The Salmon Fly

For salmonfly, the insect Pteronarcys, see Pteronarcyidae.
The Salmon Fly: How to Dress It and How to Use It
Author George M. Kelson
Country Great Britain
Language English
Subject Fly fishing
Publisher Messers. Wyman & Sons, Limited, London
Publication date
Pages 510

The Salmon Fly - How to Dress It and How to Use It is a fly fishing book written by George M. Kelson published in London in 1895 by Messers. Wyman & Sons, Limited.


In The Salmon Fly, George Kelson boldly and confidently distilled a lifetime of salmon fishing wisdom into this privately published work. The book contains 510 pages of text and 46 pages of illustrations plus 8 coloured plates showing 52 flies. Many of the black & white illustrations are of fly-fishing contemporaries of Kelson—to include Mr. A.V. Wells-Ridley J.P; Major J.P. Traherne; Mr. Barclay Field. The first part of the book is devoted to the techniques of tying the salmon fly as well as patterns for individual flies. Here's a typical pattern write-up:

  • Jock Scott. G.S.- (John Scott.)
    • TAG. Silver twist and yellow silk.
    • TAIL. A topping and Indian Crow.
    • BUTT. Black herl.
    • BODY. In two equal sections : No. 1, of yellow silk (butter-cup colour) ribbed with narrow silver tinsel, and butted with Toucan above and below, and black herl : No. 2, black silk, ribbed with broad silver tinsel.
    • HACKLE. A natural black hackle, from centre.
    • THROAT. Gallina.
    • WINGS. Two strips of black Turkey with white tips, Golden Pheasant tail, Bustard, grey Mallard, Peacock (sword feather) Swan dyed blue and yellow, red Macaw, Mallard, and a topping.
    • SIDES. Jungle.
    • CHEEKS. Chatterer.
    • HORNS. Blue Macaw.
    • HEAD. Black herl.

It is only just possible to find a river or a catch, be it in pools, streams, rapids, or flats, shaded or exposed to the light of day, in which a "Jock Scott," when dressed properly, has not made for itself a splendid reputation.[1]

The second part of the book is devoted to the practical aspects of fishing for salmon with the fly—locating fish, casting techniques, catching and landing fish and various accessories and equipment. The Salmon Fly also includes 46 full page black and white advertisements for mostly angling and sporting pursuits.


The Salmon Fly by G. M. Kelson was published in 1895; the sub-title is: How to dress and how to use it. It is a handsome quarto of more than 500 pages and beautifully illustrated. Kelson is regarded as the first writer to whom the amateur could go for proper guidance in salmon fly-dressing[2]

The Salmon Fly enjoys a unique position in the literature of fly dressing since it brought order and system to the classification of salmon flies and the methodology of salmon fly dressing.[3]

Fly tiers in the Old World responded to an increased availability of exotic feathers and furs with ever more elaborate patterns, the trend reaching is finest statement in George Kelson's The Salmon Fly (1895) and T. E. Pryce Tannant's How to Dress Salmon Flies (1914). Kelson's book, with its excellent color plates and dressings for some three hundred patterns, became the salmon fly's equivalent to Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies; what the latter book did for the nineteenth-century American wet fly, Kelson's did for the late-Victorian salmon fly.[4]

Kelson's book is considered one of the greatest works on the subject of salmon fishing. The book was not without its controversy as it rekindled some of the rivalry between R. B. Marston, editor of the Fishing Gazette and Kelson. Marston insisted that many of the patterns claimed by Kelson in the book were actually the works of other salmon fishers, not Kelson. Marston also claimed that many patterns attributed to one tier were actually the design of another tier. In the end much of Kelson's reputation was tarnished but the book is still one of the great classics of the era.[5]


Other Editions


George Mortimer Kelson was born December 8, 1836 in Seven Oaks, Kent. Son of George Kelson and Charlotte Louisa Rich. He died March 29th, 1920. He married Emma Herbert in 1866. They had eight children. His great great grandson, Allan Kelson lives in Australia. He was a member of the Kent County Cricket Club: First-Class Career Batting and Fielding (1859-1873). He was a juror at the 1883 International Fishing Exhibition in London .

See also


  1. Kelson, George M. (1895). The Salmon Fly and How to Dress It. London: Wyman & Sons. pp. 171–173.
  2. Robb, James (1945). Notable Angling Literature. London: Herbert Jenkins Ltd. p. 195.
  3. Jackson, Alec (Summer 1980). "Salmon Systematics-A review of Two Editions of George Kelson's Monumental Book on Salmon Flies and Salmon Fishing". The American Fly Fisher. 7 (3): 24–28.
  4. Schullery, Paul (1996). American Fly Fishing-A History. Norwalk, CT: The Easton Press. p. 163.
  5. Herd, Andrew Dr (2001). The Fly. Ellesmere, Shropshire: Medlar Press. pp. 338–39. ISBN 1-899600-19-1.

Additional reading

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