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 Silver Doctor Wet Fly

Silver Doctor Wet Fly
By Eric Austin, Ohio

We all know the famous Silver Doctor Salmon fly, and a hairwing version of the full dress fly tied by Dick Talleur was previously shown on FAOL as a fly of the week: flytying/fotw2/091701fotw.php

The wet fly above is one of a number of reductions and variations on the original. I've done a version of the original salmon fly here for comparison:

Silver Doctor Salmon Fly

There were several famous salmon flies that appeared in the States and Canada, brought over from England and Scotland. It was natural for them to be done in smaller, less complicated versions, as wet flies for brook trout. The wet fly at the top is from Ray Bergman's Trout, and there are other similar reductions found therein as well. In the coming weeks I'll do pairs of flies as I've done here, showing both the smaller wet fly version and the full dress fly.

The wet fly from Bergman is very close to Henry P. Wells' version of the fly shown in Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies. The golden pheasant crest tail is mysteriously missing on the fly shown in the book, an oversight I think, and there is no guinea hackle on what purports to be Wells' fly. However, Mrs. Marbury goes on to say "We believe Mr. Wells now adds the gallina hackle outside the blue hackle on the lake fly as well as on the salmon fly, but this was learned too late to be shown in this plate."

James Wright created the Silver Doctor salmon fly in 1850. He lived in Sprouston, Roxburghshire, Scotland, close to the banks of the river Tweed. Wright was quite possibly the greatest fly dresser to have ever lived. He was responsible not only for a large percentage of the famous salmon flies done in the 1800s, but for the legendary trout fly, the Greenwell's Glory as well. The Silver Doctor, one of just a handful of silver-bodied salmon flies, was enormously popular with anglers then, and remains so today. The fly was exported to the Americas where it became more popular still, finding great acceptance in Canada and the northern U.S. Many versions have been done of this fly over the last century, including hair-wings, bucktails, streamers, wet fly reductions, and countless variations of the feather wing salmon fly itself, and have tempted brook trout, rainbows, steelhead, muskies, smallmouth bass, and of course, salmon, for decades.

Now for my own rather painful Silver Doctor story. On the cover of the "Universal Fly Tying Guide" by Dick Stewart is a Silver Doctor. After resuming fly tying in my 40s I got to the point where I thought I was getting pretty good, and decided to do that Silver Doctor, a fly that I perceived to be the culmination of the fly tier's art. I started with #8 salmon fly hooks, smaller than hooks I tie wet flies on now, and over time graduated to larger hooks, 1/0 and finally 2/0. I tied over 75 Silver Doctors, always hoping against hope that this one would be the good one. The good one never came. I became so despondent that I stopped tying all together for two years. When I resumed, I vowed never to do a salmon fly again, or worse, another Silver Doctor. After awhile I started working on wet flies, with the idea in the back of my mind that maybe they would be a good stepping stone toward the dreaded full dress flies. Sure enough that proved to be the case, and this week I tied the fly shown above. The operative word here is perseverance. So hang in there, and when you're ready, give this one a go!

Silver Doctor Wet Fly (Bergman)

    Tip: Scarlet floss and gold tinsel

    Tail: Golden pheasant crest-dash of blue

    Ribing: Oval silver tinsel

    Body: Flat silver tinsel

    Hackle: Blue and guinea (Kenya crested guinea shown here)

    Wing: Brown turkey, teal, blue yellow

Silver Doctor Salmon Fly (Wright)

    Tag: Silver twist and yellow silk

    Tail: Golden pheasant crest with a chatter feather over

    Butt: Scarlet wool

    Ribing: Oval silver tinsel

    Body: Flat silver tinsel

    Throat: A blue hackle and gallina

    Wings: Strands of tippet, summer duck, pintail, golden pheasant tail, swan dyed light yellow and light blue, bustard, mallard and a topping

    Horns(optional): Blue macaw

    Head: Scarlet wool

Credits: Universal Fly Tying Guide by Dick Stewart; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin; Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; 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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