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 todays 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 . .

Part Eighty-eight

Cooper Bug

Cooper Bug

By LadyFisher

Concerning this fly, the originator, Ken Cooper says:

"This fly just happened. Bass fishing and bass flies do not intrigue me very greatly, but when I cannot fish for trout I do not scorn the bass or bluegill. They are an excuse to get out in the open, which always seems to give me a new lease on life.

"In 1936, while preparing for a bass fishing, I put a hook in my fly-tying vise and tried to figure out what to tie on it to try out on this trip. A red tail seemed to be a good start so I put on a red deer hair tail, then a red wool body with a gold rib, next a bunch of deer hair. I divided it to make wings at right angles to the hook. This gave me a fly that would look reasonably large but be light in weight, also lift and handle nicely with a bass rod. The butt of the deer hair blossomed out into quite a topknot but instead of cutting it off, it was tied to stand upright and was cut flat across the top leaving a V-shaped topknot about five-eighths of an inch high. The finished fly was tossed into the air a few times to see how it would land and much to my surprise it always landed right side up, the V top acting as a parachute.

"This was something different. I selected Pine Lake, a hard-fished body of water for the try-out. It was a beautiful moonlight night and I fished alone and fished all night. The bass seemed to like this bug and so did I, as the topknot gave it good visibility.

"I gave one of these bugs to Al Hilde, a brother-in-law of Paul Young, of Detroit, to try out and asked him to suggest a name. He said it looked like a French poodle that had been sheared, and suggested the name Poodle Bug and thus was it born and named.

From Trout

"In 1938 Ray Bergman came out with a book called "Trout." While he was gathering material for his book, Phil Armstrong thought he should have one of my flies and I gave Phil a Poodle Bug, which he personally delivered to Ray. Phil thought he could improve on the name of the fly so he told Ray the name was Cooper Bug. On color plate number 15 in Bergman's book there is a picture of this fly and it is called a Cooper Bug."

"It was Ken Cooper of Detroit who brought polar bear flies to the attention of fly fishermen in the States. Ken, making no claim of being the originator says:

"I was working for Lou J. Eppinger in 1932 and used to prowl around in the taxidermy shop, looking for fur or feathers to make flies. They had a mounted polar bear that had outlived its usefulness. It was a sorry sight and I said to the taxidermist, 'Why don't you throw it out?' and he said, 'I would like to, but the boss thinks we should save it.' So I asked Lou how much he thought it was worth. He smiled and said, 'Do you want it for fly tying material? Well, help yourself.' I walked into the taxidermy shop and cut about a yard of hide off that bear, told the taxidermist to wash it, cut it up in small pieces, put it in the tumbling barrel with some hardwood sawdust and do a good job, and we would soon be rid of that bear. I tied up some polar bear flies for the store and sold the balance of the bear hide for fly tying. It did not last long."

Some folks just seem to have all the great ideas, although polar bear hair was already popular in Canada, it had not been used in the US. The Cooper Bug was a very successful trout fly as well. ~ LadyFisher

Credits: Quotes and drawing from Fly Pattern and Their Origins (1950), by Harold Hinsdill Smedley, published by Westshore Publications, Muskegon, Michigan. Colored photo from Ray Bergman's Trout.

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