Braiding is not just something that young girls and women do with their hair. It holds a very important part in the history of angling. As you will find out further along in this article many people (mostly women) other than hair stylists made their livelihood performing this task as part of commercial fly tying. These people had nothing whatsoever to do with the "beauty shop" business. It was the angling industry gave them an income.
In the early 1900's Franz B. Pott (1877-1956) became famous among anglers for his role in being the first to braid material before using it as a component for the body material on trout flies. Pott was an immigrant from Germany who made his home in Montana. While learning to be a barber while still in Germany Franz became proficient at weaving or braiding hair on the wigs at his school.
Pott is credited for having the most successful fly both in sales and popularity spanning the first half of the twentieth century. The fly was called a Sandy Mite which had a body made of woven materials. The word Mite in this case is believed to be derived from the word helgramite which is a large stonefly nymph. Franz Pott originally sold his flies for 35 cents each or 3 for $1. That was quite a bargin for the amount of labor that was put into the making of each fly. In order to keep up with the demand of his popular flies Franz Pott had to hire women to make his flies from their homes.
In addition to fly tying materials being braided the early fly lines were also braided. In the late 1700's three horse tail hairs were braided together. Then each length of the braided horse hair was tied to the other to make the desired length of fly line. To taper the line a section at the tip had only two horse hairs fashioned together and tied to the section with 3 horse hairs. Finally then a section with single horse hairs tied together was added to the rest of the fly line. In order for the line not to break easily (as horse hair is very brittle) it had to be soaked in the water before using. This made the line stronger and more pliable. Some anglers even went so far as to dye their fly lines with walnut shells and boiling water mixed together. This was done in an effort to make the line less visible in stained waters.
Let's move forward to the present time and look into the possibility of seeing whether braiding can still have a place in the fishing community. Inspired by the innovations of Franz Pott I decided in 2009 I would experiment to see if a material could be used that when braided it would actually fool a fish into thinking this item was a meal worthy of eating. In order for the costs of this project to be kept at a minimum I decided to find a material that was readily available and at a low cost. Finding useful materials free of charge would even be better. What I found was that the simple rubber band turned out to be an excellent material for the use of making my "creatures". The vast array of colors is only limited to what you can find.
Tip: Do not be afraid to mix colors when braiding to make one item. Sometimes the color variations actually help in triggering a take from a fish.
This idea will definitely not make me rich financially, as I am giving it away free of charge. But the knowledge I've gained from researching this project along with incorporating braiding into something anyone can craft and find useful is worth more than money can buy. When the longer rubber bands are braided together in threes it forms an excellent imitation of a rubber worm. You know those are the lures that professional bass anglers use as a staple when fishing their tournaments. These worms turn out to be approximately 5 inches long which is an almost perfect size. This size of rubber band is usually found around small bundles of newspapers. If you can't find a source for free ones they can be purchased at a modest price.
Three is quite a significant number when it comes to insect larva anatomy. There are scores of aquatic insects that have three feelers coming from their heads. This tells me that fish are accustomed to witnessing food items that meet this criteria especially bluegill and crappie. That is why when I make these items a piece at the end is not braided. This allowance is made approximately 1/2 inch long after the final knot is tied to complete the lure. Shorter lengths of rubber band are used to make smaller versions of the worm for use with a small jig head. This is a great way to catch pan fish.
Be creative and think outside of the box to come up with some unique designs. Braiding 3 groups of 3 rubber bands yields a more dense profile.
Make yourself a few of these "creatures" that you now have instructions to build and you'll have a small part of modern angling history. Who knows you may just catch a few fish in the process too.