Musing about the simple pleasures of fishing, 17th century author Isaak Walton pondered, "O, sir, doubt not that Angling is an art: is it not an art to deceive a trout with an artificial fly?"
Combining the exquisite talents of expert tiers with masterly paintings of landscape scenes has netted a stunning set of stamps celebrating the art and craft of fly-fishing in Canada.
Each of the four domestic rate (50¢) stamps in this release features a specially commissioned fishing fly set against painted background scenes from Montreal artist Alain Massicotte. The delicate salmon and trout flies were tied by expert tiers from across the country: Rob Solo in Newfoundland, Hazel Maltais of Quebec, Rick Whorwood from Ontario, and Brian Chan of B.C.
Fly-fishing is a revered art form long considered the pinnacle of angling, and the flies depicted in this series are Canadian fly-fishing favourites. The elaborate Jock Scott, composed of 57 different elements, originated in Britain during the Victorian era and became a mainstay of early angling in Canada. The Alevin was created in the spring of 1939 on the B.C. Adams River by legendary fly fisherman, author and artist Tom Brayshaw. Named after the narcotic-laced drink, the Mickey Finn was another Canadian original, created by Charles Langevin in the 19th century and promoted by John Alden Knight, the inventor of Solunar Tables. It was used on the Jacques-Cartier River in the Quebec City area. And the P.E.I. Fly, originally tied from the feathers of the now-endangered Red Ibis, is perhaps the earliest Canadian creation, with its origins dating back to descriptions in 1860s literature.
"We debated whether to illustrate the flies, but felt that approach wouldn't do justice to the delicate detailing," notes Winnipeg designer, Robert Peters, of Circle Design Inc. "With fishing flies, people expect to see detail. Our visual interpretation really had to perform well."
The graceful fishing flies were scanned digitally, meticulously close-cut and then combined with electronic images of the background scenes. Massicotte's expressive free-style and sweeping brush strokes work so well with the concept there's a sense of motion and fluidity that seems to reflect the rhythmic casting of fly-fishing.
The booklet of eight stamps in this series includes descriptions of each of the four flies and their respective tiers, along with imagery from the background scenes. The selvedge of the souvenir sheet features a photographic collage of underwater photos of salmon and trout shot by Gilbert van Ryckevorsel of Nova Scotia and Ernest Keeley of Idaho.