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 Larry Bordas, Pennsylvania

While sport fishing for steelhead may not have as long a history as say, Atlantic salmon or even trout, its West coast history extends back to the 1800's. One of the men credited with pioneering sport fly-fishing for steelhead was John Benn, an Irish immigrant who eventually settled near San Francisco. He later purchased a home near Scotia and became one of the great Eel River fly tiers. At first the majority of fly-fishing for steelhead was done using trout flies from Europe and back east. The names of these flies would be very familiar to trout fishermen today. Flies with familiar names like Royal Coachmen, Parmacheene Belle, Montreal and others were the norm in fly boxes. This started to change when Mr. Benn along with other early tiers started tying flies specifically for local steelhead. One of Mr. Benn's earliest flies was the Martha, a fly named for Benn's daughter. In addition to the steelhead flies tied for surrounding local rivers, Mr. Benn also had many customers for his trout flies. One of those customers was Mr. Ramon Wilson who named Mr. Benn along with some of his flies in a letter to Mary Orvis Marbury for her book Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Mr. Wilson also mentions in his letter that he preferred his flies tied on hooks with the eye turned down.

After seeing photos of early steelhead flies tied on hooks with down eyes, I decided to used a down turned eye for my version of the Martha as well.


    Tail: Red hackle

    Body: Rear half, red floss; Front half, yellow floss.

    Rib: Oval gold tinsel.

    Hackle: Brown

    Wing: Mallard flank.

Credits: Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies by Trey Combs ~ LB

About Larry:

My mother always said that I got my love of the outdoors from my grandfather and it was this love of the outdoor life and to be near the great hunting and fishing that led me to relocate to Lycoming County of northern Pennsylvania. While I have been a fisherman since I was six, I have only been fly fishing and tying for the past 15 years and consider myself at best only an average fly tier and fisherman. I started teaching myself fly fishing and to tie flies by reading books and talking to other fly fishermen and as I learned about the nuts and bolts of fly fishing, such as casting, drag and matching the hatch, I slowly developed an appreciation of the history and great tradition of the sport. While learning about the history and tying these old wet flies has given me hours of enjoyment, my real enjoyment and memories comes from fishing with and sharing with others information about these historic flies. ~ LB

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