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 Eric Austin
Fly tied by Eric Austin

The Hummingbird was invented by M. O. Lownsdale, of Oregon, in the late 1800s. Even by then, fish counts were not what they had been in the more accessible streams, as civilization had taken its toll on trout populations. But the sea-run rainbows were prevalent then, as they are now, and M.O. Lownsdale recounts a summer long trip in a letter from Mary Orvis Marbury's book. He talks about flies first:

"An experience of many years has taught us the efficacy of large flies for this class of fish. Large fish do not rise often, and a very substantial and toothsome morsel is needed to tempt them up through the clear deep pools they most affect. Our flies are constructed somewhat like bass flies, imitating no insect, but suggesting approximately the appearance of a nondescript moth... We have three varieties which have been found to be extremely satisfactory. No. 1 is the Silver Lady, tied with silver body, brown hackles, slate-colored wings, and often silver streamers for tails. The wings are solid feathers taken from a young robin's wing, with the under slate-colored side being turned outward. No. 2 is the Maid of the Mill, with rough canary-colored body bound with gold tinsel, yellow and brown hackles, and double wings, each of four gaudy feathers from the Mongolian pheasant, with streamers of golden pheasant plumes. No. 3 is the Hummingbird, a fly with either silver or lemon-colored body, orange, scarlet, and brown hackles, wings of the peacock-blue feathers from a mallard wing, with red and white streamers. All these flies are tied on Sproat hooks from No. 1 to 00 in size, and are from one and a half to two inches in length. Large and gaudy weapons indeed for a trout fisherman. However, they are the results of many experiments, and it is an almost unvarying rule to see large fish taken on them in pools where common flies were unsuccessful, or if successful had ceased to attract."

M. O. Lownsdale then gives a very poetic and beautiful account of why we all fish:

" In these fishing jaunts, when the mountains are clothed in their most voluptuous dress, when the forest is redolent with the odors of swooning flowers, and the river gleams with a thousand silver lights, while everywhere are rivulets that drain what must be the springs of eternal youth, one may drink deep of an elixir of life more potent than that of Septimius Felton. In this sense, our last day on the Doherty was idyllic and prolific of thrilling scenes, while the victories we dramatically rehearsed about the camp-fire, at Gum-boot Bar seemed heroic; and when we laid down at night, bathed in the amorous breath of the pines, we were fretted only by the "thrut" of a great trout striking in the pool below, and were lulled to rest by the witching song the siren of the river sings; and a crescent burning brightly in the eastern sky threw enchantment over all."

~ EA

Credits: Text from Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury. Fly and photo by Eric Austin.

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