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?


By Old Rupe

I am, and have always been, a pack rat. I save cuttings from the floor when I tie flies, pictures of flies from catalogs, and the Internet. I don't think I've ever lost a fly fishing book. My mind works the same way; it's a collection of what I have observed, heard and read over the years, not well indexed, odd bits of which come back to haunt me from time to time.

This week I was in my local fly shop browsing when I overheard a discussion on what beetle was hot on the local river. It was a foam creation with 6 rubber legs that were so small and fragile that even a half pint of Foster's Lager would prevent anyone I know from finding them on the tying bench let alone attaching them to a piece of used "flip flop." After trying to tie a dozen beetles with those delicate legs I finally ask myself if they were really necessary and gave up on bugs with tiny fragile legs. One good trout would finish them, if a tier could attach them to the bug in the first place, and out of the recesses of my pack rat mind charged the slightly dusty memory of Corkers.

If you are not drawing social security you are too young to remember Corkers and the controversy they generated. They were just painted bits of cork glued to a bare hook that were supposed to represent hoppers, beetles, ants, inchworms and maybe the morning after visions of a mescal addict. Bill McIntyre of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania manufactured them by the bushel. I always thought he hired stoned hippies to paint them those weird colors, mostly odd yellows and greens. Weird looking they surely were but they really caught fish. Splat that piece of cork down hard in a mirror smooth section of a river and fish would come six feet or more to lunch on them. They certainly were effective. No legs, wings, antennae; just cork and a hook and what ever paint was left over from last years home improvement project. Now comes the controversy.

Since these "flies" were made from just a hook and a painted piece of cork many considered them lures and you could be arrested for fishing them on most fly only stretches. I was once informed by a game warden on the Au Sable river in Michigan that fishing Corkers was a "no no" on his river. The founder of Thomas and Thomas told me that he delayed marketing Corkers until they were generally considered ethical. He then ran a full page of them in his catalog at about a dollar each. (The photos shown here are from that catalog). Many fishermen still consider them lures, and I would be hesitant to show them to a warden on most fly only water even today. The "If it ain't got hair, fur or feathers on it, it's not a fly" view, like the early radio hero "The Shadow," still clouds men's minds.

Bill McIntyre still had an advertisement running in 1999 for his Corkers, but this year I was unable to locate him or his family. He may not have invented the cork fly concept but he surely popularized it, a minimalist approach to fly tying showing again that a fly doesn't have to be an exact imitation to be successful. He wasn't afraid to step outside the box when he designed his flies. The trout never had a doubt about them even if many fishermen and regulators did.


Bill, those little legs and wing cases and such almost got me. I'm glad I finally remembered you and your marvelous minimalist flies. I almost forgot your message. It's a shame some did. Presentation rules.

I decided to write this addendum only after wrestling with my conscience for several days. The most famous Corker fly was the pellet fly. Presented over hatchery trout it was devastating, this no doubt contributed to the low status of the Corker series. I know several fishermen that have taken over fifty recently stocked trout at a time without taking a step. While I have never used this fly (crossed fingers) one fly shop told me it was his best seller in the series, but he was located near a hatchery in Arkansas. Thomas and Thomas hid the fly in the lower right hand corner of their catalog Corker page. They must have also wrestled with a conscience or two. One should always wear a burlap sack creel when fishing that fly...somehow it just seems to fit the act. ~ Old rupe

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