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?

The Shannon

By Eric Austin
Fly tied by Eric Austin

The Shannon is named for the Shannon river in Ireland, in the same way that many other Salmon flies are named for home rivers, the Namson (The Namson), the Helmsdale (The Helmsdale Doctor), the Laxon (The Laxon), the Ballyshannon (The Ballyshannon), the Test (The Silver Test ) , the Wye (The Wye Grub) and the Usk (The Usk Grub).

The Shannon fly is quite challenging to tie, and not the least of the challenges is finding the correct materials. While some substitution can be done, goose for the scarlet ibis, various feathers for the purple lory, the main wing of Macaw covert feathers cannot be duplicated using other feathers.

The pattern tied here is from Francis Francis, who procured the fly from William Blacker. Blacker was one of the old masters from the early part of the 19th century. Blacker's book, Fly Making, Angling & Dying (1855), does not include this pattern. He includes the Ballyshannon as a fly to fish the river Shannon, rather than its namesake. This is surprising given the beauty of the Shannon Salmon fly.

The fly pictured here is very close to the original Francis Francis recipe. Fairy Blue Bird was substituted for the purple lory, and goose for the ibis, but beyond that the materials are nearly as specified. It is quite difficult to find puce colored hackle and floss, as the original Veniard dye recipe has been lost. In desperation I turned to Walmart, and found some DMC floss very close to puce I think. I dyed the hackle myself to match. Desperate times call for desperate measures. There are always two battles to be fought with full dress Salmon flies, one with the materials and one tying the fly. Here's Francis Francis' recipe:

Recipe per Francis Francis

    Tag: Gold tinsel and lemon yellow floss (silver tinsel also used in some recipes, and used here.)

    Tail: Two toppings, scarlet ibis and blue macaw.

    Butt: Black ostrich herl.

    Body: Of floss silk, in joints of various colors, pale blue, orange, puce and pea green, every joint being mounted by a turn of ostrich herl, and over this a hackle of the same tint as the joint.

    Ribs: Gold thread wrapped on each joint separately (I used silver tinsel.)

    Throat: One or two golden pheasant rump feathers.

    Wings: Two bright yellow macaw feathers with black streak down the center, a strip of dark speckled Argus pheasant on either side, and strips of tippet ditto; two or three large toppings over all.

    Sides: Two or three slips of ibis.

    Cheeks: Small feathers of purple lorry (a Polynesian parrot).

    Horns: Blue macaw ribs.

    Head: Black.

~ Eric Austin

Credits: Classic Salmon Flies History & Patterns by Mikael Frodin.

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