Major John Popkin Traherne

Aug 28th 1826 - January 28th 1901

ohn Traherne was probably the most aesthetically gifted salmon fly tyer of the nineteenth century. He was the heir to an estate which he inherited in 1859, but he served in the army, reaching the rank of Major, and retiring in 1865, but somehow finding time to be a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant for his county and High Sheriff in 1863. He caught his first salmon in 1850, putting him at the front of the new fashion for taking these fish on a rod and line and afterward seems to have fished almost every river in the UK, as well as ranging widely in Ireland and Norway. A talented fisherman, the Major held the world record for many years with a cast of 45 yards and one inch and he caught 165 fish in fifteen days on the Namsen in 1864.

Traherne contributed heavily to the Fishing Gazette in the 1870s, 80s and 90s and exhibited a case of flies at the Great International Fisheries Exhibition in London in 1883, the only amateur to do so apart from Kelson. It is quite likely that this is where the pair met and Kelson was so taken with Traherne's patterns that he began his series 'On the Description of Salmon Flies' in the Fishing Gazette in 1884 with eighteen of the Major's patterns.

From the 'Emerald Gem,' a riot of green and blue macaw, with a filigree of golden pheasant topping as wing, to the 'Chatterer' (a pattern which I have always regarded as the definitive gaudy fly, since it requires at least fifty blue chatterer feathers to form its body,) Traherne's patterns were masterpieces. More than anything else, these flies are a celebration of the materials and artistry of the salmon fly and although they are no longer used, it remains a technical challenge for even the most accomplished fly dresser to tie them well. Traherne and his generation added the final touches to the fully dressed salmon fly - probably unaware of the enduring tradition they would leave when they were gone.


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