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 Iron Blue Dun

By Eric Austin

The Iron Blue Dun is a fly I remember well from the early '60s, mostly as a dry fly then. I've learned that it imitates the Paraleptophlebia group of mayflies, which means as much to me now as it would have then, next to nothing. I think that these days this mayfly must be imitated with an Adams or parachute Adams, as I don't see Iron Blue Dun patterns around shops like I do Hendricksons, Sulphurs, PMDs, etc. Here's what J.Edson Leonard had to say about the Iron Blue Dun in 1950:

"There are perhaps as many variations of the Iron Blue as there are iron blues in your favorite stream. Fly-makers make this fly in shades from light brown to near black. Actually, few imitations even remotely resemble the natural insect. One can purchase Iron Blues form several fly-dressers, and be equipped with enough varieties to meet most fishing conditions. The Iron Blue is as necessary to the fly-box as tobacco is to your pipe; therefore, its colors should be known."

He goes on to say that male dun emerges in late May, with a grayish-olive body and dark grayish-blue wings. The female is similar, with a purplish-brown body. It's a dark fly. Leonard recommends the dark gray-blue feathers from the Coot for the wings, but most dressings just have the typical gray mallard wings. Halford had four different dressings for this fly in his book Floating Flies, J. Edson Leonard eleven, not counting spinners, Bergman one dry fly, and Mary Orvis Marbury recommends carrying imitations in several different shades. To make matters worse, the fly has as many names as it has dressings, i.e. Iron-blue Drake, Little Dark Blue, Little Dark Dun, Dark Watchet, Dark Whirling Blue Dun, Pearl Drake, and Iron Blue Quill. The spinner is known as the Jenny Spinner.

This fly is given great importance by all the old authors, yet you don't hear much about it or the Paraleptophlebia Adoptiva, at least in the areas of the Midwest, West, and East that I fish. I do hear of the Blue Quill now and again, which is listed as a member of Paraleptophlebia on the trout-stream.com web site, but here in Ohio that fly appears in April, and I'm not convinced that it's the same. The Blue Quill IS shown as Paraleptophlebia Adoptiva in Brian Flechsig's book Fly Fisher's Guide to the Mad River, but I've fished that hatch in early April, and those flies don't look like Iron Blue Duns to me. There's quite some mystery concerning the Iron Blue Dun and its disappearance from the collective fly fishing consciousness. Perhaps it's simply a question of the fly being renamed the Blue Quill, Slate Drake, or something else these days. It's interesting to me that J. Edson Leonard shows a Blue Quill hatch occurring in early April, and an Iron Blue Dun hatch occurring in late May, two different hatches. I suppose that this all varies a great deal by stream, and by local terminology.

So we have maybe two different hatches, with flies that have 20 different names, and more dressings than we can count. So do what I do and look at the bugs on your local stream and tie something up that looks like that. The Iron Blue Dun has wet fly versions as well, and a particularly nice version was sent to me by Alice Conba of Ireland. I have tied a rendition of her fly, and also tied the dry fly I remember from my youth. Here are the recipes:

Iron Blue Dun Dry Fly (shown at the top)

    Tag: Red

    Tail: Furnace or dark brown hackle or coq de leon.

    Body: Blue-gray fur dubbing.

    Wings: Dark slate.

    Hackle: Furnace.

Alice Conba's Iron Blue Dun Wet Fly

    Tag: Red.

    Tail: Blue dun.

    Body: Dark gray dubbing.

    Wings: Mallard.

    Hackle: Blue dun.

Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman; Flies by J. Edson Leonard; Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Fly Fisher's Guide to the Mad River by Brian Flechsig; http://www.trout-streams.com ~ Eric Austin

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