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 Colonel Bates, Salmon Fly

The Colonel Bates II
By Eric Austin, Ohio

As I mentioned in the last article, there is another version of the Colonel Bates fly, created by Jimmy Younger of Thorthowald, Dumfries, Scotland. Jimmy Younger came by his craft quite honestly, not unlike many of the wonderful tiers of Scotland and Ireland. His father was a ghillie on the rivers Tweed, Conon, Naver, Kirkaig, and the Inver. He got Jimmy a job as an apprentice tier, working in Allcock's old building under terrible conditions. John French Muir took him under his wing, and taught him to tie salmon flies. In those days, full dress flies were still the norm. Ultimately, Jimmy moved to Glasgow, tied flies there, and played drums at night until his back got bad. He and his wife Gloria then moved to Helmsdale, where he met Megan Boyd through his wife, who shared Megan's passion for country dancing. There he managed a fly tying factory, Sutherland Fly. He stopped by Megan's quite often to tie with her, and filled orders that she couldn't handle herself at busy times.

Ultimately Jimmy was to manage a factory in Hong Kong, among others. Along the way he met Joe Bates, who had been guided by his father. He offered to create a fly for him, and Joe Bates gave him the Colonel Bates fly that Carrie Stevens had created, and suggested he pattern a fly after that. Jimmy Younger did just that, creating the fly shown above. It is very similar, having essentially the same wing, tag, tail and body, with some full dress frills thrown in for good measure.

I have great admiration for the professional tiers who are born of a great tradition and spend countless hours perfecting their craft over years. There is much to be learned through a serious study of their work, and these are tiers to be revered.

Here's the recipe for the Colonel Bates Salmon fly:

    Tag: Fine oval tinsel and yellow floss silk.

    Tail: Golden pheasant crest, over which are two small strips of red goose and kingfisher.

    Butt: Scarlet wool.

    Body: Flat silver tinsel.

    Ribbing: Oval Silver Tinsel.

    Throat: Natural red (brown) hackle, followed by guinea fowl hackle.

    Wing: Four golden yellow saddle hackles, with a white saddle hackle on each side half as long as the yellow. Over this on each side is a fairly wide strip of a yellow Swan wing feather with thin strips of red swan wing feather married to it, top and bottom. Over this is a wide strip of barred Mandarin Duck.

    Topping: Golden pheasant crest.

    Shoulders: Jungle Cock.

    Cheeks: Kingfisher.

    Head: black, with red center band.

Credits: The Atlantic Salmon Fly by Judith Dunham; Carrie Stevens by Graydon R. Hilyard; Fishing Atlantic Salmon, the Flies and the Patterns by Joseph D. Bates, Pamela Bates Richards, Bob Warren; Mikes Fly Pages (Mike Boyer) at http://www.wvi.com/~mboyer/mikes_site/page/home.htm ~ 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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