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?

Flight's Fancy, Wet and Dry

By Eric Austin

Flight's Fancy is one of many old flies which has both wet and dry versions,(dry shown above). The fly is portrayed as a dry fly in Mary Orvis Marbury's turn of the century book, and shown as a wet fly in Ray Bergman's Trout. Both E.C. Gregg and J. Edson Leonard give no clues as to the wetness or dryness of ANY of the flies listed in their books, but so many flies were done both ways in those days that there probably is no point in showing a type. I know when I was young there seemed to be both wet and dry versions of virtually all the popular flies of the day.

Mary Orvis Marbury includes this fly in a list of "Frederic M. Halford's Floating Flies For Dry Fly Fishing," so the guess is that it was originally a dry. She has this to say about the English flies that were imported over here in the beginning:

"Criticisms have been made in the past, upon some papers that we contributed to the "Forest and Stream" and other publications, that in these papers we 'wrote of English flies that were of no use in this country.' This is a sweeping assertion that bears upon its face unfairness, for no one at all versed in the history of trout flies can deny our indebtedness to British anglers for many of our most valued patterns of trout flies. In future years I hope that we may be able to return these favors. At one period nearly all the tackle-dealers in America were of Scotch, English, or Irish birth, and had brought with them to this land their knowledge of the implements used in the "old country;" the flies they sold were all imported, and so the fishermen of this country came to know and use the flies most favorably known abroad. In time we invented methods of our own, copied the insects of our streams and lakes, and experienced fly-dressers grew up in this country; but it is nonsense and ungrateful to be unwilling to acknowledge our indebtedness to the older country. Its leisure class is greater than our own, and has thought out many things and experimented in many ways that we reap the benefit of. Some waters of America are quite unlike those of Great Britain, and so require different flies but other streams and conditions are similar, and we are coming more and more, in the long-settled portions of the States, to adopt the delicate flies and gossamer leaders found effective in England."

Truer words were never spoken, especially when one looks at the Halford flies listed along with Flight's Fancy, flies like the "Golden Ribbed Hare's Ear, Grannom, Little Marrayat, and Wickham's Fancy. These flies hold up well to this day, as does Flight's Fancy. Surprisingly, even the recipe comes through the years largely unscathed, indicating, I think, the respect held for these venerable flies. The ones I've tied here I don't imagine are appreciably different from the originals, and I'm very confident both flies would catch fish today. The only differences I see in recipes over the years involve the hackle, which is either brown (Ray Bergman), or ginger (J. Edson Leonard and E.C. Gregg). Now that I think of it, the ginger probably makes a bit more sense, but I tied mine with brown per Ray Bergman. The wet version is shown below.

Recipe: Flight's Fancy

    Tail: Brown or ginger hackle fibers

    Tip: Gold tinsel.

    Wing: Light mallard quill.

    Body: Pale yellow floss.

    Hackle: Brown or ginger.

~ Eric Austin

Credits: Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Trout by Ray Bergman; How to Tie Flies by E.C. Gregg; and Flies by J. Edson Leonard.

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