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 Silver Ardea

The Silver Ardea

By Eric Austin
Flies tied by Eric Austin

This fly is notable for the rare materials used. The tail, especially, is made from the neck feathers of the New Guinea Golden Bird of Paradise. According to George Kelson, these made by far the most superior hackles. They wouldn't fade, and were quite tough. As highly as he thought of these, he seldom used them in his own creations, this being an exception.

In addition to the golden bird of paradise tail, the fly has a throat made from white heron feathers dyed light blue. Both materials are very difficult to obtain in this day and age, and I enlisted the aid of four friends to help. I wanted Amherst pheasant crest for the topping, to better match the tail, another difficult material to find. This fly is one of the better examples of a fly wherein the difficulty lies in finding the materials, rather than the tying. Mikael Frodin says "To ensure bright clean colours[sic] it was necessary to use completely white heron hackles and these feathers were to be found on the completely white and egret herons, which were much rarer birds than the more common grey and black herons. A certain amount of skill was also needed to dye these delicate heron hackles."

Well, I'm not sure how much skill is required today. I used Kool-Aid.

I'd like to thank some good friends with their help with this fly. The hook was sent to me by Alan Goodwin of Scotland, A.K.A. Alan the Highlander. Help with the material hunt was provided by Ed Gallop, Jack Montague, and John McLain. I'm sure that I couldn't have come close on this fly without their generosity and resourcefulness.

The Silver Ardea was one of George Kelson's own creations, and both John James Hardy and J.H. Hale saw fit to include the fly in their own books, leaving off the ostrich herl head. Kelson also created a fly called the Black Ardea, which is identical, save the body is black floss rather than silver tinsel. Here's the recipe for the Silver Ardea:

    Tag: Silver twist and yellow silk.

    Tail: Golden bird of paradise.

    Body: Silver Tinsel (flat).

    Ribs: Silver tinsel (oval).

    Hackle: Bright red-claret (a white coch-y-bondhu dyed in "cardinal" 2288, Wolley & Co, Manchester)

    Throat: White heron, dyed light blue.

    Wings: (mixed) peacock wing, bustard, golden pheasant tail, Amhurst [sic] pheasant tail black and white mottled turkey, red macaw, swan dyed yellow and blue and a topping.

    Sides: Jungle cock.

    Head: Black ostrich herl.

~ Eric Austin

Credits: Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin; The Salmon Fly by George Kelson.

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