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 Kingfishers

By Eric Austin

Well, we have two completely different flies called the Kingfisher. I don't mean slight variations, or one without a tail, I mean two completely different flies. There appears to be an English Kingfisher, and an American Kingfisher, at least that's how I've come to think of them. The American version is found in the literature a couple of places, In Mary Orvis Marbury's book, and Ray Bergman's Trout. These versions appear to be virtually identical, and that fly is shown above. To cloud the issue further, J.Edson Leonard's Trout doesn't show this version at all, though one of his three Kingfisher recipes is close. Let's talk about the American version first. Here's Mary Orvis Marbury:

"Of the Kingfisher, Mr. John B. McHarg, veteran angler and fly-maker of Rome, New York, has written:

"If I could have no dinner until I had taken a big trout with the fly, the one particular lure I would select from the multitude would be that which years and years ago I christened the Kingfisher. This is the best of the chosen four with which I have whipped the waters of America for a lifetime, and the only one with which I ever had really good luck casting for shad. For big trout and jumbo bass, I do not believe a more killing fly was ever made. From Skowhegan to Alaska it is always in season. Try it at either end or the middle of the season, anywhere in North America, and my word for it you will find a most killing lure, and worthy a place in the best fly-book on the earth."

"Mr. McHarg's enthusiasm is always contagious, and we know his to be one of the generous hearts that enjoy sharing the good things of this world with their fellow-men; we feel a hearty respect for his opinion, as well as for his cordiality and generosity, of which we frequently have had proof."

So Mr. McHarg created the American version of the Kingfisher, perhaps not realizing that there already was a "King's Fisher Fly," published as a salmon fly by Richard and Charles Bowlker in 1747. Also known as The Peacock Fly, (above) this fly has absolutely nothing to do with the other two flies already mentioned, and I'm sorry I brought it up.

Now just where does the second version of the Kingfisher originate? I've found reference to it in three places. The oldest is a picture of a Kingfisher sold by Ogden Smiths of London, in a catalog from the 1920s. This version features a tail of blue hackle, perhaps Kingfisher hackle, that's what I used in mine below. The body is silver tinsel, as is the body of a slightly different Kingfisher I've found in both J. Edson Leonard's Flies and E.C. Gregg's book How to Tie Flies. I suspect this version is English, though I'm unable to prove it at the moment. In any event, I've tied both flies in more of an English style, with smaller heads and on smaller hooks. The American fly above was done on a #8, the English one below on #12 hooks.

Credits: Flies by J. Edson Leonard, How to Tie Flies by E.C. Gregg, Ray Bergman's Trout, and Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury. ~ Eric Austin

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