March 15, 2018
By Jonathan Wright
Fly fishing is discriminatory.
This statement can be taken at face value: "For the discriminating angler, etc...", has been a long standing virtue within our ranks. It can also be more damning, however, and in this sense I mean openly preferential of one living creature over another, prejudicial at it's most base.
I'm gonna walk that back and say that this has been restricted to species other than our own, where the pursuit of certain fishes has been based entirely on aesthetics, and to somewhat lesser extent, behaviors. Trout, in particular, have been exalted as the ultimate game fish to pursue with a fly rod, not only for their beautiful configurations but also for a habit of taking bugs off the surface. This allows the presentation of dry flies as the methodology of choice, endlessly expounded by poorly socialized, overly opinionated types like myself as THE superior experience. A historical argument has also been made for salmon, (Atlantic Salmon, mind you) but I think that the proponents here are now outnumbered.
Feathers from chickens make great flies. Photo by Monti / Tranchellini
Gear choices get even more judgmental, and we shouldn't even start, because there comes the issue of Flies. The Artificial Fly is the fundamental object of obsession in this sport, and its design and construction has been the subject of more debate, consideration, conflict, insult, injury and generally wasted time than almost any other facet of our pursuit. The selection of materials, in particular, can be arcane. Mink, Muskrat, Polar Bear, Badger, Partridge, Peacock, Emu, Heron and Ostrich among dozens of other species are all pursued as essential ingredients for concocting the ultimate prize -- that of the Killer Pattern.
But at its heart, the fundamental material that is incorporated into almost every fly that has ever been thrown comes from a species so mundane, so pedestrian, so overlooked and taken for granted that its importance to the sport is startling when given proper consideration: The Chicken.
Did I also mention tasty?
The common Chicken (Gallus Gallus Domesticus) is the source for almost all of the feather material used in tying. Descended from the Red Junglefowl of the Indian subcontinent, chickens come in an amazing array of shapes and sizes. In regard to feathers, Hackles come from the neck, Saddles from the backs and some salt water sized streamer material comes from the tails of these birds. Fly fishing is forever indebted for their sacrifice.
Photo by Monti / Tranchellini
Now, finally, there is the promise of a bound compendium of photographs that will show the fowl driving this entire exercise in all it's glory: Chicken, the Book.
The brainchild and vision of Italian photographers Moreno Monti and Matteo Tranchellini, Chicken illustrates the majesty of the finest examples of breeding within the species in a lusciously illustrated coffee table book with over 200 photographs of more than 100 types of chickens, all printed on the finest quality paper.
Monti and Tranchellini are currently running a campaign on Kickstarter, where you can pre-order Chicken: The Book, featuring "The sexiest and most beautiful chickens on the planet." Other pledger rewards include limited edition fine art prints, hilarious posters, chicken postcards, collectible journals, and "a sexy calendar for adults only."
Just browsing through the photographs online, I was struck at not only the talent of the photographers and diversity of the birds, but the potential that the different breeds presented for the vise. Colors, lengths and proportions of feathers I had never seen jumped out from the screen, making me want to wring the neck of every one of the subjects and put them to good use. While I am only a fly tyer of average ability at best, I can only imagine what could come of this resource in the hands of someone with the talent of, say, a Charlie Craven, or -- god forbid -- Kelly Galloup.
Chicken, the Book is now available for pre-order on Kickstarter, something discerning anglers will undoubtedly be wanting to to add to their libraries.