New Zealand Fishing Flies
by Robert K. Bragg
Published by The Caxton Press First published 1996. Hard cover. 160pp. Size: 340mm x 245 mm. Colour photographs, Black and White line drawings.
Reviewed by Allan Burgess. Published by the Caxton Press. Limited Edition of 750 hand-numbered copies worldwide. Large format 340 x 245 mm size, 160pp, casebound, gold blocked, headbands, ribbon and slipcase. Includes full-colour printing of over 750 flies and lures displayed in over 50 plates – these are reproduced from the author’s original displayed collection.
Bob Bragg emigrated from England in 1939 after working for many years in fishing tackle and hook-making, and gun-smithing firms, including Cogswell and Harrison’s of Piccadilly, and Ogden-Smith’s of nearby St James Street – where he once met the great G.E.M. Skues, who wasn’t at all impressed with the shop’s nymphs. Tisdall’s of Christchurch brought Bob to New Zealand.
He worked in the tackle trade in Christchurch for the next 36 years. Over this time he conducted considerable research and recorded much information about trout and salmon angling, especially fly tying and the study of the trout’s food. Bob’s book if beautifully illustrated with photographs of framed sample selections of various fly patterns. Many of these are dated enabling the keen fly tier to reproduce early New Zealand patterns.
As a Canterbury angler, I found Bob’s work “close to home.” Many of our modern commercially produced patterns are much simplified. Kelly’s Silvery is an interesting example. Dressings such as these were tied to special order for clients and the details noted in a filing system. Under the title ‘High Country Lakes and Canterbury Lures 1960s’ Bob makes mention of Kelly’s Silvery being the first attempt by Mr Kelly of St Albans, Christchurch, of tying a lure which caught an eight-pound brown trout at the mouth of Hart’s Creek.
Included free with New Zealand Fishing Flies are a set of 4 limited edition prints, numbered, and in full colour by New Zealand artist Michael Steel who has become acclaimed throughout the world for his watercolour studies of traditional fly patterns. The 4 prints measure 21 x 30 cm and are a brown and rainbow trout, Mallard & Claret, and Kakahi Queen flies.
As a publisher myself I can readily appreciate that absolutely no expense has been spared in the production of this outstanding work. It is, at the same time: a work of art: a financial investment; an incredible New Zealand fly tyers reference work of otherwise unseen patterns; a historical record of our fly fishing heritage; a testament to Bob Bragg’s life-time’s work; and for me, inspirational.