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 Baker and The Candlestick Maker

The Baker

By Eric Austin
Flies tied by Eric Austin

The Butcher, the Baker and The Candlestick Maker are three wonderfully named salmon flies from the 19th century. The Butcher is by far the most famous of the three, having an incarnation as a wet fly as well, one that is still used today. Because of its importance, it will get its own treatment next week, and I hope to have both versions to show. It is a fly well-deserving of its own article.

Another fly, The Parson, is sometimes associated with this group as well. This is due in large part to the old rhyme which goes as follows:

"Butchers and Bakers, Wheelwrights and Watchmakers,
A Clark smooth and Parson 'to boot,'
Whose orthodox views filled his church-pews,
Though he took a day off to fish or to shoot."

The Baker was created by the Mr. Jewhurst, of Tunbridge, Kent, England, and was staunchly advocated by a man named Moon, our butcher. He was a fine fisherman, and the Butcher was originally called the Moon fly. When Blacker began selling the fly later, he called it the Butcher, the name evoking both the trade of its promoter, and the killing nature of the fly. Mr. Jewhurst also created the Baker. This fly was recommended by Francis Francis for the Welsh river Dovey. I've shown his version here, but there are variations by Kelson and others, which was typical for these flies.

Candlestick Maker

The Candlestick Maker came a bit later and was credited to Mr. Holbrow. A much more sparsely tied fly, it was unusual in that it was popular on most rivers, not just one or two as so many flies were. Francis Francis liked it for the twilight hours, and found it to be "a fly to light the salmon to bed with." He writes, "I dressed one as a whim, several years since, and sent it to a friend, who reported favorably of it to me; since then it has done useful service." He goes on to say, "At dusk this fly will often show the salmon the way upstairs, when others will fail."

Here is the recipe for the Baker, from Francis Francis:

    Tag: Gold twist and lightish blue floss.

    Tail: A topping.

    Butt: Black ostrich herl.

    Body: Three turns of golden-coloured floss, dark orange, light blue, and red pig's wool or seal.

    Ribs: Broadish gold tinsel.

    Hackle: Medium red-claret hackle.

    Shoulder: Gallina, with light blue hackle over it.

    Wings: Underwing, two tippet feather. Sprigs of golden pheasant tail, bustard, peacock wing, red, bright green, and blue and yellow sprigs of swan over.

    Horns: Blue macaw.

    Head: Black.

Here is the recipe for the Candlestick Maker from Francis Francis:

    Tail: Scarlet ibis and wood duck.

    Body: For the lower half, black silk: the upper, black pig's wool, very bush towards the shoulders, and picked out at the breast. (Kelson used seal).

    Ribs: Broad silver tinsel.

    Hackle: A golden-olive hackle.

    Shoulder: A claret hackle.

    Wings: Five or six toppings with double jungle cock on either side.

    Head: Black.

~ Eric Austin

Credits: Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin, Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury.

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