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-six

Variant

Variant

By Deanna Birkholm


"The variant is a style rather than a pattern, for it now comes in standard patterns," according to Fly Patterns and Their Origins, " This long hackle design belongs to Dr. Wm. Baigent . . . of England. This fly dates about 1875. According to Mr. Baigent, when dry flies were beginning to be used he commenced dressing the "more lightly and with longer but less hackle and called them 'long- hackled, sparsely dressed flies'." Whe they became know they were referred to as "a new variety of floater" and later as "variant." It is said that it orginally was "Baigent's variant of Pools's Hackle." The Pool Hackle was a wet fly with long, sparse hackle.

Illustration from Fly Patterns and Their Origins The multi-colored variant was orginated by Albert C. Barrel, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a fishing writer and for many years editor of a newspaper fishing column. He died about 1940.

The Southcote variant, a long, dark, smoky gray hackles that stand out in a bristly way and small gray wings pointing forward with gold tinsel body, which reflects the color of its surroundings and conveys their appearance, was named after George southcote, the non de plume of Sir George Ashton, author of Mostly About Trout,1921, and Letters to a Young Flyfisherman 1926, who lived near the River Avon in Wiltshire, England."

drawing from Modern Dry Fly Code Vincent C. Marinaro, in A Modern Dry Fly Code does not give credit for the Variant's origin, but comments, "Relieve the so-called standard pattern of wings, body and tail, lengthen the hackle somewhat, and a spider is born. Add a considerable amount of hackle for the entire length of the hook shank, a spicy turn or two of contrasting color, and the bivisible emerges. Alterations to these fundamental changes have created an endless variety of patterns in different shapes, sizes (generally very large), and colors. Some bivisibles have forked tails and some do not. Some are tied with wings and some without. Small wings and a small body are often added to the spider, and it becomes a variant."

~ LadyFisher

Information and drawings from Fly Patterns and Their Origins, published by Westshore Publications, and A Modern Dry Fly Code (reprinted by Lyons press.) Color photo from Forgotten Flies. We appreciate use permission!

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