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 Murdock

By Eric Austin, Ohio

I found this one in Salmon Fishing by John James Hardy. This book was written in 1907, and contains probably the most complete listing of salmon fly dressings to be found anywhere. It's a gorgeous pattern, but not a favorite apparently. It seems to fall historically somewhere between Francis Francis (mid 1800s) and Pryce-Tannatt (1920s), and is included by neither author in their work. Even Kelson gives no mention of this fly. It is quite complicated, which was more typical of the flies that came later in the Victorian period.

It is interesting to note that John James Hardy was a partner in the famous Hardy Brothers tackle firm, developers of the first modern fly reel. The firm is still in business to this day, and has seen a resurgence of late, due in no small part to an advertising campaign featuring the now legendary "Hardy girl." The Hardy Perfect reel and other equipment are highly prized by anglers to this day.

It is not known who created the Murdock. It is likely the fly was received by the firm at some point, and included in Salmon Fishing. Regardless of who originally created it, it's great fun to tie, and quite pretty I think. Here's the recipe:


    Tag: Silver tinsel and blue floss silk.

    Tail: A topping, Indian crow and blue chatterer.

    Butt: Black ostrich herl.

    Body: Silver tinsel (I used embossed).

    Rib: Gold tinsel.

    Hackle: A yellow hackle.

    Throat: A blue and a red hackle.

    Wings: Tippet strands, blue macaw, turkey, yellow, red and blue swan, peacock wing, bustard, golden pheasant tail, wood duck and a topping over.

    Sides: Jungle cock.

    Cheeks: Chatterer.

    Horns: Blue macaw.

    Head: Red Berlin wool (Omitted on mine).

Credits: Salmon Fishing John James Hardy; 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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