Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps . . .

Part Fifteen


By "Old Rupe"

In my prime I was a fanatic. I fished 16 hours a day. I just couldn't stand to miss the action.

I was bad but my dad was worse. He fished more than most, but his thing was hunting. If it walked, flushed, ran, sat, grunted or snorted we ate it. Dinner was an adventure. Since dinner was the end result of the hobby, we ate the hobby. "Chicken" might be turtle, squirrel, rabbit, or grouse. It was a smart kid that knew his meal. He and I were never really close even though he always took me if I wanted to go. He just had a different vision.

He had fishing friends, quail hunting friends, deer hunting friends, duck and snipe friends, bear and antelope friends, grouse and rabbit friends. His life was a hunting trip. These friends were in addition to his peers.

Walter was a police officer who worked nights and hunted with dad seven days a week during the "season". The season was deer, grouse, quail, duck, snipe, rabbit, and pheasant. We always accused him of sleeping all night and hunting all day. He just had to.

Gerald "Juggie" was the first millionaire I ever knew. He owned the land adjacent to us, and hunted 7 days a week during "season". While mom taught school five days a week Jug, Walter, and my father hunted. It was sort of like the "catch of the day". This month it was quail, next it was grouse, deer, and rabbits were always a target of opportunity. Jug ran a couple of scab mines and bought up mineral rights to half the county. When he died his wife sold it to the strip miners for millions. Walter, Jug and Dad ate dinner every day in the house, resting the dogs and getting ready for the afternoon effort. I was a sophomore in college before I found out that Jug was black. So much for racial tension in our area. If you could drop 4 quail on a flush you were accepted.

Walter and my dad ran a small kennel of 8-10 dogs. If you hunt 4-5 dogs seven days a week the dogs will get sore feet so bad they just couldn't hunt. Each day I would listen to discussions on what dogs would be able to hunt that day. A marriage of medical condition with necessity. It was like listening to the NFL or the NBA on a daily basis. This one was on injured reserve or this one could play. The day could be ruined if a wrong decision was made. Dad and Jug cooked lunch each day. It might be too salty but, "that's just the way I like it". Complainers just didn't eat.

They left the guns on the screened in porch each day because if they took them inside the condensation would cause them to rust. No warm home for those guns. Dad shot the barrel out on his browning 12 and the end was so sharp that the cut he sustained was visible to the day he died. He later had to smooth the ends every week or so it didn't happen again. His buddies laughed and called it "old corn sheller". You could drop a nickel down the barrel.

Dad and his friends would hunt all day long in the freezing rain and when he returned home too tired to eat I remember him collapsing into his favorite chair too tired to remove the wet clothes, steam rising from him long afer he had fallen asleep, retreating to his bed at 3-4 in the morning only to commence again at 8 or so the next day.

I learned to hunt with people that would routinely "pick" four to 5 quail on the flush. If you didn't shoot quick you did without. Even though I no longer hunt it was a great time. I got to hunt with dads friends even though I was just a kid. There was Jack who owned the Crescent H ranch out of Moose Wyoming. A deadly shot and a serious sportsman, Curtis who was into medical supplies, a top gun who was as much a gentleman as he was a great shot, and Sam whose Parker 410 was always a contender among larger gauges. It was like the 4 horsemen when they arrived. Quail hovered in fear and dogs cried about their sore feet. I never heard one of them complain about the day. It was always great.

One day when Dandy, then an old dog, found eight coveys Sam lifted him through every fence, an effort on both their parts. Both were old. Sam said," I guess Dandy and I have grown old together. We just have to work together in our old age".

The small point I glossed over was there was no open season on quail in Ohio at that time. Those hunters were slick. They would store their quail in women's nylons, to be dropped at the first sign of trouble. Truthfully I don't think old Dan, the game warden, really wanted to catch any of them. They were all friends. The hunters took great pains not to embarrass Dan and to keep their quail hunting low key.

Dad and his friends, to their credit, fed and nurtured those quail through hard winters, planted feed patches on land they controlled and even when they couldn't hunt there they would try to talk others into doing those simple things to promote good game management. They knew how much of a hit each covey could take. They scouted those birds like a pro would scout the minor leagues. It was not a casual thing, it was a way of life. A badly trained dog was a reflection on the owner as it should be.

Later when they could make it legal they not only signed up the 10,000 acres in their area necessary for legal quail hunting they also helped other areas they would never hunt. The sport owed much to them. Outlaws I guess, but with good hearts and gentlemen to the core.

Dad and the regulars would always shoot last when taking guests out. As a joke one day in South Dakota Dad and Walter hunted on either side of a noted wing shot and pheasant expert. They shut him out. Eight hours and not a bird. Bragging in front of that group was not a wise thing.

My mother was a special individual. She would discover 10 to 15 hunters entering the house, expecting to be fed in 20 minutes. She always came through with flying colors. Her mother ran several hotels and inns back when women just didn't do things like that. Having that background for the first 20 years of your life prepared you for Dads hunting act.

One hunting meal stands out like a naked girl at church. The four horsemen and their friends had just gotten in from the morning hunt and mom and I had fixed a grand dinner of quail, mashed potatoes and assorted vegetables. We heard a knock on the door and there was Dan the game warden.

After chatting with all his friends it became obvious he wasn't about to leave so Dad, taking the bit in his teeth, said to Dan,"We are having pullets for dinner would you like to join us?" It just wouldn't be civilized not to invite a friend to dinner for any reason. Dan replied "I just love pullets" and commenced to eat 5 or 6. The meal was quieter than usual and at its end old Dan complimented mom on the fact that "These pullets are some of the finest I've ever eaten". Saying good-bye to all after dinner Dan left. The group waited a respectful 45 minutes and commenced the afternoon hunt.

All were gentlemen. A person wasn't invited to hunt with the group on the basis of his shooting abilities alone. He could have a drink but never be obnoxious. He should never disgrace himself or the group. He didn't have to be rich, but he should pay his way. All economic levels were present. Even the most affluent took great pains not to flaunt money or position. The enjoyment of the hunt was the thing.

I always remember Curtis as the supreme gentleman. Cultured and suave to the core. Some time in his past boardrooms must have quaked at his every nuance. I never heard him raise his voice. He didn't have to. Having been in Nam for 2 tours I can understand leadership. A whisper from Curtis was the equivalent of a baseball bat to the head.

These were people that evaluated you for what you were and either accepted or rejected you, not on the basis of your wealth and position, but on the basis of you as an individual. What a concept. Having known them I can understand the concept of royalty. People whose choice of friends and life style were determined by their own values rather than the position and the heft of the individuals pocket book. People so sure of themselves that they didn't need others to tell them the path. A grand time. Never soon to be revisited.

A time reminiscent of the nineteenth century fishing clubs. What a fortunate person I am to have been there ~ "Old Rupe"

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