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 ninty-nine

Queen of the Water

Queen of the Water

Compiled by James and Deanna Birkholm

Quoting Mary Orvis Marbury, from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, "The Queen of the Water is credited to both Professor John Wilson ("Christopher North") and his brother, the naturalist, Professor James Wilson. It is claimed by old fishermen that the Professor fly was made originally without the bit of scarlet ibis feather representing the stylets of an insect, and many experienced fishermen of to-day cut these fibres of ibis feather off, while others consider the fly useless without them. If, as is asserted, the Professor was first made without them, there was then very little difference between the Professor and the present Queen of the Water, except that the body of the latter is of a darker shade of yellow, almost an orange, and the hackle is wound the entire length of the body ; therefore it is reasonable to presume that the two are only variations of the original fly, that in time came to be known as distinct patterns.

The body of the Queen of the Water, being a palmer or caterpillar body, is not as durable as the plain bodies, but in its praise the following, written by Miss Sara J. McBride, who was a most careful investigator, will apply : "The larvae of the moths is a favorite fish food, and consequently a successful bait. Hibernating larvae are drawn from their retreats in warm spring days, and continue the pilgrimage they commenced the previous fall. In their wild journeyings on and on before spinning the pupal-shroud, they fall victims in attempting to cross streams. Hairy caterpillars feeding on the trees are blown off by the winds, or their silken thread is broken, and they hang under the leaves in shelter from the rain. Imitations of these, known to the American by the familiar term hackles, and to the accurate inhabitant of the British Isles by the correct name of palmers, are to be used after winds or during rain-storms, also that compromise between larvae and imago known as the 'hackle fly.' Bristling with feet its entire length, and graced with a pair of wings, it offers a double attraction to the fish. No bait has ever been used that has given the general satisfaction of this anomaly. To look at it with the eye of the naturalist, one doubts the wit or widsom of the fish that takes it, and concludes there are comparative degrees of saneness beneath the ripple of the wave."

History has proved, however, that the queens who attracted and gathered armies of followers are most wondered at for their bewildering combinations and contradictions ; this little atom, then, with its inconsistency and its power to charm and draw the inhabitant of the "cool deep," is fittingly named the Queen of the Water."

Recipe for Queen of the Water
(as tied by Ray Bergman)

    Body:   Orange silk floss.

    Hackle:   Brown tied palmer.

    Wing:   Teal.

Credits: Text from Favorite Flies and Their Histories published by Lyons Press. Photo and dressing from Forgotten Flies, published by Complete Sportsman.

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