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?

Red Tag

By Alan Shepherd, Australia

From an unassuming English Grayling fly to a superstar Tasmanian Trout fly


This pattern came to fruition in the middle of the nineteenth centaury at the vice of a Mr. Martyn Flynn, a resident of Worcestershire, England. The fly was named the 'Worcestershire Gem' and proved to be a reasonably effective fly, primarily as a dry or wet Grayling fly. Remember, this was around about 1850 and dry fly fishing was only in its infancy at that time. It is not known how the fly or the pattern made its way to Australia and Tasmania about a hundred years ago, but luckily for Tasmanian anglers it did. One can only wonder who was the first to fish this fly and who first realised the compelling attractiveness of the fly to Tasmanian trout. Anyhow, the fly was an outstanding success, it's reputation spread and it soon found a growing list of devotees. The fly could be relied upon to constantly catch brownies and rainbows anytime throughout the season when the fish were surface feeding. Most probably, back in those days, Tasmanian anglers wouldn't have known the fly was called a 'Worcestershire Gem' - all they needed to know was that it caught fish like no other fly. It's not hard to understand why the fly was commonly called a 'Red Tag'. The fly soon established itself as a 'must-have-fly' for all Australian trout waters and by 1920, the name 'Red Tag' was well and truly adopted.


There are more species of insects in the world than all the animals, and, of all insects, beetles make up about 40%, hence, beetles are extremely abundant. It is a therefore a common occurrence for trout to encounter beetles and it is no surprise to regularly find beetles in trout stomach contents. Trout seem to love beetles and the 'Red Tag' is the quintessential beetle artificial fly. Be that as it may, 'Red Tags' are often taken when no beetles are in the fish gut, proving the attractivness of the fly to trout. In Tasmania the right sized 'Red Tag' is an extremely versatile fly, it can be fished with confidence in many situations. 'Red Tags' can also be fished as a et fly with equally surprisingly good results.

Fishing Notes

Throughout Australia the 'Red Tag' is excellent fished to surface feeding trout in rivers or still water. The fly is a half imitator and half attractor, the red tag, the peacock herl and to some extent the brown hackle attracting the fish. Because the fly is beetle shaped it is also dynamite when trout are feeding around trees or other structures located in or near the water that beetles inhabit. When fishing with the 'Red Tag' as a dry, a long 3 - 4 lb tippet is generally used, especially on bright sunny days. On such days, a smaller pattern #14 or 16 is usually more successful. The 'Red Tag' is a great searching pattern, but it is a fly which can be fished with confidence to sighted trout. If you get a refusal simply give the line a slight jerk and generally the trout will come back for a second look thinking it's alive. If a 'Red Tag' doesn't work, try another fly or give up!

Many international anglers, whilst fishing in Tasmania, have been introduced to the merits of the 'Red Tag.' Returning home, most of these overseas anglers have found the fly to be excellent on their home waters. The 'Red Tag' is a fly well worth carrying. I implore you, tie a few up in various sizes and give them a run, you will be pleasently suprized.

'Red Tag' alias 'Worcestershire Gem'
(Mr. Martyn Flynn)

    Hook: Size 8 - 18 dry fly hook, #12 and 14 is the common size.

    Thread: 8/0 bug thread brown or black.

    Tail: Red wool.

    Rib: Peacock herl.

    Hackle: Ginger/red (brown) cock hackle. As a wet fly hen hackle is used wet fly style.

Tying Instructions

The 'Red Tag' is a very easy pattern to tie. First tie the thread the full length of the hook, then tie in red wool tag on to the end. Once secure cut the tail to what length to suit size of hook. It's better to have the tag too long, you can always cut it shorter. Then tie three strands of peacock herl at the end of the hook and wrap up the hook forming a beetle shaped body, leave room for hackle and head.

TIP - when you tie herl in, be sure that the back of herl (back of feather) is facing up. If tied in the wrong way the herl squashes itself when wound on. The end result should be a beetle shaped ball. Be careful not to crowd the gape of the hook. You can wind the herl one at a time or form a rope and wind. Once the body is made, tie off and cut off excess herl. Then tie in one hackle at the base of the feather, dry fly style. Wrap it around 8-10 times and be sure there are plenty of fibres sticking out to ensure good flotation. Tie and cut the hackle off, whip finish...easy!


Recently anglers have tinkered with the pattern, trying to eke out the last bit of performance from the fly. Such developments include, a pink tag, brown and black cock hackle and palmered grizzle cock hackle. As a wet fly, a bead head with palmered brown hackle has proven to be successful. I'm sure all these new developments have merit at a particular time, place, or with a particular fishing method, but then again these flies are not a 'Red Tags' anymore, they are 'Red Tag Variants.' ~ Alan Shepherd

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