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 sixty-two

Tippet Grub

Tippet Grub (mid 19th century)

By Deanna Birkholm

Where did the 'special' flies for Atlantic salmon come from?

Having researched many flies for this section, the question finally drove me to find an answer. The history is muddy, but through it there are several books and references to Spey and Dee flies which both take their names from the respective rivers where the gillies tied flies specifically for their river. The Spey and Dee flies have differences which have to do with placement and attitude of the various parts to make the fly behave in a particular desired way in either of those famous rivers. In the mid 1800s, those flies lost favor, and eventually re-appeared in a vast array of patterns, not designed for those rivers, but for rivers in other regions and countries - including the USA. During the Victorian era, the gaudy salmon flies we associate with Atlantic Salmon Flies developed, with the notion Atlantic salmon ate butterflies. That idea has been discarded, while there is still some belief salmon continue to eat their favorite foods while at sea (shrimp), actual shrimp flies are a later development of what seems to be the earliest of salmon flies - the Grub. Historians believe Grub flies and the Spey and Dee flies came into being at about the same time.

Whether Atlantic salmon eat during their spawning run, or strike for whatever reason, the early Grub flies worked. There is some thought however that in those early years of the 1800s there was so little pressure on the fish (including the lack of any commercial fishing), no pollution to contend with, and absolute huge numbers of fish, making it nearly impossible not to catch large numbers of fish on any fly.

Whatever the reason, the Grub flies were very successful and spread to waters outside the UK. According to Shrimp & Spey Flies for Salmon & Steelhead, "Flies such as the Moisse Grub were recorded in Canada as early as 1887 and their use in Norway is also well documented. Later, in the chapters on shrimp flies worldwide, you will find shrimp patterns from Sweden and Norway, such as the Chillimps and Ullsock, which are directly based on the shape and tying style of the early grub flies. In Denmark, a whole range of modern sea-trout patterns such as the Omoe Brush, the Dalby Dribbler and the Umbrella, are also clearly based on the style of the Grubs."

The modern fly tier can readily see the various steps being created which carried on to the more spectacular patterns we recognize as the fancy flies we call Atlantic Salmon flies today.

Tippet Grub

    Tag: Gold tinsel and scarlet seal's fur.

    Rear Hackle: Golden Pheasant tippet wound as hackle followed by a furnace hackle.

    Rear Body: Green Berlin wool.

    Centre Hackle: Golden Pheasant tippet wound as hackle followed by a furnace hackle.

    Front Body: Green Berlin wool.

    Front Hackle: Golden Pheasant tippet wound as hackle followed by a furnace hackle.

    Head: Black.

    Note: Hackles increase in size towards head. ~ DLB

Credits: Photo and quoted section from: Shrimp & Spey Flies for Salmon & Steelhead, by Chris Mann and Robert Gillespie, published by Stackpole Books in the USA and simultaneously in the UK by Merlin Unwin Books.

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