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 Childers Salmon Fly

Childers Wet Fly
By Eric Austin, Ohio

I get the feeling upon reading The Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers that Colonel Michael Childers may have been considered something of a black sheep by the rest of this military family. Hugh C.E. Childers goes on to become an Admiral in the British navy, among other things, while the only mention of Michael in this memoir is as follows:

"Colonel Walbanke Childers, my grandfather, who was for many years on the staff of the Duke of York, both at the Horse Guards and in the Low Countries. He commanded his regiment, the 11th Light Dragoons, as did his brother, Colonel Michael Childers, C.B., an officer of distinction in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, and at Bhurtpore. He was keen sportsman, and the "Childers" fly is well know on the Tweed. "

That appears to be it. Perhaps the lure of field and stream was just too much, and he was led astray and never realized the ambitions that characterized the rest of the family, we'll never know. But as for me, I say a life well spent. As far as the fly goes, it's a classic in every last sense of the world, and a real favorite of many of us who do these. William Henderson, in his book My Life as an Angler, gives Childers a lesson in worm fishing after a chance encounter, and has this to say of the get together: "I cannot close my narrative of this short campaign without some reference to the two gentlemen with whom on its first day we had the pleasure of becoming acquainted. The names of both may be considered historical. Colonel Childers had been for many years a leader in the sporting world, and an authority whose opinion was considered decisive in almost every description of sport."

Childers' name peppers the fly fishing literature of the day, as in this example from a trip to the Awe from Seventy Years' Fishing by Charles George Barrington: "Two well-known sportsmen, Major Pearson and Colonel Childers, were wont, in bygone days, to stay at Taynuilt for the summer fishing. Major Pearson and Colonel Childers ' were both credited with having killed a fish of 40 Ibs. "

H. Cholmondeley-Pennel gives the following dressing for the fly, with comments, in his classic work Fishing, from 1886:

    Tag: Silver twist and light blue silk.
    Tail: A topping with strands of red macaw, powdered blue macaw, and pintail.
    Butt: Black herl.
    Body: Two turns of light yellow silk continuing with light yellow seal's fur, leaving one-fifth at the shoulder for scarlet seal's fur.
    Ribbed: Silver lace and silver tinsel.
    Hackle : A white furnace hackle dyed light yellow.
    Throat: A scarlet hackle and light widgeon.
    Wing: Golden pheasant tippet and tail, turkey, silver pheasant, pintail, summer duck, bustard, powdered blue macaw, parrot, red macaw, and gallina, with two strips of mallard above and a topping.
    Horns: Blue macaw.
    Cheeks: Chatterer.
    Head: Black herl.

"This fly is an old favourite, having been introduced about the year 1850. Dressed large or small it kills well in any part of the three kingdoms. Originally Colonel Childers, who was the inventor, ' formulated ' this fly without a topping, but there is some justification for the addition of one, as, to use his own words, he 'always put one when he could get it.' The black ' list ' down the centre of the hackle has a very telling effect in the water. It is as well to note that ' turkey,' unless when otherwise indicated, means the brown mottled feather. "

It's interesting to note that this recipe comes through many authors' books virtually unscathed, though almost all replace the Silver pheasant with Amhurst pheasant. Then of course there is always Pryce-Tannatt, who could never leave a good thing alone. I've got to quote one of the fine fly dressers of the modern era here, Wolfgang von Malottke from Germany, whose favorite fly is the Childers. He says on his web page, after giving the recipe for Colonel Michael Childers' beloved fly:

"The Childers is my own personal favorite - - the absolute perfect combination of colors, The originator was a Colonel Childer, and according to my research he developed this excellent piece of artwork sometimes around 1885. Like other classics there are many variations on this one , everyone has his right to an opinion I suppose. But to do as Pryce-Tannatt seemed to do, and completely devastate such a beautiful fly pattern is beyond my comprehension."

As you can see, passions run high where this fly is concerned. We all make little tweaks on these flies as we do them, many times dictated by material availability and suitability. Dr. Pryce-Tannat went way beyond little tweaks, often changing the fly into something else altogether. Here is another version of the fly from Kelson:

The Childers

    Tag: Silver twist and light blue silk

    Tail: A topping, strands of red and powdered blue macaw, and pintail

    Butt: Black herl

    Body: Two turns of light yellow silk, followed by light yellow seal's fur, and three turns of scarlet seal's fur at the throat

    Ribs: Silver lace and silver tinsel (oval)

    Hackle: White furnace hackle, dyed light yellow [badger is specified elsewhere, and makes more sense]

    Throat: A scarlet hackle and widgeon

    Wings: Strands of tippet, and tail of golden pheasant; brown mottled turkey, Amhurst pheasant, pintail, bustard, summer duck, parrot (green), powdered blue and red macaw, gallina, mallard and a topping

    Horns: Blue macaw

    Cheeks: Chatterer

    Head: Black herl

Credits: The Life and Correspondence of the Right Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers by Lieut.-Col. Spencer Childers, C.B.; My Life as an Angler by William Henderson; Fishing by H. Cholmondeley-Pennel; Seventy Years' Fishing by Charles George Barrington; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin; Classic Salmonflies, Wolfgang Von Malottke ~ 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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