Bastian’s Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger

I had announced this on my facebook page last week, but I also wanted to post something here. I am pleased to announce that the Orvis Company has picked up for the third year, my original pattern, “Bastian’s Floating Cadddis Emerger.” It is offered in their online catalog:

This pattern was created in 2006, a revised fly that began in 1996 with my original Hatching Caddis Adult pattern. It has been field-tested in Pennsylvania; on Penn’s Creek, Big Pine Creek, and Spring Creek. I also used it successfully on the Beaverkill in New York, and Montana’s Madison River, and my brother has used it on Maine’s Penobscot River for land-locked salmon. It has also proven itself as a very effective still-water fly. Since its release with Orvis, a customer and his wife from Massachusetts, who guide with the 2014 Orvis Guide of the Year, Tim Linehan, used it on the Missouri River in 2013 and hammered ’em. Tim had not seen the pattern previously and was surprised by its success. He bought some from me afterward.

Here is a photo of Susan Ukena with Tim Linehan, and a fine Missouri River rainbow that took my emerger – a #14 tan:

Sue Ukena and Orvis 2014 Guide of the Year, Tim Linehan, with a Missouri River rainbow that fell to Bastian's Floating Caddis Emerger.

Sue Ukena and Orvis 2014 Guide of the Year, Tim Linehan, with a Missouri River rainbow that fell to Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger.

I also wanted to get the fly on the site, but could not in good conscience place the same pattern there. So I made two changes in the pattern, number one, the way the hackle is applied. On the version, Bastian’s Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger, I side-lash the legs. And number two, I added a chartreuse foam indicator to the top of the fly and the neck, between the body and head section. This helps improve visibility of the fly, which rides on the surface. It is called an emerger, but this fly is actually a dry fly, even though it is unconventional in its appearance as a dry fly. Another thing about it, even if swamped by surface turbulence, it remains in the film. That is why the hi-vis indicator is helpful. Plus I have successfully for the last three seasons, doubled-up and used a tandem dry fly rig with this pattern; a sulfur dun and a ginger colored “sulfur” version of Bastian’s Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger. The larger, high-floating, more visible dun pattern keeps your eye tracking the drift of the emerger as well. Trout flash, swirl, boil, or just show themselves under the dun, and they are generally always looking at, or most times, have taken the emerger. This is why I have trained myself to be quick to strike at any sign of a trout. Even with just 10″ of tippet between the dun and emerger, the dry fly does not always give indication that the trout took the emerger. They are faster and quicker on the “take and spit” than most of us ever realize.

There are about ten or eleven articles here on my blog related to this pattern. Use the search tab, type in “Floating Emerger,” hit the enter key and they will come up. Lots of photos, success stories, tactical stuff, tying instructions…it’s all there.

Here is a pic from the site:

This is the gingeerr colored veersion of Bastian's Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger, this KILLS on Speing Creeek and any stream where the sulfurs, Ephemerella rotunda exist.

This is the ginger-colored version of Bastian’s Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger. This fly KILLS on Spring Creek and any stream where the sulfurs, phemerella rotunda exist.

A customer here in Pennsylvania recently ordered some of these. Here is a quote from the e-mail I got the other day when he received his order:

“Received the flies. Once again, I am just stunned at the character of these flies in person, I am not surprised they are so killer.”

These flies are available from Orvis, or from I also offer them in custom colors and sizes, I have tied them as small as #20, and as large as a #10 – 2x long in brown as a Slate Drake Emerger. Now all we have to do is wait for Spring…

Tomah Joe

Last weekend at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey, a friend came by and gave me some barred wood duck flank feathers. On Saturday afternoon, I tied this fly for him, a Tomah Joe, dressed according to the original 1880’s recipe. My girlfriend, Mary Fortin, took the picture of it still in my vise with her cell phone. Here it is:

Tomah Joe, tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Mary Fortin.+

Tomah Joe, tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Mary Fortin. The hook is a blind-eye 2/0 antique hook. The red wool head is my personal addition. Oftentimes the heads on these old flies are rather unkempt-looking and unfinished.

Here is a photo I took at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in 2012 of the original fly plate that was used for the artist’s painting for the 1883 book, “Fishing With the Fly,” by C. F. Orvis and A. N. Cheney. The Tomah Joe is on the plate. This image was previously published on my blog.

Tomah Joe, Lake Fly pattern, at top right. This plate of Lake Flies is over 130 years old.

Tomah Joe, Lake Fly pattern, at top right. This plate of Lake Flies from the Orvis Company archives, now in the collection of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, is over 130 years old. The other patterns are: Bee, top left, No Name, Blue Bottle, Grasshopper, and Webster. This is one of the plates of Lake Flies from the Orvis / Cheney book.

Note the tail on the Tomah Joe is a single yellow hackle feather, not fibers, not a golden pheasant crest as is sometimes seen. Multiple examples of the Tomah Joe in the AMFF in Manchester, Vermont, remain consistent with this component of the dressing. That is why I used the material I did on the tail of the Tomah Joe I dressed at the show.

Tomah Joe

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: A single yellow hackle feather

Butt: Peacock herl

Body: Oval silver tinsel

Hackle: Scarlet fronted by yellow

Wing: Barred wood duck

Head: tiers discretion

Here is another photo I added via edit just today. A friend in Massachusetts bought this Tomah Joe from me in 2001. The pattern is tied as in Ray Bergman’s book, “Trout,” 1938. Not whole feather tips for wings, but slips of barred wood duck on each side. And yellow fibers for the tail. This is mounted the way I used to do it, put the hook point into foam bits on a card. Now I wire all the flies to the card…makes for a much better appearance.

Tomah Joe, recipe from "Trout" by Ray Bergman.

Tomah Joe, recipe from “Trout” by Ray Bergman.

Have fun!

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:


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!

Rangeley Lake Flies

Earlier this fall, I tied an order for a customer going to Upper Dam in the Rangeley Region of Maine to fish for brook trout and land-locked salmon. He told me to select the patterns, so I thought it only appropriate to choose the flies for his trip from among the famous, historic, heritage Lake Flies, some of which were listed in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. These flies were in the Orvis inventory, and also for sale by other firms, such as Abbey & Imbrie, who went out of business in 1920.

I tied them on size #6 and #8 Mustad hooks, though I did use contemporary wet fly hooks, in this case, Tiemco #3769, 0x-long wet fly hook. The reason for that is that vintage wet fly hooks such as the #3906 and #3399 Mustad, and other hooks such as Partridge, Allcock, Nyack and others, while they make great-looking wet flies, the contemporary hooks are in my view, better for fishing flies. This is due to their manufacture with high-carbon steel, and having chemically sharpened points and mini-barbs. Besides the limited availability of antique and vintage hooks relegates their prudent usage to collector and framed flies.

Here are the pics of part of the order:

A collection of Lake Flies, all originated and / or used in Maine's Rangeley Lakes Region.

A collection of replicated 19th century Lake Flies, all originated and / or used in Maine’s Famous Rangeley Lakes Region. On the left, Montreals; top center, The Tim – named for Tim Pond near Eustis;  right, Richardson, named after Richardson Lake; and center, a dozen Parmacheene Belles in two sizes. The latter was named for Lake Parmacheene, part of the system that the Magalloway River flows out of.

The Tim in Marbury’s book has a black ostrich herl head, but I substituted black rabbit dubbing to replicate the vintage look. This trick also makes for less time and effort where you might otherwise apply numerous coats of head cement to finish the head smooth and shiny. The fly, done this way, with the faux-ostrich dubbed head, looks classic and can be finished – and fished – right out of the vise. On to the next fly…

Rangeley Lake Flies, a bit of a closer image - macro photo.

Rangeley Lake Flies, a bit of a closer image – macro photo.

And finally, The Tim:

The Tim Lake Fly - named for Tim Pond, created in the 1870's-80's...named for Trapper Tim, for whom Tim Pond was named.

The Tim Lake Fly – named for Tim Pond, created in the 1870’s-80’s…named for Trapper Tim, for whom Tim Pond was named. The mallard wing was applied in two sections, basically layering two sections of webby mallard, right over each other. The second, top layer, is folded or tented over the lower portion of the wing.

The Tim:

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Scarlet quill section

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Yellow floss

Hackle: Yellow

Wing: yellow dyed gray mallard

Head: Black wool or dubbing, finished with black thread.

I used Danville white Flymaster 6/0 for the body, and switched to black for the head. These Lake Flies were historically tied in larger sizes, #4, #2, #1, even as large as #1/0 and even 2/0 in some cases.

Oh yes, my customer reported success with the flies on his trip. Classic flies, fun to tie, and they still catch fish! See also the recent posts on the Black Prince, where that classic wet fly has tempted brown trout on Pennsylvania’s famed limestone streams, Penn’s Creek and Spring Creek, for two of my customers.

I have another batch that I took photos of, they were part of a second shipment. I’ll get those posted here as well…after the coming week or so of doing things more important right now…

Gem – A New and Unknown Carrie Stevens Pattern

Two different people sent me this photo over the weekend of an unknown (as far as I know), carded  Carrie Stevens bucktail pattern. Obviously, it is her card, her handwriting, and her fly. And very interesting in that fly is is a similar design to the FRS Bucktail patterns she originated for her friend and client of her guide husband, Wallace Stevens. The client for whom the FRS bucktails were created and named was Francis Reast Smith, 1873-1950.

Here is the pic of the Gem:

Gem bucktail, created and tied by Carrie G. Stevens of Upper Dam, Maine.

Gem bucktail, created and tied by Carrie G. Stevens of Upper Dam, Maine. This hook is a variation from her standard use of the Allcock 1810 Regular Heavy Sproat turned-down eye streamer hooks that she normally used. Not sure what it is, but it is known she used some Mustad hooks similar in design to the Allcock 1810 after World War II.

By zooming in on the image, I was able to ascertain that the head is red with a black band, and there is a tag on the fly, though it is impossible to determine the color of it. Perhaps if I made another image, cropped it to the tag, and them zoomed in and maybe lightened the brightness I might be able to find that out. That’s a little detective project for later on…

This is also interesting for another reason: chenille was like, never used on any of Carrie Stevens’ other named and well-known and known, but unfamiliar patterns. On the tag, it is very likely that it is a silver tinsel, because of all her named and known patterns, give or take a hundred-plus, she used gold tinsel on only five of them. Upon close inspection, the profile of the tag seems to indicate that it is oval tinsel as well, presenting the use of another material that she did not use on the dressings of her standard Rangeley Style streamers.

Don’t forget folks, you can click on the image to enlarge it, and another click will make it even bigger Check it out!

The topping appears to be green hackle fibers. Body is yellow chenille, and the wing is white bucktail over red bucktail. I’m sticking my neck out a bit and am calling the tag oval silver tinsel, without having made the aforementioned detailed investigation.

To my regular followers…I have a major life-change event on the horizon…all good. Moving on and forward from some of the negative residual of my ill-fated second marriage which ended almost four years ago. I have been very busy with all that. At some point I will be more in control of everything and will be able to focus on more regular writing here as well. I send my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your patience and devotion.

I will be at the International Fly Tying Symposium in November, the 22nd and 23rd, in Somerset, New Jersey.

Black Prince

The Black Prince wet fly is an old pattern. It is shown on the Lake Flies in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. It is also in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a popular pattern and has appeared in other publications as well. The Orvis version has a body made entirely of flat gold tinsel, while the later version in Trout sports a black floss body with a gold tinsel ribbing. Both have red tails, the version in Marbury’s book also has a jungle cock cheek. Hackle and wings on both versions are black, with natural black hackle being used on the original plate fly. I have a photo of that and recognized it as natural black; more of a dark charcoal color.

The reason I am inspired to post this article is that I recently completed an order of four dozen Black Prince wet flies, for a customer for fishing. She wanted them in sizes #12, #14, #16, and #18. The surprising part, not to me, but likely to many of you, is that my customer recently fished Pennsylvania’s famed and reportedly difficult to fish, at times anyway, Penn’s Creek. This is a stream where no stocking is done in a large section of Special Regulation water. The fish are almost all wild, stream-bred brown trout. I received her e-mail message today, as follows:

“ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE!!! A short time ago I had a great afternoon on Penn’s Creek above Coburn with the Black Prince.  I would lay odds that is a fly that has not been seen around here in 50 years!!  And neither have the trout.”
My customer did not specify the size(s) she used, nor did she indicate how they were fished, but it’s a sure bet the flies were simply swung down-and-across. The hooks I used to supply her fishing fly order were modern hooks; I used Tiemco wet fly hooks – #3769. I prefer vintage and antique hooks for display and collector flies; and contemporary, high-carbon steel, mini-barb, chemically sharpened points to get the job done if the flies will be getting wet. Modern hooks are unquestionably better for fishing.
Here is a photo of the version of the Black Prince from Trout:
Black Prince - classic wet fly. The hook size is #6,Mustad vintage style No. 3399.

Black Prince – classic wet fly. The hook size is #6, Mustad vintage style No. 3399. The hackle on this fly was applied after setting the wing, using an old-fashioned technique. This method combines the winged wet with the effectiveness of a soft-hackle.

Black Prince

Thread: Danville Black Flymaster 6/0

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #18 – large hooks, full hackle to replicate Lake Fly style.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet hackle fibers of a section of red duck quill – may be two matching slips paired, or a single slip of duck or goose wing quill, as was done almost exclusively in the 1800’s

Ribbing: Narrow gold tinsel

Body: Black floss

Wing: Black duck or goose wing quill, matched and paired; may also be natural crow

Hackle: Black

It is the tiers discretion to apply the hackle as a false or beard style hackle, or as a soft-hackle collar, which may be wound either before or after placing the wing.

If one desired to replicate the Orvis version of the Black Prince, use fine flat gold tinsel for the tag, make the body from medium flat gold tinsel, use a scarlet dyed quill section for the tail – traditionally in the 1800’s, scarlet ibis feathers were used for this – and add a jungle cock cheek.

Like so many classic wet flies, trout do not see them, and one ace-in-the-hole trick you can tuck up your sleeve is to hit the water with something different than what everyone else is fishing. How about the Black Prince?

Next on my customers custom order – the Grackle, another old classic pattern.

Classic Fly Tier Turns to Salt

That would be me, not turning to salt, but tying some saltwater flies, specifically a palolo worm pattern for tarpon in the Florida Keys. Going back twenty years, and off and on since then, I have tied Clouser Minnows, Deceivers, and some original squid-type patterns for stripers and cold saltwater fish, and once did an order of some bonefish flies. But I have never tied tarpon flies, except for a handful of Stu Apte’s Tarpon Fly that was on the 1991 United States postage fishing fly stamp series. These all went into frames with the stamp.

This palolo worm pattern came about in a strange way. It seems a customer found the site, and saw my Floating Inchworm pattern; here’s a pic of that for those of you who have not seen it:

My original design, Floating Inchworm pattern.

My original design, Floating Inchworm pattern. The hook is a #16 TMC 2488. This fly is a great late spring, all-summer, and into fall dry fly search pattern. When the hatches taper off trout turn to terrestrials, and this fly fits that need nicely.

So my customer saw this fly, and somehow thought I could perhaps adapt this design to a tarpon fly. Say what? I think of tarpon as these large, predatory fish that can bust up your tackle, not to mention wearing you out in the process of trying to land one.

The palolo worm is tropical and various species of them live in coral reefs around the world. In researching them I discovered the Samoans covet them as a delicacy. And they breed once a year, a night-time spectacle that lasts only a few hours. The annual spawn and harvest of these things is a ritual celebration in some places. I never thought that tarpon would eat something so small, yet I know big trout eat tiny midges, and grizzly bears eat little moths, and a two-hundred pound human will eat a single peanut, raisin, or one M&M, though the latter is hard to do. The reason why trout, tarpon, and grizzly bears eat small food items is that they can occur in large numbers, making the caloric intake worth the effort.

My customer explained to me that the palolo worm larva hatch in abundance, and they are about 2-1/2 to 2-5/8 inches long, and they do not undulate, but rather look like a stick moving in the water. They have small legs, sort of like those on a centipede, that move, but you can’t see these until you get close. My customer also explained that if the projected pattern would float or at least, sink slower than any other palolo worm patterns that it would work to his advantage.

I used closed-cell foam, 2mm, and doubled the cut section up to make the body. This image shows a finished worm body on a tube fly jig:

Original design, a palolo worm body on a tube fly jig. I later used a large-sized paper

Original design, a palolo worm body on a tube fly jig. I later used a large-sized straighten-out paper clip because it had a uniform size diameter for the entire length of the body. I was initially working onto the tapered part of the jig.

I was using Wapsi Ultra-Thread brown in 6/0, but only because I had some. I really don’t care for that thread, it seems to flatten out and fray too easily. When that spool was used up I went to Danville 3/0 brown monocord. To illustrate how much thread these things used, I went through a full 50-yard spool of the monocord in a few hours, which reminded me of my commercial tying days, when I did the same thing, using an entire spool of monocord in a day, tying Wooly Buggers. Most tiers have no clue as to what that volume of tying is like. I also put a huge dent into the second spool of monocord until these were finished.

Here is a macro of the finished worm:

Don Bastian's original design Palolo Worm pattern, the hook is an Owner

Don Bastian’s original design Palolo Worm pattern, the hook is an Owner 1/0 Mosquito Hook, #5377-111 Black Chrome. Bass Pro Shops carry these hooks, so I was fortunate to be able to order them from my local Bass Pro Outlet which is also Winner Hardware in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. If you have never tied on these hooks, let me tell you, they are excellent quality. And sharp as a needle.

The body section on the hook has a strip of foam pulled over the top like a nymph case; the ribbing is the tying thread made with my reverse-dubbing process, and the “legs” are the rabbit fur picked out and clipped just like when making a cress bug pattern. The color is a custom blended mix of brown rabbit that I have in a large ziploc bag; I can’t remember what is in it because I made it up about fifteen years ago and labeled it “Dark Sulfur Nymph.” Finding that when looking for the right color of dubbing to use on these worm, I thought, “perfect.”

The entire lot in the order, fifty-four in all.

The entire lot in the order, fifty-four in all.

Each fly took me about six minutes to make, start to finish, of course I made all the bodies first, then began the process of lashing the abdomen to the hook, dubbing, and finishing the top segment with the tying thread ribbing.

I think they will work…but I’m relying on my customer who will soon be putting them to the test. I’m hoping for a Grand Slam with this design!