed. The end result may seem daunting at first as it includes just about every technique involved in producing a complex lure, some of which (wire forming) are beyond carving. Three simple but effective jigs are also described – a drill guide block, paint stand and epoxy stand. It is the use of two-part epoxy paints to produce the excellent finish that will cause most difficulty (and/or expense) here in the UK, it is just not available in small quantities (£13 per ½ pint of a single colour, the same for ½ pint of catalyst, £8 for thinners).

The answer would seem to be standard enamel or acrylic paints covered with a gloss epoxy finish, wherein the epoxy stand will come into its own. A one-dram book to browse through, then a benchside reference. Follow the steps as written and you’ll end up with more of a work of art than a working lure, but you will have learnt nearly all you need to know to progress.


Making Wooden Fishing Lures” by Rich Rousseau, Fox Chapel Publishing (from £6)

More bang for your buck (and it is buck, another from across the Pond) at 175 pages. More text, but still plenty of colour photographs, and the step by step format will guide you through eleven lures of increasing complexity from a surface prop bait to a duckling and a weasel (yep, that’s what I said). Plans for a further thirteen patterns are included, all life size for copying and transferring to the wood. Mr. Rousseau is an artist when it comes to painting lures and an airbrush and some proficiency in its use are going to be required to duplicate his results. He is also a bit of a wit and the book is peppered with asides – the answer as to why you should wear your hat sideways whilst fishing is priceless.

With the exceptions of the duckling and the weasel, the patterns (and their uses) are readily applicable here in the UK, but fitting them out as the author does is not so easy. The hardware (hook-hangers, diving lips, propellers and so on) is not readily available in the UK. As above, the variety of species and habitats in the States produces a large variety of lures and drives a DIY industry. Paying $20-30 postage for the few items ($5 worth) required for a couple of lures does not make sense. A limited range is available from Holland at 5€ postage.

For those of us that check all knots twice, the use of small screw eyes to mount line and hooks may cause some anxiety. A wire-through design is explained – this is where hook and line mounts are formed from a single piece of piano wire sandwiched in the centre of the lure- but I would have preferred this in all designs.

That apart, it is a two-dram book. The painting is inspirational, but fully explained, it will just take a little practice.

(Thanks to Mike Connor for putting me onto this one.)


The Complete Book of Tackle Making” by C Boyd Pfeiffer, The Lyons Press. (from £13- watch out, a revised edition is due to be published next January).

It cannot be “complete” surely? Perhaps not, but at around five hundred and fifty pages it is going to make a good stab at it. No colour illustrations and a bit out of date- first published in 1993, based on two earlier books- but at that price it is going to have to fall well short not to be worth it.

It will not disappoint the Americans as just about everything you could make and use for fishing for minnows to sharks is included- buzzbaits and birds anyone? Mr Pfeiffer makes plain that he is not going to take on fly-tying and omits reel making but rod holders for boat and car, wading staffs, gaffs, tailers, floating bait boxes, snubbers and lure retrievers are all covered.

In common with the others, it opens with a description of the tools required but goes straight into a chapter of cheaper, home-made, alternatives - to include a simple but effective bobbin.

Two hundred pages of lures follow, wood plugs, lead and plastic moulded, spoons, spinners and much else for fresh and sea water.

Most of the second half of the tome deals with rod making for all types of angling, both from blanks and from scratch. This leads into complex and decorative whippings and the finishing of the rod.

We are not finished yet, seven appendices follow, covering fifty pages, from rod care, hook patterns and swivel sizes (shown full size), knots and a comprehensive list of International suppliers (no websites listed, hopefully they will be in the revised edition), then a Glossary and Index.

This one is going to take a week or two and a bottle of Skye’s finest just to get fully to grips with before I choose a place to start in the workshop.

The good ole US of A has much to teach us. Carving and painting wooden lures to the standards attained by Hays and Rousseau will serve the same function as the flies of Edwards and Headley- catch anglers, but they will also catch fish. The expanding interest in targeting pike and ferox by techniques other than the “chuck it and chance it” of the dead bait and float brigade may well develop by trying some of the jerk baits, lead and plastic moulded lures much-beloved of the muskie anglers.

More importantly the same pleasure that is derived from taking a bandy on a fly of your own devising and tying is given by the use of a similarly manufactured lure or rod.

At least I have cured my fly-tying addiction, the new-fangled Jungle Cock substitute arrived an hour ago and I have not been to the vice…..yet.

(Information and prices correct as of August 2012).

Ken Brown drinks and fishes responsibly in Glen Garry, but having squandered his retirement fund on fishing tackle, is forced to eke out a meagre pension by selling Scottish Highland Art Prints.


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