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The Erne
Its Legends & Its Fly Fishing

A Snippet from Long Ago
by
Mick Hall & Bob Frandsen
 
With thanks to my wife Alaine for the hours it took to reproduce this article.

This is a story of a very rare book that was written in Ireland in 1851 by The Reverend Henry Newland.  It is full of anecdotes, snippets of history, folk lore, and fairy tales and of course the fishing experiences of the author and his friends.  I am a bit of a history buff and Bob’s love is the Salmon Fly.
 
It was over a cup of coffee on a recent visit from Bob and his wife, Lorraine, that the conversation turned to old Salmon flies that have been lost in time.
Now Bob’s love of old Salmon flies is well known; he has tied so many of the old masters’ patterns that it has made him somewhat of an authority on the subject.  His face beamed when I pulled out a copy of The Erne from behind the glass door of an old book case.  The pages tell of flies such as The Parson, The Killmore, Jack the Giant Killer and Foul Weather Jack, plus a few others that have rarely seen the inside of a fly wallet for nigh on two centuries.
 
Then we went looking to see if the patterns had ever been published before. We found a few but not all.
 
We have copied a chapter from this great work which includes not only the recipes of the Salmon flies listed in this work but the intriguing contents of the fly tying books they carried so long ago. They feature long lost materials and they tell tales of tackle, fly hooks, manufacturers/retailers and other fly tyers from a time that can never be revisited.  We hope you find it as intriguing as we did.

There had been a short cessation about eight o’clock, which had given some little hope; but the weather had fairly broken up, and the whole week which followed was but one unintermitting continuance of cold, chilly, ungenial weather, never inviting, and interspersed now and then with sudden storms, or hours of cold piercing rain.
 
The season, certainly, was not favourable; but unless the water was actually out of order, which was not yet the case, the weather was seldom permitted to offer much hindrance to the fishermen.  They might start, perhaps, somewhat later in the day, and with somewhat less alacrity.  They were never without their Macintosh jackets; but no day had hitherto kept them from the river; and though in all that time there never had been what might be called good fishing weather, yet there were few days in which fish had not been caught by one or other of them.
 
There is one great advantage in a lake river, and that is a thing that ought to be borne in mind by all fishermen who are choosing their summer’s fishing-ground.  It is much less affected than any other description of stream by the changes of the weather.  A whole night’s steady rain will change the colour of almost any water; but it has little effect on the Erne.  There are absolutely no tributaries to the stream, and for the impurities of those which fall into the lake, the lake itself acts as an enormous cess-pool; all discolouring matter sinks quietly to the bottom, while the surface, which in all cases must be the clearest part, is skimmed off by the river.
 
A week’s incessant rain had, however, at last tinged the whole mass, and the very surface had assumed the brown yellow hue of the bog-peat, thickened by the mud which had been washed from the sides of the hills.  The water came pouring over Rose Isle Fall “like the mane of a chestnut steed:” and the Captain, the most energetic and persevering of the party, came back from his morning inspection sulky and disconsolate, and, with a gesture that told “more than words could say,” silently hung up his rod in the brackets.  Cold weather he could stand; for clean water from the clouds he cared no more than a Spartan; but dirty water in the river would beat Isaac Walton himself; so the Captain, taking one more look at the leaden sky, pronounced oracularly that nothing was to be done that day.

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Chapter V1 (Text Unabridged)
 
The Entomology of the Erne
 
The Parson’s anticipations had proved correct.  There were, indeed, wet jackets at the fair, for throughout the whole night the rain came down in one steady, regular, continuous down-pour.  There were no furious gusts, or rattling showers, as in the last break-up of the weather, but a constant, persevering, soaking rain, that seemed as if it would never alter and never end.

Dimly and warily did the morning dawn upon the soaked and draggled remnants of the fair; and the dripping remains of the canvass booths, the upset stalls, the wet and broken hampers, the dirty straw, and the muddy poached-up standings where the cattle had been penned, made the desolate street look ten times more desolate, as the Parson took his morning’s observation from the window.