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?


By Eric Austin, Ohio

This fly changed quite a bit from the one shown in Favorite Flies and Their Histories. The original had Partridge quill wings and brown hackle palmered halfway down the body. There is little history, but Mary Orvis Marbury relates the fly to a song, as follows:

"We do not know the story of this fly, but its name always reminds us of the pretty little song with its dancing refrain. The fly must have been named 'under the spreading greenwood tree,' while to the accompaniment of rippling waters somebody sang:

- "A home among the free, Esmeralda, Esmeralda. Zingara !"

I'm not familiar with the song, which may well have been lost in the annals of time along with the fly. I very much liked Ray Bergman's rendition of Esmeralda, and decided to do that version above. Here are the recipes for both versions:

Mary Orvis Marbury's Esmeralda

    Wing: Mottled partridge.

    Hackle: Brown, brown Palmer one half.

    Body: Gray wool, green-blue floss tag, gold tip.

    Ray Bergman's Esmeralda

    Body: Light green floss.

    Ribbing: Yellow silk ribbing.

    Tail: Brown mallard.

    Hackle: Brown.

    Wing: Light slate.

Credits: Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Flies by J. Edson Leonard: Trout by Ray Bergman. ~ EA

About Eric:

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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