Comando Streamer – Percy Tackle Company

My friend, Alec Stansell, in Massachusetts, sent me this picture of a streamer pattern that was previously unknown to me. It’s an original carded fly from the Percy Tackle Company, formerly of Portland, Maine. Percy’s Tackle received plenty of mentions in Joseph Bates’ Book, “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing,” 1950, 1966, 1995. I like sharing this kind of vintage, classic information on our fly tying heritage with my readers, so here it is:

The Comando:

 

Comando Streamer, carded and sold by The Percy Tackle Company. Gardiner Percy was the company founder.

Comando Streamer, carded and sold by The Percy Tackle Company. Gardiner Percy was the company founder. Photo courtesy of Alec Stansell.

The recipe:

Comando

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel  – this is very tarnished, but at my suggestion Alec did a little fly tying archeology with his bodkin, scratching a small section of the surface to reveal the silver tinsel rib ;-)

Body: White angora or spun rabbit fur

Throat: red hackle fibers

Wing: Two brown hackles over which are one black hackle, slightly shorter

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Black

Thanks Alec for sharing this photo with me!

Stanley Williams – Streamer Tier

Not long ago I made the online acquaintance of a young man from West Enfield, Maine, by the name of Stanley Williams. He ties a very nice replica, what I have seen so far, of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. I thought I would share one of his flies here, the reason being that I think it is really great that a young fellow like Stanley has found the passion to continue the tradition of tying her patterns, and from what I have learned thus far, he is making every effort to do so in the true and correct historic fashion. I know he mentioned to me in an e-mail that he went to the former home of Carrie and Wallace Stevens in Upper Dam, Maine, set up an impromptu fly tying station in the form of two saw horses, and tied a Gray Ghost streamer in the back yard. That was a pretty cool thing to do.

Here are some images Stanley sent me of his rendition of Carrie Stevens’ Blue Devil.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams. Note the elongated head shape, which was the preference and style of head finished on original streamers dressed by Carrie Stevens.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams. Note also: the wing angle – the jungle cock cheek and center line of the stems of the shoulder and wing is slightly above the horizontal line of the hook shank. The length of the bucktail and herl underbelly is equally as long as the wing. These are proportion and material placement details of Carrie Stevens’s original Rangeley Style of streamer tying that some tiers overlook. Stanley has ‘em down. ;-)

Top view of Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams - showing near-perfect alignment of the wing assembly.

Top view of Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams – showing near-perfect alignment of the wing assembly.

Very nice Stanley! Keep up the good work!

PS: If memory serves, my blog articles may have had something to do with Stanley’s “conversion” to my preference to band the heads of the Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. While I know she stated the band was her signature of sorts, I believe the band color is moreover a part of the pattern design. Plus this significant fact: When Wendell Folkins bought her business in 1953, she insisted that he continue to include the banded heads and colors she created when tying her patterns, no doubt as a way to continue the “recognition” and signature of her original streamer patterns. Carrie Stevens also tied other popular patterns such as the Black Ghost, Colonel Fuller, Supervisor, and in some cases, she added a slight variation to the materials, and certainly in the tying style.

Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

I have posted these same flies previously, but these are some new flies and new photos.

Carrie Stevens Streamer patterns; closkciws from upper left:

An assortment of Carrie Stevens Streamer patterns; clockwise from upper left: Pink Lady (2); Gray Ghost (2); Blue Devil (2); Colonel Bates (2); Larry’s Special, Larry, Rapid River, and Lakewood, center. All dressed on Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style Carrie Stevens / Mike Martinek streamer hooks. Sizes are #1, #2, #4 all 8x long.

And a macro of the heads, shoulders, and cheeks like spokes of a wheel.

Same flies arranged in a wheel pattern. The head band colors are true to Carrie's original pattern specs.

Same flies arranged in a wheel pattern. The head band colors are true to Carrie’s original pattern specs.

And carded for sale to collectors:

Lakewood - Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, named for Lakwood Camps. Only a few of her 100-plus original patterns sported an orange head with a black band.

Lakewood – Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, named for Lakwood Camps. Only a few of her 100-plus original patterns sported an orange head with a black band.

Larry - a streamer pattern designed by Carrie Stevens and named after Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 to 1974.

Larry – a streamer pattern designed by Carrie Stevens and named after Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 to 1974.

Larry's Special - the second of two streamer patterns created by Carrie Stevens, named for Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 - 1974.

Larry’s Special – the second of two streamer patterns created by Carrie Stevens, named for Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 – 1974.

Rapid River - the fourth streamer pattern created by Carrie G. Stevens and associated with the Rapid River, Lakewood Camps, and former camp owner Larry Parsons.

Rapid River – the fourth streamer pattern created by Carrie G. Stevens and associated with the Rapid River, Lakewood Camps, and former camp owner Larry Parsons.

These four streamers are available in a boxed set, part of my Collector’s Edition series of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. Presently priced at $80, the cost is soon going up for a few reasons – they have been rather inexpensive for one, and also to help cover the 5% fee and shipping costs associated with MyFlies.com. Here is the link to the “Lakewood” Collector’s Edition Set No. 4 on MyFlies.com:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-4-P784.aspx

Originally when I listed these sets for sale, I was winding the ribbing clockwise, but a couple years ago I changed that on Carrie Stevens patterns to wind counter clockwise as she did. I also learned how to apply the throats in her unique, original layered method, the result of my photos and study of the copies of Austin Hogan’s notes that were on display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. This method was first learned by contemporary fly tier, Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts. Conversations I have had with Mike have benefitted me, and his classes have taught other tiers, to name a few, Rich Connors, Peter Simonson, and Peggy Brenner how to replicate streamers in the true Carrie Stevens Rangeley method. Mike had the good fortune to be taken under the wing of Austin Hogan while a young member of the United Fly Tyers in the Boston area. Mike was privileged to participate in the deconstruction of three or four Carrie Stevens original streamer patterns in Austin’s apartment in 1967. The information Mike learned has been presented in a number of articles and videos over the years. Thanks Mike, for your help, and learning and passing on techniques that might have been lost.

I feel the need to make a few more comments: The knowledge and experience of Mike Martinek and other long-time streamer tiers should not be considered lightly. These folks who have put their time in – for years – decades – learning and honing their craft – are the fly tiers who deserve credit for their expertise, knowledge, and credibility. One does not gain “expert” status merely by tying for a few years and then suddenly coming out of the woodwork and writing a bunch of articles and even a book. I don’t care how good a fly tier may be, I realize, like musicians, some folks have talent and aptitude to excel at an early stage. A couple friends in the few years stage of very good fly tying I would make note of are Stanley Williams of West Enfield, Maine, and fellow Pennsylvanian, Eunan Hendron. Yet there is ultimately no substitute for decades of experience. Look at me, I have been tying flies for almost fifty-one years, and it was only in 2012 that I learned the correct way to authentically dress Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamers, in the fashion that she originated. For me the final learning curve was merely noticing and paying attention to details that I ought to have recognized earlier on. However, I do not, and likely never will attempt to hand-tie her patterns. Tried once and quite frankly, I don’t know how she pulled it off, to do her throat method while holding the hook, working the thread, and placing the hackle fibers. An old dog can learn new tricks, but this dog won’t likely tie streamers sans vise.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Colonel Bates streamers. Oddly enough, and I don't like to complain, but the person for whom this fly was named had two components incorrectly labeled in his own book.  Joseph D. Bates "Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing." Subsequent evidence - numerous Carrie Stevens original Colonel Bates streamers, including the Captain Bates and Major Bates, show the tail to be red hackle fibers. This makes sense, since not one  of the 100-plus streamer flies she originated have sections of duck quill for tails. And the shoulders on the Colonel Bates are and always were gray mallard, not teal.

A pair of Colonel Bates streamers. Oddly enough, and I don’t like to complain, but the person for whom this fly was named had two components incorrectly labeled in his own book. Joseph D. Bates “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing.” Subsequent evidence – numerous Carrie Stevens original Colonel Bates streamers, including the Captain Bates and Major Bates, show the tail to be red hackle fibers. This makes sense, since not one of the 100-plus streamer flies she originated have sections of duck quill for tails. And the shoulders on the Colonel Bates are and always were gray mallard, not teal.

A pair of Blue Devils.

A pair of Blue Devils. One of the three streamer patterns in Carrie Stevens “Devil” series. The other two are the Red Devil and White Devil. All three patterns sport shoulders of “partridge” or pah-tridge” – indigenous to her local area near Upper Dam at Mooselucmaguntic Lake in Maine’s famous Rangeley Lakes Region.

A pair of the Pink Lady streamer pattern, originated by Carrie Stevens. This was the final fly tied of her career, on the day in December 1953, when she sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins of New Hampshire.

A pair of the Pink Lady streamer pattern, originated by Carrie Stevens. This was the final fly tied of her career, on the day in December 1953, when she sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins of New Hampshire.

The Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Set No. 1 is available on MyFlies.com:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-1-P658.aspx

One tying note I’d like to point out, and I learned this from experience and just by paying attention: When replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, it is important to note that images of her original patterns – the proportions – the components of underbelly, underwing of bucktail peacock herl, golden pheasant crest, silver pheasant crests, should always be as long as the wing. No shorties. I mean, you can tie them anyway you like to fish with, but for the sake of fly pattern historical accuracy, lets be true to her original design specs and proportions.

Cost of these four-fly Collector’s Sets is going to be increased to $90. Orders may also be place directly through me. Find me on facebook too: Don Bastian.

Wet Fly Wing Mounting Methods

Don Bastian:

I have recently received a number of questions on setting wet fly wings and thought this older post was worth reblogging, so here it is. The main point I make is that there are four ways to mount wet fly quill wings.

Originally posted on Don Bastian Wet Flies:

Questions about wet fly wings are often raised with particular reference to the appearance of quill wings on the finished fly. Many years ago I learned to tie wet flies using a winging technique which is probably the most traditional method. My earliest wet fly tying followed Ray Bergman’s instruction in his book Trout. In the chapter “On Tying Flies” he presented the following method: “For wet flies, place the two even and concave edges together, with the tips pointing inward and touching each other.” This method faces the top, or dull side of the quill slips together.

Study of historic sources of wet fly dressings indicate that normally the barb sections which form the wings are tied in with the tips pointing up. The line drawings and Dr. Edgar Burke’s accurate color plate wet fly paintings in Trout clearly confirm the tip-up style. When tied in this way the…

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Chris Helm – Gone Fishing In Heaven

It is with great sadness that I announce that Chris Helm passed away last night, after a several year battle with cancer. I learned of this sad news on facebook, from Steve Wascher, fellow fly tier and friend from western New York. Chris operated his mail-order fly tying business, White Tail Fly Tieing Supplies, from his home. (yes, that’s how he spelled tying).

Chris was instrumental in the filming of my first DVD, “Tying Classic Wet Flies,” in April 2004. He had booked me to teach a classic wet fly class at his home shop in Toledo, Ohio. The class went from one day, to a second day, both sessions filling up with ten students. His fly tying shop was the most well-equipped / stocked tying materials shop I ever saw in my life. Seven brands of hooks, 8 brands of thread, every material you could think of for tying anything from basic trout flies to full-dress salmon flies, was on the shelves. He also bought about 30 deer hides each year, and totally processed them, by himself, washing them in a bathtub, dried them, and then cut, sorted, graded, and labeled the sections / packets for sale. I guess his wife Judy may have helped a little…

Chris totally set up the contact, booking, and filming for my first DVD, which I will always remember, since it was recorded on my birthday, April 4, 2004. Chris did the introduction as well.

Then in 2007, when Kelly and Jim Watt of Bennett-Watt Entertainment were making a new, hi-def video series on DVD, “The New Hooked on Fly Tying,” Chris invited me to participate in that as well. They were filmed at his house. My advanced wet fly and streamer DVD’s were recorded in one day.

A friend in Florida, and I saw this on facebook, drew this card, just this morning, as an expression of sympathy. I believe since Chris was one of the foremost bass bug deer hair dressers in the entire country, that it is very fitting, and the artist, Joe Mahler, kindly granted me permission to share it with my readers. Thank you Joe, for your heartfelt expression of sympathy, combined with your talent. Well done.

Goodbye Chris Helm...

Goodbye Chris Helm…

Streamer Hackles – A Primer on What to Look For

A few weeks ago I was tying 16 Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, actually about ten different patterns, for a few orders. While doing that I thought, as I had previously, that I get lots of questions as to what is the best hackle, where can they be found, etc., the choice of hackles, and what is best, decent, mediocre, and useless (except perhaps for Buggers, poppers, salt water flies, and cat toys), came into my mind. I took some pics of the stuff I use, this is by far not all of it, but the pictures here and comments will hopefully help you to select and maybe even find some good to better to best feathers to use.

Some of these packages are available, you can find them in your area fly shops, or maybe have a friend look for you, or even mail order them, but in the latter case, you take your chances on getting what you want. There is no substitute for: 1) being there in person to make your selection, and 2) having a trusted friend buy what they use for themselves, and get some for you. Option three, having a certified New England, Classic, traditional, heritage, or whatever term you choose to use, streamer expert on hand at the shop you order from is not something you can easily find, nor take for granted. If you have one of those in the employ of your shop, tip him gratuitously! ;-)

That said, here are the pics:

Three saddle hackles, all from the same pack of strung hackle. Feather on the left, pretty much useless for streamers.

Three saddle hackles, all from the same pack of strung hackle. The brand in this case is Orvis; they come from China. Feather on the left, pretty much useless for streamers. The one in the middle, useable, but it is not of the best, preferred shape, due to the pointy end. That said, in the Carrie Stevens book, there are specimens of original flies dressed by her, where the outer wing hackle looks very much like this one, narrow at the end, but it is usually laid over a perfectly shaped feather for the inner hackle(s). Sometimes we get too hung up on “feather perfection.” She did not do that… The hackle on the right – pretty much represents streamer feather perfection. Note the rounded end, it’s not too wide, not too narrow, just right, like the medium-sized bowl of porridge in Goldilocks and The Three Bears. Also note the area, size, and shape of the webbing nearing the butt end of what will be the tie-in point on a streamer. This helps create a foundation for shoulders, or makes a good looking wing when there is no shoulder. This feather is a good representation of the “best” streamer hackles.

Neck hackles can also be used, but nowadays the genetic dry fly breeding preference in the fly tying industry has bred out a lot of what used to be good for both drys, and the bigger feathers of the preferred shape, on a cape or neck (same thing, interchangeable term), out of existence. I am very fortunate to have a good selection of old, 20-plus year old Metz, CQH, Orvis, etc. dry fly necks, whose bigger feathers make perfect streamer wings. Lacking that, here are more options:

I found both these packages at the Orvis Store in Manchester, Vermont, a couple years ago. Saw them recognized them as great streamer hackles, and grabbed 'em.

I found both these packages at the Orvis Store in Manchester, Vermont, a couple years ago. Saw them, recognized them as great streamer hackles, and grabbed ‘em.

When buying strung saddle, the first thing I do is take the bundle from the pack, and go through all the feathers. There will be some schlappen in there; sort that out and store it with your schlappen to be used for tailing and throats. I keep my schlappen, trimmed, fluff removed, in three Plano boxes. Having the colors sorted, with a small inventory of each color, and ready-to-use makes this much easier.

The next thing on sorting strung saddle, if you want to, remove the non useable, and any damaged feathers. You are pretty much good to go from there on. Lots of the feathers can make fishing flies though. Let’s not forget that. Especially, you can place the inferior feathers on the inside of the wing, or use six hackles when only four are called for.

Whiting Streamer Pack - thankfully some companies are breeding and  producing feathers for the streamer tiers.

Whiting Streamer Pack – thankfully some companies are breeding and producing feathers for the streamer tiers. There are generally the perfect shape, but their downside is that often the stems are a little stout. They can be made better for tying-in by cutting the tip of the butt section with a scissor-cut, right in the stem. Basically you are making a cut in the stem, and parallel to it. This lessens the bulk of fat stems, by partly shredding it. Finally, the use of a pair of flat-blade, non-serrated tweezers, flattening the stems of all wing components, just before tying in, makes them lie flatter on the head / tie-in area on your fly.

Whiting also has their American Rooster Capes, these are pretty good for streamers, but again from what I have seen, the stems are a bit stout. My fellow streamer tier, Eunan Hendron, posted a very good reply below, after this piece was published. I decided to do an edit by placing notice here, of his recommendation based on experience of Whiting American Rooster Saddles. Be sure to read his comment, as he discussed his experience with them and the price range of under $30.

And finally, Chinese necks or capes, these are not saddle feathers. Bill Keough’s salt water necks / capes are good feathers for streamers, but most of the colors are a little too hot for traditional streamer tying;chartreuse, purple, hot pink, fluorescent orange. Yet, at the upcoming Fly Fishing Shows, if you can get there, check them out. If he has white ones and you don’t mind dyeing, go for it.

Chinese Streamers Necks, both came from LL Bean they are Wapsi Products.

Chinese Streamers Necks, both came from the LL Bean Flagship Store in Freeport, Maine. They are Wapsi Products.

Plenty of fly shops are Wapsi Dealers, if they do not carry these capes in their regular stock, get them to order some for you. Tying streamers should be the hardest part of this; locating good materials ought not prevent anyone interested in twisting up some classic streamer patterns from doing so.

And, seven years ago, my Streamer DVD was published. They are still available.

Traditional Streamers and Bucktails, 2007, recorded and produced by Bennett- Watt Entertainment

Traditional Streamers and Bucktails, 2007, recorded and produced by Bennett- Watt Entertainment as part of their DVD series, The New Hooked on Fly Tying Collection.

The methods demonstrated in this DVD, while it does not cover Carrie Stevens cementing wing components techniques, still contains a lot of good info that will benefit your streamer tying.

And I close with a photo of a streamer pattern, as an example of pretty good feathers for the wing:

G. Donald Bartlett, a Carrie Stevens pattern created and named after G. Donald Bartlett of Willimantic Connecticut.

Don’s Special, one of three Carrie Stevens patterns created and named after G. Donald Bartlett of Willimantic, Connecticut. Dressed by Don Bastian on a Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style Hook, size #1 – 8x long.

Tight threads everyone! Happy Thanksgiving too!

Guess Who Came to the Show?

This is pretty cool. On Saturday November 22nd, at the 24th Annual International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey, a man came to my table. He was intently eyeing my flies, moving back and forth, from one end of the table to the other. Finally the customer I was speaking to departed, so I devoted my time to this fellow. He was a fine looking man, and well dressed, casual. I’ll move ahead in this story for a moment, but after he left my table, my girlfriend, Mary, said, “That guy looks so familiar. I think he’s a newscaster.” Well…

The thing that was fascinating and interesting, was our conversation, which was driven by the questions he asked. This man knew full well, about Carrie Stevens, about Rangeley streamers, about the 19th-century B-Pond wet fly, and even Lucius A. Derby, for whom Carrie Stevens created a memorial streamer pattern in 1942, based on the B-Pond wet fly.

Our conversation covered details about the Masonic Lodge in Lowell, Massachusetts, named after Lucius A. Derby. According to the book, “Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Style Trout and Salmon Flies,” by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, she made seventy-five of these streamers, which were presented to the Lodge members at the memorial service for Lucius A. Derby in 1942. He knew all about this.

He then asked about the “four known brook trout fin wet flies,” to which I replied, “Actually there are six historic trout fin patterns.” I had a Riker Mount with all six, so I got it out and showed the man. Brook Fin, Trout Fin, Brookie Fin, Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis. Michigan angler, fly caster and fly tier, Phil Armstrong, created the last three.

I also had my six original trout fin wet fly patterns; based on classic style, they are: Olive Trout Fin, Hemlock Trout Fin (previously published), and the Gold Trout Fin, Silver Trout Fin, Rainbow Fin, and Brown Trout Fin. There is one more original but I can’t think of it now.

He was there a good twenty minutes. The conversation was active, engaging, and never slowed for a minute. This man was knowledgeable beyond most of the fly tying / fly fishing folks who stop by my table. We also talked of Carrie Stevens fly tying. I had a Kelley’s Killer original, an image of the fly, tied by her, on my digital camera, so I got the camera out and showed that image to him as well. We discussed its components, differing greatly from the pattern in Hilyard’s book. It was one of those kind of exhilarating meetings that you remember.

We never did figure out who he was until we were at the bar that evening. Mary kept saying, he looked so familiar, but she could not remember his name. All of a sudden, I stated, I’m seeing an “image of the guy wearing a bow tie.” Kind of a page in my mind that just turned. She googled, “news correspondents who wear bow ties” – and BINGO!

Tucker Carlson – of Fox News. Formerly of CNN and MSNBC. Kind of made my day, after the fact. It was impressive that he was so knowledgeable about historical aspects of fly fishing and fly tying. Cool stuff!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!