The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond

This post was placed on Wednesday, November 23rd, by “Quill Gordon,” caretaker of The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club, aka writer of a blog titled, “The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond.”

I know it’s very easy at times, to spend entirely too much time on the internet, but this article, while written primarily as a review of my October visit to The Wantastiquet Trout Club near Weston, Vermont, is focused on my tying of traditional wet flies, it is nevertheless a very entertaining and humorous read, as are some of the other posts on his blog.

http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/wets/

As a teaser to read Quill’s post, here is a photo of a nice brook trout I landed during my visit:

Brook Trout caught by Don Bastian at the Wantastiquet Trout Club in Vermont

And here is a photo looking north from the dock at our cabin:

The Wantastiquet Trout Club lake near Weston, Vermont. The weather was mostly like this, cloudy, rainy, foggy, misty; but still beautiful, with a captivating allure despite the chill in the air.

My companions for the trip: Derrick, Luke, Paul, and me (left to right), when I was starting to grow a winter beard.

The invitation from one of my Lancaster County friends, Paul Milot, to go on this trip provided a perfect opportunity for me to visit the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, since I had just signed the contract for my book on the 19th Century Orvis fly patterns from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. I had previously been in discussion with the folks at the Museum, and it was interesting when speaking with my Pennsylvania friend Paul on the phone, who had called to invite me on this trip. I asked, “Is this place anywhere near Manchester?”

“About 20 miles,” Paul replied.

“Perfect,” I replied, then followed up with this question: “Would it be possible for me to visit the museum during the trip?”

Paul answered affirmatively. As we made our plans, I was delighted to suddenly be presented with a chance to accomplish several things, including a personal visit to the Museum during the trip which afforded me a perfectly-timed opportunity to conduct a little preliminary research for my book. I had previously been planning an imminent trip to Connecticut and Massachusetts anyway, to deliver the remaining seven frames to complete a 10-frame set of mounted wet flies; Plate Nos. 4 through 10 from Trout by Ray Bergman, to a customer who lived near Boston. The patterns in these framed sets are from the Wet Fly Color Plates of Ray Bergman’s Books; 440 out of a total of 483 framed wet flies being sourced from his epic 1938 work, Trout, with the remaining 43 patterns coming from additional flies in Ray Bergman’s other books.

The invitation to join these fellows on this trip was a serendipitous turn of events, plus I got to hang out with friends at the peaceful lakeside camp at The Wantastiquet Trout Club, meet some new friends, tie a few flies, have a little Scotch, relax, and of course – fish! Quill visited our cabin Saturday afternoon to take some photos of the wet fly frames, and he posted some of his pictures of the mounted flies on The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond in his recent post, simply and aptly titled, Wets.

During this, my first-ever visit to Vermont; on Friday afternoon, October 14th, departing the cabin near Weston, Vermont, in the pouring rain so no one wanted to fish, my three companions and I paid a visit to the Museum in Manchester to see Yoshi Akiyama, the Deputy Director. This was the initial stage of research for my upcoming book, and Yoshi graciously spent well over an hour with us and allowed us to see and actually hold – while wearing white cotton gloves – many of the original 32 Plates of mounted flies that were used for Marbury’s book. I had not known these were still in existence until fellow fly tier Paul Rossman informed me. Holding, viewing, and studying these flies was a very moving, spiritual, fascinating experience. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. And yes, also enlightening. The flies were individually hand-sewn with white cotton thread onto some type of mat boards which were secured in small wooden frames. It was fascinating to see the homespun cross-hatched thread pattern on the backside of these boards. The sewing process began with the first fly and continued from one pattern to the next, going over the hook bend and silk gut loop or snelled flying-lead of silkworm gut to secure each fly. The flies on each plate were used as models for the hand-painted renderings that were reproduced in Marbury’s book by a 19th Century state-of-the-art process known as chromo-lithography.

An unexpected bonus at the Museum was the display assembled by Mary Orvis Marbury for the 1893 Chicago World Exposition. There are many large display panels, made I think, drawing on my ancient Associate Degree in Forestry Technology and learned experience to recognize some types of wood, of American chestnut. These beautiful glass-covered frames are filled with photographs and mounted flies. This display is essentially a promotional not only for Orvis Company, but is also very clear that Mary Orvis organized it to promote and compliment the geographical theme and layout of her recently published book.

The Orvis display in the Museum captivated me. I returned the next day and spent an hour taking photographs of nearly 150 of the flies in the display, and I skipped over most of the trout flies and hackles. This was a very interesting, fascinating, and enlightening experience. As I later reviewed and zoomed in on various fly patterns, questions I had, as have others, on various components and ingredients – which have been perceived as ambiguous in many cases, and even assumed to be correct for over a century, are in some instances unveiled in a “new light” by these photos. Um, dare I say, different?

This is like detective work and is fascinating to me; part of the process of my book will be to continue and intensify my research and if necessary, make corresponding adjustments in fly pattern recipes. Considering some of the facts I have discovered, I know there are “variations” from some of these accepted Orvis fly recipes. This is confirmed by what I see with my eyes on photographs I took myself. The lack of written pattern recipes in Marbury’s book and the vagaries of visual verification on the painted color plates contributed to persistent questions on some of the materials used. And in fact, this reality hit me during a July 2011 conversation with a fellow fly tier. This realization was the spark of an idea that made me propose a book that would combine the patterns and recipes in a format available to the fly tying public, unlike Forgotten Flies, which, while beautiful, is out-of-print, hard to find, expensive, and at a weight of nearly twelve pounds is too cumbersome, large, and heavy to use as a fly tying desk reference. During that phone conversation, my friend suggested, “Donnie, you should write a book on this.” So the process began.

I would like to give special thanks to my friend Paul Rossman, who is participating as one of the contributing fly tiers for The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury. Among a dozen-and-a-half patterns that Paul is graciously providing, there are included some of the same exact flies that he tied, and which were published in the 1999 tome Forgotten Flies. Paul will be accompanying me to the Museum this spring for a weekend session of photographing the original 32 plates with 291 mounted flies. Paul will be using his state-of-the-art computer high-tech camera equipment and his photographic expertise for the addition of photographs of the original 1892 fly plates that will be featured in this book. My original intent was to use the old lithograph images, but when Paul informed me the actual flies are in the possession of the museum, it was like hitting pay dirt. The publication of these photos will provide a treasure trove of information on the flies and will be an invaluable asset to this project.

I shall endeavor to do my best as this project moves forward. Special thanks to Paul and, thank you,  to each of my contributing fly tiers! Your work is much appreciated! Your involvement will enhance, embellish, and diversify this project.

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Lady Caroline Spey Fly and Steelhead

These photos are of the Lady Caroline, dressed by Rick Whorwood, and a beautiful, fresh-run steelhead he took yesterday, November 22nd, on this pattern in New York’s Salmon River.

Lady Caroline Spey Fly

The fish was taken on a Loomis NRX Rod, Tibor Reel, Airflo Skagit Float Line with a 10′ Slow Sink Poly Leader, and a Traditional Lady Caroline fly.

The hook is a Daiichi No. 2441, Size #1, tied as the traditional, with the exception of substituted Blue-Eared Pheasant Spey Hackle.

Here is the info Rick sent with a request for me to post it on my blog, so here it is:

“I’m starting to book my A full day spey school while drifting the lower Grand River in OntarioBass and Steelhead Drift Schools for next year, if you want to put that on your blog; you can add this picture, taken yesterday.”

Fresh Salmon River Steelhead, Rick Whorwood photo

Rick is a very close friend and an excellent fly tyer. He dressed the Jock Scott for the second issue of Canada Post stamps a few years back. He is also tying the Jock Scott for my Marbury / Orvis book project, along with a few trout flies as well. I am very grateful for Rick’s contributions and his friendship. A link to Rick’s website is on my links sidebar. His e-mail: Whorwood@cogeco.ca

New Book Announcement!

Don Bastian

And

The Whitefish Press

Have entered into a contract to publish a book on 19th Century Orvis Fly Patterns titled:

Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892

All 291 of the fly patterns from Marbury’s 1892 book will be replicated in a fly tier-

friendly volume including tying recipes.

Featuring:

Hackles, Salmon Flies, Lake Flies, Trout Flies, and Bass Flies –

Dressed by:

Eric Austin, Tom Baltz, Don Bastian, Dave Benoit, Scott Bleiler, John “CJ” Bonasera, Austin Clayton, Matt Crompton, Chris Del Plato, John Hoffmann, Dave Lomasney, Ronn Lucas, Ed Muzeroll, Ted Patlen, Bob Petti, Roger Plourde, Paul Rossman, Dave Schmezer, Mike Schmidt, Bill Shuck, Leigh Shuman, Royce Stearns, Kat Rollin, April Vokey, and Rick Whorwood.

I would like to personally thank each of these contributing fly tiers. Their individual and diverse fly tying talents and experience will enrich and enhance this project.

This book will present high-resolution photographs of the actual antique flies from the 32 original 1892 Orvis Fly Plates that were used as specimens for the painted lithographs in Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, plus close to 100 additional 19th Century Orvis-related fly pattern recipes. For the privilege of access to the original 120 year-old fly plates,  a special acknowledgement and huge thank-you goes out to Catherine Comar, Executive Director, and Yoshi Akiyama, Deputy Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, for their permission, assistance, and cooperation.

This book will include an instructional tying chapter and notes on pattern origins.

Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892

by

Don Bastian

The Whitefish Press

Publisher

Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892 will present replications of all 291 of the historic 19th Century fly patterns from Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, including written and in some instances, updated dressings in a fly tier-friendly format. The combination of photographs and recipes for these patterns will be available to the public for the first time since the publication of Forgotten Flies in 1999.

Exact publication date for Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892 is not yet determined. However, to reserve your Signed Copy of the Limited Edition, please contact:

The Whitefish Press

whitefishpress@yahoo.com – or by writing:

The Whitefish Press,

4240 Minmor Drive

Cincinnati, OH 45217

Thank you!

International Fly Tying Symposium

The International Fly Tying Symposium is this weekend at the Doubletree Hotel in Somerset, New Jersey. My long-time, hunting, fishing, fly tying, The Streamer List friend Truman McMullan is attending with me. He’s a good and true friend. The last time he attended the Fly Tying Symposium was when it was once held in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. That was ages ago. We are looking forward to a good time. I am so glad to be back at this show, I missed the last two years for personal reasons.

Folks, if you can attend this show, you won’t be disappointed. There is a record-high number of participating fly tiers this year. If you make it, please stop by my table and say hello!

Ray Bergman – Some Clarification and Edification

I recently noted a comment on line regarding the history of a wet fly pattern called the Francis Fly; someone thought perhaps that it was first tied by Ray Bergman. My memory started telling me otherwise so I did some research. This in turn prompted me to write this post, primarily to put some thoughts I have had in mind for some time into action, that is to clarify what I believe are some growing misconceptions about Ray Bergman.

For clarification regarding the Francis Fly, it was published (possibly not for the first time) in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. At that time, Ray was one year of age. The notes in Marbury’s book give no date for its origin.

I am a Bergman fan, not solely of course, but like many anglers and fly tiers I was influenced early on because his book, Trout, was my one and only source with illustrated fly patterns when I was still young. And as noted below, no other previously published book contained more flies to look at. With the popularity of Ray Bergman currently on the rise, there is a corresponding proliferation of concepts, stories, and information about him that is misleading. Ray Bergman was a fly tier, a writer, a businessman, and a fisherman. He was also a plug fisherman, spin fisherman, and bait fisherman, for all species of fish. His favorite angling method was dry fly fishing.

His book Trout when published in 1938, contained more illustrated flies than any book in previously published, I am fairly certain it retained this distinction until Forgotten Flies was released in 1999. Trout is the most popular fishing book in history, and it is the only fishing book ever published to remain continuously in print for over 50 years.

The main misconception of Bergman is that he seems to be getting undue attention and credit for fly patterns he never created. In my research, and this is confirmed by his great-grand nephew, Ray originated over 30 patterns, mostly drys, but among almost 500 wet flies published in Trout and his other books, Bergman originated only one wet fly, the Quebec. It is a pretty unassuming pattern.

While conducting research for my Bergman biography in Forgotten Flies I was informed by his niece that Ray tied the patterns for the color plates of Trout. She was in position to know; she and her husband – Ray’s nephew Buddy Christian, lived in Nyack, New York, the same town as Ray. The Bergman’s had no children; growing up, Buddy was like a son to Ray and his wife Grace. I have no reason to dispute this. Footnotes in Just Fishing – 1932, Ray’s first book, states: Flies painted by Dr. Edgar Burke from samples provided by William Mills and Sons. It is not indicated in the text that Ray or anyone else tied the flies for the paintings. Next question, Burke’s paintings are still around, but whatever became of all these flies?

There has been discussion on other forums about Dr. Burke’s renderings of these flies, even questioning his ability (which is subjective) as an artist relative to the way Bergman’s flies were actually tied. I think that notion is somewhat irrelevant and not very important. This is interesting to ponder perhaps, but not significant. Dr. Burke was an artist, and as such, individuals have a choice to express their artwork through their personal style, and observers may choose to like or dislike his or any other artist’s style or subject matter.

Ray was a production tier, because he sold his flies through his mail-order business, which was essentially a mom-and-pop operation. Ray Bergman did not produce what we today seem to crave as presentation flies from tiers posting our work on the internet. Bergman’s remaining original flies are valued because of who he was, and because of his popularity, not particularly because of their quality as perfectly-tied flies. I have a special feeling when looking at Bergman’s flies – the historical significance of them, even if certain elements lack perfection, this does not detract from their value.

Dr. Burke was very detail oriented, as noted by Eugene V. Connett IV, whose father founded the The Derrydale Press and was a boyhood friend of Edgar Burke. In the forward to My Friend the Trout, by Eugene V. Connett III, his son relates that he recalled stories his father told him how Burke’s mother would become upset at him for keeping dead game birds and waterfowl in the family freezer, even while still in high school. He did this to measure feathers with calipers to get proportions correct in his paintings. Yes, besides his fly artwork, Burke is also well known among collectors of waterfowl and upland bird art. Accordingly, I place well-deserved faith in Dr. Burke’s paintings as to the placement of components and proportions, but he most likely painted the flies, if in fact they were tied by Ray Bergman, for his color plates according to standard pattern proportions. Who tied the flies for John Alden Knight’s Theory and Technique of Fresh Water Angling, 1940? They were painted by Dr. Burke in the same style as the flies in Bergman’s books. This is perfectly understandable and acceptable.

Some have stated the fly heads on Burke’s paintings look too shiny, polished, and smooth. Too perfect and it’s not historically correct. That may be true, but the problem with that is what? Why not? Why would Edgar Burke or any other artist have to paint the heads as they may in fact have been – rough, dull, uneven, and lacking uniformity? To me smoothly finished, well-shaped heads are a hallmark of the quality of a well-tied fly. Ray most likely used head cement or varnish, so then there would be some shine to the heads. The heads on production flies in the 20th century were improved over 19th century, especially comparing the large Lake and Bass flies where reverse winging was necessary to keep the wing from pulling out when fished. Heads on the 19th century Orvis and other company flies look pretty bad in some instances, others look good. I think even then this was a product relative to the skill and preference and detail-orientation and level of achievement of the individual fly tier. Nevertheless, Burke’s artistic interpretation of fishing flies expresses his individuality and may never be fully understood other than for what it is: his personal creative style. He passed away in the early 1950’s not long after completing the new flies for the second edition of Trout (1952).

To me, improving details of flies is the ability and choice of our current generation, there is nothing wrong with tying a historic pattern and making it look a little better than an antique fly, even when replicating blind-eye patterns. That’s my view, as an artist. Again, individuals may choose to appreciate and agree with me or not.

Through my study and preparation for the Bergman Collection on Hatches Online I found 54 variations between the paintings and written recipes. With that many flies and the book produced with a typewriter, Ray wrote on tablet in pencil, and Grace did the typing, so there are bound to be inconsistencies.

Another topic: Through his popularity, and the recipe component listings in Trout, Bergman proliferated and because of my education on wet flies mostly through his book, so did the I, for many years, the erroneous misconceptions that still exists concerning tags, tips, and butts. Also, Ray never mentioned this term, tail-tag, which I believe, according to J. Edson Leonard in his book, Flies – 1950, is the correct one. A tail-tag clearly describes the tail on the Zulu, and Brown Palmer-Red Tag, a short stub of wool or other material.

The way the recipes in Bergman’s books are set up, with the blocked graph listings, and the little boxed spaces for each ingredient, may have had something to do with that. In some cases Bergman made some notes on the recipes, but without the illustrations, these can create more questions.

A result of my continual education and enlightenment on fly components, speaking on just one topic, is this: I believe that these five components: tail, tail-tag, tip, butt, and tag, should all be easily identifiable and certified as to their correct placement by their name alone. They are all different. One ought not to have to consult a photo or illustration to be able to understand their placement.

Leonard is clear on this in the written text of his fly nomenclature chapter in Flies, yet he was an artist, did his own illustrations for his book, and his own written definition conflicts with his illustration of tip and tag. He labeled a part of the “tag” – the floss section ahead of the oval tinsel portion of the tag as the “tip,” even though by his written definition, a tip “always encircles the tail.” The illustrated fly on Fig. 7, Fly Nomenclature, in Flies, technically does not contain a tip. The tip on Leonard’s illustration could be correctly illustrated in place of the butt, at the end of the body, or to illustrate the butt as well, then immediately ahead of the butt, though usually tips and butts do not occur together. None of this is of any concern to the fish, yet I feel that there is benefit in clarification to interested fly tiers.

My hope is to present more of this type of information in the future to resolve questions like this about Ray Bergman and any other fly tying topic for clarification and posterity, if for no other reason. Thanks for your time in reading my words.

Fly Casting Lessons – Why?

Why not?

It has been over two weeks since I placed a post here and thought I would rectify that situation with this post.

My long-time Canadian friend and fly tyer, Rick Whorwood, wrote this message to me in August as part of an e-mail discussion we were having. Reading through my older e-mail messages this morning I thought the information here was worthy enough to pass along, not so much to promote him but to present the facts. Anything in parenthesis was added by me for clarification. Rick was speaking about his fly casting school and the fact that many fly anglers, even experienced ones, have never considered the investment of a few hours in professional lessons and the tangible benefits they could reap from some personal fly casting instruction and coaching. They seem content with their fly casting and fishing ability where it is, rather than considering the fact they could be better. Rick’s comments follow:

“I get offers now and then about other people’s websites; I just have to figure out what will make a person book a one or two-day school. There are a lot of people who could benefit from this program (Rick’s personal fly casting school instructions), it is just (an effort) getting them to understand what I’m offering. I had a student yesterday who claimed he’d been fly fishing thirty years and that he could double-haul, but it turned out he didn’t know how to. You know how many fishing situations there are where he could greatly improve his catch rate if only he knew how to double haul!

The guides don’t help, they could care less, if you can cast they only care that you catch a fish the day you’re with them. If you go out the next day, fish alone and get skunked, what do they care? He was the second guy I’ve had in less than a year that can’t double-haul and yet claimed he had been fly fishing 20 + years!

People will invest thousands of dollars on equipment and trips but struggle (refuse to invest) with spending a few hundred dollars to take a lesson. Wish I knew the answer.”

Below are a couple photos of Rick with west coast steelhead, taken this past September in British Columbia. Both fish were taken on a spey rod. As you can see, they are big chromers. Rick is a talented angler.

Rick Whorwood with nice steelhead

Rick Whorwood, from Stoney Creek, Ontario, with big British Columbia steelhead taken on spey rod

Rick is a bit of a character, eh, (an understatement), nevertheless I heartily and confidently endorse his casting, teaching, and fishing ability. Time well-spent to book  a day with him. Check the link on my site to his webpage, eh!