First trip of 2020

Smile!  A face only a Mother could love! A 15lb fish from a trip far North for a few days this week.  Unfortunately not a Springer, would have and will be a fabulous fish when mended. Carefully unhooked and gently returned. Dropped another shortly after this one. The upside to offset disappointment was that both fish took one of my fledgling attempts at fly tying, a “Dee Monkey” which is a good feeling. Overall great water and weather conditions making for a great few days and fantastic to get out again for a New Season .

Is this normal?

As a recent ‘nubie’ to fly tying of all of a few months I have started to notice a few strange and somewhat odd traits and thought processes in recent weeks. Are these normal happenings that others experience I wonder or is it something purely afflicting me?

Whilst I am still at ‘nursery school‘ in terms of ability and learning I have been amazed just how quickly this pastime begins to consume your time and thoughts, to say nothing about your wallet! Those who have been witness to the constant posts of my various ‘creations’ each week will have experienced my obsessiveness first hand. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_c39Perhaps this need to share online each new attempt is in part related to working away each week with solo evenings and the absence of anyone to share my ‘achievements’ with directly.

Aside from the early addictive attraction of tying and learning even the basic techniques and patterns there is a further even more surprising and a little but weird phenomena I have noticed. Not being satisfied with occupying myself in the evenings learning to tie I have recently found myself looking at all sorts of animate and inanimate objects and materials in relation to fly bodies, wings and so on! Whether in a shop, on the way to work or in the checkout line I cannot help but spot something and think ‘that would make great material for…..”.  I’m ashamed to say that I even noticed a young lady the other day with the most magnificent red hair and thought that would be an excellent wing material,  or more likely a basis for a criminal complaint! Are these thoughts normal or just the sign of over obsession?

Perhaps once the fishing season starts then my thinking will improve and return to normal.



Time to kill

With the relentless weather and torrents of water everywhere there’s nothing to do but prepare, maintain and check gear for when the deluge and gales finally subside. Not used this particular line treatment before from Loon for floating lines. Advertised as line cleaner, conditioner, and UV block for fly lines. If an when weather finally relents cannot wait to get a line out as going stir crazy!

So much to master “Every Day is a school day”!

I have during the past few months thrown myself into trying to understand the basics of fly tying. On the one hand this has proven to be a great way to pass the long dark evenings when fishing is not an option. One the other hand whilst really enjoyable, not to say addictive, it has been with mixed success and only heightened my absolute respect for those wonderful fly tyers who craft their beautiful, amazing and consistent ‘works of art‘. Aside from pure admiration, I often smile when I see facebook posts that are annotated with innocent comments such as “a small order created from the vice this evening….” illustrated with images of a 40-50 amazing creations! Aside from the quality of the flies shown I chuckle to myself thinking “assuming I could tie such beauties, 40 or 50 flies would take me the best part of 4-6 weeks!”.

Anyway what have I learned so far as an infant fly tier?

One – it’s not as easy as it looks but I am really enjoying the learning and the challenge!

Two – it’s compulsive, addictive and expensive to get started with constant orders for more materials!

Three – Listen to others – Including “Less is more” as so many of you have advised, thanks the message finally starting to sink in. Pay heed to advice so freely offered i.e. less material., less turns and to use the “false head principle‘ to avoid those clumsy big heads and keep head size to a minimum.

Four – Thank goodness for YouTube and Davie McPhail, Ryan Houston and others without whom I would be completely lost.

Five – Reduce time spent searching the table for things by starting with only what you need in the first place for the pattern that you are tying.

Six – Finally persistence and practice pays off eventually. Sometimes frustration takes over when things seem out of reach, including early attempts to master the whip finishing tool which often ended up across the other side of the room in the early days!

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So much to learn but enjoying the ride and cannot wait to try to tempt a fish or two on these first self tied creations – even if they are not the Miss World of fly tying. I fully expect that the vice may take second place once the season gets into full swing. Thank you to everyone for all of the the advice and encouragement.


Mackay Boatbuilders of Fara, Finstown and Stromness by Michael McLaughlin

An interesting historical account of James (Jimmy) Mackay (J.W.Mackay, Stromness) builder of mahogany clinker dinghies including my own.

Mackay Boatbuilders of Fara, Finstown and Stromness by Michael McLaughlin James Stout Mackay (McKay) (1854-1900) was a boatbuilder from, Stony Quoy, later Deep Geo, on the island of Fara in Scapa Flow, Orkney. Son of a farmer Robert Mackay, he married Isabella Simpson, daughter of master carpenter/boatbuilder William Simpson of Cauldhame, Flotta. It is likely that James learned his boatbuilding skills from his father-in-law. He is known to have started boatbuilding in Fara during the late 1870s and continued until his death in 1900, age 46. James and Isabella had three sons, James, Robert and William, who all became boat carpenters. Their elder son, James Simpson Mackay (1877- until about 1925, when is last recorded in Peace’s Almanac as a boatbuilder in Fara. He is then next recorded in Peace’s Almanac as a boatbuilder at North End, Stromness, in 1929. James married Isabella Manson of Flotta in 1905 and they had two sons, James William Mackay and George Calder Mackay. James (Jimmy) William Mackay (1905-1982) became a third generation boatbuilder, working with his father in Stromness, originally at Oakdene in the North End, before taking over the business himself under the name J W Mackay. He married Ellen Corrigall from Walls in 1936, and they had a daughter, Eleanor Mackay, born in 1945. In the

Mackay Boatbuilders of Fara
Figure 1. JW Mackay’s boat yard at the Transit Shed in Stromness. Jimmy Mackay on the right

 early 1940s, Jimmy moved to building boats in a former kippering house on the harbour front below Victoria Street. After the war he discovered a lucrative export market for mahogany clinker-built dinghies, and began specialising in this area, moving to bigger premises in part of the former Thornley Binders’ factory at the North Pier.He moved south to Ayr with his family in 1963 and continued to build dinghies in Ayrshire for many years. The J W Mackay boatbuilders business in Stromness was firstly taken over by Len Wilson, and then in 1965 by Arthur Sinclair, who had served his time with Stromness boatbuilder, Pia Anderson. Arthur then built a series of lobster fishing boats, up to 36ft in length, throughout the 1970s, before the yard finally closed. James Simpson Mackay’s two younger brothers, Robert (1880-1941) and William (b1881) moved from Fara to Finstown in Mainland Orkney in 1910, setting up a boatyard at Maitland Place under the name of R & W Mackay, where they continued building boats until about 1940.

Written by Michael McLaughlin. Extracted and reproduced with permission from The Orkney Historical Boat Society Christmas Newsletter 2019

Shiny New Pin

All of the countless hours of scraping, sanding and preparation are now finally behind me.  Despite my moans and groans it’s true to say that “it’s all in the preparation” as I am really please with the results.

Following several coats of preservative, primer, bilge paint and four coats of varnish I am at last now able to look towards the start of the new season with excitement. A few jobs still to do, including fitting of a new floor, wiring and some smaller jobs but can’t wait to get out on the water. Acknowledgement and sincere thanks to Thomas McBride for his help and advice in getting the painting and varnishing progressed and completed.

Looks too good to get wet, just hope I’ve not made surfaces too slippy for landing all those fish!


Stripped Bare

Saturday 18th January 2020

Back, knees and almost every other bit all sore – however finally ready to move on after seemingly endless hours of crawling, crouching scraping and sanding inside of boat. Probably worst bit was wriggling beneath the seats to access area beneath the bow deck – too old, overweight and unfit for this caper . Anyway what’s the saying “if it’s worth doing …..its worth doing right..”.

Next stage is to apply several coats of preservative before bilge primer, bilge paint and varnish coats. On the home stretch and hopefully in few weeks will be ready for the new season.

Contortionist Required – Apply within!

December 22nd, 2019

Softly, softly catchy monkey” I think the applicable saying is here.

A few more hours on my knees or lying on the floor reaching under seats scraping varnish and paint in and around each rib and other nooks an crannies.  How else would you choose to spend your Christmas holidays than this! Gradually making progress and am sure a few good shifts will break either the back of it or my own.


A personal favourite pattern

Willie Gun Copper Tube Fly, December 2019

Continuing to practice basic tying techniques I opted for a Willie Gun variant courtesy of Davy McPhail. This is one of my favourite patterns and a fairly basic fly but a great choice for Spring and later in season.

Plan is to tie a few of these in different weights and sizes and tube materials (copper and plastic) in order to provide maximum flexibility on the water in terms of conditions.

Starting with 1′ copper tubes  I immediately was aware of just how small the 1/2′ versions were in terms of tying areaWhilst far from perfect I was quietly pleased with the first results. The 1/2″ version may not be so straightforward. Thank you once more to Davie McPhail.


Long way to go but starting to really enjoy this fly tying malarkey although still trying to come to terms with the basics.wnaGYfDLQcqJkDB3ePkUSA_thumb_bfc