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 seventy-five

Railbird

Railbird

Compiled by Deanna Birkholm


This fly has been famous for taking steelhead and many other species of western trout, particularly on the Eel and Klamath rivers. The variation shown was tied by C. Jim Pray.

The origin of this well known West Coast fly was the invention of John S. Benn, and Irish fly tier. He was born in Malta, County Cork, Ireland in 1838, moved to San Francisco about 1855, where he died in 1907.

The original patterns were from feathers of the game bird whose name the fly bears. A steelhead fly, it was dressed with a black head, dark claret wool body, yellow throat palmer tied with claret, yellow tail, and a gray mallard wing.

Another of his patterns was the Martha, named after his favorite daughter, a constant companion.

The Soule is also his pattern, name after Henry H. Soule, the outdoor writer and author of Canoe and Camp Cookery, 1885, and Hints and Points for Sportsmen, 1889, both issued under his pseudonym "Seneca."

Railbird
as tied by C. Jim Pray

    Head:   Black.

    Tag:   Flat silver tinsel.

    Tail:   An Amherst pheasant crest feather, very long. (A small bunch of claret or scarlet hackle fibers may be substituted. Yellow is used on some variations).

    Body:   Of claret wool, fairly thin, palmered with claret hackle, medium thich and fairly long. (This fly usually is dressed on a heavy number 1 hook, very short).

    Throat:   A yellow hackle tied on as a collar, moderately heavily dressed and as long as the palmered claret hackle.

    Wing:   A small bunch of grey fox tail hair, very long, extending beyond the tail.

    Cheek:   Jungle cock, dressed high and rather long.

Credits: Information from Fly Patterns and Their Origins by Harold Hinsdill Smedley, and Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing by Joseph D. Bates, Jr., published by Stackpole Books.

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