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?



By Eric Austin
Fly tied by Eric Austin

Mary Orvis Marbury's turn of the century book Favorite Flies and their Histories is an unending source of fascinating anecdotes and fly fishing stories, and while reading them, you begin to get the idea that not much has changed in 100 years or so. But when you get to the Western part of the book, there is a big departure. This is the wild west of Buffalo Bill that is being described in letters, and a yarn spun in a letter she received from "Tamarrack" really gives you the flavor:

"In October, 1877, while accompanying an expedition to the far West, we marched overland from Corinne, Utah, to Missoula, Montana, a distance of six hundred miles. We were forty-one days on the road, and suffered some hardships, including a snow blockade of five days on the main divide of the Rockies, where the thermometer fell from forty above to twenty below zero in twelve hours. For the benefit of those who do not know, I will say that all marches are regulated by wood and water, especially the latter. Our fifth camp was on a beautiful little stream about twenty feet wide, which wound and twisted in nearly all direction[s] in its efforts to reach the Snake River, and from there to the Pacific.

As soon as the tents were pitched we rushed to the stream, clear as crystal, for water; and oh! The beauty of the sight! Trout of all sizes, from the two-pounder on down, were literally swarming in a pool. When I was a little boy, I heard my father speak about catching trout with a piece of red flannel. My boyhood recollections stood me in good place. Running to my tent, I got a piece of flannel, tied it on the hook, and made my first cast."

Tamarrack succeeds in landing his first trout, an eight incher, and then goes on to fabricate his first fly rod from a sapling. It is the first rod in a series, each new design improving on the one before. These days, our idea of hardships endured on fishing trips involve your rod getting lost at the airport, your having to use your buddy's for a day, and the water at the motel being a little harder than you're used to. I'd say a 600 mile march in the Rockies in winter to get to the stream is a REAL hardship. Anyway, this week's fly evokes those days. It was sent to Mary Orvis Marbury by a fisherman living in Laramie City, Wyoming. It had no name, but was reportedly successful in that area.

She goes on to say "We copied the fly, and in order to distinguish it and locate its usefulness called it the Laramie because it first came to us with its record from that place. Since then it has been much used in the far West, and seems adapted to the streams of that section of the country."

The Laramie survived at least up to the publication of Ray Bergman's Trout in 1938, where it can be found with many other wet flies in use at that time. I've done the Mary Orvis Marbury version, which has a short tail of yarn, rather than the longer tail found in the Ray Bergman book.

Here's the recipe for The Laramie:

    Tip: Silver tinsel.

    Tail: Deep wine.

    Body: Deep wine wool.

    Rib: Silver tinsel.

    Wing: Dark gray or speckled dark gray (I used natural goose primaries).

    Hackle: Black.

~ Eric Austin

Credits: Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Trout by Ray Bergman.

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