In 2019, the West Yellowstone Public Library was gifted an extensive collection of angling books, amassed over a lifetime of collecting by their late benefactor, Herb Wellington. Tucked away in one of the thirty-plus boxes was a copy of the 1910 two-volume limited first edition of Frederic M. Halford’s Modern Development of the Dry Fly. Readers with an historical bent will know exactly what that means—yes, it’s the edition that contains, along with the text itself, thirty-three actual flies, numerous color plates, and a fabulous collection of tipped-in photogravures.
The entire edition of this book consisted of a mere 50 copies, which were available for sale only in the United States (a separate run of 75 was printed for sale in England). Our library’s copy is #17. Extraordinarily rare book that this is, it’s quite unbelievable to have a copy available for perusal in a small-town library such as ours. Many of the most significant institutional collections of angling books in this country lack this work (Montana State University, for example), and it surely assumes center stage in our library’s ever-growing angling collection.
The evolution of dry fly fishing as we know and practice it today took place in Victorian England. Frederic Halford, serious angler and prolific author, is generally credited with codifying and setting in print the philosophy and practice of dry fly fishing that involves imitating hatching insects and casting those imitations to rising trout. The 33 flies mounted in the pages of Modern Development (tied, of course, to imitate English chalkstream insects) constitute the final selection of Halford’s storied angling career. They are the antecedents of the very flies we fish today. Pretty powerful stuff, I reckon, and well worth a look for all serious fishermen.
One of 18 photogravures in the book. The Oakley Stream is a tributary of the Test at Mottisfont; Halford was part of a syndicate here for a number of years.
Another beautiful river scene. Plate of Mayflies. The English Mayfly is the equivalent of the eastern Green Drake in the United States.
Iron Blue Duns are a species of Baetis mayfly.
Flies number #29 and #30 are caddis imitations. #30 lost its hackle at some point, probably to moths.