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 Gordon


By Eric Austin, Ohio


This is another lovely salmon fly from the Victorian period. Each of these flies has something special, and with the Gordon it's a very pretty wing. The blue/green against the orange under-wing is a great effect. As with all the salmon flies from this period, different versions abound. The one pictured is quite close to the original, created by Cosmo Gordon, for his home waters, the Scottish River Dee. Not the typical Dee fly with strip wings however, the Gordon quickly became the most popular fly on the river upon its introduction in 1890. Gordon was himself a noted angler and fly authority, so his fly was taken seriously from the outset.

Kelson shows two versions of this fly in The Salmon Fly, neither of which differs in a dramatic way from Gordon's. One adds two red sword feathers to the under-wing, and the other adds some tippet in the tail and changes the under-wing to claret hackles back to back. You see this second version done a lot, with horns added as well.

Pryce-Tannatt changes almost everything. His version changes the blue/green aspect of the wing completely, the body, tail, under-wing, cheeks, you name it. It just doesn't look much like a Gordon to me, but these things are in the eye of the beholder. There is an excellent version of Pryce-Tannatt's fly that can be found on Hans Weilenmann's web-site here.

This one is fun to tie. Not a lot of difficulty around the head, and if you can get a good solid set of wings married, you're most of the way there. Give this one a try!

The Gordon

    Tag: Silver twist and yellow silk.

    Tail: A topping.

    Butt: Black herl.

    Body: One third yellow silk, and claret silk.

    Ribs: Silver lace and silver tinsel (flat).

    Hackle: Two claret hackles, from yellow silk.

    Throat: Blue jay.

    Wings: Tippet in strands, peacock herl, bustard, swan, dyed light blue, light green and red claret, Amhurst (sic) pheasant tail, and a topping.

    Sides: Jungle cock.

    Head: Black wool.

~ EA

Credits: Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin; www.danica.com/flytier Flytier's Page by Hans Weilenmann.

About Eric:

I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River. I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y. My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically. Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always considered him to be one of my biggest influences.

I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's studio. It was a blast.

So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now, here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA

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