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?

Nation's Green Sedge (Caddis)

Nationa's Green Sedge
By Eric Austin, Ohio

This fly was developed for Kamloops rainbow trout by Canada's legendary Bill Nation. He fished and guided many lakes in the area, but Paul Lake was his home, in the heart of the Kamloops region of British Columbia. The green sedge was originally not found in Paul Lake, but Bill Nation changed that in the late '20s. He talks of the introduction of the sedge to Paul Lake in a letter to Roderick Haig-Brown from 1938:

"Paul is much same, fish in hard silvery condition, and very fat. They will be larger this year than last, as the feed in the lake is on the increase. The lake has been very high for three years, and this has increased the shallow water breeding area of the aquatic insects, and protected the gravid female shrimps from fish and ducks. The green sedge that I introduced in the nymph stage from Knouff to Paul in 1925, 26 and 27 had increased to such numbers by 1928 that is became the principal sedge on the lake, and this is very gratifying, as this sedge was unknown on Paul before the stocking."

To say that Bill Nation had his finger on the pulse of Paul Lake would be an understatement. Bruce Hutchinson in his book on the Fraser had this to say regarding this quintessential guide:

"The Kamloops country was long the undisputed kingdom of Bill Nation. That extraordinary man, who knew trout better than any other British Columbian and had spent his life studying the insect life on which trout feed, chose to call himself a guide. Careless of fame or money, he would row you around Paul Lake, his favourite(sic), or any other lake you fancied for a few dollars a day. After an hour's fishing with him the richest American tycoon was subdued and humble in this shy man's presence. Beside his life of innocence and content, the perfect companionship of man and nature, your own life suddenly appeared for the failure it was. And what could you say for your skill when he could cast a fly and pierce the tail of any fish you pointed out among the autumn salmon horde?..."
Perhaps the most astounding information I ran across in my reading about the glory days of the Kamloops region of B.C. was that pertaining to the numbers of fish, and their size. Knouff Lake was considered "ruined" when overstocking resulted in fish of only a pound and a half. The average trout was four pounds, and went as large as fifteen pounds. Bill Nation would guarantee a customer one hundred fish a week. According to a web site I just looked at, the rainbows there still go three and a half pounds to this day. Amazing.

This fly was fished as a nymph, and Bill Nation gives us some insight into how to fish it:

"Note that the nymph of the green sedge moves in a series of tiny jerks; these seem to be of great intensity, but each fierce, convulsive jerk only manages to move the nymph forward less than an eighth of an inch. This nymph moves on the shoals each evening from 10 o'clock on for a few days before hatching, and are in the chara weed, and the dyed seal's fur body of the sedge fly imitates the case more nearly than it does the actual body of the nymph. The fly is fished quite slowly under these conditions, and a very short, fierce jerk of one inch is sent throughout the line every ten seconds. This style of fishing works best during the four days preceding the full moon, so does not apply generally."

These wet flies imitated a host of things in their day, including it seems, cased caddis. We could all take a page from Bill Nation's guidebook where observation is concerned. It is absolutely incredible the things he was able to figure out using just his senses. No degree in entomology is as valuable as quality time spent on the water, observing. Here is the recipe for Nation's Green Sedge:

    Hook: #6 wet fly. Yes, #6 is the only size Bill Nation used for this fly. William's Green Bodied Sedge, a dry fly developed later for the same insect, is also tied on a #6

    Tail: Red swan.

    Body: Green seal's fur.

    Rib: Oval, gold tinsel.

    Wing: Mallard or teal flank.

    Collar: Badger hackle.

Credits: Fly Patterns of British Columbia by Arthur James Lingren. ~ 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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