“.......Pleasure is spread through the earth, In stray gifts to be claimed by whoever shall find”
“ We fish for pleasure; I for Mine, you for yours” Leisenring’s Notebooks
Dubbing is a fascinating subject. It is true that some dubbing mixes are much better than others for some things. Many modern single colour synthetics, and similar stuff, are greatly inferior to natural dubbing mixes. There is no limit to the lengths one may go, in order to obtain first class dubbing. Shaving ram´s testicles being one of the easier and more innocuous methods.
Many people over the years have tried to help in remembering what feathers and dubbing to use, and when to use the resulting flies.
Here is an interesting epic from a famous Irish angler who is renowned, among other things, for the fact that he knew of and used a floating fly for trout in the early 1820´s, almost twenty years before any other known angler. He obviously knew his dubbing as well, as you will see if you read carefully. As my copies of the table were all missing parts, this work has been taken in its entirety from the book "Irish Trout and Salmon Flies " by E.J.Malone. A very nice book first published in 1984, and rather hard to obtain since then! I assume no copyright exists for the table, as it was first published in the 1800´s.
"Of the principal flies for angling , and the season in which they should be used ; communicated to the editor by the ingenious MR. THOMAS ETTINGSALL, proprietor of the sporting tackle establishment, Woodquay, Dublin."
"Of various flies that sport upon the wing,
Their angling seasons and their names I sing. " PETRUS PISCATOR
From age to age the rural pastimes grew,
Necessity first urged, then pleasures new
From wants supplied arose, and none more pure,
Than from the deep the finny tribe to lure:
The high , the low, the simple, and the wise
Make it a study how a trout to rise.
The pale mechanic hails his holiday,
And to the gurgling streamlet speeds his way;
There in the lonely vale,to praise his God
And seek contentment from his pliant rod ;
At eve returning with his basket´s store,
And health renew´d for six days´ labour more.
O! where on earth is pleasure so secure
From every ill to rich as well as poor.
As is the angler´s free from harmful guile ?
To take one sporting trout he´ll trudge a mile,
Marking the flies that sail adown the brook,
Then try to match them from his fishing book.
Philosophers, with rod, may rove the stream,
To contemplate on nature´s wondrous frame;
The monarch may forsake his cares and throne,
And seek the silent vale and brook alone.
One tumbling trout will give him more delight,
Than all the state which dazzles others' sight;
The youth will cheerfully his books resign,
For health and pleasure with his rod and line,
From Greek and Roman lore awhile to rest,
And learn to tie the fly will please the best,
How he may read upon the varying skies,
From thence to judge the order of his flies;
How he may place them on his trailing link,
Know which should float, or which should partly sink;
And next to know the feeding hours that trout
Are most accustomed to, or frisk about;
And of the varying winds to know the best,
And at what side the brook his game may rest
These, my design to lay before his eyes,
In due succession, and the killing flies;
The less approv'd I mean to set aside,
And name but those by long experience tried;
To imitate their structure with due care,
Beasts must contribute and the birds of air,
Cock, partridge, grouse, the fox, and timid hare,
Materials he from winter's sports shall find,
To furnish well his hooks, and cheer his mind;
The wren, itself, tho' smallest of his sort,
Contributes largely to the angler's sport,
His tail, as hackle, in all winds that blow,
Atrout will take, for if the river's low,
a spider wren, a muscle's beard the frame,
Or dark brown olive mohair, much the same,
Will draw the scaly epicure from where he lies,
Sick with lukewarm stream or gorg'd with flies,
The hackles of the cock, red, black, or grey,
Form flies to kill from March to Lady-day;
The fox's skin will many shades produce,
Nor is his beard, for forking, without use;
The grouse is good, but that of deepest black;
Gives the best hackles from his dusky back;
The hare is wanted only for it's ears,
The fur of which the greatest value bears -
This, mixed with orange, yellow, black, or green,
On lake or river better ne'er was seen,
With mallard fork, and silver ribb'd or tipt,
The wings from starling or from mallard stript;
The hare's-ear tipt most excellent you'll find,
It forms a fly the best of all it's kind;
The sooty black will constant sport produce,
And, in the evening late, comes into use,
And now proceed we to recount the flies
That in their months will cause a trout to rise.
FROM 14TH FEBRUARY TO 14TH MARCH
The vernal breezes, with boreal blast,
Now struggle 'till the latter is out-cast,
The finny tribe make to the shallow streams,
From deeper water, to recruit their frames;
The genial spring new insects now create,
Their food to seek and be for others meat,
Hare's-ear and claret mohair, partridge wing
Mix'd with the stare, the vernal breezes bring;
The dark dun-fox is seen to cut the air,
And great brown coghlan called by some brown bear
A dark-red hackle, orange body tied,
Will surely win the river's scaly pride;
A jet-black hackle on the foot-link's tail
With purple body tipt can never fail -
And mark, all flies that are of sombre hue,
In early spring more certain sport will show,
And the brown coghlan near to Patrick's day
Like modern statesmen, turns his coat to Grey.
FROM 14TH MARCH TO 14TH APRIL.
The sun's increasing heat, and southern gales,
Still more and more against the cold prevails,
And kindly showers, mixing with the brook,
Dispel the chill - then on the waters look,
There you will see the grave hare's-ear, unmixt,
Floating the stream, or on the eddies fixt;
The brown rail too; the light and dark blow-fox,
And hackles from the grey and tawny cocks -
They end in March, but, if the month's severe,
They never show 'till April's softer air;
But let this rule be held by every man,
For ever hold the black cock, red, and wren,
As never-failing food - the common bread
On which the tribe of trout are fed;
You may adorn them round about with gold,
May change their wings reverse to nature's mould,
But the red hackle shows still at the breast,
And so it is with black wren, and the rest.
FROM 14TH APRIL TO 14TH MAY.
'Tis an old saying, and 'tis truth they say,
That April showers bring forth the flowers of May;
And every flower that blows gives fragrant birth
To many creatures scarce perceiv'd on earth:
Each shrub and plant possesses in its kind,
The various beings that sport upon the wind.
No sooner does the cowslip burst its bell,
Than the cream camel leaves its golden cell;
The clover which the cow delights to taste,
When pass'd again, brings forth a tribe in haste,
The lady-cow is seen to flaunt about,
As any lady at a ball or rout;
But very soon she changes her green suit
To dusky yellow - orange - and at last
Hare's-ear and yellow is its destin'd cast;
The gosling fox, too, seems its nearest kin -
But hark! the cuckoo's note - sweet May comes in
The yellow meads with cowslips studded o'er,
Send forth their natives to the pebbl'd shore.
The yellow May-fly wings o'er brook and lake,
The harbinger of the stone-prison'd drake,
The black-bank spider and the sooty black,
The golden olives show a wat'ry track,
With golden, sooty, and the meally grey,
Are all good flies throughout the month of May.
FROM 14TH MAY TO 14TH JUNE.
Now Nature is accouch'd - each shrub and tree
Receives to nurse, her latest progeny -
The order of the insect world's complete,
As the sun's course attains meridian height.
Emerging from the deep recesses of the lake,
Upshoots the pebble-cradled soft green-drake;
No sooner does it meet the atmosphere,
Than with its lustrous wings it courts the air.
Its morn of life is gilt by its own ray,
But soon its bright embroidery wears away
To sickly green, deep buff, and last to grey.
Next look along the silver-pebbled strand,
The stone-fly skips, from stone to stone, to land,
As if (like cats) it fear'd to wet its feet,
It pauses ere it leaps, although its leaps are fleet.
The sun's meridian brings another feast
To tempt the epicure - the over haste
Of the industrious ant, returning home,
A rising wind drifts them amidst the foam
That dies away, a summer show'r takes place,
That o'er, a mist of midges strikes your face.
The blue-blows with their copper legs are seen,
The sooty midge, white gnat, and gosling green;
The orange cow-dung, olive camels too,
All fork'd none tipt, but every shade and hue,
On a good feeding spot if you cast out,
Will scarcely fail to rise a sporting trout.
FROM 14TH JUNE TO 14TH JULY.
Before Aurora opes her curtains wide,
Speed from your bed unto the river's side;
The flowers' wing'd inmates are confined with dew,
Seize on their absence, 'twill be best for you -
Foro,when Sol's chariot tops the hill of noon,
The trout looks to his rays and promised boon,
The dew dries up, the fragrant prisons ope,
And all the captives from their cells elope;
Each whispering breeze will waft across the brooks,
The food for which the trout expectant looks,
As drifted to his mouth he basking lies,
So gorged he shuns your shade and scorns your flies
And all your art will fail to make him rise.
Then take the morning as I said before
Doubt not your basket will contain a store -
The golden harvest wags it's yellow beard,
The twittering quail and corn-creak are heard;
The Naids quit the shallow sun-dried brook,
The trout exhausted seeks some hiding nook
Some little pool beneath a rock or bank,
That scarce conceals his back within the tank
He there lies pent, nor dare he rove for food,
But watchful nature in her care is good;
The caterpillar up the sedges crawls,
In spite of all his legs, he reels, he falls
Into the mouth that's waiting for his fall,
A sweet repast at angry hunger's call.
FROM 14TH JULY TO 14TH AUGUST.
Tis then you may deceive him while his eyes
Are fix'd with hungry look upon the skies;
The flies to use are these I recommend,
A jet-black hackle at your foot-link's end,
The body, deepest blue, the tail, tipt gold,
The wings, light stare, next in esteem I hold
The golden ash and tied with yellow silk,
The wing the creamy tint of stripping milk;
The next, a spider wren with yellow fur,
Must move a trout if he's inclined to stir.
A hawthorn black, then, as the morn grows old,
Which how to tie I cheerfully unfold;
Pen-feathers of the jay the wings compose,
Black ostrich herl along the tail lay close,
Until you reach where you design the breast,
Which must be formed of the green plover's crest;
Then o'er the ostrich herl be closely laid
The blackest horse-hair, and the fly is made;
Nor e'er forget mixed hackles, black and red,
The Soldier-fly with dark and ominous head,
As suit it's name it is a slaughtering fly,
Struck by it's barb full many a trout shall die.
Now breakfast o'er as it approaches nine,
Get out your dapping link both long and fine,
Your horn stock'd with blue-fly, and the oak
Called the down-looker - rest yourself and poke
Beneath some tree that over-hangs the pool
Where no breeze ripples, there a glutton fool,
Some bully trout, that scorns a puny fly,
May take your dap and like a glutton die.
Now as the yellow corn moves to and fro,
Like ocean's waves, the water reeds also
Bend to the breeze and from the nodding blade
The flag-fly tumbles and a prey is made-
But let us now direct the angler's eyes,
Unto the order of the day and flies,
The orange palmer and the yellow too,
The flag-fly orange, and the slatish blue,
The shaggy caterpillars red and black,
The light cream camel and the soldier-hack,
These in the morning on the pools he'll find
To please the trout, provided there is wind.
When evening comes and clouds move o'er the skies,
The trout are seen on every pool to rise,
Prepare the foot-line, fine, and round, and clear,
And let it these three smaller midges bear -
Scare-crow, magpie, ostrich or white gnat,
With hackles black and red, and you'll find that
With these you'll rise, unless the sun sets bright,
Then look to moths and hoppers for the night.
FROM 14TH AUGUST TO 14TH SEPTEMBER.
Now Iris bends her bow across the hills,
And looks with pity on the low sunk rills,
Betimes she weeps, then smiles, then weeps again,
Until her intermitting tears o'erflow the plain,
And, sudden rushing down it's ravine bed,
Swells stream and river to the sedges' head,
And as it drives along it brings such food
As worms. and snails, and all the creeping brood:
To cast a fly is useless - bait is best,
Altho' pot-fishing sportsmen should detest:
Yet, rather than return with sullen brow,
The brandling worm or black-head I allow
Are very good - but if the water clears,
The rising trout the angler's spirit cheers -
Put up a black and orange tipt with gold,
An orange palmer, altho' growing old;
Hare's-ear and yellow, hackled at the breast
They are the killing flies if rightly drest;
But if with these you cannot stir a trout,
A good black-hackle silver'd round about,
Placed on your foot-link's end, and next to that
The fly called yellow mixt with fur of rat;
The next a fiery brown with partridge breast,
Or red or golden wren, as you think best,
Will kill from mid-day 'till the sun goes down,
When 'tis full time you turn your face to town.
But hark! what noise is that? 'tis from a gun,
The twentieth 'August calls to other fun -
A grouse is down, the trout too hears the noise,
And close among the rocks he torpid lies;
There let him rest until his fright is o'er,
Then try him with another cast once more.
FROM 14TH SEPTEMBER TO 14TH OCTOBER.
Now autumn's hollow blast howls o'er the plain,
The farmer from the field draws home his grain;
The whistling winds the sickly trees now shake,
Down drop their yellow leaves on stream and lake,
Like rafts, they carry down the living freight,
The last repast to trout of insect meat.
The insect world is passing swift away,
The fly brown in the morn, at eve turns grey.
Look to the month of March, and recollect
The order of the flies you should select,
Two more 'twere well you add unto that list,
The grouse and woodcock ribb'd with golden twist;
But if the atmosphere continues light,
Throughout October trout at flies will bite;
For as the fly grows scarcer ev'ry day,
The fish more easily become your prey.
Some flies there are, which yet we have to name,
Tho' claiming less of gen'ral rank and fame
The blue macaw, with purple body tipt
The hackle black, or red without being elipt
Some call it Wellington, some Waterloo,
For at that noted time it comes to view.
The snipe and partridge too, afford good flies,
And the grey-plover's hackle we should prize.
Angling now o'er, lay by your rod for good,
In vain you'd tempt the trout with insect food;
For Nature now provides what best agrees
With their soft pregnant state as fit she sees,
And would you Nature's kindly care assist,
Make the fell poacher from his arts desist.
The nets and faggot-lights, and spears by night,
Which devastate the spawning streams, and blight
The angler's hopes, when vernal airs return,
O'er river, lake, and primrose-bordered burn;
When past is winter's stern and frigid reign,
And grove and mead fresh clad, smile forth again;
When Nature's harmonists rejoicing sing
Their praise of HIM who gives renewing spring.
NOTE As the pleasure and success of the angler depend principally on the goodness and unfading property of the colours composing the dubbing, or bodies, of his flies, the Editor has pleasure in acquainting his readers, that MR. ETTINGSALL, to whom he is indebted for the foregoing excellent metrical instructions, has discovered a mode of dyeing colours, which, for sparkling brilliancy and retention of their hues, has not yet been equalled."
I hope you all enjoy this interesting table, it gives considerable insight into the furs and feathers in use at the time, especially with regard to dubbing colours.