Hey everyone – I know I have just about always posted wet flies here.
Here is something different: some streamers, eight of them in two four-packs.
I am trying a new packaging arrangement for the shows this year, so the first photo features a Carrie Steven’s Quartet; the Gray Ghost, Merry Widow, Big Ben (the first actual fly where I cemented the wings beforehand), and America.
They are mounted (wired) onto my streamer cards, (old phone number – don’t call it!), which are glued to card-stock, and packed in small gift boxes.
Update added July 29: Last night and this morning I was tying more Stevens’ patterns, and also reading the Graydon and Leslie Hilyard book, Carrie Stevens – Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies (2000, 2011 – Stackpole Books); and noticed some photos of early authentic Carrie Stevens patterns. One was Pattern No. 11 and it is “wired” onto the card through the eye and at the bend, like I mounted these. Other fly tiers of the New England tradition actually used to “staple” their flies to the card, sometimes right through the cellophane sleeve locking the hook in place. The was done for expedience; hey, they were just fishin’ flies. I believe the wire idea is the best, though requiring a bit more effort. It certainly provides for the best presentation of the fly. I had previously used this same method to mount flies to mat board for framing, starting back about 1998, and at that time I had never seen any photos, much less originals, of Carrie Steven’s or anyone’s flies wired to cards. About eight years ago, I had a bunch of streamer patterns tied up for sale, and not wanting to use the staples, and wiring I thought, too time-consuming, so I used a small piece of scotch tape over the hook point to keep the fly in position. That worked alright, but the tape will likely deteriorate and discolor over time. Again, for fishin’ flies, it worked just fine. I have recently returned to the wiring method as being the most secure, and most attractive as well.
You know, when I first started tying the Steven’s patterns for framing in the early 1980’s, I used to use her “trademark” banded head. I simply believed it was the final detail to her patterns. Then for some reason I stopped doing it and didn’t do it for years. Actually I wasn’t tying many streamers anyway, after discovering the Wooly Bugger in the late ’70’s. The streamers I did tie were traditional patterns for use in Maine, since I first started fishing the Moosehead Lake area in 1986.
In 1998 the streamer chapter of over one thousand patterns was added to the book Forgotten Flies, for which I had replicated all the flies of all types from Ray Bergman’s books. I tied about 240 streamers for that chapter, plus I had already tied all the streamer and bucktail patterns that were published in Ray Bergman’s books. Most folks only know I did the wet flies, but I tied everything; drys, wets, nymphs, streamers, bucktails, and even the steelhead flies.
While some fly tiers may consider the banding Carrie’s signature, it is important to note that the colors she used are also integrated into the pattern design. She used different threads for the head and different colors for the band; like a red head with a black band on the Colonel Bates, black head with red band on the Gray Ghost and many others, a black head with orange band as on the Big Ben, and on the America, Casablanca, and Victory, what else but red, white, and blue. This triple-banded head is also on the General MacArthur. I suddenly asked myself: “How can I tie a General MacArthur with a black head?”
Can I make the head red only? Nope. Too distracting. White? Are you kidding? I think too overpowering. Blue? Uhhh…guess not. (I actually tied a general MacArthur last night, four days after I posted this – and the blue head didn’t look all that bad). Well, separately these colors may all match the pattern to a degree, but I think Carrie Stevens imagined and created her patriotic series of streamers with American patriotic colors in mind for finishing the heads.
And then I answered myself, “It’s gotta be red, white, and blue.”
OK, so some may say that’s OK, in keeping with the theme of the patriotic pattern concept, but not on any of her other patterns.
I’m presenting more of my case here, please bear with me. Other known fly tiers, in particular Bill Edson (originator of the Edson Light and Dark Tigers, Bill Special, Dot Edson streamers), comes to mind. Bill designed streamers with different color heads; yellow, white, & silver for instance. In tying Bill’s patterns, would we be correct in changing the head color he specified? I don’t think so.
I know for a fact some won’t agree with me, but I just realized that if I’m tying Carrie Stevens’ patterns, then I think the fly should be true to her original design, right down to and including the head. I have become convinced of this, after years, a couple decades almost; of being in the camp of those saying “don’t copy Carrie Steven’s banded heads.
When Wendell Folkins bought the business from Carrie Stevens in the 1950’s, he continued to tie Carrie’s patterns with the banded heads. There are photos of Carrie’s patterns in the book Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, tied by Wendell. These are Carrie’s patterns, and when he replicated them and sold them to her customers, and to new customers he acquired, he used her head colors and the banding technique. Use of his technique was not forgery of Carrie Steven’s fly signature, it seems pretty certain that Mr. Folkins surely did it at Carrie’s request to indicate the patterns were of her origin or her variation.
So after years of being on both sides of this discussion, I think that designation ought to continue. I am doing the banded heads on Carrie’s patterns, and I will continue to do so.
The second box contains well-known Maine patterns; the Footer Special, Supervisor, Barnes Special, and Nine-Three.
The photos aren’t the best, but I was too busy today to really get intense with them…I hope you don’t mind. Thanks for reading this. I used Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style hooks, sizes #1 and #2, 8x long to dress these flies.