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?


By Eric Austin
Fly tied by Eric Austin

The Torrish is a mixed wing fly from the mid 1800s credited to Mr. Radcliffe. The book Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin, has this to say:

"The renowned fishing tackle company, Hardy Brothers, employed a number of highly talented fly-tiers and sold salmon flies the world over. On their salmon fly list the Torrish appeared amongst the twelve most popular salmon flies. The Torrish received its name from a place in the Scottish countryside, Strath of Kildonan. It was designed for fishing the famous salmon river, the Helmsdale, which runs through this areas."

The Helmsdale certainly was a famous salmon fishery, and the Helmsdale Doctor is one of several flies designed to fish it. The Silver Doctor, one of the most famous salmon flies, is actually a variation of the Helmsdale Doctor, and has the same silver tinsel body and red butt, fore and aft. The Torrish also has a body of silver tinsel, and it seems that a flashy body of silver might have been the ticket on the Helmsdale in those days.

It must be said that the recipes of full dress salmon flies from the Victorian era were never exactly carved in stone. The body of the fly is, for the most part, what differentiates one fly from the other, but liberties were taken even there by different tiers in different areas. The listing of the recipe below is per John James Hardy, and this was undoubtedly the most popular version of the Torrish. The fly shown is a variation of Pryce-Tannatt's pattern, and I have taken some liberties with the wing, as is customary with many tiers. Other than the wing, it is quite faithful to Pryce-Tannatt's version.

Recipe per John James Hardy

    Tag: Silver tinsel and yellow floss.

    Tail: One topping and ibis.

    Butt: In two equal parts of silver tinsel, butted with Indian crow and black ostrich herl.

    Throat: A red-orange hackle.

    Wings: Two strips of black turkey white tipped, bustard, peacock wing, guinea fowl, golden pheasant tail, red and blue swan; mallard and a topping over.

    Cheeks: Indian crow.

    Head: Black.

Pryce-Tannatt's Variation

From the book Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin:

"Pryce-Tannatt's pattern for the Torrish differs from the above-noted versions. One difference from Hardy's pattern is that the yellow in Pryce-Tannat's tag should be golden yellow, and together with a topping he also uses tippet fibres in the tail. Pryce-Tannatt's fly is, like Hardy's fly, divided with a body butt and veilings although they should be tied in 2/5 onto the body. He also uses a lemon yellow hackle and a thin oval silver ribbing over the front 3/5 of the body."

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