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 Jess Wood Streamer
I was asked if I could come up with a fly that had some "birthday" connotations for the FAOL 12th anniversary issue, but alas, my sources yielded nothing. But I did want to do something special, and this is it. I've wanted to do this fly for years, which is prominently featured in Ray Bergman's "Trout" along with some other special flies like the Fontinalis flies and some very early nymphs.
The reason I haven't done the Jess Wood before now is that the feathers that make up the wings are nearly unobtainable. They were called "Yanosh", and are plumage from the Bali Duck. I had never even seen these feathers anywhere, not in other books, nowhere on-line. Then, out of the blue, my friend Catskill John Bonasera put up a photo of a beautiful Jess Wood he had tied on one of the Catskill websites. I mentioned in my reply post regarding his gorgeous work that it was one I had always wanted to do, but never had seen the feathers anywhere. I asked if he had used Yanosh, thinking he might have married other feathers to get the desired effect. John replied that the feathers were the real McCoy.
Imagine my stunned surprise when about a week or so later a letter showed up from John containing his last pair of Bali Duck feathers! He had tied two flies with some feathers someone had sent him (he gave those flies away), and then sent me the one remaining pair he had. This sort of generosity is amazing, but typical of John, and typical also of the fly tying community at large. In any case, it was the nicest of gestures and very much appreciated.
So I finally had a pair of the coveted feathers, and all I had to do now was tie the fly. Just one problem, I only had the single pair. There would be no room for error, no do-overs, and I must admit I was fairly terrified by the prospect of screwing this up. So the feathers sat on my desk for a period of weeks. Finally, the request for a fly for the twelfth anniversary of FAOL arrived and I realized that it was now or never.
Tying the fly was actually a somewhat relaxed affair, and I just took my time. I've done the tandem version from "Trout", but the fly was also tied on a single streamer hook. I was able to find a reference to J.E. Wood and Sons tackle shop in Ed Van Put's book on the Catskills, and wonder if J.E. was Jess. The fly shop was in operation in 1930, in Walton, New York, right around the time Ray Bergman was writing "Just Fishing". Reference to the Jess Wood appears in two Bergman books, "Trout" and "Just Fishing", and a fly called the Bali Duck is described on page 132 of "Trout". This fly also uses the Yanosh feathers. There are also references found to the "Jesse Wood" in J. Edson Leonard's "Flies" and Bali Duck Feathers are shown in Bill Blades' book "Fishing Flies and Fly Tying" on a fly called the "Galloping Ghost". The Galloping Ghost, credited to Bert Quimby from the Rangeley Region of Maine, is almost identical to the Jess Wood, other than it has an orange floss body.
I've given away some materials in my day, but the generosity of people like John Bonasara just astounds me. I never thought I'd ever see a pair of Yanosh feathers, much less tie a fly with them. John's not alone, and I have been the beneficiary of much generosity from many tiers over the years. All one can do is try to give back as one can. I can honestly say I've tried, but it seems as though it's never enough. Thanks John, and thanks to everyone who's taken the time and effort to send materials along to another tier who can really use them. It speaks well for our little community.
Body: Silver tinsel
Wing:Yanosh (Bali duck)
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