Durham Ranger fishing fly mugs are available in our online store today.
The mid-1800s saw a rivalry on Scottish and English rivers spring up between the users of “drab” traditional English fishing fly patterns and the new colourful and “gaudy” Irish invaders. One of the main advocates of the new style of flies was the controversial figure, George Mortimer Kelson, a larger-than-life English fisher of considerable experience and apparently, self-adoration. He was keen to portray himself as the well-dressed sporting gentleman, sporting the expensive tailored tweed jacket, a bowler hat, a full beard and enormous waxed moustache.
Kelson was dubbed the “Grand Old Man of Salmon Fishing” and the “High Priest of the Salmon Fly”. Monikers he would have wholeheartedly agreed with since they aligned with his self-styled supreme authority on salmon fishing matters, and in particular the subject of fishing flies. He authored the now-famous classic work “The Salmon Fly” which is still popular today. Kelson’s penchant was for elaborately dressed flies using exotic feathers that were prized at the time.
Love him or hate him, there was no doubt that Kelson was an expert angler, chalking up a record total of 3,000 catches. He was also something of a joker and was known to think nothing of stripping down and diving into the water to retrieve a snagged fishing line… and a fish, if the occasion arose. He was, however, instrumental in the development of new fly patterns of the time, as well as fishing tackle, apparel and groundbreaking fishing methods.
So what does this have to do with the Durham Ranger? Well, never one to shy away from controversy, Kelson was known to make claims on the invention of fishing patterns that were, to say the least, suspect. This got him into many a public row with R.B. Marston the editor of the “Fishing Gazette” who hotly contested many of his claims on fly patterns that he attributed to himself and friends rather than the true originators. The Durham Ranger could be one such pattern.
A fishing hot-spot at that time was on the river Tweed near the Scottish Border towns of Kelso and Sprouston where a local and very well respected fly dresser James (Jemmy) Wright had a tiny tackle shop, frequented daily by many an angler hungry for fishing news and tittle-tattle.
Jemmy was recognised as an extremely innovative fly dresser and was known to meticulously deconstruct competitor’s work to discover their secrets and also improve on their errors.
Jemmy also had connections with the Sprouston Angling Club (Est1845) and two fishing companions William Henderson (who authored “My Life as an Angler” in 1876) and Walter Scruton from Durham.
History books tell us that Henderson was always insistent that the famous Durham Ranger fly was the invention of his friend Scruton, whilst Kelson was adamant that Jemmy Wright was the originator. The truth will never be completely uncovered but one thing is clear, the Durham Ranger has since become one of the fishing world’s most popular patterns.
The original winging style with a golden pheasant tippet remains a main part of the design to this day. This is how the fly is constructed.
Tag: Silver tinsel and gold floss
Tail: GP Crest
Butt: Black ostrich hero
Body: In four equal parts. Yellow floss, orange seal’s fur, brown seal’s fur, black seal’s fur
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body hackle: Yellow dyed badger over the front half of body
Throat: Light blue hackle
Wing: Pair of long jungle cock, back-to-back. Two pairs of tippet feathers outside. GP topping overall
Horns: Blue macaw
We are delighted to announce that we have released a range of three Durham Ranger mugs. Check them out in the online store below. Larger orders can be produced if you would prefer a customised option. Please get in touch here if you would like to discuss personalisation services.