The Fancy Flies of T.K. Wilson

During his service in the R.A.F. the well-known angler and author T.K. Wilson planned the idea of a book dedicated to the subject of “Fancy Flies”. Unfortunately, Wilson’s intended publication never came to fruition, with the intending author having instead to settle on producing a series of articles in the Angling Magazine based around his original idea and notes.
At the recent British Fly Fair International, I was given two of Wilson’s preparatory notebooks by the renowned author and grayling angler John Roberts, as well as an envelope containing several drafts of Wilson’s intended forward for the proposed book.

T.K. Wilson’s notebooks


Upon reading through Wilson’s notebooks and jottings, I was surprised to find how much the contents of Wilson’s original notes changed when eventually coming to print. A prime example being the story behind Blades’ Purple Dun which is given a fuller rendition in his notebooks, but shortened by over a page in his published magazine article. In his notes, Wilson also mentions that it was F.M. Halford who accompanied Walbran on his visit to fish with James Blades on the River Ure. Whereas, in his published article omits the Halford reference and simply refers to a “south-country fisherman of national repute.”
In writing about Blade’s signature pattern, Wilson mentions that the Purple Dun had been a popular Yorkshire grayling fly for over half a century, and quotes Blades as saying, “best for trout from July onwards, then whole of the season for grayling.”

Blade’s Purple Dun

Hook: No.1 Body: Purple silk dubbed with peacock herl, ribbed over with purple silk.
Hackle: From a blue andalusian cock or hen.

Born in 1902, Wilson moved from Westmorland to become the Ticket Master at Barnoldswick railway station. Writing under the nom de plume of “Broughton Point”, Wilson contributed many fishing articles for a varied range of magazines and newspapers, including The Angling Times, Dalesman, Trout and Salmon and the Yorkshire Post. His final book Trout By All Means completed shortly before his death and published posthumously contains still relevant sections on wet and dry fly-fishing for trout and grayling on Yorkshire’s rivers.

Amongst the patterns listed by Wilson for insertion in his projected book were the Ridsdale’s Special and Ridsdale’s Favourite. Two dry fly patterns invented by Austin Ridsdale from the small village of Mickley which lies beside the River Ure just above West Tanfield. And it is Wilson’s inclusion of these two patterns that shows how serendipity often takes a hand. For in my collection of north country fly manuscripts, I also have Austin Ridsdale’s own fly manuscript contained within a Boots “Home Diary” for 1931. Thus, allowing me the opportunity to cross-reference Wilson’s notes with Ridsdale’s original manuscript dressings and therefore spot Wilson’s mistake in setting down both Ridsdale’s dressings.

Austin Ridsdale’s Fly manuscript

Sadly, for his legion of readers, T.K. Wilson in his notes confuses the title of both of Ridsdale’s fly patterns, by attaching the wrong dressing to each fly. The fly called the “Ridsdale’s Favourite” should in fact be called “Ridsdale’s Fancy”, and the recipes for both fly patterns should be swapped over.

Wilson’s misplace and wrongly named dressing for the Ridsale’s fancy
Ridsdale’s actual dressing for the Ridsdale’s Fancy
Ridsdale’s actual dressing of the Ridsdale’s Special


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