The Great Debate

"At the turning into the twentieth century, two men, like colossi bestrode the world of British fly fishing. Both were accomplished anglers, writers, naturalists, theorists, craftsmen, and an inspiration to devoted followers. They were locked in contentious opposition on the virtues of the dry versus the sunk fly and nymph. They were, of course, Frederic M. Halford for the floating fly and G. E. M. (George Edward Mackenzie) Skues for the sinking fly and the nymph."

The Great Debate - A Fantasia for Anglers
(The imagination of a great contest between Skues & Halford)
By Gordon M. Wickstrom

A live presentation of this event at the Boulder Public Library ~ November 6, 2005 - 4:00 pm.

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Discussion about the debate on October 29, 2005 at Front Range Anglers - 10:00 am

"Frederick Maurice Halford was the first genuine dry-fly snob. In fact, he gave the character type its definitions. Between "Floating Flies and How to Dress Them", published in 1886, and The Dry-Fly Mans Handbook, published in 1913, Halford developed from a progressive theorist with a better idea to a dogmatic pedant who believed anyone who fished differently than he shouldn't be allowed near moving water, let alone fish for trout.

He brought the art of dry-fly fishing to a high art, then drew a line in the dirt.
Of course, whenever any man draws a line in the dirt, another is certain to come along and step across it, whether as an act of defiance or because that line happens to lie across the other man's path. Such a second man was George Edward MacKenzie Skues. Skues' writing was thoroughly grounded in fly dressing, and his game was the sunken fly, or nymph.

The two schools, Halford and Skues, and the wealth of literature and angling expertise their ideas spawned, provided one of the lasting and constant conflicts even in the ranks of American anglers today. There's scarcely a fisherman who won't side with one or the other at any given time over the superiority of the floating versus the sunken fly. The ongoing philosophical conflict forms an ideological core within the sport.

The same conflict that erupted on the chalkstreams of England carried to the New World. And Americans in their way came to their own reckoning with the two philosophical approaches."
"Halford and Skues - This Chalkstream Ain't Big Enough for the Both of Us "
by Glenn Law