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 Ninety-two

Silver Brown

Silver Brown

By Art Lingren

Developed in the 1930's as an imitation of a cutthroat trout or coho salmon fry, Haid-Brown claims that the Silver Brown is an effective "cutthroat pattern for maturing fish in August and September," and that it also "takes summer steelhead and coho in fresh water" (The Western Angler, 1939, V.II, p. 174). On September 4, 1936, after a morning trying for tyee, the Brayshaws joined the Haig-Browns on a picnic to the Campbell's Canyon Pool. Tommy Brayshaw recorded in his diary the events of the day and a partial dressing for the fly that his friend used that long-ago day. Brayshaw writes:

Sept 4th Boats out with high hopes but nothing doing only two small tyee being caught yet the water was alive with fish. Made up lunch & and went to the Haig-Browns and Mary Ellmore to the Canyon for trout & a picnic. I couldn't fish it as I had no waders. Roddy in half an hour got three of 3 3/4, 1 3/4 & 1 1/4 on a slim silver bodies fly: #6 Low Water hook, brown hackle & Golden Pheasant wing.

Haig-Brown's original dressing didn't include the orange polar bear hair, that came later and the full dressing is given on page 32 of Fisherman's Spring (1951).

Many Haid-Brown enthusiasts have a favorite Haig-Brown pappern. For my angling chum Bob Taylor is the is Silver Brown. In an August 1990 trip to the Skeena River watershed, Taylor and I decided to drive over the devide to the nearby Kitimat River and fish for cutthroat trout. We had an excellent time. We both did well from the outset - Bob with a nondescript silver-bodied fly, and I with a dark pattern.

Near Day's end, Bob was fishing a little aheqd of me and finding fish with remarkable regularity. When we finally got together for the return walk to the turck, I asked whether he had stuck with his first choice. Bob said no, he had switched to a Silver Brown. Eight of his last ten fish had come fast and duriously to that Haig-Brown pattern. Taylor had relied on the Silver Brown for nearly 40 years. He hasn't been disappointed.


    Hooks:  Size 6 or 8 low-water salmon.

    Tail:  A small, whole Indian crow feather or other small reddish orange feather.

    Body:  Flat silver tinsel.

    Throat:  A natural red-brown hackle.

    Wing:  Slender strips of golden pheasant center tail feather enclosing a few strands of orange polar bear fur.

Tying Instructions:

1. With a size 8 or 6 low-water salmon hook in the vise, tie in a small reddish orange feather for the tail, wind thread to hook eye and tie in about an 8-inch length of broad, flat silver Mylar tinsel.

2. After winding the Mylar tinsel in even turn down the hook shank to the tail and back to the eye, fix to the hook a folded natural red hackle with barbules a little longer than the hook gape.

3. Take two, and no more than three, turns of the folded hackle and tie off after pulling the top hackle barbules away from the top of the hook shank, and tie in a few strands of orange polar bear hair back over hook shank to support golden pheasant feather (Step 4).

4. Tie in two slender strips of golden pheasant center tail feather to lie low over hook shank, clip off feather ends, take a few extra turns of tying thread, whip-finish and varnish. ~ Art Lingren

This excerpt is from an article which originally appeared in Fly Tying Magazine, Vol.3, #3, 1998. We sincerely appreciate use permission from Frank Amato Publications. ~ LadyFisher

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