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 'Royal Coachman' and Some of His Henchmen

Royal Coachman
By Tom Deschaine, Michigan


The Royal Coachman is the most recognizable fly in the entire world, known even to the non-fishers. I would hazard to guess that more Royal Coachman, along with it's many variations, have come out of a vice then any other pattern in the world. At one time or another, every tyer has tied one, and every fly fisherman has fished one. This fly has more relatives then any other pattern I can think of.

Royal Coachman (dry) shown above

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #10-20.
    Thread: Black, 6/0.
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets.
    Wings: White Mallard Quill, upright and divided.
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl.
    Hackle: Coachman Brown (dark brown).
First tied in 1876 by John Hailey, a professional tyer living in New York. He altered the original British Coachman pattern by tying a small band of silk in the middle. He also added a tail of barred wood duck feathers. It was given it's new name, Royal Coachman, by L. C. Orvis. After several more modifications over the years, the pattern pictured above is now accepted as the standard throughout the industry.

Let's take a close look at some of the more popular henchmen in the royal family. For the purpose of this article I will define a henchman (a subordinate in a royal court) as a fly that contains both peacock herl and red floss. I'm sure you will recognize some of them. This list is not intended to be the final word on all of the 'royal' patterns available. For as sure as I'd say that, dozens of tyers would take me to task and swamp me with dozens of additional patterns. It is my intent to share with you some of the more popular recipes for members of the 'royal' family.

Royal Coachman Streamer (bucktail)

    Hook: Wet Fly, 4X Long, Sizes: #4-10
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Throat: Brown Hackle
    Wing: White Calf Tail

This great old pattern can also be tied with White Saddle Hackles substituted for hair wings.

Royal Coachman (wet)

    Hook: Wet Fly, Sizes: #10-16.
    Thread: Black, 6/0/
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets.

    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Throat: Brown Hackle.
    Wings: White Duck Quill, splayed.

A classic pattern, especially deadly for brook trout and a natural for panfish too.

Fanwing Royal Coachman

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #8-20.
    Thread: Black, 6/0.
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets.
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Wing: White Duck Breast Feathers, upright and divided.
    Hackle: Coachman Brown (dark brown).

There is some confusion as to who first tied this pattern but we do know that this beautiful fly was considered, back in the 1930's, as one of the best searching patterns ever developed.

Royal Coachmen Parachute

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes #10-16
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Wing: White Calf Tail clump, tied post style
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Hackle: Coachman Brown (dark brown), tied parachute

There are variations of this fly calling for brown hackle fibers or brown bucktail fibers used in place of golden pheasant tippets.

Royal Renegade

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #10-16
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Hackle: Brown both front and back
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl

A very popular Western fly. Some variation call for a tag of flat gold tinsel and some will tie the front hackle white. May be fished wet or dry.

Royal Stimulator

    Hook: TCM 200R, 3X Long, Sizes: 10-16
    Thread: Fire Orange, 6/0
    Tail: Natural Elk
    Abdomen: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Rib: Fine Gold Wire and Brown Hackle
    Wing: Natural Elk Hair
    Thorax: Fire Orange Dubbing
    Hackle: Grizzly.

Rib may be omitted. Some fishermen prefer dark elk hair.

Royal Trude

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #6-18
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Wing: White Calf Tail, tied trude
    Hackle: Coachman Brown (dark brown)

Some tyers tie in a rib of fine gold wire. Elk hair, deer hair or Red Hackle fibers can be use for the tail.

Royal Wulff

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #8-18
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Tail: Brown Bucktail
    Wing: White Calf Tail, tied upright and divided
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Hackle: Coachman Brown (dark brown)

You may also use white bucktail for the wings.

Light Spruce

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #10-18
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Tail: Black Moose Hair
    Body: Rear half, Red Floss, front half, Peacock Herl
    Hackle: Badger

This is a very popular Western pattern.

Dr. Kirgen

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: #12-14
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets
    Body: Peacock Hearl rear quarter, Red Floss Forward
    Wings: White Calf Tail, divided, tied spent

Originated by Len Halladay, the originator of the Adams Fly. He named this fly after his fishing partner, Dr. Kirgen.

Royal Elk Hair Caddis

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes: # 12-16
    Thread: Brown, 6/0
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets
    Hackle: Coachman Brown, palmered through the body
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Wing: Natural Elk Hair, tied caddis style.

Did you ever see a fly more suited for brook or rainbow?

Wright's Royal

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes #8-16
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Butt: Peacock Herl
    Body: Red Floss
    Wing: Light Elk Hair, tied caddis style
    Hackle: Brown

Developed by Phillip Wright for the Big Hole River in Montana. It's a very effective pattern for anywhere in America.

Royal Coachman Bivisible

    Hook: Dry Fly, Sizes #10-14
    Thread: Black, 6/0
    Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippets
    Body: Peacock Herl/Red Floss/Peacock Herl
    Hackle: Brown Hackle Fibers
    Face: White Hackle Fibers.

The white face on this wingless pattern is highly visible.

I've only scratched the surface of the hundreds of variations on this theme. The wet flies and salmon patterns alone could fill volumes of pages. Remember too, that I only included flies with peacock herl and red floss. If I had altered my criteria a whole new spectrum of flies would have appeared.

The Royal Coachman and all of it's henchmen are truly the grandfather of all attractor patterns when trout aren't feeding selectively. Although it imitates nothing, it is highly productive for all species of trout and a legendary producer of brook trout.

See you on the water… ~ TD

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