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 Dunkeld


By Eric Austin, Ohio


Some of these full dress flies are easier to dress than others, and I can never exactly put my finger on why. This is a fly that on the surface, seems rather nondescript, with a simple body, straightforward wing, typical tippet under wing, just really nothing special. Well, for whatever reason, this Scottish gem drove me absolutely nuts, and I'm not alone. An excellent tier, Dave Carne, who posts his flies on the Internet regularly recently spoke of his difficulties with the Dunkeld. Every once in a while you get one of these. Other flies, the Jock Scott leaps to mind, seem to be very complicated and difficult, and they're really a piece of cake, flies that just fall together. I'll figure it all out one of these days, probably after I tie another couple hundred.

The Dunkeld is listed in Francis Francis as a fly for the river Tay in Scotland. He calls it "A warm handsome fly." The fly he refers to however is something completely different than the Pryce-Tannatt version depicted here. Yes, the wing is similar, but every last ingredient other than that is changed. How two so completely dissimilar flies can be named the same thing is beyond me. Kelson's version is very similar to the Pryce-Tannatt, with the exception of the wing, which is a much simpler affair made of just peacock wing and a mallard roof. Pryce-Tannatt's version, which came much later than both Kelson's and Francis Francis,' seems to be something of an amalgam of the two others, with the body from Kelson and the wing from Francis Francis.

One of the problems with this fly, at least for me, is trying to get it to look like something. The first version I did with the requisite flat tinsel and straightforward wing just left me cold. I had some fancy antique embossed tinsel that Fred Bridge sent me awhile back and decided to give it a try, I was just so unimpressed with the look of the first fly. I also expanded the yellow, scarlet and blue portions of the fly to add a little life. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably change the wing completely, as I'm just not too wild about all the dark colors of the rest of the wing lumped together. Alas, time ran out, so here it is.

I hope you have better luck with this one than I did. I tried to keep a low profile, and tie this one in a more traditional style. I'll list all three versions below, and let you decide the one that works the best for you. Here they are:

The Dunkeld, Francis Francis

    Tag: Silver Twist and pale blue floss.

    Tail: A topping and some wood-duck, without the black and white tips.

    Butt: Black ostrich.

    Body: Three turns of yellow orange floss, the rest of brighter orange pig's wool.

    Hackle: Of same colour(sic) all the way up, with pale blue at shoulder.

    Rib: Wide silver tinsel.

    Underwing: Black partridge and wood-duck.

    Wing: A bit of dark turkey with white tops, with fibres(sic) of green peacock, golden pheasant, blue, red and yellow swan.

    Horns: Blue macaw.

    Head: Black.

    The Dunkeld, Kelson

    Tag: Gold twist and orange silk.

    Tail: A topping and point of jungle cock.

    Butt: Black herl.

    Body: Gold tinsel.

    Ribs: Gold tinsel (oval).

    Hackle: Orange hackle from second turn.

    Throat: Jay.

    Wings: Two strips of peacock wing, mallard and a topping.

    Horns: Blue and red macaw.

    Cheeks: Chatterer.

    The Dunkeld, Pryce-Tannatt

    Tag: Gold twist and orange silk.

    Tail: A topping and point of jungle cock veiled with small Indian crow feathers.

    Butt: Black herl.

    Body: Gold tinsel.

    Ribs: Silver tinsel (oval).

    Hackle: Orange hackle from second turn.

    Throat: Jay.

    Underwing: Golden pheasant tippet.

    Wings: Sections of scarlet, yellow and blue swan, peacock wing, bustard, florican, golden pheasant tail and mottled brown turkey tail, plus two strips of brown mallard over, and a topping.

    Sides: Jungle cock feathers and cheeks of small chatterer feathers.

    Horns: Blue and yellow macaw.

Credits: A Book on Angling by Francis Fransic; Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin, Building Classic Salmon Flies by Ron Alcott. ~ 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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