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 today's 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 McAlpin

By Eric Austin, Ohio

This is another one from Trout by Ray Bergman. It's a fairly difficult tie on a couple of levels. The tail gave me fits for a bit, until I remembered that duck quill has a great deal of "reverse" curve in the feather. If you try to marry a left slip from a wood duck feather and a left slip from a duck quill, you'll find that the two slips curve in opposite directions. This makes marrying them very difficult, and wood duck flank feathers are hard to marry anyway. There are two solutions. You can go up high on the duck feather and harvest the slip up there, as there is less curve the higher you go on the feather. A better fix is to use a different feather all together, one that does not exhibit reverse curve, such as a goose secondary or dyed turkey tail feather. I used some turkey here that I picked up at Michael's Craft store awhile back.

An interesting feature of this fly is the peacock herl "topping", and I tied it on just as I would a conventional golden pheasant crest topping on a salmon fly. You'll find this tough to do at first, and it's a great help to find herl with a natural curve similar to the top of the feather. You can stroke the herl along the top of the wing and make it sort of marry to it a little bit. Of course, when fishing, these herls will be kind of all over the place anyway, and that's the point. I don't know if you've seen the Gray Ghost streamers that have the herls on top rather than where Carrie Stevens put them, but they are reportedly quite effective there as a trigger. For show though, you're going to want your herls perfectly aligned with the top of the wing, and all I can say is, good luck. It's tricky.

The guinea hackle on this one can be another source of trouble if you don't have some guinea with very short barb length and fine stems. I didn't, and though I typically like to wind my hackle, I used Don Bastian's "faux" hackling on this one. You simply take a section from each side of a big guinea hackle, match them together, and tie them on as a beard underneath the hook. It's like tying on a flank feather wing upside down. That makes the hackling here much easier.

J. Edson Leonard's Flies has this fly as "McAlpine", but with the same recipe. Here it is from Bergman if you're looking for something a bit more challenging:


    Tail: Wood-duck (barred) topping scarlet

    Tag: Gold tinsel

    Ribbing: Gold tinsel

    Body: Claret wool

    Hackle: Guinea

    Wing: Peacock herl topping scarlet

Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman ~ EA

About Eric:

Eric Eric lives in Delaware, Ohio and fishes for brown trout in the Mad River, a beautiful spring creek. More of his flies are on display here:
traditionalflies.com -- Classic salmon and trout flies of Europe and the Americas

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