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 Manchester

The Manchester

By Eric Austin, Delaware, Ohio

The Manchester, a bass fly from Charles F. Orvis, was named for the town of Manchester, Vermont. The Orvis company was founded there in 1856 and remains in the village to this day. Mary begins the section concerning this fly with a bit of a poem she wrote about her home town:

"Only a little village street
Lying along a mountain's side.


I know not, then, why it should bring
Into my eyes such sudden tears.
But unto the mountain's sheltering
The little village seems to cling,
As child, all unaware of fears,
Unconscious that it is caressed,
In perfect peace and perfect rest,
Upon its mother's breast."

So begins Mary Orvis Marbury's small tribute to her home town of Manchester, Vermont, which can be found in Favorite Flies and their Histories. She tells the story of Ethan and Ira Allen, their Green Mountain Boys, and Manchester's importance in the Revolutionary War. Throughout her essay, she comes back to the theme that the town is "only a little village street," but it is clearly, to her, much more than that. This is born out in her last few paragraphs:

"It is a good place "to come back to." We all feel this, and, realizing that we shall find it ever the same, our hearts turn towards it amid changes, and in times of trouble or weariness, and we remember thankfully that the old trees will wave a welcome, the mountains will steadfastly guard this "fair countrie," and that where their shadows reach we may find a resting-place.

This little fly is only a reminder; the yellow and the green only an emblem of the sunshine that is ever flickering through these peaceful shades."

I think many of us feel this way about our home towns. No matter how far you seem to get away, it is a steadfast rock that you always feel anchors you, and one to which you will someday return. Here is the recipe for the fly:

    Wing: Yellow goose, peacock sword topping

    Hackle: Yellow

    Body: Peacock herl, yellow tip, gold tag.

    Tail: Peacock sword

Credits: Favorite Flies and their Histories by Mary Orvis 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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