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Land & Water Cards, Series I, II & III

It is totally undoubted that George Mortimer Kelson is one of the greatest contributors to the development and progress of Salmon fishing and the development of the Salmon fly so far. I say, “so far”, as the story of the development is not at an end but Kelson has left an amazing legacy.

The son of a doctor and enjoying the benefits of growing up in middle class affluence, Kelson made his debut for Kent as a county cricketer at the age of 24. Like today’s lifestyle for a professional sport’s man, they were able to enjoy many interests outside their chosen sport, with Kelson being described as an excellent horseman, shot, pigeon racer and Salmon fisherman.

Before the release of “The Salmon Fly” by G. M. Kelson in 1896, Land & Water issued 53 cards from 1886 to 1888 depicting both the beauty and glory of the Victorian Salmon Fly. These brightly coloured cards, showcasing the collaboration of rare birds’ feathers, carefully tied onto wire hooks with fine silks and rare tinsels, coupled with the skills of great tiers produced some of the true classic flies that are admired and often copied by tiers today.

The release of Kelson’s book in 1896 and “Tips” in 1902 immortalised these patterns and the “Land & Water Series” cards have become hot collectible paper items, if they can be found. With the cards featured over an eight-year run, you would have thought that there would be more in circulation, but these cards, produced by Vincent Brooks Day, are extremely scarce.

It is fair to say that artistic licence is prominent in the cards and Kelson’s book as I have yet to see a tying that bears any resemblance to the illustrations.

The photo above shows the “Chatterer” card along with three examples, with the one in the middle being an original antique example dating from the later part of the 19th Century. This Major Traherne pattern features a deep burgundy hackle as opposed to Galena as detailed in the original “Land & Series Water Card”. There are very few original patterns seen so this actual example gives tiers the opportunity to see their form.

A collection of “Land & Water” cards from the first three series. Some patterns will be familiar, some seldom seen and a few, yet to see. Anything from whole feather wings through to Kelson’s complicated mixed wing, which will take a very skilled modern tier, approximately a whole day to produce one fly. The commercial imperative to produce volume at the time meant that there was no meaning purpose for the tier to produce when they could make up to a dozen flies a day. Probably best answers the question as to why there are very few examples of Kelson’s mixed wing fly, such as the “Popham” located in the bottom left of the photo.

I’m still missing some of Series 1,2 and 3 patterns so if there are any generous collectors, I’d like to hear from you. I’ll leave Series 4 for another day.

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