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?


By Eric Austin, Ohio

Molechunkemunk, or crooked water, was the Abenaki Indian name for what is now Upper Richardson lake, found in the Rangeley Region of Maine. I must note here that spelling was not yet an exact science, Webster's dictionary not available everywhere yet, and the lake is referred to as Molechunkamunk, with an "a", by some authors of the day. I have no way of knowing which spelling is correct, perhaps both are. It is located South-West of Mooselookmeguntic and is connected to it by a straight of water, in the center of which is Upper Dam. This straight was very dangerous in the early days, and quite harrowing to pass through. There is a fly named for Upper Richardson Lake as well, called, surprisingly, the Richardson. It sports a bronze mallard wing as well.


The fly fishermen who frequented the Rangeley Region in the late 1800s were upper class gentlemen, usually well-heeled, who would take trips lasting anywhere from two weeks to all summer long. They would hire guides, and stay at various camps around the lakes for periods of time, depending on the fishing. I wouldn't exactly call their wilderness experiences roughing it, the guides doing most of the work, portaging the canoes, cleaning the fish, rowing the boats, etc. At a dollar a day they were worth their weight in gold. Here is an artist's rendering of a typical camp on Molechunkemunk found in Capt. Charles A. J. Farrar's Camp Life in the Wilderness:


The fishing was good. Take a look at this page from Farrar's Through the Wilds:


One of the gentlemen who frequented this area and others in the region was Mr. John W. Webster of Waterbury, Connecticut. He was one of the Maine correspondents found in Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies. He made over thirty trips to the Region, spending several weeks there each summer. It is noteworthy that he was the nephew of Noah Webster, of dictionary fame. When he set out to get his law degree he went to Noah to borrow some money for tuition. Noah told him, in so many words, to take a hike, that he had a good trade as a machinist and he should be happy with his lot. Undeterred, John Webster went on to become a highly esteemed judge. He seemed to harbor no ill feelings toward his uncle, and was instrumental in distributing many volumes of the "great dictionary" around Connecticut. From all the spelling variations I've found in these old texts, I can only think that this was a good thing. John W.Webster was so highly regarded that a fly was named in his honor, one that he claimed was "nearly perfect, and effective on any waters". Mr. Webster's fly shown below, along with the recipes for both the Molechunkemunk, Richardson and Webster.



    Tip: Silver tinsel

    Tail: Golden pheasant crest

    Ribbing: Silver tinsel

    Body: Black floss

    Hackle: Deep brown hen

    Wing: Fine mottled guinea


    Ribbing: Silver tinsel

    Body: Orange floss

    Hackle: Furnace

    Wing: Bronze mallard


    Tip: Gold tinsel

    Tail: Bronze mallard

    Body: Light blue floss

    Hackle: Black tied palmer

    Wing: Bronze mallard

Credits: Camp Life in the Wilderness by Capt. Charles A. J. Farrar; Through the Wilds by Capt. Charles A. J. Farrar; Flies by J. Edson Leonard; Trout by Ray Bergman; Carrie Stevens by Graydon R. Hilyard; Outing Volume Vlll Issue 3 June 1886 "Trout Fishing In Maine" by Ripley Hitchcock; Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Noah Webster, article from Connecticut Magazine by Wilbur Webster Judd; ~ 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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