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 Denison

The Denison
By Eric Austin, Ohio


This fly is one of those wet flies that have a palmered hackle on the body. These, I must confess, have given me fits in the past. It's funny, because I've tied hundreds of dry flies with palmered bodies and never had a problem. When I would get to the wets however, I always tried to use hen hackle, and it just didn't work well for me. The flies really came out shaggy looking, with hackle everywhere, and hackle that was always too long, or so I felt. Just recently I've switched to dry fly hackle for the palmered bodies. I gave myself permission to do this because I asked Alice Conba about palmered hackle, and she told me she uses cock hackle on the bodies of her wets. That was good enough for me. I'm one happy camper now, and like the look of the hackle much better. We do the same thing with the full dress salmon flies, why not wet flies too? Of course, I've used hen for the main hackle in front.

I have found no information on the Denison, short of a picture of the fly in Trout and the recipe there and in Flies. The recipe is similar both places, but J. Edson Leonard leaves out the tip and tag. I've taken Ray Bergman at his word, and tied the green, yellow, and scarlet part of the wing on as a "topping," as you would do with bronze mallard on a salmon fly. The tail is done as shown in the illustration in the book, which is slightly out of order from the recipe. The recipe might have been easier, as marrying in the wood duck is tough. But I've never taken the easy path in the past, why start now? The fly is spelled differently in the two books, "Dennison" in J. Edson Leonard's Flies. I've shown the Bergman version, with the Bergman spelling, and here is the Bergman recipe:

    Body: Orange Floss.

    Tip: Green floss tag, and gold tinsel tip.

    Tail: Barred mandarine on crimson, yellow and green.

    Hackle: Yellow tied palmer.

    Wings: Crimson, yellow and green topping barred mandarin.

Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman; Flies by J. Edson Leonard ~ 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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