Definition of "Classic" [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Definition of "Classic"

11-14-2004, 12:12 AM
I am placing this post here to solicit some comments on what some of you consider would be a "Classic " fly. What is the foremost thoughts you might have when you would describe what you think it means to be a "classic " Fly.

11-14-2004, 06:41 AM

Proven, over many seasons. Often imitated - a basis for much success with other personal derivations. Rich with lore.

Less glitz, more glory. Includes feathers. ;)

11-14-2004, 06:56 AM
Simple but elegant and serving as an established standard of a class.

11-14-2004, 09:02 AM
A fly that has passed the test of time. The Grey Ghost come to mind, it has a lot of history attached to it. Lefty's Deceiver is another.
FishHawk :D

11-14-2004, 11:34 AM
A fly that has a dinstinctive style (Deceiver, Clouser) of tying, something new at the time it was introduced or a significant variation of using a tying approach or materials.
Proven over time (at the time it was originated & since then) as a consistent fish catching fly.
Adopted by the fishing community as a "great" fly, often spoken of as such.
Served as the base design for many other fly designs.
Introduced new materials in tying and/or a new technique for tying, either or both of which have been sustained.

11-14-2004, 11:57 AM
A fly that catches fish under a range of conditions, and a range of waters.
One that has been, and continues to be tied. Also, a work of Art, one you can stand back and say "Yeah" to!

2 choices;

Elk Hair Caddis
Jock (or John) Scott


11-15-2004, 12:27 AM
When I speak of classics, I almost always am talking about either: 1) Salmon fly featherwings like spey, dee, and married, or whole featherwing creations of the golden era (roughly 1840 to 1930) of salmon fly tying; or 2) Streamers of the New England featherwing type (think Carrie Stevens type flies). Yes, these flies are not the easiest to tie and they require the tyer to have very good technique; but the end result is not only an effective fishing lure, they are also beautiful to look at.

I am aware that the Catskill and Halford dries, muddler minnow, Catskill bucktail streamers, Wulff dries, elk hair caddis, Lefty's Deceiver, Brooke's Blonde, Clouser, hair wing salmon and steelhead flies, bombers, etc. are considered classics by many; however, none of them have the beauty of the featherwing salmon or featherwing New England streamers, not do they require the tyer to be as skilled.

And there are flies such as the Ally's Shrimp, General Pratitioner, and Irish style shrimp flies which require good technique and are not all that easy to tie. But, they are of relatively recent origin.

11-15-2004, 04:54 AM
To me, a classic is simply a fly that has proved itself over a period of time, and which emerges from the great mass of other patterns that are being invented (and reinvented) all the time as consistently popular and successful. No great innovation in technique or material is required; some classic fully dressed salmon flies are close in style to one another, yet I would certainly call them classics in their own right. For example, both the Silver and Black Doctor would qualify (although closely related), since they have been fished with (and caught fish) consistently for many, many years. On the other hand, the Blue or Helmsdale Doctors have never attained the same level of popularity, so perhaps don't qualify.

The question then is how long a fly has to remain in circulation for it become a classic. For trout and salmon flies 50 years might seem reasonable, though flies for salt water, which has a shorter tradition, might need to be given the accolade after less time. There are flies which enjoy a popular following for a brief spell, but which then fall out of favour. For example, among salmon flies Richard Waddington's Elver Fly hasn't quite cracked it, IMO - probably due to the difficulty of getting the materials, rather than any fault of the fly. Although it had a period of great popularity, you rarely see it these days. But Esmond Drury's GP must be coming up for its 50th birthday and is still in quite wide use, so probably qualifies. The Ally's Shrimp cannot yet be classed as a classic, although I believe it is well on its way. We don't yet have sufficient historical perspective to award it the laurels. I don't know how long the Elk Hair Caddis has been around; it certainly has only come into widespread use in Europe in quite recent times. Like the Ally's Shrimp, I'm afraid it may not yet have 'earned its spurs', though doubtless will do so.

The Irish-style shrimps Flytier mentions are an interesting category. Curry's Red Shrimp has certainly been around for 50 years, and must qualify as a classic. So, I think must the Usk Grub (which isn't Irish, but is tied in the same style). But I suspect that many of the varieties given in the O'Reilly book will fall out of use, or never even attain the widespread popularity required.

Flytier, if you are suggesting that dificulty of tying is a prerequisite, I must respectfully disagree. A hackled Greenwell's Glory is an easy fly to tie, yet it is one of the all-time great dry flies. To exclude it from the list of classics on the basis that it is not sufficiently complicated would seem very odd. Sawyer's PTN is another very simple classic; though less old than the Greenwell's I think it passes the 50 year rule.

Jim Miller
11-15-2004, 06:23 AM
Good Question John
Perhaps a "classic" is a pattern that upon examination : one cannot ADD TO or SUBTRACT FROM the original design.....if it passes this test, it is "classic" or "pure"

11-15-2004, 10:48 AM
Guys...You have been very helpful here. as you know this will be one of the discusions in the Introduction to our book.

11-15-2004, 01:36 PM

I don't consider difficulty in tying a prerequisite for a fly being a classic. That is why my second paragraph spoke of the old wets, Halford and Catskill dries, etc. This is also why I began my post by stating that I almost always think in terms of the classic featherwing salmon flies of the golden/Victorian era or the New England featherwing streamers. This is because of my own bias for the skill level needed to tie them.

The Irish Shrimp or grubs from which they were derived are a very interesting catagorie indeed. The basic style has been around for well over 100 years, but has not realy caught on with most the angling public until fairly recently. Like you, I suspect most of them will fade into obscurity over time.

I agree wholeheartedly with you that the Greenwell's Glory is an excellent classic that has been around for many years, as are flies like the Hare's Ear, Blue Dun, May Fly, etc. Also, I like your 50 years in use for a fly to be considered a classic.

12-03-2004, 11:18 AM
Thanks for your responses...if appropriate I may be using these reponses, edited ,but not to meaning, for an appendix to our book. This is because of the diverse opinions...there are common threads... but it is a definitional thing that needs to be presented. Thanks again. I will be getting back to those whom I do not know to get permission and full names.