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?

General Fry Imitation

By Arthur James Lingren

Just like in ancient times where Jason and the Argonauts searched for the golden fleece, generations of fly fishers in all areas of the world have quested for the ultimate fly. A search in vain probably, but as successes with variation on a theme mount, thoughts about the ultimate fly are conceived and flies dressed. Haig-Brown had many successes in salmon fry pattern design during his first 20 years in British Columbia. The Silver Brown, an imitation of the spring or chum salmon; the Humpback, an imitation of the pink salmon; and two other baitfish patterns, the Bullhead and Stickleback, are examples of those successes.

For his all-purpose fry imitation Haig-Brown recommends a pale red or orange tail which both the Silver Lady and Silver Brown sport. All of his fry and baitfish patterns, except the stickleback, had silver bodies, his preference for the all-purpose fry fly. A red hackle for the throat because it added brightness and red seemed to attract fish. A hairwing rather than the conventional feather-strip wing, because hairwings had more movement; polar bear rather than bucktail because it was more translucent and flexible; and a variety of colours: orange, yellow, blue, green and white perhaps to cover the many different light conditions encountered in a day's fishing.

Haig-Brown by his own admission was not a very enthusiastic fly tier and preferred simplicity in fly design. In a January 28, 1951 letter to Tom Kerl of the Washington Fly Fishing Club, about some sample fry and baitfish patterns he sent the club, Haig-Brown says that "one merit these flies have is they are all easy to tie, which is probably why I use them so much."

In Fisherman's Spring (1951), he mentions that if he could very the quanity of material in the wing and the size of hook upon which the fly is dressed, he wouldn't mind being limited to a single fry imitation. The General Fry Imitation was his choice.

Recipe General Fry Imitation

    Hook: Number 4 or 6 low-water salmon.

    Tail: Small, pale, red or orange feather.

    Body: Flat, silver tinsel.

    Throat: A small red hackle.

    Wing: Mixed, not layered, strands of dyed yellow, orange, blue, green and some natural polar bear fur.

    Originator: Roderick Haig-Brown.

    Intended Use: Wet fly for cutthroat

    Location: Campbell River.

Credits: Fly Patterns of British Columbia by Arthur James Lingren, published by Frank Amato Publications.

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