Skip to main content

The Fly Dressers' Guild

Established 1967
About Us
What's new here?
Annual Raffle - 50th
News & Events
Joining or renewing?
Guild Awards Scheme
Fly Tying Competition
Fishing Competitions
Members' Area
Contact Us
Site Map
Admin Login
Flydresser is our quarterly, full colour quarterly magazine focused exclusively on fly dressing and fly tying. It is a highly respected publication amongst leading fly tyers in the UK and abroad, published by The Fly Dressers' Guild solely for its members.
A controversial Editorial in the Autumn 2014 Flydresser - discussing the merits and demerits of striving for perfection in fly tying - was published following the receipt of a letter from a member of the Guild who felt that the flies published in Flydresser were too "pretty perfect."  That editorial provoked a number of responses.  Some were positive, others offered constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement.  Four are published unedited and in full below, with their authors' permission.

We have also added a couple of letters received in response to the December 2014 issue of Flydresser.

Spring 2013 Flydresser



 (note this is a large file - 4.5MB, so it may take some time to download)




The Guild encourages members to submit articles for publication on Flydresser. Please do have a look at our Guidelines and Editorial Policy.
If you'd like to advertise in Flydresser, please contact Chris Reeves:

Special advertising rates are available for people or organisations that join The Fly Dressers' Guild as Trade Members.   

Trade Membership 


Feedback from Flydresser Summer 2015....

“Just been reading Jim Lees' article The Life Cycle of Upwing Flies in the Fly Dressers Guild magazine summer 2015.  Good reading and a must for all, particularly if you are interested in the Blue Winged Olive.  Keep them coming Jim.”


Stephen Cheetham

Letters received by Flydresser following the publication of the December 2014 edition

From Jack Wilson, by email

"Just spent a happy hour reading Winter edition.

I think I can safely say it is the best edition - ever! In one small book you have managed to cover nearly every aspect of flydressing. Even though I may never fish for Permit or Bonefish, I found the aticles very interesting.

I used to have a copy of the "Book of the hackle", but it disappeared many years ago. I probably loaned it to someone.
I have had a very good season at Llyn Brenig this year. Managed a hundred fish in fourteen visits.(mostly Stringbags and Alpacas).

All the best for Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and all the organisers. Hope to see you in February. I might even get to the Game Fair next year.

Tight lines
19 December 2014

From Michael Warburton, by email

With respect, I would like to have a winge and whine about the content of the journal.

At this present time, it is common to be in conversation with fellow members about the old chestnut of value of being in the Guild etc. One of the points raised regularly is the content of the journal and that there is not enough fully detailed fly dressing items. I have to say, that I tend agree with this sentiment, as a quick summary shows quite a deviation of full sequences. For example, in 2014:
    • Spring issue had 5 full sequences.
    • Summer had 3.
    • Autumn had 1.
    • Winter had 4.
Bear in mind that a recipe and one picture do not constitute a full sequence and indeed, is looked upon as a cop out by many.  Anybody in beginners or maybe even intermediate stage would struggle trying to work out how to dress a pattern with that minimal sort of information.  The accumulative effect on me personally, is that I no longer look forward to receiving the journal and that's has got to be a sad reflection on things.

Please note, I have had the exact same feedback from other members, so it is not just me that is picking up on this.
I pass these comments on to you in a constructive vein, in the hope that future issues may become more fulfilling.

Best regards
Mike Warburton"
20 December 2014

Letters received by Flydresser following the Autumn 2014 Editorial


From Paul Grourk, by email:

"In response to the editorial in Autumn 2014, not every FDG member can tie to the exacting standards of Paul Little or John Smith, to name but two.
We are all human and although perfection in tying is the ultimate aim, it is not achieved for a variety of reasons:- ability - desire - temperament - patience - time - financial restraint in the quality of materials and tools.
Showing a tied fly with faults AND pointing out the error(s) AND showing how to rectify the fault(s) would be most welcome. Articles in each issue on hints, tips and tricks of the trade would be most welcome also and, more importantly, would help to promote the ethos of the Guild.
Paul Grourk"
12th November 2014

From Tony Richards, by email

"What an excellent editorial. You are being criticised from both sides so your current middle path has to be the correct one.

I suspect that the majority of people who join the FDG do so to learn to tie flies with which they can catch fish. They are probably not thinking of enrolling in an art college. I do not know how long people remain as members of the FDG ( I have enjoyed continuous membership since 1969 and nearly all the salmon I have caught since then have been on self tied flies) but if there is a drop out of members after a few years then perhaps these people may have learned what they needed and carried on fishing with flies they could have tied. Should this be true the Guild will have done a good job.

The entry for the competitions was described as high, but I just wonder what percentage of members do enter. However continuing  to run these events and to run the different fly tying grades is an excellent idea. We should also remember the old adage that if there is more than one way of producing a correct result there cannot be just one right way of doing it.
However we are not all competitive (except against the fish?) and as you say the only judge of flies are the fish. Also you state that the Guild should not promote poor fly tying, and I'm sure we all agree, but perhaps promoting effective fly tying would be a better ethos. Again you state, and I agree, we do not know, or whether it can be proved, that perfect symmetrically tied flies are better than the average.
Finally, and most importantly, a big thank you to everyone who has anything to do with the running of the Guild.
Best wishes
Tony Richards"

30th October 2014

From Chris Watson, by email

"Hi Chris (Reeves),

Can I first of all congratulate you and the rest of the Editorial Team on the very high standards that the Flydresser magazine maintains, it is a credit to all of you and the members that contribute to it (I must get writing again, when I can find some spare time).

I am both concerned and puzzled that a member of the Guild has criticised the magazine; stating that the flies contained within it 'were too pretty and perfect and bore no resemblance to the type of flies they fished with'.  Surely the editorial team of any fly fishing and fly tying magazine, including The Flydresser has a responsibility to publish articles and images of the highest quality possible and all the flies and fly tying sequences should be well tied and using the best techniques.  Unfortunately a number of the monthly magazines contain some flies and fly tying sequences that are sadly lacking, to say the least, this in my opinion is totally inexcusable.  I have even watched demonstrations where the demonstrator has stated 'that will do it's only a fishing fly', not acceptable in my book.  I will also state that the same applies to some books I have seen, certain You Tube videos etc.  The Flydresser has for many years had the reputation of being a very high quality publication, admired by many and so it should remain.

The current balance content that the Editorial Team includes within the Flydresser is in my opinion absolutely spot on.  It caters for a diverse range of fly tying disciplines, covering all levels of fly tying ability.

Our constitution states in its first article that its object is to cultivate the art of fly dressing, surely part of that is to strive to do our utmost to promote good fly tying technique and encourage other tyers to aspire to the standards that we should be promoting.  Is this is not one of the reasons for the Guild's existence and why we now have an Award Scheme.

I think that it all boils down to the usual ubiquitous problems: you are never going please everyone all of the time and those that criticise are usually those that aren't prepared to do the work.


All the best

Chris (Watson)"

23rd October 2014

From Phil Stevens, by email

"Dear Sirs

With reference to the Editorial on pages 3 and 4 of the Flydresser Autumn 2014.

My name is Phil Stevens and I live in Central Brittany, France.  Some of you may know my name as both Richard Ellis and Chris Reeves have been very helpful in getting me started in fly tying.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend the forthcoming AGM as I am one of the Overseas members.  But I would like to make the following comments regarding this quarter's editorial.

I have only been tying flies for one year and my learning curve has been vertical to say the least.  Unfortunately I have not been in a position to be able to attend a weekly Branch meeting or to get hardly any hands-on help to speak of and therefore am basically self-taught even today.

However, one thing I have learned overall is that there are two kinds of flies that people tie.

1. There are flies that people tie for competitions and to be looked at.  These flies need to be as perfect as man can make them.  Given that we are dealing with mostly natural materials, this can be sometimes incredibly challenging.

2. Flies that people tie to fish with.

And here lies the rub.  In my limited experience, ne'er the twain shall meet.  There seems to be a massive difference between the flies that one would tie for a competition and the flies one ties for one's own fly box.

In the second paragraph of the editorial, it mentions a number of posts concerning flies from the Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine.  Firstly my question is, what has what is put in the FF&FT magazine got to do with the FDG and Flydresser publication?  And secondly, I am not really sure what photographs these posts were referring to in the FF&FT magazine.

However, for people who may be regular takers of Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine, they will be aware that over several months there have been articles written by Magnus Angus on the subject of the FF&FT's last fly tying competition.  In those articles the words Anonymous Novice were used on several occasions, showing photographs of said Anonymous Novice's flies.  I can now reveal that the Anonymous Novice was in actual fact me and the articles were published after Magnus and I had numerous conversations.  I was more than happy for my name to be used or my 'pseudonym' philonthefly but Magnus chose to not use either.

I was actually delighted when Magnus showed interest in making some articles out of the emails I had exchanged with him, asking for help, because I thought it would help other novice tyers.  In the end, I was 17th overall in the Novice section which, bearing in mind all the mistakes and things that were incorrect to do with my flies, I am very surprised about.  After all, I had only been tying flies for a matter of 2 months in total when I started tying the flies for the FF&FT competition.

Regarding the content of the Flydresser and the photographs shown, I think there is room for both types of image.  The extremely well-tied, neat and elaborate fly, and the not-so.  It really depends on what the FDG and Flydresser are trying to do.  When I first saw the Flydresser quarterly publication, I was not a member of the FDG and, to be honest, I was almost put off from joining the FDG, because I thought I would never achieve the high standard of the flies I saw. Maybe this could be borne in mind if you are trying to attract new and novice members.

It is quite possible that a lot of the people involved in the Fly Dressers' Guild and the production of Flydresser have been tying flies for many many years and may have forgotten what it feels like to be a novice and beginner fly tyer.  I can tell you from my own experiences, it can be quite a daunting prospect.  Most of my education has been and still is gained from watching people like Davie McPhail tying flies on YouTube.  He makes it look so easy but it isn't!

It states on page 4 of the editorial that 'the members of the Editorial Committee, as flydressers, do tend to strive for neat, well-tied flies.'  In my opinion this is highly commendable.  But there is a big difference between only showing flies tied by real craftsmen, and showing some flies tied by not so experienced tyers, but stating the fact that the tyer is not so experienced.  Once again, there is room for both and they don't need to be mutually exclusive.

How about putting a section in Flydresser entitled something like 'For the Novice'?  In this section, simpler flies can be shown, but still well-tied.

Simple doesn't mean scruffy and sometimes scruffy doesn't mean badly-tied.

In closing, as with all walks of life - it takes all sorts to make a world and I believe there is room for all sorts of flies to be shown in whatever publication we are talking about.

Keep up the good work.

Yours in Sport


25th October 2014


Webmaster's note: In a separate email to me this week, Phil makes a very valid additional point:

"I think the FDG needs to be aware of 'seeming' as if they have their nose in the air.  Fly tying and fly fishing was once the sport of the rich few but not any more.  We have fly tyers from all walks of life as members and non members, and I think that the FDG needs to bear this in mind if they are trying to recruit more members.  I know a lot of work is done on the inter-branch side to help members but there are quite a few of us who can't or don't want to join a club but still would like to learn from the knowledgeable tyer how to tie flies."

None of the FDG members - whether Executive Committee or "ordinary" members - really do have their nose in the air, but I agree with Phil that their enthusiasm and expertise might sometimes give that false impression!  The FDG membership embraces people from all walks of life, from all levels of skill and from all parts of the social spectrum. - Webmaster


 Last modified on 16 March, 2017