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?


Captain Salmon Fly

The Captain Salmon
By Eric Austin, Ohio


I admit it. I don't get out enough. Never having been a joiner, I've labored at my vise in relative isolation and obscurity for many years now. This week things were different though, and I was honored to accept and invitation to speak to the Mohican Fly Fishers, in Mansfield, Ohio. It was with some degree of trepidation that I accepted, as I thought the group was made up primarily of steelheaders, and really couldn't imaging their being the least bit interested in much that I had to say. My fears were allayed almost immediately as I began talking with some of the members before we got started. Some flies were being passed around, and lo and behold, they were trout flies, and very well tied trout flies at that.

As I launched into my presentation, which was less a presentation and more and off the cuff series of remarks about some of my old books and flies that I brought that pertained to my old books, I realized that I was among kindred spirits, folks who had the same love of the traditions of our pastime as did I. It was a great feeling, to be among friends. I just might need to rethink living as reclusively as I do. I was made an honorary member, and hope to get back up there soon for a tying night.

One of the members seemed especially interested in the flies I brought; a sixteen year old named Kelly Knutson. If Kelly's enthusiasm is any indication, the future of our sport is assured. He has only tied for eight months, and yet he could name most of the materials in my full dress flies. He proudly showed me his fishing flies and they were just amazing. I gave Kelly some materials and wet flies, and promised him I would send him a full dress salmon fly when I got back. So Kelly, this week's fly is for you, and I'll send it out the first of the week.

So what of this week's fly? Well, it was originally called the "Poynder," and was first sold in Scotland. It is likely that the originator was Mr. H. C. Cholmondeley Pennell, known for the Pennell flies that are popular there. George M. Kelson naturally takes credit for this fly in his epic The Salmon Fly, but his version is so close to the Poynder by Pennell that it is essentially the same fly. He leaves out the Bustard in the original, and calls the "dark claret" "claret." Other than that, it's essentially the same.

Regardless of its origin, the fly is a complicated one, especially in the wing. I searched around the web to see how guys have handled all the materials named, and found very few instances of this fly having even been attempted. One attempt just left out about half the materials named, a "variation" I guess. I've done my best, creating an under wing with the Peacock, Amherst and golden pheasant, sides with the pintail, teal, and gallina, and an over wing with the rest. In any case, here's the recipe, and I'll let you decide what to do with the wing:

The Captain Salmon Fly

    Tag: Silver twist and light blue silk.

    Tail: A topping and chatterer.

    Body: Two turns of light orange silk, two turns of dark orange seal's fur, two turns of dark red-claret seal's fur, and finished with dark blue seal's fur.

    Ribbing: Silver tinsel.

    Hackle: A white coch-y-bondhu dyed light red-claret, from the orange silk.

    Throat: Blue hackle and gallina.

    Wings: Pintail, teal, gallina, peacock wing, Amhurst (sic) pheasant, bustard and golden pheasant tail; swan dyed light orange, dark orange, dark claret, and dark blue; with two strips of mallard above and a topping.

    Sides: Jungle cock

    Horns: Blue macaw

    Head: Black herl

Credits: The Salmon Fly by George Kelson; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin, ~ 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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