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

This salmon fly, fanciest of the fancy, was named after its creator, Wakeman Holberton, of New York City. It had an orange body ribbed with gold tinsel, head of peacock herl, with hackle of the same, mixed with purple and a wood duck tail. The wings were duble. The under wing coverts were scarlet ibis, mixed with mallard feathers dyed yellow. The outer wing coverts were of wood duck, with two long rays of peacock herl.

Mr. Holberton was an excellent caster in the competitions of the New York State Sportsmen's Club. As an artist his trout picture, "Speckled Trout," "The Rise," "Struggle" and "The Death" won great acclaim. He was secretary of the Neversink Club in 1884, which club on the West Branch when had a creel limit of twenty-five (25) and size limit of six (6) inches.

In 1882, Mr. Holberton, claiming that there had been a lack of any standard to which anglers could refer with confidence and rely upon to tell them exactly the forms and colors of the different names flies, and to avoid the confusion of the same fly bearing different names, painted fifty copies of a water color picture, showing a speckled trout rising to a fly. Surrounding the trout in the form of a border are sixty-four trout fly patterns, numbered and named. The picture, measuring 15 x 22 inches, is entitled "Standard American Trout Flies." The writer [Harold Hinsdill Smedley] knows of and has seen but one copy; that is No. 6, owned by Edward D. Knight, Jr. of Charleston, West Virginia.

As a result of his twenty-five years of fly fishing, he also attempted to, and did, classify them in three classes, A-B-C. A represented those that had proved most killing; B, not quite to good; C, occasionally good. Some from his list are listed herein as follows:

A Coachman, Shoemaker, Abbey, Grizzly King.

B Queen of Water, Professor, Beaverkill, Cahill, Montreal

C Hooker, Bee

In 1884 he painted a set of fourty varieties of "Standard American Black Bass and Lake Flies."

He was the author of The Art of Angling, 1887; and Angling Recreation, 1889 - a single volume issue, with painting by himself. When writing for the papers, which he frequently did, he often used the non de plume of "Scarlet Ibis."

The bass fly "Lottie," a yellow and black fly also originated with Mr. Holberton.

The Holberton as tied in Forgotton Flies:

    Tag - Gold tinsel.

    Tail - Barred mandarin, crimson, yellow, peacock sword.

    Body - Rear half orange flosss, front half peacock herl.

    Ribbing - Gold tinsel.

    Wing - Peacock sword, crimson, yellow, and barred mandarin.

    Eye - jungle-cock.

Credits: Text from Fly Patterns and Their Origins, By Harold Hinsdill Smedley, photo from Forgotten Flies.

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