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?

Simple Winged Wets
Gosling, Herman Fly, Loyal Sock, Luzerne, Cooper and Golden Spinner

By Eric Austin

I hope you haven't given up on me. I've taken something of an extended break from Just Old Flies, for a number of reasons, but mostly just to recharge, and of course, to tie some flies. I've been tying a lot of wet flies, both American and European styles, and think I've learned a thing or two along the way, which I'll pass on starting now.

Recently I've felt like getting away from the more complicated married wing wet flies. I decided to do some of the most basic winged wets I could find in Trout, going for a minimalist approach, a look of simple elegance. Whether or not my goal has been realized is in the eye of the beholder, but there are at least a couple of these I like. Here's the venerable Hawthorne Fly.

    Body: Black Floss

    Hackle: Black mixed with light claret

    Wing: Black

These simple flies turned out to be not quite a simple as I'd hoped. I right away ran into an old bugaboo that had haunted me in the past, and it reared its ugly head again. If you have a simple fly that is made up of just a floss body, hackle, and wings, with no ribbing, tail, or tip, the floss will invariably fall off the back end of the fly. It will inexplicably work its way back from the end of the body that you established in the first place, and kind of unravel back there. I had to tie three Herman Flies before I remembered this. This will happen before you even get the fly completed, before the first coat of head cement goes on. I'm not sure what would ever happen if you fished one of these, but I would imagine the whole floss body would ultimately collect down at the bend of the hook. Here is a typical shot of what happens by the time you get the hackle on. I've used a single piece of rayon floss for the body:

Here, the body looks fine.

Here, the floss has run off the back of the body. This happened as I was winding the hackle.

I knew of a fix for this, one that Don Bastian uses. I'll show it to you below. It involves a second piece of floss pulled over the top of the fly once the body is wound:

Floss Body With Keeper

Floss Body With Keeper Pulled Over

Floss Body With Keeper With Hackle

I decided that this fix wasn't good enough, and tried several other ideas, all of which proved to be worse. The Herman fly even has a tip, and I thought that might help, but it didn't. Ribbing will cure this, as will a tag or butt of peacock herl, but this problem even extends to floss tips on flies, and the cure there is the same. A second piece of floss pulled over the top of the tip will solve the problem.

These simple flies were not proving themselves to be as simple as I thought! Simple flies, as I was to find out, are very unforgiving. The problem is that since there is not all that much to look at, everything has to be perfect. Blemishes in wings stick out like sore thumbs. Bad heads look, well, bad. So do bad bodies. In any case I finally got a decent Herman Fly, and here it is.

Herman Fly

    Tip: Gold Tinsel

    Body: Crimson Floss

    Hackle: Brown

    Wing: Slate

Once I got on a roll the flies became easier, and I was able to tie quite a few different ones in short order. Here are four more, and I'll list all the recipes below each one. If you'd like to tie winged wets, these are a great place to start. If you can master these, everything will just build from here.

Loyal Sock

    Body: Pale yellow floss

    Hackle: Black hen

    Wing: Black


    Body: Dark claret floss

    Hackle: Black hen

    Wing: Gray mallard


    Body: Orange floss

    Hackle: Brown hen

    Wings: Brown mottled turkey

Golden Spinner

    Tag: Peacock herl

    Body: Pale yellow floss

    Hackle: Brown hen

    Wings: Light slate


    Body: Green Floss

    Hackle: Gray hen

    Wings: Slate

    Note: This fly is tied as shown in Ray Bergman's Trout, but the recipe specifies a dun tail.

Credit: Trout by Ray Bergman.

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