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 Parker


By Eric Austin, Ohio


The history on this one is easy, and I'll let the words of W.P. Andrus, the creator of the fly, describe its inception:

"The history of the discovery of the above fly is as follows: In August, 1877, I was in the Adirondacks, at a small lake called Wild Goose Lake. Two of us had about exhausted ourselves by whipping the lake all around, and over some particularly attractive-looking pools had used nearly every sort of fly we had in stock, but with very poor success, as for our two or more hours' work we could show only about a dozen trout that would average five or six to the pound. We finally went ashore in disgust, my friend to pick and eat huckleberries, while I sat down and overhauled my fly-book; and from among the truck there, and some ravelings from a red flannel lining in a coat I had on, I constructed the fly above described; in fact, made two of them. About the time I had finished my lure the sky became slightly overcast and the trout began jumping, so we got into our boat and paddled over to a spot where they seemed to be particularly lively, and there we went to work. Well, to make a short story of it, I proved conclusively that my new fly was a sure "killer," for in about a hundred minutes I had taken sixty-five trout that weighed twenty-five pounds."

This vignette comes from Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies and Their Histories, and is contained in a letter she received from W.P. Andrus, an angler from Minnesota. I will assume the trout referred to therein to be brook trout, and if fishing the large, gaudy Parker resulted in that sort of success, it's no wonder the speckled trout is all but gone. I've seen small brooks in the Adirondacks so choked with small five to seven inch brook trout that you could literally throw a gum wrapper in there and they would hit it. There is a wonderful little creek that runs most of the way up the trail to Mt. Dix, and with a little bit of stealth and a hand line you can catch dinner in about ten minutes. These might be some of the best eating fish on Earth, but then again, maybe it's the Adirondack air.

Here's the recipe for W.P. Andrus' Parker. There is another version, with a different wing, found in J.Edson Leonard's Flies that I'll include as well. Leonard comes by this version honestly, as there are two flies shown in Favorite Flies called the Parker, the descriptions of each referring you to the Andrus letter. The one I've tied is in the trout flies section of the book, the other is found with the bass flies.

Trout fly:

    Tag: Red or scarlet wool, not too fat.

    Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel.

    Wing: Guinea hen.

    Tail: Guinea hen.

    Hackle: Brown.

    Bass fly:

    Wing: Black loon (white spots at tip)

    Hackle: Brown.

    Body: Peacock herl, gold tip.

    Tail: Scarlet and barred wood duck.

Credits: Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Ovis Marbury; Flies by J. Edson Leonard. ~ EA

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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