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
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 . .
A Look Back
By Old Rupe
Archive of Old Flies
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
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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