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?

Fra Diavolo

Fra Diavolo
By Eric Austin, Ohio

I have little historical information on this fly. I decided not to let it stop me. It's one I've wanted to do for some time, and I finally got to it. Wolfgang Von Malottke credits this fly to Major Traherne on his web site. That would make it one of the few Traherne flies with a mixed or married wing. The majority of the Traherne flies with which I'm familiar are made with large, full feather wings.

The wing on this one was made with swan and Amherst pheasant tail. Swan is harder and harder to come by as time moves on, especially swan large enough to anything much bigger than a 3/0 fly. More and more tiers have moved to turkey, and it's possible to do very large flies with it. Tying with turkey I find to be somewhat easier in some ways, but not quite as satisfying, at least not for me. Swan has a translucency that I like very much, and large flies done with swan have a very airy quality to them that is exceptionally beautiful. Life is change I guess, but we don't have to like it. Here is the recipe for the Fra Diavolo:

    Tag: Silver twist, light yellow silk.

    Tail: Gold pheasant crest.

    Butt: Ostrich.

    Body: One-third red orange silk, ribbed fine silver tinsel; veiled with two Indian crow feathers above and below; butted black Ostrich. Front part, light blue silk ribbed broad silver lace with a light blue hackle along.

    Throat: Yellow macaw.

    Wing: White tip turkey tail, Amherst tail, red macaw, swan dyed green macaw and two toppings.

    Sides: Wood duck and jungle cock.

    Cheeks: A Chatterer or Kingfisher.

    Hackle: Yellow macaw.

    Horns: Blue and yellow.

    Head: Black.

Credits: Classicflies.com website, by Wolfgan Von Malottke. ~ 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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