| Fly Fishing Devon | Background Information on Soltau's "Trout Flies of Devon and Cornwall and How and When to Use Them"

This page contains supplementary information to support a  discussion here  of An Early West Country Pioneer: G.W. Soltau (1801-1884)
G.W. Soltau's book  Trout Flies of Devon and Cornwall, and How and When to Use Them  was first published in 1847, a reprint was published in 1856.
  • The 1847 version is available online  as a Project Gutenberg EBook #58674
  • The 1856 reprint is  available online  from Google
  • The British Library record for the 1856 reprint, and record of past ownership is available online

  • The influence of Blacker's (1842) flies on Soltau (1847)

    William Blacker's short 48 page book Blacker's Art of Fly Making was first published in 1842, five years before Soltau. It is unclear what, if any, influence Blacker had on the flies used by Soltau.

    Blacker's book was reissued in 1885. This edition was greatly expanded to 252 pages, and contains hand-coloured lithographs of trout and salmon flies that are greatly prized by book collectors: "Without a doubt, Blacker was a much better fly dresser than author, yet his book is still a major milestone in angling literature. The plates are outstanding (a major reason why the book is prized by collectors) and much of the information in the book is difficult to find elsewhere." (Jackson 1982). But hand-colouring introduces variation between copies in the representation of the colour of the artificial fly . The 1885 edition need not be discussed in detail here because its publication date means it could not have influenced Soltau.

    Blacker (1842) gives the components (patterns / dressings for) 31 named trout flies, and the months when they should be used.

    Soltau (1847) gives illustrations of 18 unnamed flies with brief notes on where and when they should be used. Soltau gave this as his reason for not naming each fly : "Each fly is entitled to a distinct appellation, but it frequently happens that the dun of Mr. A. differs materially from that of Mr. B.; thus the sportsman is disappointed in his application—when the packet arrives he scarcely recognises one of his old acquaintances." To overcome this problem he gave a list of reliable suppliers. (Soltau 1847 p 41).

    Blacker 1842

    Soltau 1847

    To my untutored eye there are similarities between the two sets of flies. For example, if one were to take flies from each plate and swap them around they wouldn't look out of place. They are clearly different to the later delicate dry flies favoured by Halford, but Blacker and Soltau's flies are more suitable for Devon's freestone rivers.

    1847 Cover & Publishers details

    1856 Cover & Publishers details

    Published by James Land, War Office and Ordnance Map Agent, by Appointment, 18, George Street, Plymouth, [1856]. Note the transfer of ownership of the copyright to James Land.

    The 1856 reprint was owned first by Arthur Howard Thompson, and then Sir Jocelyn Stevens, before being acquired by the British Library after being auctioned in 2006.

    The 1856 reprint

    Bookstamp of Arthur Howard Thompson in his copy of the 1856 reprint

    Alexander (1976) lists Thompson as a keen collector of angling books: "Lesser known to the general public, perhaps, but no less ardent in their collecting activities"

    Alexander advises book collectors to look out for surprises that have been left by previous owners.

    That begs the question : Why did Thompson insert a 1934 newspaper report about a 95 year old fly-tier living in Chagford, Devon England, into his copy of a rare book written by the Deputy Lieutenant of Devon in the mid 19th century?

    Item about Mr. Dick Perrott (1840-1936) in the Evening Standard (Dec. 12th 1934) tipped-into Soltau 1856 reprint

    Plate 1 from Notes on the Tying of Certain Flies

    Soltau's book   contains precious little information on the actual flies; no names and no pattern details. Based on reading the 1934 newspaper report, A.H. Thompson may have explored the possibility of asking Dick Perrott (1840-1936) to recreate Soltau's flies. Thompson went on to successfully recreate Dr William Baigent's flies.

    In 1943 Thompson privately published Notes on the Tying of Certain Flies by the late Dr. W. Baigent.

    In a 2012 catalog Bonhams described it as follows: "Notes on the Tying of Certain Flies, first edition, 13 typewritten pages, one plate of 13 ACTUAL SPECIMENS OF HAND-TIED FLIES, mounted on felt "according to Baigent's tying patterns", publisher's blue morocco gilt, t.e.g., 4to, [no publisher, 1943] Footnotes The work was seemingly put together by the great angling collector Arthur Howard Thompson. In his preface, dated August 1943, Thompson records that Baigent's widow Jane lent him her husband's original notes saying "I have no objection to you copying them, but will you please not give them to any professional fly dresser". The angling collector and bibliophile John Simpson suggested it was a forgery."
    From  Bonhams catalog  of The Angling Library of Alan Jarvis

    Presumably Bonhams were describing that particular copy of the book as a suggested forgery.

    Baigent may have been influenced by Soltau's book. Dr William Baigent (1862-1935) lived in North Yorkshire, and like Soltau he fished a dry and wet fly together. “If trout are nymphing, a nymph or wet fly could be mounted on the point, whilst a dry fly could be mounted on the dropper.”  (cited by Rob Smith).   I still use this  two-fly technique  on Dartmoor rivers.

    If he did want to bring Soltau's flies back to life, then Thompson's choice of Dick Perrott (1840-1936) would have been an excellent one, but sadly Dick Perrott died two years after the newspaper article appeared. The Perrott family made an important contribution to the development of tourism on Dartmoor in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    The Perrott Family

    James Perrott in 1862, age 47
    From The birth of Dartmoor tourism

    Mr. Dick Perrott (1840-1936) was the son of James Perrott (1815-1895). Both father and son were fishing guides on Dartmoor.

    The railway reached Devon by the middle of the 19th century. This led to    the birth of Dartmoor tourism,  and an increase in visitors who employed local guides: "The most renowned of these was the estimable James Perrott of Chagford whose lifelong experience of the moorland routes was coupled with great skill and enthusiasm for angling in the locality"

    Burbridge (2021) adds this detail: " James [Perrett] was for over 50 years a Dartmoor touring guide, a renown angler and a maker of fine fishing tackle and flies, such as Blue Grizzle, Red Palmer, Blue Upright and Red Maxwell."

    Dick Perrott's followed in his father's footsteps, his "finest skill was the making of small, intricate flies for fishermen. Among his customers for flies were, Charles Dickens, Baring Gould, Lord Grey of Falloden, R.D. Blackmore and Charles Kingsley." (Burbidge 2021).

    This comment reveals the productivity of Dartmoor rivers, Dick Parrott's skill as a fisherman, and a familiar prejudice against salmon. "Trout are not so numerous as in the old days. They were more plentiful when the lead mines at Christow prevented the salmon from getting into the upper reaches. On one occasion I killed 1000 trout in 10 days and on one day alone, 122. I started at 5 a.m. and finished at 2p.m. It is not the neatest fly that kills. The modern fly is too small. Fish rise to them but do not take.” (Burbidge 2021).

    Burbridge (2021) adds detail to the newspaper cutting (reproduced above): "In 1934, 2 years before his death, Old Dick read of the forthcoming marriage of Princess Marina of Greece to the Duke of Kent. He took it upon himself to make a salmon and trout fly in royal colours, and sent them, in a presentation box to the Princess."


  • Alexander, A.I. "Pal" (1976). Secrets of the Dusty Trail. Gray's Sporting Journal, Spring 1976. Copy available online Secrets of the Dusty Trail by
  • Blacker, Willaim (1842). Blacker's Art of Fly Making. London: George Nichols. Available online
  • Burbridge, Colin. (2021).Old Perrott - A Chagford worthy. Edge of the Moor. January 24 2021. Available online
  • Burbridge, Colin. (2021). Old Dick Perrott: A chip off the block. Edge of the Moor. January 31 2021 Available online
  • Crossing, William. Hundred Years on Dartmoor
  • Devon Perspectives (nd). James Perrott Dartmoor guide, master angler, and father of letterboxing. Available online
  • Jackson, Alec. (1982) Blacker's Art of Fly Making, 1855 The peculiar and eccentric production of a milestone book. The American Fly Fisher, Journal of the American Museum of Fly Fishing Vol 9, No 3, 12-19, 1982. (available online)
  • Page, John Lloyd Warden (1893). The Rivers of Devon from Source to Sea: With Some Account of the Towns and Villages on Their Banks. Seeley Available online

  • About the author

    Paul guiding ITV News reporter in June 2019

    with sea trout in camera range ...

    Paul Kenyon lives in Ivybridge on the southern edge of Dartmoor about 6 miles from the Upper Yealm Fishery.

    Paul devotes more time than is reasonable to his love of all things associated with fish, fishing, instruction and guiding on Dartmoor rivers.

    Paul constructed his first web page in Autumn 1993 as a way of distributing lecture notes to undergraduates.

    He retired in 2006 from the Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth where he lectured in behavioural neuroscience and evolutionary psychology.

    email paul@flyfishingdevon.co.uk

    The author's  YouTube channel