When I began this labor of love I thought the Idea of identifying and listing the originator of classic Atlantic salmon flies would simply be a matter of researching the name of the fly and noting who designed it. Boy was I wrong. Many salmon flies went through dramatic changes as the years passed, but still retained their original names which can be somewhat confussing to the new dresser of classic salmon flies today. Many original patterns have evolved over the years and their names mean different patterns to different people. Many of the old classics were designed by one tier and changed slightly by another tier and today we have different versions of the same fly, all of which could be classified as true classic salmon flies today. Three of the most read tiers of the past, Francis Francis, George M. Kelson, and Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt, were often at odds not only on what the original pattern was but also who was the originator of many of the classic salmon fly patterns of the past.
After posting pictures and patterns of the same classic salmon fly tied by different salmon fly dressers of today, I have found that not all of today's flies are tied using the same pattern. Some of the flies were taken from patterns described by one historical author and others were tied using the patterns described by a different or later author. In some cases the difference is so slight that it is hardly noticeable but in other cases the fly is so different it begs the question, how could they be variations of the same original pattern when they look so different.
One of the best books I have found that tackles the origins of many of the old classic salmon flies is Mikael Frodin's book, Classic Salmon Flies, History and Patterns. Mikael looks deep into the past of many classic salmon flies and describes the original pattern and in many cases some of their popular variations we wee today. In upcoming articles we will look at some of the old original patterns and discuss some of the differences and similarities that make each fly unique. We will compare original versions to the many varied versions of the same fly we have today.
The first flies we will take a look at consist of the Baron, Childers and the Durham Ranger. In the future we will look at the Black Dog, the Dusty Miller, the Gordon and many more. I hope this helps clear up some of the common misunderstandings when it comes to many or the patterns of old.