Just looking through the myriad of catalogs that arrive in the mail every year from all of the fishing tackle companies makes you almost want to scrap all your gear and run to the stores and buy all new stuff (notice that I said almost).
If you have spent a considerable number of years engrossed in this hobby of fishing, you will have been witness to even more of these changes.
No matter what type of fishing you may prefer, there are always vast changes and supposedly better ways to do things. Some of these changes are actually improvements in the sport and some probably need to go back and spend more time on the drawing board.
Often these newfangled things catch more fishermen than they do fish. There was a new bass plug that came out back in the ’70s that had a compartment on top of it in which to place an Alka-Seltzer tablet, so when it landed in the water the “fizzing action” was said to attract all the bass in the neighborhood.
I don’t think it caught many fish but I’m sure it caught a lot of fishermen.
I have always been a fan of the “old school” way of doing things. It is difficult for me to change my habits. I really don’t like change. When I find a good way of doing something, I stick with it.
For example, I rake leaves and refuse to use a leaf blower. I still fish with the same fly rod and reel that I’ve used for thirty years. I still carry a comb in my pocket even though one would be hard-pressed to find any hair on top of my head. (It may start growing again, you never know.)
This “old school” way of thinking was what led me to tie the flies that you see in these photos. They are wet flies that are described in a book by Ray Bergman called “Trout” that he wrote way back in 1938.
There are 435 of them featured in his book and I have thoroughly enjoyed tying the whole collection and mounting them in shadow box frames to be hung on the wall.
In 1938, when this book was written, wet flies were very much in vogue but over the years most of them have fallen out of favor with trout fishers primarily because of the constant changes that have evolved in the fly fishing world.
These old flies were fun to tie and they are truly beautiful flies, not because of the way I tied them, but because of the way they were originally designed.
Tying such a large number of different flies involved having to acquire a vast assortment of feathers and material. Some substitutes had to be made because some of the materials are no longer available.
The recipe for one fly called for a quill feather from a California Condor, which is a protected species making it illegal to possess any of their feathers, so a substitution had to be made.
I am certain that any one of these flies could catch fish. I have had luck with some of them but nowadays they are considered “display” flies to be framed and hung on the wall. It’s like they have been retired, kind of sad in a way.
I was exposed to fishing at an early age by going on fishing trips with my dad and grandpa. Back then there was always a Saturday Evening Post laying around the house and I would be fascinated with those Norman Rockwell covers showing your typical trout fisherman standing in the stream, casting his fly rod, always smoking a pipe, sporting a vest, wearing one of those wide-brimmed hats festooned with all kinds of colorful flies, and of course having a creel hanging at his side.
However, if you visit a trout stream today you will never see one of those Rockwellish-looking fishermen with a pipe hanging out of his mouth and a creel hanging at his side. Those creels are collector’s items now and hang on those walls next to those display trout flies. The pipes are probably collector’s items, too.
I don’t mind being considered “old school,” in fact I wear that badge with pride but I have to admit that sometimes I am swayed and dazzled by some of the new things that come out each year.
After all, I am human but one of these days I’m going to get me a pipe (can you still buy those things?) and a creel and an old fedora-looking hat and head to the stream with a box of these old flies.
Of course, the pipe would just be for looks since I don’t smoke anymore and the creel would not be for fish since I practice catch and release, but would contain probably a PBJ and a couple bottles of water.
I keep telling myself that would be fun to do just for the day.
I probably never will but who knows… maybe one of these days.
(Bill Oder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)