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PostPosted: Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:21 pm • # 1 
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Joined: 03/08/11
Posts: 11

A Very Interesting Challenge


A few years back while in the process of absorbing everything possible about the history of fly fishing in general that one possibly could, my mind went instinctively to the terms of whether a carp could be caught on a fly line made from horsehair as was done for trout in the late 1700's.  To become a better angler one must challenge themselves and push the limits of your own abilities for an understanding of what you, as well as your equipment can accomplish.  Those words have driven me to try and sometimes attain things that probably would not have even been thought about at one time in my life.  So read on and join me in this adventure taking part of fly fishing's past...with a modern twist.


In the taking on of any project, the first step is definitely investigation and with this enterprise it was a real tough one to research.  Reading is a large part of the research on these types of undertakings, so my first was to find accounts of early making of fly lines.  It seems as though in England, Whales and Europe there was this writing that at the time was considered the definitive answer to fly fishing during the early days of the sport.   A Concise Treatise on the Art of Angling followed by the second part of the book The Complete Fly fisher published in London and written by Thomas Best in 1787 was the first piece in the research puzzle for this labor of love.  of that let us just say that things were written a lot differently back then and it took a lot of sifting to get the grains of wheat from the chaff.


The Internet also helps to cut research time quite a bit in these modern times and the use of this link did help tremendously  So now after reading these items for research my new quandary was that of where to obtain the horsehair needed to conduct this challenge.  More questions than answers is how these things usually go, but that is why so inviting to do for me-the average angler.  Learning at an early age to utilize my resources for such things, my mind went to the music department at the school where I am employed.  If memory served me correctly violin and Cello bows were made from horse hair.  A quick check with the music teacher confirmed my memory as being correct and that made me happy to figure that out.  My next hurdle was taken when learned that the bows with broken horse hairs were sent back to be replaced and that cutting and keeping the hairs was not a problem.  These hairs come from Belgian horses is what was told to me.  You just never know where these little learning nuggets in life are going to come from and that is part of the whole experience too.


Now the braiding began.  This was a new undertaking for most guys (myself included) as girls learn at a young age how to braid their hair.  However it was not a totally new concept for me as an article on early fly tying had been undertaken by me and in researching for that it was learned that a German man by the name of Franz Potts used his vocation (hair weaving) to encompass his avocation (fly tying) so that is when braiding was learned by me.


The braid started out with three horse hairs (which is what was usually used by most anglers in the late 1700's for trout).  After braiding and tying 5 sections of horsehair together a decision was made by me to taper the line to 2 (two) horse hairs.  So to the 5 sections of 3 braid, 3 sections of 2 braid (twisted) horsehair were added.  Would the knots hold and would the horsehair be strong enough to hold a tough little carp?  As mentioned earlier these projects lead to more questions than answers.  Time however would answer these and all questions.  My thinking was to go a little beyond what the average angler did for trout in the late 1700's for trout...thus more of a challenge.


Now we need a rod for all of this line.  Research told me that a piece of bamboo was used in the early 1700's for the fly rods.  Reels were not invented yet, so it was more of a cane pole type of deal.  There are many types of bamboo and time constraints did not allow me to become familiar with them all.  Some bamboo was growing at a local park so with the permission of the park ranger a piece was cut to start the drying process.  Air drying was the way it was done back then, so that was good enough for me to do it that way.  After 4 months of drying a protective coating of varnish was ready to be applied. 


After applying the varnish coats and allowing proper drying time the assembly of the line to the rod was the next endeavor to undertake for completion of this project.  So that was done without incident and my maiden voyage with my "new" "old" equipment was ready, or was it.  Hey wait a minute here we need a fly to be part of this process too now.  My excitement was too much, so a well known modern pattern was tied (a simple bread fly) to speed up the process of the maiden voyage. 


Now it was off to the industrial park ponds to see if a small carp could be enticed and brought to net with the use of such primitive methods.  This certain industrial park has always been good to me in the past yeilding many carp of various sizes.  A smaller one was my targeted size on this occasion however as I made my way from the parking lot.  After wetting the horse hair line so it would not be so brittle, it was quickly off to the pond chumming the area with bread in order to find some small actively feeding carp.  The bluegill were readily feeding, but no carp.  So my legs carried me to another spot to try my luck there.  After baiting with bread at this spot for about 3 minutes an actively feeding carp was spotted among the bluegill.  Could an offering be effectively placed close enough to the carp for a take before a bluegill engulfed the fly?  You know answer is that one has to give it a try.  So my offering landed within inches of the small carp, but to the left a little further than anticipated.  Well to my surprise he actually turned and ate the bread fly.


Upon setting the hook the fight was on.  It seemed more like pole fishing rather than fly fishing but it was a real fight never-the-less.  All of my research, hard work and planning culminated the moment that the 9 ounce beautiful carp hit the net.  A few moments in admoration of this little beauty were in order next with a picture as evidence for memories sake.  To say that the world was at peace with me at that moment would be the best explaination that could be given.


The respect that was gained from this challenge of how things were in the 1700's was, to coin a phrase "priceless".  Also the understanding and vast knowledge gained was definitely a milestone experience for me in my fishing endeavors.  So, if anyone wants to embark on a true learning experience of their passion for fishing please by all means challenge yourself by pushing your abilities to the extreme in order to become a better angler.  This is by far well worth the effort made in order to achieve the learning that is gained.

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