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?


Compiled by Deanna Birkholm

The Bivisible first shows up in literature in 1926, which certainly qualifies it as an 'old fly' - but it is one still in use today and can be found in the major fly catalogues. There are some differences in tying, such as with or without a tail, in two-tones with the white face, or in various other colors. However, here is the original.

Quoting from Fly Patterns and Their Origins, "The idea of the Bivisible and its apt name must certainly be credited to Edward Ringwood Hewitt. (See Red Fox).

Mr. Hewitt in his Telling on the Trout, 1926, states:

"Dark colors are more visible to the trout from below than light colors, and, therefore, take more fish under most conditions and are more generally used. They are often, however, more difficult to see on the water than the lighter flies. This is the reason for my favorite design of fly which I call the Bi-Visible which consists of a palmer-tied brown hackle on the head of which is wound a small wisp of white hackle. The white resting against the brown becomes very visible in most lights to the angler; on the other hand, the trout see the brown hackle from below better than any other color used. This fly is by far the best of any I have yet seen for all species of trout and it is based on a sound physical principle."

In his A Trout and Salmon Fisherman for Seventy-Five Years, 1948. Mr. Hewitt, in mentioning a few flies that are the most taking, includes:

"The Brown Bivisible with the white wisp at its head, which I myself introduced, although palmer flies somewhat similar had been in use for many years in England. The white wisp enables the angler to see the fly readily, hence the name I gave it - Bivisible because I can see it and the trout can see it. The fly in various sizes is certainly the most universally useful fly we have, and is perhaps more fished now than any other dry fly. Palmer flies are made in various colors and are called Bivisibles in tackle stores, but this is incorrect. The true Bivisible is brown, with a white wisp of feather at its head."
Credit for the Badger Bivisible goes to Charles Merrill of Detroit, in his day reputed dean of Detroit fly tiers and founder of the F.F.F.F. Club. Mr. Merrill died in 1940."

If you note the proportions of the fly shown at the top of this article you will note the palmered hackles are even in length across the length of the fly.

This fly (shown on the right) is from a 'popular' fly-tying catalog. Note the unevenness of the hackle. The fly would not float in the same manner as the preferred original tie.

Credits: Text from Fly Patterns and Their Origins by Harold Hinsdill Smedly. Top photo from Basic Fly Tying, by Dick Talleur, second photo (blue background) from Fly Patterns of Umpqua Feather Merchant by Randall Kaufmann. We appreciate use permission. ~ DLB

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