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G.E.M. Skues

The man who first gave credence to the idea of fish feeding on underwater larvae and who's ideas led to the development of modern nymph fishing.

Up until the late eighteen hundreds it was thought by many anglers that trout only fed when they rose to the surface. Because of this the only methods employed were those of the floating kind, anything else being seen to lead down a dark and fish less alley. Nowadays we know better. This is primarily due to the theories of George Edward Mackenzie Skues. Skues pointed out that the bulging rises that appear during the early stages of a hatch were caused by fish consuming nymphs and that it was only during the latter stages of the hatch that attention was redirected towards the duns. On occasions fish could become so preoccupied with the presence of nymphs that only a modicum of attention would be placed upon the dun. These were the important factors. They were some of the first hints regarding the possible effectiveness of the underwater fly.

Skues took virtually every aspect of fly fishing and turned it on its head. His ideas on trout and their behavior included discussions regarding when, where and why trout undertake certain rituals, theories of taste, smell and trout vision in relation to both natural and artificial flies. Skues observed rise forms, described them and gave reasons for their presence and form in relation to the prey item being consumed. Due to Skues's different outlook towards trout and the artificial fly he began to experiment with wet flies and ultimately after closer inspection of the prey item began to represent them with fur and feather. Shortly after, he put forward all stages of the Ephemeropteras life cycle from ascending nymph to spinner.

The theories of Skues and his hypothesis on the underwater feeding of trout were laughed at and dismissed, his books were the source of great controversy from 1890 to the 1930's with many suggesting he was misinformed and that the imitation of nymphs was impossible. Despite five ground breaking books and innumerable articles, a small but potent clique of dry fly purists persisted in throwing a constant barrage of protest and dislike at Skues for the majority of his life regardless of the logical arguments he presented. It was only during skues's eightieth year that he was fully acknowledged by his fellow fly fishers and received a vote of confidence by the prestigious members of the fly fishers club.

G.E.M. Skues is thought by many to be the single most important figure in fly fishing history and is affectionately known as the 'father of the nymph'.

Books by Skues: Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream (1910),  The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921),  Side-Lines, Side-Lights and Reflections (1932),  Nymph Fishing for Chalk Stream Trout (1939),  Itchen Memories (1951)

Courtesy of Ben
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