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 Cleveland

By Eric Austin

Don Bastian, in his new DVD Tying Classic Wet Flies, makes the observation, "One thing that all these old wet flies have in common is that they are really fun to tie." So indeed they are, and there are none more fun to tie than The Cleveland. I had a ball tying this one, and the fly just seemed to fall together.

The Cleveland is of somewhat dubious origin. From what I glean from Mary Orvis Marbury, her company sent A.M. Cheney, the editor of "Shooting and Fishing," some bass flies to try during his stay at Schroon Lake, in upstate N.Y. He liked one, had them change the wing, and they named it the Cheney. Cheney was the Secretary of the "Texas Club," a club of three fly fishermen. Immediately the Treasurer of the club, Mr. Cleveland, commissioned his own fly from the Manchester, Vermont concern. A nice fly with gallina wings was created, similar to the Polka, named "The Cleveland," and sent out to him. Everything seemed fine until Mr. Cleveland met "the fly dresser" (I think Mary herself), and he proclaimed "Now, honestly, don't you think you put just a LITTLE more color into the Cheney fly than you did into the Cleveland? Now answer me frankly." He went on to ask the fly dresser to "put a little more gilt on it than is on Cheney's." The competitive nature of Cleveland had gotten the better of him, and he was somewhat jealous of Cheney's fly. So a new fly was created, all dressed up, puffed up, and overblown, not unlike Mr. Cleveland himself. Or as Mary Orvis Marbury put it:

"This new Cleveland fly is an earnest endeavor to construct a fly the embodiment of strength, modesty, brilliancy, and other sterling merits, traits that win and hold the friends of Mr. William D. Cleveland outside as well as within the Texas Club."

She put it a bit more delicately than I would have, but she was, after all, a first rate business woman.

And so we have The Cleveland, quite a concoction indeed, but the kind of fly that makes these old flies as much fun as they are. This fly uses many parts of the ring neck pheasant and takes full advantage of those beautiful feathers. Here is the recipe per J. Edson Leonard:

The Cleveland

    Tail: Peacock sword, barred wood duck and gold pheasant crest.

    Tag: Gold tinsel.

    Tip: Scarlet floss.

    Butt: Pale green chenille.

    Body: Gold tinsel.

    Wing: Ring neck pheasant black-tipped side feather.

    Shoulder (cheeks): Ringed pheasant body side feather.

    Hackle: Ringed pheasant body side feather (green, black, tan, and white rings).

    Head: Red.

Credits: Favorite Flies and their Histories, By Mary Orvis Marbury; Flies by J. Edson Leonard; Tying Classic Wet Flies DVD, Don Bastian ~ Eric Austin

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