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 WHITE MILLER
I was quite surprised not to find this one in the archives. When I think of the wet flies of my youth, of the 1960s, I think of this fly almost immediately along with the Parmachene Belle. It was popular then, it was popular in the 1920s, and it was popular in the late 1800s. It's popular now in certain circles. I think this one has been with us in this country from the very beginning.
In his book Practical Fly Fishing from 1920, Larry St. John poled the most expert bass fishermen in the Midwest, asking for the names of their favorite 12 bass flies. The top two, you guessed it, the White Miller and the Parmachene Belle, but the fly goes back farther than that. It is mentioned in The Determined Angler and the Brook Trout from 1916, where author Charles Bradford claims it to be an accurate imitation of the White Miller Moth. He alludes to previous mentions in Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies as well as Charles F. Orvis' Fishing With the Fly, but the fly goes back farther than that. In 1881, Seneca Ray Stoddard said this about the White Miller in his book The Adirondacks:
I think I am safe in saying that the largest trout are caught at dusk or during starlight or moonlight nights; if I am too broad in making this assertion I will modify it by saying large trout may be caught at this time by using a white miller, or a fly in which white predominates; and, too, you must use a larger hook than the one you used during the day.
But the fly goes back farther than that. In 1875 Genio C. Scott speaks of the White Miller salmon fly in his work Fishing in American Waters. Fly Fishing in Salt and Fresh Water by Horace Gordon Hutchinson mentions the fly in 1851, in association with fishing the tributaries of Lake Superior.
It seems the fly was always considered an excellent fly for evening fishing. It didn't seem to matter what fish, trout, salmon, bass, it always worked at night in the summer time. But how far back does this fly really go?
How about all the way back to Izaak Walton and The Compleat Angler? Well, not quite, but it does appear in later editions, called the "Complete Angler" by then, with annotations from Cotton and Sir John Hawkins. It is listed in a footnote to the Owl Fly, one from the original book, as a variation. That version had a body of white ostrich herl, but is otherwise similar to the one used in America in the 20th century. The oldest version of this edition I've found is 1822.
So is the White Miller still used today? Yes, by a few die-hards like Reed Curry, my friend from New Hampshire, people who know the fly's worth. He catches fish with it too! I had two different workers at my local fly shop recommend the fly to me for the Leukon hatch on our Mad River here. Ray Bergman always said that brown trout just can't resist a white bodied fly. They haven't resisted the White Miller for at least two centuries, why should they stop now? It's a great bass fly as well, and a good salmon fly. Just do a Google books search on White Miller Fly and look at the variety of modern-day books that still talk about the fly. Why don't more of us fish it? I'm not sure. We like to think we're more scientific than that I guess. Our loss.
The White Miller
Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman; Practical Fly Fishing by Larry St. John; The Adirondacks by Seneca Ray Stoddard; Fishing in American Waters by Genio C. Scott;Fly Fishing in Salt and Fresh Water by Horace Gordon Hutchinson;The Determined Angler and the Brook Trout by Charles Bradford;Favorite Flies and Their Historieas by Mary Orvis Marbury;Fishing with the Fly by Charles F. Orvis;~ EA
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