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?

Mystery Fly

Compiled by Deanna Lee Birkholm

I love flies with neat histories. This one is a particularly neat story.

"The Puntledge River...was a favoured haunt of the Hames family who have lived in the Comox Valley [British Columbia] since 1914. Born in 1913, Jack Hames fished the Puntledge and other local rivers from boyhood. For 20 years, starting in 1958, he wrote newspaper articles about life, the fauna, hunting and fishing in his community. In 1990, Jack's wife, Gertrude, reprinted some of his articles in Field Notes: An Environmental History, and among the many fishing stories is one called "The Mystery Fly."

In the early 1930s when fly-less and with little or no money to spend on flies, Hames was searching through his father's flybook and found what he would describe later as the mystery fly. Jack intended to only borrow his father's fly and return it later that day but it worked so well he kept it and eventually lost it when he snapped it off his gut leader. He searched in vain but couldn't find a replacement. With the dressing implanted in his brain, years elapsed before he learned how to fix fur, feather and tinsel to a hook. However, skills obtained, he was determined to replace the mystery fly and searched for the wing, the drake mallard flank or bronze shoulder for the tail, and the barred rock or brown rooster feather for the hackle posed no difficulty as they were readily available. The grey material for the body however, proved more challenging. But he did find some un-named grey fur amongst his mother-in-law's dressingmaking materials. With all the materials in his possesion, his mystery fly was reborn and it produced as well as the original lost many years ago.

However, as his supply of the un-named grey fur that he raided from his mother-in-law's sewing kit became depleted, he searched in vain for this magical silver-tipped fur that help its firmness and lively glisten when wet. After discussing this with fly fisher, Bob Taylor, of Vancouver [BC], Taylor offered to take the remnants of Hames small patch to a furrier for identification. Reluctantly, Hames let Taylor take the fur away, and was ecstatic when Taylor returned with a large swatch of the magical South American kid.

With his supply worries abated, Hames tied up a good stock of different sizes and because it provided him with a visual link to the river he fished and loved for so many years named the fly, Puntledge River."

Recipe Mystery Fly

Originator Jack Hames.

Hook: Size 6-10.

Tail: Mallard flank or bronze shoulder.

Body: South American kid fur.

Rib: Fine, oval, gold tinse.

Hackle: Barred rock or brown rooster feather.

Wing: Strips from a wild goose secondary flight feather.

Intended Use: Wet fly for cutthroat trout.

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

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