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?

Bunyan Bug

Bunyan Bug

Compiled By Deanna Birkholm
Photo by Ronn Lucas, Sr., from his personal collection.


Many of those who lived in the Rocky Mountain states are familar at least with the name Bunyan Bug, 'tho most had not actually seen one until the "movie," A River Runs Through It hit the movie theaters.

Like many urban ledgends, there is some truth to at least parts of all of them. The fly supposedly was suggested by Norman Maclean (who wrote the book) and created by Norman Edward Lee Means, both men of Missoula, Montana. Or it could have been vise-versa. At any rate most will agree the Bunyan Bug was designed to imitate the Salmon Fly, a very popular hatch. Bigger was better.

The first Bunyan Bugs appeared in about 1929, and were all hand painted. Later, production models were made with a decal (fine tissue) which was lacquered in place making the paper disappear, leaving just the image.

According to George Grant in his book Montana Trout Flies, the materials are as follow:

"Hook: Size 4, heavy-wire, shank length about 1 1/4", also made with size 2 hook.

Cork Body: Just about same length as hook shank. Generally round but slightly flattened on both sides and bottom.

Color: Stained or painted deep orange. Segmented markings can be applied with permanent ink pens both top and bottom. Use black or dark brown ink.

Wings: Hair from horse mane, blonde or light sandy, inserted into front end of body so that wings will lie flat and spent.

Tying note: Body with wings cemented in slit, should be slit (not very deep) lengthwise and placed on top of hook so that almost all of the cork body is on top.

A strong tying thread, attached to the hook shank prior to positioning the cork body, will now be wound firmly at segment marking to firmly seat the body on the shank.

Use of strong adhesives in seating both wings and body will assist in keeping all parts in proper position.

Tying thread should be fastened off ahead of the wings with a whip finish. Coat entire body with clear varnish."

In a Fly Tyer article, (vol. 5, issue 2, August 1982, page 36 written by Bob Newell), it was mentioned that other patterns were also available, grasshopper, stonefly, drakes, horse fly, bubble bee, ants and caddis, a total of 15 different patterns.

Start saving your wine corks...ought to work just fine. ~ DLB

Credits: The quoted text from Montana Trout Flies, by George Grant.

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