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 seventy-two



Compiled by Deanna Birkholm

Dr. James A. Henshall, better known as the "apostle of the black bass" and best known as the author of The Book of the Black Bass, was the originator of the fly that bears his name.

James Henshall, sometimes referred to as the dean of American anglers, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1836 and died in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1925. After receiving his degree of Doctor of Medicine, he continued actively in the practice until about 1885.

His first edition of The Book of the Black Bass was published in 1881. In 1892 Mr. Henshall was president of the Ohio State Fame and Fish Commission.

When he gave up the practice of medicine for fishing and angling and the sciences connected therewith, he was put in charge of the Bozeman, Montana, station of the United States Bureau of Fisheries, where he remained from 1896 to 1909.

While his favorite fish was the bass, he did a great deal of experimental work with propagation of the grayling. In 1909 he took over the operation of the United States Hatchery at Tupelo, Mississippi, where his favorite game fish, the black bass, were reared. There he stayed until 1917, when he retired because of failing eyesight.

In 1891 he served as president of the American Fisheries Society. Soon after its formation he was made an honorary president of the Izaak Walton League of America. He was in charge of the fisheries exhibition at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1893 and there, with W.C. Harris and H.L. Stanton, judged the first "Open to the World" Championship Casting Tournament put on at the Fair by the Chicago Fly Casting Club.

When the National Rod and Reel Association was about to hold its 1883 tournament in Central Park, New York City, Dr. J.A. Henshall was anxious to have a contest in bait casting from the reel, and formulated a set of rules for it and sent them to the secretary of the association. They were not adopted, one reason being there would have been no entries, because the "Henshall style" was not practiced in the East at that time.

Dr. Henshall got his way the next year and bait casting, as we now know it, made its appearance as "minnow casting."

Dr. Henshall himself describes his bass fly as: body, peacock herl: hackle white hairs from deer's tail; wings, gray (dove); tail, two fibres (green) from peacock's feathers.

It was Dr. Henshall who wrote, "Fly fishing is, indeed, the poetry of angling.

The Golden Dustman, Polka, Oriole [Lord Baltimore] and Oconomowoc are also his designs. The Doctor has, for a time, lived in and been Mayor of Oconomowac, Wisconsin.


    Head:   Red wool.

    Tail:   Peacock sword.

    Body:   Peacock herl.

    Wing:   Pale blue body feather (original called for gray dove).

    Hackle:   White or pearl gray.

Credits: Information from Fly Patterns and Their Origins, by Harold Hinsdill Smedley, published by Westshore Publications. Photo from Forgotten Flies published by Complete Sportsman. ~ DLB

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