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 Moose

The Moose
By Eric Austin, Ohio

There is a picture in the very front of the Mary Orvis Marbury book which shows two gentlemen with rods, creels, and fly boxes spread out, conversing in front of a cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It is entitled "Disputing the fly question." It was given to the Orvis family by another gentleman, and graced a bookcase in the house for years. One day, Mary Orvis Marbury looked across the street, and there, on the piazza of the hotel, were the same two gentlemen, fly boxes spread out, discussing flies once again. Later that day, W.C. Prime, noted angling author, and his friend Mr. Bridge showed up for dinner. Mary was stunned to discover they were the same two men again, and showed them the picture. It had been taken fifteen years earlier at "Lonesome Lake Cabin."

During the visit Mary showed Mr. Prime several flies, one with which he was quite taken. It was a fly sent to her by John Shields, inventor of many of the patterns found in the book. She gave it to her father to give to them on their way out of town, and he did so. The next year they both returned again, raving about the fly. Mary says this:

"Since then we have frequently heard the testimony in favor of it for black bass repeated, and have rejoiced to think that our good wishes resulted in a discovery of further merit in this pretty fly first intended for Maine trout by its originator, John Shields."

So there you have the story of the Moose fly, which was originally intended to imitate what must have been a huge insect bearing the same name, encountered by John Shields in the Maine north woods. I'm not sure I ever want to see a Moose Fly, the insect that is. Anyway, it's a gorgeous pattern, and lots of fun to tie. Here's the recipe:

    Wing: Barred wood duck, golden pheasant tippet shoulders (full).

    Hackle: Yellow, sparse guinea over.

    Body: Yellow floss, gold rib and tip.

    Tail: Yellow goose.

~ EA

Credits: Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Flies by J. Edson Leonard

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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