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 Hudson

The Hudson
By Eric Austin, Ohio

The Hudson is found among the classic wet flies pictured in Ray Bergman's Trout. It also finds its way into Flies by J. Edson Leonard later on in 1950, but I think that is because he seems to have included all of Bergman's flies therein. I can find no history on this fly, but the fly reminds me of a hike I took years ago with the Adirondack Mountain Club to Lake Tear In The Clouds, the source of the mighty Hudson River.

As we sweated along on an unusually warm June day, I had visions of the crystal clear lake, with its clean, cold water, ready to slake my thirst and purify my soul. This lake, named so beautifully by the Indians, would be the tonic I needed. Ah yes, Lake Tear In The Clouds, we would be there shortly, and yet, the hike, steadily uphill the whole way, seemed to drag on and on, hour after miserably hot hour. Only the vision of beautiful Lake Tear In The Clouds kept me going, and I couldn't wait to drink of its pristine waters. And then, we were there! Yes, we were there, at a frog pond not big enough to skip a stone in, choked with algae and smelling of yesterday's socks. It ranks high among the most disappointing moments of my life. But, we were now nestled high in the Adirondacks, poised to scale Mt. Marcy the next day, so there was great anticipation still. We saw two deer that night, an unusual occurrence in those days, a huge buck and gorgeous doe. Some of the club members had never seen a deer in the Adirondacks, if you can believe that.

My friend Bill and I arose early and bushwhacked two of the Adirondack peaks in the neighborhood before the pokey members of the club had even had breakfast. They were Allen and Skylight as I recall. We did another one after breakfast, Gray, or something along those lines. My memory is hazy. Since we were so high up to begin with, this was a good opportunity to knock off several peaks, and Bill and I intended to make the most of it. While the clubbers were on the way up Marcy, Bill had figured out another route, SLIGHTLY longer, which we could take and ascend two more peaks on the way up, Haystack and one other who's name I forget. Away we went, with the energy of the 16 year olds that we were.

I still remember the man we met on top of Haystack. He had topographical maps of the entire Adirondack region with him, and after a bit, the talk turned to fishing. He got a faraway look in his eyes, and then swore us to secrecy. You see, he knew of a spot, accessible only by canoe or a five-day hike, which was teeming with 15" brook trout. It was called the Cold River, and had been home to Noah Rondeau, the famed Adirondack Hermit. If we could get there, we would be assured of the greatest brook trout fishing we had ever experienced. Bill and I vowed to go there, and later that year, we did. But that's a story for another time.

Bill and I began to tire as we came off Haystack, and we still had Marcy to go, and then a long trek out after that. I mean a LONG trek out. We started leaving things beside the trail. Our food went first, then our pots and pans, then our packs in their entirety. Yes, it was mostly downhill, but we had already climbed six peaks, and we were dieing. Somewhere between Marcy Dam and Heart Lake, our exit point, it began to rain. I sat down beside the trail and just started to cry. If it hadn't been for Bill, I'd still be there, but he got me up and going again and we made it out, a full 6 hours behind the rest of the club and Bill's Dad, our ride. He was worried sick. And so two wonderful days of hiking came to an end, with two sixteen year olds asleep in the car on the way home. I'll never forget Lake Tear In The Clouds, the source of the mighty Hudson River, but not for the reasons you might think.

Here is the recipe:

The Hudson

    Tail: Green

    Tag: Orange floss

    Rib: Gold tinsel

    Body: Dark brown wool

    Hackle: Orange

    Wing: Light brown turkey

Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman; Flies by J. Edson Leonard. ~ Eric

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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