Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of 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.

Most books, and yes, even we here, bring 'new and improved' designs; however, in days long gone, fish readily accepted these creations; 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. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish them. Perhaps . . .

Part Four

Whirling Dun (Blue)

By Deanna Birkholm

Whirling Dun

From: The Dry Fly and Fast Water
By G.L.M. LaBranche
Our thanks to Greycliff Publishing for use permission

"It is doubtless true that the fly fisher derives no small part of his pleasure from the act of selecting and purchasing flies. It is within the experience of every fly fisher, I think, that, under the influence of the memory of a certain fish taken on a particular pattern of fly, he includes a dozen or two of the sort in his next purchase. Perhaps the fly is a nondescript that he may never again find successful, but, nevertheless, he adds it to his store. Angling friends recommend their patterns to him, or some special flies they found taking under certain circumstances or over particular streams, and these, too, he buys and puts away. Maybe he may never use one of them, and in the end he comes, perhaps, to feel, as does the philatelist, great pleasure in the pride of ownership, but no thought of putting his treasures to use. Of course, there can be no reaonable objection to fly collection, and I can see how it may become as fascinating an employment as stamp or coin collecting.

Assuming that the angler is a believer in close imitation, he will, of course, be content only when he has all the patterns which have been created by the votaries of the theory; but if he should be inclined to agree with me - that a great part of the imitation must be produced by the angler himself while actually fishing the stream - he will find that about ten patterns will suffice under nearly all circumstances.

I give the dressings of eight patterns, although I rarely use over six. If I were compelled to do so, I could get along very well with one - the Whirling Dun. Fishing the Brodhead throughout the month of July, I used this fly exclusively, and took fish every day except two. On three separate occasions I used a different fly - at one time a Pink Lady, at another a Mole, and at still another a Silver Sedge. On each occasion I took one fish with the selected fly, after which I went back to the Whirling Dun, and continued my fishing. I killed one or two fish each day, the average for the month being very close to a pound and a half. I returned many fish to the water, and these averaged over ten inches. Some days the fish were feeding, and some days they were not. There was apparently little difference in the taking effect of the fly, except that it was taken readily when it was delivered properly, and never when it was not."

Here is the recipe for George La Branche's favorite fly:


Wings. -Startling or duck, medium light.
Body. -Water-rat [muskrat] or mole fur;
two turns of flat gold tinsel around hook at end of body.
Legs. -Glossy ginger or light brown cock't hackle.
Tail. -Three whisks of same.

The Whirling Dun shown here was tied by David Ledlie, from the directions given in the book. Also note, the factor which LaBranche found so important was the forward angle of the wings. Or in his own words: "My own experience is that flies tied in this manner [with the wings tilted forward at an angle of about 120 degrees] sit beautifully upon the water. . .I would suggest that the angler tie a few flies with the wings tilted forward at an angle of about 120 degrees, and try them. If nothing else is accomplished, the experiment may lead to a development in the form of the fly which will enable us all to some day take the one "big fish." ~ dlb

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