The following note was sent to the editor of the Sporting Goods Dealer and published in June 1906, and illustrates the fact that the sheer number of named fly patterns a century ago had already reached into the thousands. Note that Charles Kewell, a reputable sporting goods dealer and inventor of a casting spoon that bore his name, went so far as to state that they alone carried 600 different patterns of California flies! As most of these flies would have been made in at least 10 sizes, that's 6000 separate flies the company manufactured just for fishing West Coast waters. Amazing.
SAN FRANCISCO, May 24.
EDITOR THE SPORTING GOODS DEALER.
Replying to your correspondent, "S.G.D.," who wrote in the May issue regarding the too numerous patterns of flies, we will agree with him-there are far too many trout flies on the market. This is directly due to competition, for each maker wishes to get a distinct pattern of certain flies. Your correspondent's estimate that there are at least 2,000 patterns on the market is a very conservative one. Our own firm make and carry in stock--or did previous to the recent fire--more than 600 patterns and we, of course, only make California patterns. Regarding the imitation of the natural insect by fly-tiers, this is entirely unnecessary, in our opinion. The chief object of the artificial fly is to attract and then to catch the fish. This we find can, in some cases, best be done with flies that in no way imitate nature. Neither do we think that ·a fish always goes after the bait because impelled by hunger. Sometimes it is because he is excited or aggravated by the appearance of the bright object. Speaking from personal experience in Humboldt County, this state, we have never noticed many flies or bugs on the water, certainly not in great numbers. And the artificial flies we have found most successful are those apparently farthest removed from the natural insect. The Scotch makes of trout flies are, perhaps, the best imitations of the natural insect, but these are by no means the best artificial bait for waters in this country. We have discussed this matter a great deal among the leading anglers here and it has often been remarked how little our most successful flies resemble the living insect.
-- CHARLES H. KEWELL COMPANY.