When I grew up the world was less colorful than it is
today. Newspapers were in black and white, TV was in
black and white, and even some movies were still made
in black and white, however "Technicolor" had made a
splash. It's funny though, we never actually thought
while we were watching or reading that the color was
lacking, in fact you sort of put your own colors in,
kind of like visualizing what the characters looked
like in a radio play.
The two flies I bring today reminded me of those days,
and the old fly tying and fishing books we had at our
little library, that were also, for the most part, in
black and white. Typically all the instructions were
shown with pen and ink drawings, but there would also
be those color plates, where you could see the flies in
all their glory, and I lived in those pages. The flies
were so exciting then, so colorful, with unknown foreign
materials like marabou, which I always assumed came from
the African stork, though today it comes from turkey.
Both the Undertaker and the Widow feature macabre names,
owing to the color schemes I assume, indicating sure
death and widowhood for the unsuspecting trout. I've
always gotten a kick out of names like the Assassin,
Bloody Butcher, Orange Death, Killer, Undertaker and
Widow. I'm sure if the trout knew, they'd get a kick
of them too. A name does not an effective fly make,
but the colorful names, like the colorful flies, make
the traditions of fly-fishing what they are. There's
a great romance to our pursuit, and the interesting
fly names are all part of it.
So I hope these flies will bring back memories of
Johnny Mack Brown, Lash Larue, Durango Kid and
Hopalong Cassidy on a Saturday morning for those of
you old enough to remember. For those of you not old
enough to remember those days of black and white, all
I can tell you is we thought they were great.
Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman.
Tail: Black and white.
Body: White wool.
Wing: White and Black.
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