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 Ray Mead


By Eric Austin, Ohio


I've tied this fly a lot. It's an excellent fly for learning how to marry feather slips and create married wings. It's good because it only has the two materials, yellow and black swan or goose, and both of those marry easily.

George Kelson gives himself credit for this fly in his monumental work The Salmon Fly, and gives his father credit for the wing arrangement. This same wing is also seen on another fly, "The Bulldog." In addition, Kelson uses a similar wing design in his version of the Silver Doctor, but there the stripes are yellow and blue.

You'll note that the recipe calls for horns of blue macaw. Horns were always considered optional, and I'll use that as my excuse. As far as the real reason my fly has no horns, I can only suggest that you ask me after I've calmed down. Here is the recipe for The Ray Mead:

For a tutorial on how to do married wings, go to: Married Wings in the Atlantic Tying section.

The Ray Mead

    Tag: Silver twist and light blue silk.

    Tail: A topping, Ibis, and summer duck.

    Butt: Black ostrich herl.

    Body: One-fourth yellow silk, followed by silver tinsel (oval).

    Ribs: Gold tinsel (oval).

    Hackle: Large Irish grey from oval tinsel.

    Throat: Teal, three turns.

    Wings: Alternate narrow strips of swan dyed yellow and black, married; summer duck and topping.

    Sides: Jungle cock.

    Cheeks: Chatterer.

    Horns: Blue Macaw.

    Head: Black.

Credits: The Salmon Fly by George Kelson; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin. ~ EA

About Eric:

I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River. I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y. My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically. Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always considered him to be one of my biggest influences.

I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's studio. It was a blast.

So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now, here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA

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