This week’s Throw Back Thursday post is about E. H. “Polly” Rosborough’s Tying and Fishing the FUZZY NYMPHS book.
I obtained this book in the last year or so and it’s been on my book shelf all that time. Sure, I glanced through the pages, but either didn’t have an interest or was short of time to sit down and read it.
Last week, I picked it up again and started reading. While I haven’t finished it, I felt the need to share as a TBT post.
Ernest H. “Polly” Rosborough (1902 – 1997) tied a large variety of flies but is probably best known as an author of Tying and Fishing the FUZZY NYMPH (1965).
I’ve highlighted several of his flies I was able to find at the International Federation of Fly Fishers museum while I was at the fair in 2016 as a demonstration fly tyer. There was a display of Polly’s Proven Killers and included the Casual Dress, the Dark Caddis, a Grasshopper and the Spruce Peacock.
Polly writes in the first chapter about his fly fishing and fly tying during the early years of the depression when living in northern California. He fished dry flies in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. But he recognized there were “blank periods” where he wasn’t able to catch bit trout. Only the small fish would rise to his offerings.
Little information was available at the time about nymphs. He states Ed Hewitt was the recognized expert at the time, but Polly didn’t even know about Hewitt. He blazed his own path.
Polly developed his own methods to tie nymphs with the materials available to him. What he came up with was to create the body using a “noodle” of dubbing material that he placed between a loop of tying thread and twisted tightly. The “noodle” was tightly wrapped around the hook to create a segmented looking body to imitate the natural nymph. But I’m getting into too much detail here…
Numerous anglers, as well as other tyers have asked me for years to record my methods for posterity, but human nature being what it is, one is rather reluctant to divulge secrets won by the trial and error method, and so, very dear to the heart. However, having passed the three-score mark, it behooves me to do this before it is too late, because secrets taken with you have no value.
Fly tyers who began their own journey recently (which is a relative word) may not appreciate that flies were only tied with natural materials, not using all the artificial materials found in fly shops these days.
As an example, beaver and muskrat were used extensively as dubbing. Now you’ll find me tying with Superfine dubbing for almost all of my dry flies.
Polly’s story continues when a revolution occurred to him in 1945 or 1946 when dying his own floss. He writes:
I sheared the belly of a muskrat skin and dumped the fur into a pan of hot soap-suds, then spun it with a finger for a couple of minutes, reversing the direction several times. The fur was then pressed into a fine wire strainer and hot water run through it to remove the soap. The fur was wrapped in a paper towel and squeezed as dry as possible, then spread out carefully on more toweling to dry. The end result was a well matted or felted mass that showed great possibilities, far beyond anything used previously.
When was the last time you sheared the belly of a muskrat? This was the method he used for creating the body of his flies. The book included information and tying direction for many of Polly’s flies, including the Casual Dress.
A customer contacted me in 2017 to ask if I could tie one of Polly’s flies for him, the Casual Dress. It wasn’t a fly I’ve ever tied, but I like a challenge and told him I’d give it a go. I didn’t have Polly’s book at the time, so wasn’t aware how he tied the fly. I gave it my best shot and here is what the result was.
I have a few Casual Dress nymphs to tie for another customer. I’ve learned a few things since tying them.
Polly’s book can be found on occasion. The original was published in 1965, mine is a 1969 edition. I encourage you to seek one out.
John, I always have Polly’s book in stock at Black Butte Books. I have some of Polly’s flies for sale too.
Great job tying the Casual Dress!
Tight Lines – Al Beatty