Brook Trout Fin Wet Flies…

I am typing all this from memory – in reply to a question / comment on my Trout Fin – Reprise post yesterday. I’m also working on a magazine article on these flies and more, so I can’t spill all the beans here.

Of six known historic brook trout fin wet fly patterns; only three were ever published in Ray Bergman’s books. The Fontinalis Fin and the Bergman Fontinalis were in Trout, Plate No. 10; and the Trout Fin was in With Fly Plug, and Bait. That is why these three are the only brook fin patterns in my collective rendition of Wet Fly Plate No. 10 in my framed set, because the frames are composed only of wet fly patterns from Ray Bergman’s books.

The Armstrong Fontinalis was published in Bill Blades book, 1950 or ’51, and I am not certain of its title, but it was something like Fishing Flies and Fly Fishing. This fly and the other two in Trout were all created by Michigan angler and fly tier Phil Armstrong.

The Brook Fin was in H. J. Noll’s Guide to Trout Flies, a how-to tying book, softcover, published in the 1960’s. The Brookie Fin was published in Helen Shaw’s Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989, Stackpole Books. It is out-of-print, but still available if you look.

So, these six:

1) Fontinalis Fin

2) Bergman Fontinalis

3) Trout Fin

4) Armstrong Fontinalis

5) Brook Fin

6) Brookie Fin

There is similarity in the names, which can invite some confusion. But while similar, the patterns are all different. Then there is also the Olive Trout Fin, my contemporary creation of a traditional variation of a brook trout fin wet fly.

See Olive Trout Fin in my older posts…and visit, search Bastian Trout Fin or Olive Trout Fin, and you’ll find more information and photos. I posted a topic several months ago on with I think, five of these six patterns.

Here is the link to the photo essay on the forum:

This may not open so you can also click on the link at the lower right hand side of your screen.

Trout Fin – Reprise…

Last year I posted a photo of the Trout Fin on here. And only a photo. No notes, no nothin’. Today I just wrote the recipe and some added information about the fly, and how I recently discovered how it was included in Ray Bergman’s 4th book. I also commented a bit on my head cement process. It’s not a long read, just a few minutes – if you’d like to check that out just click the link:

Wet Fly Wing Mounting Methods

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 20th century 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 wings flatten out somewhat. In the 1950 book Flies, by J. Edson Leonard, the author refers to this technique as the Closed Wing method; and he also states this is the most traditional and most accepted way to position wet fly wings.

Over the years my observations have led to the conclusion that wet fly wings can actually be tied in any of four different ways. These four wing-mounting styles begin in one of two methods: The previously mentioned Closed Wing and the Divided Wing, an alternative method discussed by Leonard in Flies. The Divided Wing faces the concave sides outward, producing a slightly flared attitude in the wing which can vary from fly to fly depending on the curvature of the quill sections used. It is important for fly tiers to understand whether using the Closed Wing or Divided Wing method that the actual attitude of the wings will vary from one fly to the next, even when multiple flies are made from the same pair of wing quills. This is due to the fact that feather barbs do not retain uniformity of character and curvature along the entire length of the useable portion of the stem.

Both of these methods traditionally attach the quills slips with the tips pointing up. However, within either Closed or Divided Wing methods, there are two additional methods of individual preference that position the wings with the tips pointing down. Flies, Lake Flies, and a good many of the Bass Flies, though some tiers who contributed to Marbury’s book, favored wings tied “”flaring outward” especially when using whole feathers. This provided an open and closing action when retrieved.

J. Edson Leonard states in his book Flies that his preferential wing style is the Divided Wing. He believed as I do, that the Divided Wing method, with its outward-flaring feather tips creates more action when fished. Imagine as the wing opens, closes, and pulses in the water, responding to line manipulation by the angler; this movement arguably increases the effectiveness of the fly. In comparison the action of wet flies with Closed Wings is somewhat dampened. The Divided Wing method also produces better balance of the wing because it eliminates the misalignment of the Closed Wing style that often results from exaggerated concave curves opposing each other. Additionally I believe that the Divided Wing style, facing the dull side of the feather outward, produces the best appearance due to the fact that the color and texture of the top side of the barbs is the most attractive and the most vivid. Visual impact is of utmost significance, though probably more so to fly tiers than to fish.

While I clearly have my preferences, I do not believe that one of these wing styles is the only acceptable method. A well-known proponent of the Closed Wing tip-down style is the prolific fly fishing and fly tying author Dave Hughes. He espouses and promotes the tip-down method. The venerable and opinionated Pennsylvania fly fishing and fly tying legend George Harvey preferred tip down, and as George, the “Dean of Fly Fishing,”  could occasionally be, he was very adamant about this. In the end it is a matter of personal preference.

This writing is excerpted from my Traditional Wet Flies article in the 2010 print edition of Hatches Magazine. Signed copies of this issue may be ordered by contacting me at:

Price is $8.50 including postage. I accept Paypal, checks, or US Money Orders.

(Unfortunately this issue of “Hatches Magazine” is SOLD OUT).

Silver Black Gnat displaying the four styles of wet fly wings. Clockwise from upper left: Closed Wing – Tip Up; Divided Wing – Tip Up; Divided Wing – Tip Down; and Closed Wing -Tip Down. Note: these flies are all hackled with the collar applied after the wing, which is just one of four styles of wet fly hackles.

Wet Fly Display at Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum

Photo of me at my table at the Fly Fishing Show, March 5 & 6, Valley Forge, PA.

Part of the wet fly display at Valley Forge.

483 wet flies in order, prior to mounting on cardboard, foam, and foam-core.

Frames on display at the Northeast Hunting and Fishing Expo in Hartford, Connecticut, February 18 - 20.

I would like to officially announce that the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum in Livingston Manor, New York, will be hosting a one-day showing of my ten-frame display of the wet fly plates from Ray Bergman’s Trout and other books.

The date is Saturday April 2. Museum hours and other information are available at the Museum website:

Museum Curator Jim Krul has released promotional information in local news media, on Facebook, and in the CFFCM newsletter.

Trout has 440 wet fly patterns. This set is composed of flies tied by me of Wet Fly Plates Nos. 1 through 9, inclusive, from Trout, adding the 5 wets on Plate No. 10, with the remaining patterns gleaned from Just Fishing; With Fly Plug, and Bait; and the 2nd edition of Trout – 1952. Falling three patterns short, I added a Female Beaverkill, and both Light and Dark Hendrickson wets to arrive at 48 flies for the final Plate.

These ten frames contain 483 flies in all, and are the same flies being presented in groups of ten in The Ray Bergman Collection at Hatches Magazine Online. I am very excited and honored to have these flies displayed at the Catskill Museum. Ray Bergman’s Niece, Norma Christian, is planning to attend, her health considered, if she feels well enough to travel on the day.

Ted Patlen is the scheduled Featured Tyer for the day at the museum. I will be there as well, most likely just hanging out, talking to visitors, and enjoying myself.

Blue Fan Wing Royal Coachman Drys

A fellow I met years ago at the Marlborough, Massachusetts, Fly Fishing Show; posted a comment today on my topic of the Fan Wing Royal Coachman. He sent me a photo of his variation, and I wanted to use it here, thinking it would be nice to share his idea. Alec Stansell sent it to me and I am appreciative of his consent to place his photo here.

Rather than insert it into an edit, I placed it by itself. Alec says it is a good imitation for the blue damsel flies that are about the shorelines of many lakes and ponds.

Here also, is his message of consent. Thanks, Alec!

“Hi Don – I would be delighted if you posted the picture ! I’m really enjoying your blog – just wonderful!  I am going to try and get to Beans expo – I’ll be sure to stop by and say hi.  All the best wishes to you – God bless – Alec.”

Blue Fan Wing Royal Coachman Drys - photo and flies by Alec Stansell

Blue Fan Wing Royal Coachman

Thread: White Danville 6/0 for body, black for head. This is because the use of black tying thread would severely darken when wet, altering the nice blue shade of floss.

Wings: White wood duck male breast feathers

Tail: Lady Amherst pheasant tippet dyed blue

Body: Peacock herl with dark blue floss center

Hackle: Dark blue

L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo

Last year in March, I was invited to participate as a Featured Fly Tyer at the Annual L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo at the Flagship Hunting and Fishing Store in Freeport, Maine. I must have done something right because I was invited back again this year. Ha! My first visit there was back in 2006 and I had not been back until 2010.

Last year, Maine had one of the earliest ice-outs in recent history, and the weather the weekend of the 2010 event was so warm folks were wandering about in shorts, T-shirts, and sandals.

I placed a few photos from 2010 here of myself, my brother, Larry, and his daughter & my niece, Emily, who at the time was working part-time at Bean’s in the Hunting and Fishing Store. She loves to hunt and fish, so what better place to work? Emily took the photo of the Neverwas wet fly in the jaw of a mackinaw trout, posted here on my site, one of many fish that she caught last summer during her 3-1/2 months of hiking and fishing in Montana.

Emily, Larry, and Don Bastian at L. L Bean 2010 Spring Fishing Expo

Don Bastian tying a wet fly...

Emily Bastian and her Uncle Don (Uncle Donnie as I am known to my family...)

L. L. Bean Flagship Hunting and Fishing Store, Freeport, Maine

Wet Fly Wings – A Few Notes

I’ve been saying this for years…marrying wings properly is ALL ABOUT MAINTAINING UNIFORMITY OF TEXTURE with whatever material is being used. And this fact becomes even more pronounced when tying the wings in, rather than having difficulty merely when just marrying the fibers (properly called barbs) together. Too often, barb sections will marry, but if they are not properly matched, they often separate & collapse when tied in. Therein lays the real significance and need for tiers to recognize the necessity to “maintain uniformity of texture.”
Even with duck wing quill sections; the bottom portion near the butt of the stem is the softest, slightly increasing in stiffness of texture in the mid-section, and most significantly so nearer the tip of the feather. On most wing primaries, only 1/2 to 2/3 of the feather is actually usable. You can literally cut the tip sections off the quills; they aren’t much good for wet fly wings, however for resourceful fly tiers these sections can be used in situations where you want a finer equivalent of goose biots for use on nymph components such as tails, feelers, legs, etc.

So even when tying a married-wing wet fly like say, the Kineo, with three colors of duck quill, in both the tail and wing, it’s best to select ALL sections for both components from matched pairs of duck quills AND take the barb sections from relatively the same location from each pair of feathers. This means you are selecting the different barbed sections from about the same location on each pair of feathers; hence, you are “maintaining uniformity of texture” in the process of selection of your quill barb sections to be used in the wings. If one were to use goose shoulder for wings, the location of where the barbs come from on each section is not as significant, because goose shoulder, as body plumage, is naturally softer than wing feather barbs, and it doesn’t have the wide variation in difference of texture from butt to tip of the stem that wing quills do.

I always use the softest barbs near the butt end of the stems almost exclusively for tails whether the fly I’m tying has a single color quill tail or a married tail.

Getting duck flank to marry to colored sections is actually very easy, provided you know what to use. Once again, the uniformity of texture rule applies. Wood duck flank, I am sorry to say to those who struggle with it, is a piece of cake to marry, but NOT TO DUCK QUILL! It marries well, sweetly, nicely, and superbly to BUT only to, goose shoulder sections or nazurias as they are sometimes known.

To tie patterns incorporating barred wood duck in the wings and tails, such as the Cassard, Denison, Holberton, or McAlpin; use barred wood duck (matched left and right feathers – very important), and goose shoulder, and be sure to keep the sections matched as left-to-left, and right-to-right for both the wood duck and goose shoulder. If this is not done properly you will end up with failed marriages.

For further reference, I suggest anyone interested in learning more about wet fly winging methods, whether single color or married, refer to my article, Traditional Wet Flies in the print edition of Hatches 2010. At almost 5000 words the article is a double-feature and it is a heavily-focused, technical, and very detailed dissertation on marrying wings. I’d say, without conceit, merely stating the fact: this is my first-ever written treatise on wet fly wings. This piece is just about the best written instructions you can find anywhere on wet fly quill wings. Better wet fly winging instructions can only be experienced by watching a skilled fly tier who knows these techniques well, performing live or on a video DVD.