North Country Bric-à-brac
Like many flytyers, I am a collector of vintage flytying materials. And as someone who has an appetite for all thing related to the history and tying of traditional North Country spider patterns. I generally collect flytying items and flytying material collections related to this passion. However, a few weeks ago whilst rummaging through various boxes that hide much of my North Country collection, I came across an unusual vintage leather fly wallet/box which seems to date to the 1940’s. I had long forgotten of its existence, and only came upon it when searching for a copy of copy of D.R.H. Williams’ excellent little book “Memories of Moor, Stream and Woodland”. I have quite a few vintage leather fly wallets in my collection, but the design of this one took my eye when it came up at auction. Whether it was manufactured with flyfishing in mind, is unknown. As it is too large to easily fit in one’s pocket when out fishing and has more of a coarse fisherman’s look to it. Nevertheless, the wallet contained many old north country flies stuck within a few of its woollen page leaves as well as a healthy selection of vintage horsehair fly casts. But what really took my eye was the selection of flytying materials housed within the bottom section of box. As a flytyer who specialises in the field of North Country spider patterns, any opportunity to increase my knowledge and stock of traditional materials is always greatly appreciated. And any opportunity to purchase items such as Water-rat fur, Kestrel hackles and Wren tail feathers is always a bonus.
Sadly, there isn’t an owner’s name inscribed within the box or wallet to give me an opportunity research the origins of the wallet/box. However, given the nature of the fly wallet contents and the flytying materials contained within the box, it’s clear that at one time it belonged to North Country angler.
On close inspection of the flies, it seems the wallet-box was originally used during a period when north country flyfishers were moving from traditional gut and horsehair leaders with their patterns dressed on blind hooks. To a period when north country flies were dressed modern eyed hooks as well as nylon leaders. Some of the fly patterns such as the Brown Owl’s and Crimson Waterhen’s are unmistakable, though the identification of the others is ambiguous to say the least.
When the box is fully opened, and its fly wallet expanded. A selection of flytying materials are exposed in used Pilot Gut packets and Glassine envelopes, with the usual north country components present throughout. I remember at the original auction where the box-wallet was purchased, the contents of this part of the box were my primary reason for it purchase. Although why the original owner would keep a selection of flytying materials and flies within the box is somewhat of a mystery.
Although many vintage flytying materials are readily available for those with enough curiosity and desire to search them out. This combination of fly wallet and box, is an interesting curio that still intrigues…