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?


The Blue Quill


By Eric Austin


There is not much argument about the Blue Quill. This hatch occurs in early April, and in Ohio, is typically a good one. Brian Flechsig in his book on the Mad River has this hatch as the Paraleptophlebia adoptiva, and when it comes to the Latin, I'm not one to argue. What I can say for sure is that the small pale blue dun flies that hatch at this time are our first harbinger of spring, as we typically don't see much in the way of the old Iron fraudator (Epeorus pleuralis), A.K.A. the Quill Gordon.

There are two flies that work for the Blue Quill hatch, the Blue Dun and the Blue Quill, wet and dry. I'm partial to the Blue Quill, because both the wet (shown above) and dry versions have worked well for me in past years. None other than Ray Bergman would disagree, and here's what he has to say about the Blue Dun and Blue Quill in Trout:

"The prevalence of natural flies running to gray makes a fly of this color essential. I have never been able to decide if both the Dun and the Quill are necessary, although I find that I favor the Dun. There is something about the blue-gray fur body that makes a juicy-looking fly when wet. But others feel that the quill body more nearly imitates nature, and will use nothing else. You take your choice or try both."

I tie the dry (shown below) for this hatch in a 16 or 18. I've had some success with parachutes as well, tied with the same materials as the dry, with a dun turkey flats post. Another version of the dry that has worked well for me replaces the mallard wings with blue dun hackle tips. The wet should be small as well, 14 or 16. Though we're here in the "Just Old Flies" section, these flies work beautifully for me now. I've not had as much luck with the Blue Dun personally, and that might be because I don't have just the right color for the body. There is considerable variation, pointed out by both J. Edson Leonard and Ray Bergman, and slight differences in the color of the dubbing make big differences in the effectiveness of the fly, according to both. I have had luck with the Blue Quill, so I tend to stick with that.

I might mention the difficulties encountered tying on the mallard wings on the dry. I've done them a couple of ways. The first entails tying the wings on top of the hook, tips out over the eye, posting them up, and dividing. This method does not work for me nearly as well as the more old fashioned one, recently described here on FAOL in the Tying Tips section. The article is called "Slip Wings, the English Method" by Allan Blithel, and I certainly encourage you to give this method a try. I start with the slips a bit more upright than Allan shows. The same method can be found in E.C. Gregg's book from 1940 How to Tie Flies. The less you can handle the mallard wings in the tying of the fly, the better, and that makes this method superior in my estimation. There is no posting up of the wings, or certainly less or it. You can use some spray workable fixative like Tuff Film when learning to tie these. Just LIGHTLY mist the back of the feathers at a distance before cutting slips off them. Once you get the technique down, it's better to go without the fixative I think. There is a third method, alluded to in Trout, which is just like the first one I mentioned except that you start with the wings tied on top of the hook, tips toward the tail. This has some of the same drawbacks of the first method.

Here is the recipe for the Blue Quill, wet or dry:

Blue Quill

    Tail: Blue dun.

    Body: Stripped blue dun hackle quill.

    Wings: Mallard.

    Hackle: Blue dun.

Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman; Flies by J. Edson Leonard; Fly Fisher's Guide to the Mad River by Brian Flechsig; http://www.trout-streams.com ~ Eric Austin

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