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 Two hundred-eighteen



Compiled By James Castwell

"This popular fly is a native of Canada. Though questionable, this pattern is credited to Peter Cowan, of Cowansville, Sheriff, 1866-80, of the District of Bedford, consisting of the counties of Brome, Missisquoi and Shefford, in the Province of Quebec. The fly was named by the flymaker in Montreal who first tied it commercially.

The fly dates about 1840.

There appear to have been two styles of dressing. The more popular, and as we know it, was the claret hackle; gold tinsel wound spirally around the claret body, and brown mallard wings. The original pattern was make with a "red body, ribbed with yellow tinsel, the hackle assorted scarlet and ginger, and a light gray mallard wing," according to a Mr. Stanstead, of Montreal, who in 1886 wrote a letter concerning it, stating, "When this fly was introduced to the trade it was sometimes called the 'Canada'."

The present day Montreal, sometimes called the Dark Montreal, and the Canada are tied:"


    Body: Claret floss.

    Rib: Gold.

    Tail: Scarlet.

    Hackle: Claret.

    Wing: Brown turkey.


    Body: Scarlet floss.

    Rib: Gold.

    Tail: Scarlet.

    Hackle: Brown.

    Wing: Speckled turkey.

"From Harriet Baxter, his granddaughter, I learned that "Mr. Cowan was born in Ayr, Scotland, in 1816 and came to Canada in 1832. He was married in 1836, a mere boy of twenty, and, with his wife of eighteen, chose to settle in a small community on the bank of a picturesque stream, the south branch of the Yamacda River in the Province of Quebec. In making the choice he was chiefly influenced by the fact that there were trout there. As the community grew, it was called Cowansville in his honor, and still bears his name. There he lived to the end of his life, and fished to his heart's content.

"Trout fishing was his hobby until the building of mills and dams put an end to the trout. He, of course, always made his own flies and I remember, as a child, being allowed, if I were good, to look inside a mysterious tin box filled with silks and feathers of glorious hues, but just how or in what circumstances he designed and developed the Montreal fly, I am sorry to say I do not know." ~ JC

Credits: The quoted text and drawing from Fly Patterns and Their Origins, by Harold Hinsdill Smedley. Color photo from Forgotton Flies, published by the Complete Sportsman.

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