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 Namson

By Eric Austin, Ohio

This one is harder than it looks. More difficult to tie than you would first think looking at this rather unassuming little fly. The reason is that everything is exposed here. The only thing that would make this fly even more difficult is a floss body. Then it would be diabolical. You see, there is no butt on this fly to hide the tie-in point for the ribbing, tail, and tail veiling. In addition there are no cheeks, shoulders, or sides to hide wing flaws created by the crushing of the fibers when you tie in. Some of these less complicated flies can fool you, and this is one.

Francis Francis has this to say about the Namson:
"There is not a prettier body made than the Namson boasts of. It is a great favourite (sic) of mine."

Well, all right, prettier than the Black Dog? Prettier than the Jock Scott? Prettier than the Shannon? I think not, but then again I'm not Francis Francis, who for all I know actually fished this fly on the Namson River in Norway. Perhaps an exceedingly good catch of large salmon colored his judgement. The entire fly, as a whole, does have a beauty to it, but it's a beauty born of "fishiness" I think. The slender, sleek look does look fishy, at least to me.

Kelson has a version of this fly that I won't even discuss, it's another fly all together.

One very difficult material to obtain for the Namson is the bittern in the wing. So difficult that I didn't even try. I noted that Mikael Frodin, in his book, lists the pattern as Francis Francis' pattern, but then instead of bittern wing uses "English bustard" in the wing, which looks just like florican bustard. So I used a florican sub on my fly. Could I find some bittern wing if I looked hard enough? Perhaps. Would it be an instant CITES violation? You bet. Seriously, I'm only guessing here. I've never seen bittern feathers of any kind listed on any fly materials page anywhere, but somebody might have it.

Here is the recipe from Francis Francis' book A Book on Angling. You handle the bittern any way you want.

The Namson

    Tag: Silver twist.

    Tail: One topping, some red parrot, and pintail sprigs.

    Body: Roughish, two turns of bright yellow pig's wool merged into deep orange, and that into medium red-claret, and that again into bright medium (or inclining to darkish) blue; the upper part of the claret and the blue tied in roughly for picking out, the blue being longest.

    Ribs: Silver tinsel with gold thread beside it.

    Shoulder: A longish black hackle.

    Wings: Slips of dark turkey, bright bustard, bittern wing, red, blue and greenish-yellow dyed swan.

    Head: Black.

~ EA

Credits: A Book on Angling by Francis Francis; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin

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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