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 Seth Green

By Eric Austin

The Seth Green was an incredibly versatile fly, serving as a first rate bass fly, a lake fly, and in smaller sizes with a slightly different wing, it was good for trout. To give you and idea how large bass flies could get, Seth Green himself said of the fly he used for trolling "the body of the fly is one fourth of an inch in diameter in the largest place in the body." That's one fat fly. Seth Green was a fish culturist, along with his brother Monroe, and knew better than most what fish liked.

From Mary Orvis Marbury's book Favorite Flies and Their Histories we have the following letter from Seth Green, written to the New York Express in which he gives his favorite cast of flies along with fishing tips:

"There are two kinds of fish, both kinds called black bass, in different localites. I designate them as black and Oswego bass. They look very much alike to amateurs. The Oswego bass has the larger mouth, and lies in still waters where there are weeds, flags, and pond-lilies. He takes a spoon, a frog, or a minnow. They are the poorer table fish of the two kinds, and lack the game qualities of the black bass, which live only in pure lake or river water with a rocky bottom, and are taken with fly, or dobsons, or crawfish, or grasshoppers, which are their favorite food, but will take minnow or a spoon sometimes. Trolling with flies in large waters, I use a twelve-foot leader made of single gut, and four flies, and two BB shots and two small brass swivels on the leader; one swivel at the upper end and one in the center, and two shot about equal distance from each end of the leader; put the flies an equal distance apart. I have used hundreds of different kinds of flies, and have kept sifting them out until they have got down to four kinds. They are the killers. My upper fly is red body, white wing, and white hackle, with gold tinsel stripe. My second is a fly called Grizzly King. It has a green body and mottled wing of a mallard or red-head. It is called by fly-makers the 'Under-Wind.' The hackle is grizzly, and it has a red ibis tail. My third fly is called the Governor Alvord, in honor of our worthy statesman. The wing is made of two colored feathers, cinnamon and drab; the cinnamon is used for the under wing. The body is made of peacock herl, and has a red ibis tail, and a red hackle from a red rooster. The fourth fly I call the Seth Green. The body is green, with a large yellow stripe; the hackle, chicken red; the wing, either gray or light cinnamon brown. I do not cover the body of my flies with the hackle; the hackle of all my flies is put on at the head of the fly. The flies are tied on a 'two-aught' (00) hook; the body of the fly is one fourth of an inch in diameter in the largest place in the body. When trolling with flies for bass, your boat should be rowed one third slower than for any other kind of fish. The flies should be allowed to sink within three or four feet of the bottom, and when you have a strike take plenty of time to reel him in, as there are ten fish lost by reeling them too fast where one is lost by reeling him too slow, and you are likely to take some more on the lower flies. If the fish is on the lower fly you will not take any more, but if he is on one of the upper flies you will be sure to take more if there are any in sight."

It's been many years since I trolled for fish while rowing a boat. Fortunately for me, if I ever again have the opportunity, I can row a third slower, which at this point in my life would be a necessity. The Seth Green appears to have been a very popular smallmouth bass fly, used by fly fishermen from Massachussets to Ohio to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, to Maryland, and out West. It does not appear that it was used much down south for largemouth however, from what I can tell from the Marbury letters. I was a real favorite among many fine fisherman years ago. Here are some recipes for the Seth Green from J. Edson Leonard's Flies:

    Seth Green

    Wing: Gray turkey

    Hackle: Brown

    Body: Green dubbing

    Rib: Yellow thread.

    Seth Green, Claret

    Wing: Gray turkey.

    Hackle: Claret

    Body: Green floss

    Rib: Yellow thread

    Seth Green, Turkey

    Wing: Brown turkey

    Hackle: Brown

    Body: Green floss

    Rib: Gold

    Tail: Gold pheasant tippet

    Seth Green Lake Fly (shown)

    Wing: Cinnamon brown turkey (I used brown/gray goose)

    Hackle: Medium brown

    Body: Light green floss

    Rib and tip: Gold rib

    Tail: Mallard

Credits: Photos from Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury, Flies by J. Edson Leonard. ~ Eric Austin

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