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?

Craig's Night Time

By Alan Shepherd, Australia (Tasmania)
Tied and Photographed by Richard Komar, Plano, Texas

This fly originates from the North Island of New Zealand. It is the conception of a Mr. Craig, whose first name was either Charles or Eric. In 1930 Mr. Craig first made this pattern, which now bears his name. Apparently he dressed the fly as a crayfish imitation to be fished at night. Mr Craig first tested his new fly in Lake Taupo, where the Waitahanui River runs into the lake. A few other anglers were also fishing the rip but Mr. Craig, using his new fly, caught the most fish. Some time later he made the fly in two versions, one with a black chenille body for use on dark nights, and one with a light blue chenille body to use on moonlit nights.

Throughout Australia's and New Zealand's trout holding waters, the Craig's Night Time is an all time favorite fly for night fishing, particularly in lakes. At Lake Taupo it is held in such high regard, that many after dark anglers, have boxes full of Craig's, and Craig's only.

Some say the Craig's Night Time is taken for a dragonfly larvae, perhaps it is when fished higher in the water column, others swear trout take it as a crayfish. There are two species of freshwater crayfish in New Zealand. Paranephrops planifrons is the only North Island species.
<i><b>Paranephrops planifrons</i></b>
Paranephrops planifrons

Viewed from above this crayfish is a dull brownish-green color. To me the Craig's Night Time looks nothing like a crayfish and no matter how hard I compare the fly with the crayfish, I can't see how trout distinguish it as a crayfish.

Regardless of why fish take it, the Craig's Night Time is one of the best all round searching patterns for trout at night and it is not necessarily only a night fly; it will also take fish during the day. Apparently, for some mysterious reason, during the warmer months when the trout are feeding on midges at first light, the Craig's Night Time gets results.

Once mastered, the art of fly-fishing in the evening and on into the mysterious darkness of night can be extremely rewarding. Many anglers find it difficult to cast at night. The point about casting in the dark upsetting ones timing, can be counteracted by practicing casting with eyes closed.

At Lake Taupo fly fishing at night is traditional, especially at the mouths of several rivers feeding the lake. This is because at night, crayfish venture from the shelter of their deeper daytime burrows and move inshore to feed on decaying vegetable or animal matter. Trout, particularly brown trout, will also venture into very shallow areas feeling more secure under the cover of darkness. On dark moonless nights, trout will swim right in close to the edge. Therefore, it is not always necessary to cast long distances as the trout are virtually under your feet. An added bonus to night fishing is the fact that the bigger trout are generally more active at night.

Where a stream runs into a lake it creates a visible area of turbulence, known as a 'rip.' The rip will be triangular or parabolic in shape and on a moonlit night, you can actually make out the rip as a different 'surface texture'. If there is a decent current flowing into the lake, cast the fly across the rip and let the stream current swing the fly into the 'apex' of the rip. Use a full floating line with 8 feet of straight-gauge leader. The pukeko-style wing has a bulky water resistant profile, which means the fly will sink rather slowly. Allow the fly to swing to the end of the rip. Before starting the retrieve it, fish it stationary for at least a minute. Then the fly is fished along the bottom where the natural crayfish will be. Retrieve the fly using a slow figure of eight or a stop-start jerky retrieve. Use the slowest retrieve you can tolerate, the slower the better. If the current is from a very small stream, an immediate slow retrieve along the bottom is usually best. Here the apex of the rip is only a short distance out and the trout will hopefully be closer to the shore.

In Australia and New Zealand, the Craig's Night Time is a 'must-have' fly when fishing in still-waters, particularly after dark and especially where a river runs into a lake. I would venture to say that the Craig's Night Time would also be a successful fly in South America. This is because once Australia, New Zealand and South America were all joined together as the ancient southern continent of Gondwana. It is therefore not surprising to find that Australian, and New Zealand crayfish have their closest affinities with South American species.

New Zealand's common Purple Swamp hen
The Pukeko Porhyrio porphyrio
New Zealand's common Purple Swamp hen

Materials Craig's Night Time (Charles or Eric Craig)

    Hook: Size 2 - 10.

    Tail: Short tuft of red wool.

    Body: Black wool or chenille, ribbed with silver tinsel.

    Wing: 3 matched pukeko breast feathers or suitable substitute such as selected bluish black duck or ring neck pheasant feathers, tied in on top and extending just past the hook bend.

    Hackle: Black and soft hen hackle.

    Topping: One jungle cock eye laid on top of the wing.

    Other New Zealand flies dressed in the 'pukeko-style' include the Taihape Tickler, the Scotch Poacher and the Moonlight Special. Recipes below.

Tying Instructions: Craig's Night Time

1. Wrap a nice even base of thread starting near the eye of the hook and extending to the point where you are going to tie in the tail. This point should be roughly level with the barb on the hook.

2. Tie in a small tuft of red wool and trim the excess wool.

3. Bind in the flat silver tinsel and trim the excess. Use a tinsel that will give you the required look to the fly.

4. Next strip some of the material from the bottom of a strip black chenille and tie it. Now trim any excess and wind the thread forward to a point behind the eye. Leave enough room for tying in the wing.

5. Now wind the chenille evenly towards the thread. Each successive turn should be just in the front of the previous one creating a nice thick body. When you reach the thread, tie chenille off and trim any left excess.

6. Wind the tinsel forward through the body of the fly toward the hook eye. Use no more than 5 turns and no less than four to complete this task and trim any excess.

7. Now take your pre-selected wing feathers. Line them up, one on top of the other in your hand. Measure the wing feathers with the stripped feather base so that they just overhang the tag of the fly. Pinch them between your thumb and forefingers at the point they are to be tied in. Take loose turns of thread first near your finger tips getting progressively tighter as you move towards the hook eye. This is vital if the wing is to sit correctly and not splay.

8. Trim the excess or the feather stubs. Cut on an angle, this will give you a nice flat angled base on which to wrap a thread head and complete the pattern. Take several turns of thread to get the correct look.

9. The profile of this pattern is critical. It is most important to get this part right.

10. Tie in the Jungle Cock feather flat along the wing as shown. This is an optional part of the fly many commercial dressers leaving it as it is in the previous shot.

11. Tie in soft black hen hackle, wet fly style. Make one turn of hackle, tie off and trim the excess hackle short. Part the top of the hackle and stroke downwards using thumb and forefinger. Now come back with a few wraps of the tying thread locking in the hackle, full beard style. Finally form a head, whip finish and add head cement.

These flies are tied with the same method.

Taihape Tickler

    Hook: Size 6.

    Tag: No tag or tail.

    Body: Yellow chenille ribbed with silver tinsel.

    Wing: Three matched pukeko feathers, extending just past the hook bend.

    Hackle: Soft claret webby hen (full hackle).

    Scotch Poacher

    Hook: Size 6.

    Tag: Squirrel tail dyed black.

    Body: Orange chenille ribbed with gold tinsel.

    Wing: Three matched pukeko feathers, extending just past the hook bend.

    Hackle: Soft yellow webby hen (full hackle).

    Moonlight Special

    Hook: Size 6

    Tag: Red hackle fibres.

    Body: Yellow chenille ribbed with silver tinsel.

    Wing: Three matched guinea fowl body feathers, extending just past the hook bend.

    Hackle: Soft yellow webby hen (full hackle).

    ~ Alan & Richard

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