I’ve found someone (actually, he found me!) who makes authentic old-style tied fishing flies. I’ve read references to the use of silk gut – WARNING: silkworm gut is exactly what it sounds like! in them, but no clear detailed information on how it’s actually put together. These are some photos of a fly-in-progress by Paul Martin.
This shows the strands of gut, partly twisted together, and the hook. According to Paul, this is “a 3/0 Seeley sproat antique hook” – I don’t know anything about antique fishhooks, so please don’t ask me what that means. Note that the non-hook end of the hook (the shank, maybe?) doesn’t have an eye – that’s where the silk gut comes in!
This is the gut twisted and shaped to go onto the hook.
Here, Paul has secured the gut eye to the hook with thread wrapping, and some “head cement.”
This is one of Paul’s finished flies; it’s his rendition of a Blacker fly from the 1800’s. It is not the same hook as the one he’s been attaching the gut to in the photos above, but the process is the same. Notice that there is flat (untwisted) dyed silk wrapped onto the body of the fly – that’s what makes the yellow colored area toward the hook end. I’m going to make Paul some hand-pulled gut strands, and also dye some flat silk for him from reeled filament.