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 One hundred fifty-three


Tippetiwitchet or Tippeti Witchet

Compiled by Deanna Birkholm

Major John Popkin Traherne
" John Traherne was probably the most aesthetically gifted salmon fly tyer of the nineteenth century. He was the heir to an estate which he inherited in 1859, but he served in the army, reaching the rank of Major, and retiring in 1865, but somehow finding time to be a Justice of the Peace, Deputy Lieutenant for his county and High Sheriff in 1863. He caught his first salmon in 1850, putting him at the front of the new fashion for taking these fish on a rod and line and afterward seems to have fished almost every river in the UK, as well as ranging widely in Ireland and Norway. A talented fisherman, the Major held the world record for many years with a cast of 45 yards and one inch and he caught 65 fish in fifteen days on the Namsen in 1864.

Traherne contributed heavily to the Fishing Gazette in the 1870s, 80s and 90s and exhibited a case of flies at the Great International Fisheries Exhibition in London in 1883, the only amateur to do so apart from Kelson. It is quite likely that this is where the pair met and Kelson was so taken with Traherne's patterns that he began his series 'On the Description of Salmon Flies' in the Fishing Gazette in 1884 with eighteen of the Major's patterns.

From the 'Emerald Gem,' a riot of green and blue macaw, with a filigree of golden pheasant topping as wing, to the 'Chatterer' (a pattern which I have always regarded as the definitive gaudy fly, since it requires at least fifty blue chatterer feathers to form its body,) Traherne's patterns were masterpieces. More than anything else, these flies are a celebration of the materials and artistry of the salmon fly and although they are no longer used, it remains a technical challenge for even the most accomplished fly dresser to tie them well. Traherne and his generation added the final touches to the fully dressed salmon fly - probably unaware of the enduring tradition they would leave when they were gone."
(The preceeding is from A History of Fly Fishing by Dr. Andrew N. Herd, Associate Editor, Waterlog Magazine, and member of the Flyfisher's Club, London.)

"There are two major aspects of Major Traherne's fly patterns: First, his use of only natural colored feathers and second his way of displaying whole feathers in almost all his dressings, instead of using strips or strands. Many of his creative dressings are a result of leftovers from bird skins, where the materials for standard patterns had been used . . . By researching in older articles written by Kelson in the Fishing Gazette, and later in Land and Water, 28 dressings and variations have been found. Major Traherne may have created more patterns, but as he never wrote anything about the subject himself, I doubt that the future will reveal any further patterns."
(Credit: Kim Rasmussen, Copenhagen, Denmark; The Traherne Salmon Fly Web Site)

Tippetiwitchet (as dressed by Paul Ptalis)

    Hook: 8/0 modified Harrison by D. Paris.

    Tag: Silver twist, and light blue silk the same color as a light blue Chatterer.

    Tail: Golden Pheasant crest.

    Butt: Natural black ostrich.

    Body: In five equal divisions, each terminating with a black herl butt. There are four tippets; two (back to back) tied in top and bottom of every section over the golden floss which, silk is the same shade as the golden toppings.

    Rib: Oval tinsel.

    Throat: Blue Chatterer.

    Wing: Five or six toppings.

    Cheeks: Blue Chatterer.

    Horns: Blue Macaw.


Credits: Fly photo and recipe from Century End by Paul Ptalis, published by Frank Amato Publications.

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