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 Alan Shepherd

I found the letter below in the 1927 book by T. E. Donne; Rod Fishing in New Zealand published by Seeley Service & Co. Limited.

"Captain T.E. Donne, N.Z.F.,
New Zealand Government Offices,
Strand, London.

In reply to your letter of enquiry, asking my views as to the game qualities of the spring salmon, I may say that the Pacific coast fish, with the exception of the coho and the steelhead, have no repute as species which take the artificial fly. The spring salmon, as you are no doubt aware, is readily taken with the spoon bait, especially in the sounds and straits outside the mouths of the rivers, which it ascends for spawning purposes. Dr. Rutter (United States Fisheries Bulletin, XXII, 1902, PAGES 125-126) says: 'Spring salmon in the Sacremento River readily snap at bright, floating objects, and can frequently be taken with a spoon while on their spawning grounds, or while passing up river.' He states that twenty-five specimens were taken in this way in October-November, 1900. I have never taken the spring salmon with the fly myself, but in an official report, furnished by the Attorney-General's Department, Victoria, British Columbia, published in the (1911) Conservation Commission Report, Ottawa (Lands, Fisheries, etc.), it is stated, page 190, 'that there were several cases of spring salmon having been caught in a like manner' that is with the fly.

Mr. Livingstone Stone, the well known United States authority, says (Salmon Fisheries of the Columbia River, page 24): "The spring salmon takes no food in fresh water. At the head waters of the rivers in the clearer water, they (at least the males) will sometimes take an artificial fly. In the ocean, they take a trolling bait readily." As the Editor of the American Angler says (August, 1892, page 50): 'We all know that most fish, even the suckers, will take the artificial fly, when moved slowly through water'; and he quotes a letter in Land and Water which stated, that in 1890 in North Wales, two anglers, in the very first cast, hooked and landed each a flat-fish of about lb. weight, using a fly. Skill and clear water are essential to quinnat fly fishing.

Even the whitefish and Ciscoes (Coregoni) which are toothless and have no repute as sports fish have been taken with the fly in Lake Winnipeg to my own knowledge. Supt. M. C. Worts (New York State) reported in 1913 he caught many ciscoes with fly. "it was surprising to a great many people that the ciscoes would rise to a fly. We had rare sport in taking these fish at the West Breakwater, Oswego, N.Y. In Lake Ontario. The late C. G. Atkins took whitefish (coregonus) in Moosehead Lake, Maine, with a fly." (Dr. T. H. Bean's Fish Culture Report, 1913, N.Y. Conservation Comm.)

The spring salmon may, indeed be regarded as a game fish, but it cannot be relied upon to always take the fly, and the general reason why this species, and Pacific salmon generally do not take the fly is, in my opinion, due to the muddy character of the rivers. The melting of the snow, and the glacial waters pouring down from the rocky mountains, renders the waters in the various rivers very turbid, so that the salmon ascending when the snow-water is coming down in May, June, and later, cannot see the fly. When they have been caught with the fly, it has usually been in the clear, upper reaches, before or after the snow-water has ceased to affect these portions. This muddy character of the Pacific Rivers, sufficiently explains, in my opinion, the lack of game quality in the various species of western salmon.

Yours faithfully,
Edward E. Prince,
Doninion Commissioner of Fisheries."

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