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 Wilkinson

The Wilkinson
By Eric Austin, Ohio

Kelson, surprisingly, does not take full credit for this fly (as he did so many others). He instead gives full credit to his father! Well, at least he kept in the family. But as usual, there is good evidence to the contrary. A fly called the "Silver Wilkinson" was originated by Mr. P.S. Wilkinson, and is widely regarded as the first silver bodied fly. The Wilkinson as we know it now, was undoubtedly a close relative, and by that I don't mean Kelson's father.

Francis Francis has a recipe for the Wilkinson that predates Kelson's considerably, and while generally similar in the body, has a slightly different wing and reverses the hackle and throat, replacing the magenta hackle with a throat of "bright lake red." So perhaps it was a different variation of this pattern that was originated by George M. Kelson's father, who knows?

As usual, I've taken a liberty or two myself with this fly, using embossed tinsel in place of flat for the body, because I like it, and toning down the magenta hackle, because I just don't like the color magenta in a fly, even a gaudy one. I've done Charles Chute's version here, which dispenses with the jungle cock. Maybe Mr. Chute was out of jungle cock when he did his fly, or maybe he just liked the simpler look of just the teal sides as I did. I'm a great admirer of the flies of Charles Chute and very much like what he's done with this one. In any case, here are both recipes, so you can decide what's right for you:

Kelson's Wilkinson

    Tag: Silver twist

    Tail: Two toppings, tippet, and Indian crow

    Butt: Scarlet wool

    Body: Silver tinsel

    Ribs: Silver tinsel (oval)

    Throat: Magenta and light blue hackle

    Wings: Tippet, teal, peacock wing, golden pheasant tail, and swan dyed

    red, yellow and blue; mallard and a topping

    Horns: Blue macaw

    Sides: Jungle cock

    Head: Black herl

    Francis Francis' Wilkinson

    Tag: Silver thread and gold floss

    Tail: Topping and a short stump of tippet

    Butt: Red crewel

    Body: Silver tinsel

    Ribs: Silver twist

    Throat: Medium blue hackle and bright lake red shoulder

    Wings: Mixed bustard, wood-duck, pintail, blue and red macaw, one topping over all

    Horns: Blue macaw

    Sides: Jungle cock

    Head: Black

Credits: The Salmon Fly by George Kelson; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin, The Classic Salmon Fly website, Charles Chute. ~ EA

About Eric:

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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