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 . .


Part Fifty-nine

A Look Back

Happy New Year!

By Old Rupe

As we start the new millennium I couldn't help reminiscing on how far fly fishing has come in my lifetime and what has happened to our sport in the last thousand years.

In my own lifetime I have seen the development of the fly line and rod. Now there is a line for every use and a high dollar rod to accompany it. Everyone now makes a reel to go with that combo. I started out with a Shakespeare Wonder Rod and Cortland's new line in the 50's, I believe it was 333, and I have moved to Gatti rods and now have the choice of a mind boggling selection of good lines. I still use Courtland 444 lines but that's just a personal preference. At one time there was no selection. Now the problem is to understand which line most closely matches a persons needs. In truth any of the brand name lines will do a yeoman's service, but it's nice to have a hundred choices or so.

The biggest change I have seen in my lifetime is the development of fly fishing as a sport. Now most fly fishers return the players to the stream. This is indeed a good thing, but I still deplore those who fish catch and release streams with counters just to see how many they can catch. After a reasonable number of fish are released a person should have enough sense to go home. We no longer have to eat what we catch. If the stream can stand it then it's ok - but in the past eating was the reason we fished. It appears we have finally discarded the skillet.

When I read the Dame, which was written centuries ago, I see the attempt to "match the hatch" which has been so refined that at a meeting with a state fish biologist a month or so ago, the fishermen understood more of the streams ecology that the experts that were investigating it. We have come a long way baby. They are no longer just brown flies. The average fisher understands the hatch concerned and most can describe its stream requirements. Few will wait for a hatch in a place where it just won't happen.

We now tie with genetically engineered hackle that assures at least 6 flies a feather. Modern saddle hackles do everything a person could desire. We are indeed in the promised age. Our chemically sharpened hooks are a long way from the hooks that were sold as seconds from the needle making trade. Don't forget the thread. I now tie with 8/0 Uni Thread. In the future I probably will use 16/0 as technology advances.

Some of us remember the old ways. I still appreciate a good bamboo rod like the ones Ron Kusse makes and although I could have bought a lancewood rod five years back, I didn't. I still hate to put up with a silk line and the preparation required to fish and maintain it. The new ways are definitely better for the average fisher. A friend of mine still uses silk lines and gut leaders. When he dies I may try to buy his bamboo rods and equipment, just to maintain the art. When I'm dead who will follow? When I sell my old Leonard you just know I received Last Rights five minutes before.

Now if the equipment doesn't come pre-packaged it won't sell. I am still from a time when fishers made what they used. If you made it wrong it was your fault. What you made was what you fished. I still make my flies and leaders and at least one half of my rods were made by me. If it doesn't work it's no ones fault but mine. The way it should be.

We have seen the evolution of equipment from the loop rods of Dame J's day to our high dollar Italian sticks today. The boot has evolved too. What we fish in is at least as important as what we fish. Never let anyone tell you that cold, wet feet should be the norm.

The next thousand years will probably define leaders. What we considered as state of the art will be passe ten years from now. We will in the future fish leaders that a Volkswagen can't break. Horse hair leaders will only be remembered by people like me that read old books.

I feel that we are almost there on hooks and rods, and our flies won't really change much. Even if better things were available many would fish the current stuff. The Dame would have found most of my flies acceptable, and not a real departure from those that she fished. The exception might be the dry fly which in her day was fished damp, and the hackle was considerably larger.

The modern vise has really defined the millennium. Never have we had a tool that enabled a tier to do everything that was needed. If in doubt look at a Renzetti masters vise with a speed crank and the lap extension. A vise really does more than just hold a hook.

I have fished the same line for the last forty years and will till I die. In my opinion the Cortland 444 does it all. There will be small changes but fly lines in the next millennium won't be a radical departure from what we have today. Today everyone makes a great fly line at a reasonable price. How lucky we are. It's a great change from woven horse hair and the later woven silk. The change in lines would be the thing a fisher from Dame J's day would notice first.

The change as I see it has been from a way to catch those delicious trout living in slow English chalk streams to a way of life for multi-species fishers of the present day. We have moved from a way to catch fish to a way to protect the resource and the sport we enjoy. A positive thing I think.

It's been a great millennium. I've only been present for the last 60 yrs or so but it's been great. This will be looked at as the Golden Age, where technology married the resource.

My grandchildren will never understand what we had.

I think I'll have my rods and stuff buried with me.

King Tut look out. In the future I may be considered a guiding light in fly fishing.

Open another Fosters Lager and reflect. ~ Old Rupe

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