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 Twenty-four

The Wulff Flies

By Jack Sampson
From Lee Wulff
Published by Frank Amato Publication, Inc.
Portland Oregon. We thank them for use permission.


When Lee returned from Kentucky - glad to be back home - he and Dan [Dan Bailey, then physics professor, later the Dan Bailey of Livingston Montana.] resumed fishing in earnest and began to experiment with and seriously design new flies. The Ausable in the Adirondacks and the Esopus in the Catskills were perfect streams upon which to practice.

Lee had long questioned the design of English dry flies for American rivers. He considered them too anemic-looking for our streams - with their fine silk wrapping over quill and the delicate wire hook. It occurred to him that traditional feathers used by the British did not float long without constant dressing with a floatant like Mucelin. He reasoned that an imitation of the big mayflies that would float in spite of repeated strikes and submersions might be the answer.

He began to use bucktail instead of feathers to create his imitations of Isonychia, the large gray mayfly drake. He tied the wings on with dark whitetail deer hair and made the tail of the same material. The body he made of rabbit fur dubbing - a highly floatable material. For the hackle he used medium blue dun cock hackle. By the spring of 1931 he and Bailey were having spectacular success with the gray, high-riding fly during the Hendrickson hatch on the Esopus.

Lee tied up a big white-hackle fly to resemble the coffin fly - the mature stage of the green drake - and found it was invaluable for late-evening fishing in poor light. He had little use for the then-popular fan-wing coachman fly which he said had a tendency top twist when cast and kinked the leader. Also, he said, the tail - made up of a few fibers of golden pheasant tippet feather - didn't have anough strength to hold the fly up and level.

He tied the same pattern, but with bucktail wings and a bucktail tail, and it turned out very well. Lee probably would have named the three flies something like the Ausable Gray, Coffin Fly and the Bucktail Coachman, but Dan - already thinking about commercially-tied flies - talked him into naming them the Gray Wulff, White Wulff and the Royal Wulff. All three were later to become world-renowned as successful trout flies - and as great salmon flies in larger sizes.

The Wulff Series

Ray Bergman, a friend of Lee's listed the three patterns in his new book, Trout and they became popular almost instantly. . . ~ Jack Sampson

Publisher's Note: This may not be exactly the truth. For another version of where the hair-wings came from see: The Curious History of the Quack Coachman from Reed Curry's excellent website: www.overmywaders.com. ~ DLB

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