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 One hundred fifty-one

Family Secret

Family Secret

Compiled by Deanna Birkholm


Sometimes the name and story behind a fly are as interesting as the fly itself. The naming of this fly, Family Secret, reveals much about it's originator, as perhaps the same of ourselves.

From Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing by Joseph D. Bates, Jr., "Originated by Dr. Edgar Burke, of Jersey City, New Jersey, who wrote to the author" "This is really a modification of the Dr. Burke Streamer and in my own opinion is a more universally useful pattern. First used in 1928 for landlocked salmon, it proved spectacularly successful and the best catches of big salmon and trout I have ever made were due to it. It is a good pattern for virtually all fresh water game fish, bass included, and it is particularly effective for large brown trout."

"In explanation of its name, Dr. Burke says: "During a sterile spell on the upper Kennabago River (in Maine), when none of the rods then on the stream had been doing anything for days, I had enjoyed excellent fishing. I was fishing the famous Island Pool when another angler, accompanied by his guide, appeared on the footpath, obviously much disappointed to find the pool already occupied. The guide, whom I knew well, called out to me, 'Do you mind if we watch you fish for a while, Doctor?' I, of course, assented. I was taking one good fish after another. This, in view of the prevailing non-productiveness of the river, was too much for the guide. Unable to contain himself, he yelled out, 'For Pete's sake, Doctor, why fly are you using?' In a bantering tone I called back, 'That's a family secret, Jim!' Whereupon my own guide, Dick Grant, seized my arm and said, "There's the name for your fly!' and so it has been, ever since. The little incident narrated above, to the best of my recollection, was in 1928."

Family Secret (as dressed by the originator)

    Head: Black.

    Tail: Between ten and twenty peacock sword fibers, depending on size of hook. The tail is long and very bunchy.

    Body: Medium flat silver tinsel. The body is somewhat thicker than normal since it must be built up to compensate for the bulge of the tail.

    Ribbing: Narrow oval silver tinsel.

    Throat: A bunch of guinea hen hackle fibers, rather thick and long.

    Wing: Four white saddle hackles.

    Cheeks: Jungle cock.

~ DLB

Credits: Photo from Forgotten Flies by Paul Schmookler and Ingrid V. Sills, published by the Complete Sportsman. Text and recipe from: Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing by Joseph D. Bates, Jr., published by Stackpole Books.

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