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 Red Drummond

By Eric Austin, Ohio

This fly comes from James Hardy, whose book Salmon Fishing was a late entry in the pantheon of classic salmon fly books, appearing in 1907. The only other work that includes the pattern is John Henry Hale's later edition, which includes all the Hardy patterns. This may very well be a Hardy creation as earlier authors don't refer to this fly.

As time went on in the classic period, the flies seemed to get more and more complicated, and this one has some serious complications. Many versions of this fly include the middle joint or butt of ostrich herl, as mine does here, but according to Mikael Frodin, that's a mistake. I disagree, as the recipe clearly talks of a black ostrich herl butt, then in the body section references silver tinsel, butted with Indian crow. The fact that the word "butted" is used leads me to believe a second butt was to be installed, but it really comes down to semantics.

Mistake or not, it complicates matters greatly whether you leave out the second joint or keep it in. If one leaves it out, you have the touchy situation of trying to get a smooth transition from the silver tinsel to the red floss, with two Indian crow feathers and a hackle underneath. If one keeps it in, there is the matter of the ribbing, which is wound over everything. I tried on the first version I did to wind it over everything, including the second joint, and that sure doesn't work. It messes up that joint. On the second version I wound the ribbing to the joint, then added the Indian crow and butt, then continued the ribbing later after winding the floss and tying in the hackle. No matter what you do, it's dicey, and this fly is a tough one. Wayne Luallen, one of the great tiers in the world, puts the joint in as I have, so I'll use that as my "excuse" for doing it the way I did.

There is a strip wing fly also referred to in the Hardy book called the Drummond, one that as far as I can see bears no relation to this one. I've included both recipes below:

James Hardy's The Red Drummond

    Tag: Silver tinsel and yellow floss silk.

    Tail: A topping and Indian crow.

    Butt: Black ostrich herl.

    Body: First half silver tinsel, butted with Indian crow. Second half red floss silk.

    Rib: Silver tinsel over both halves.

    Hackle: Red-claret hackle, over red floss silk.

    Throat: Guinea fowl.

    Wings: White tipped turkey, yellow, red and blue swan, peacock wing, bustard, golden pheasant tail, wood duck, teal, mallard over and a topping.

    Sides: Jungle cock.

    Cheeks: Chatterer.

    Horns: Blue macaw.

    Head: Black.

    Drummond from Hardy Book

    Tag: Silver tinsel.

    Tail: A topping and ibis.

    Body: Three turns of orange tinsel.

    Hackle: A dark red cock's hackle, wound to the shoulders, where a few extra turns comprise the throat.

    Wing: Simple strip wing with two sections of dun turkey.

    Head: Black.

Credits: Salmon Fishing by James Hardy; 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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