Wet Fly Frame – Snelled Flies on Antique Hooks

Custom fly frame - snelled wet flies dressed on antique hooks

The lighting is not the best for this photo of this frame, but I posted this enlarged view of the whole piece so you can get an idea of its size and scope. Also, it’s hard to accurately present a vertical image like this on the medium of a horizontal computer screen. The dimensions are about 13″ by 18.” I have macro images of each pattern, and they are posted in alpha order below. I was not getting good results with a flash photo; the ivory background causes too much bounce-back of the light, and the flies and whole image is way overexposed.

This piece was made for a customer who lives in the Adirondacks of New York State. The brook trout photo is the same one used in a frame with my wet flies ordered a few years ago by another customer (framed by someone else); the two individuals happen to be friends. I used four pound Japanese post-war silk gut to make the snells; then I coiled them twice as I observed was done by Mary Orvis Marbury and her assistants for the 1893 Orvis Display that appeared at the Chicago Exposition that year. On the macros you can see the flies, hooks, and snells up close. I really enjoyed making this piece. I made a similar set of flies about ten years ago for the frames I did with the Grayling flies (see that recent post, Michigan Grayling Photo).

Here, added today January 6th, is an e-mail I received from my customer; Vic Sasse of North Country Sports in North River, New York:

“Hi Don,

Your package arrived yesterday, before I read your e-mail which contained the photo of my frame. I carefully unpacked the frame which was very well packed. I am absolutely astounded with what you have created for me, and I want you to know I truly appreciate your artistic ability. This frame is undoubtedly one of my finest possessions, and my friend Ed Ostapczuk who introduced you to me is happy for me also. I love it!!!!!”

This review and customer appreciation is always a good thing, I am obviously very pleased that he is satisfied.

These flies are not all dressed from the recipes of a certain source, but they are generally representative of the style of 19th century trout flies. I tied the King of the Woods from memory several months ago, and mistakenly got the order of colors in the wing mixed up, not to mention that what I thought was black in the wing as viewed on the color plate from Marbury’s 1892 book Favorite Flies and Their Histories is actually red, brown, and white, in that order from top down, as verified by my photo of the King of the Woods from the 1893 display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book Flies lists a wing and hackle dressing for the King of the Woods that clearly differs from what is depicted on the color plate of Marbury’s book. Doing a double-take on the painted King of the Woods in Marbury’s book, the dark color in the wing does not look black like some of the other “blacks” on the color plates, but has more of brownish tint.

I am really enjoying discovering differences and being able to verify some of the Orvis fly pattern recipes – and this revised pattern information, all of it, as it is compiled, to the best of my ability, will be published in my book, The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury.

Adirondack wet fly, this pattern is from Ray Bergman's book Trout, and differs radically from the same named pattern in Marbury's Favorite Flies and Their Histories, written 46 years earlier.

These hooks are all authentic antique Mustad No. 3370, size #7, marked, japanned blind-eye hooks. The gut is Japanese silk – 4#, in mist coloration, made in occupied Japan, post World War II.


Tag: Yellow floss

Tail: Black hackle fibers

Body: Gray dubbing

Hackle: Orange

Wing: White duck quill

On a related note, I had success fishing the Adirondack in size #6, in August 2006 on Montana’s Madison River above Ennis; I hooked and landed seven trout on it, including my biggest fish of the day, a brown measuring nineteen inches. Took him out of a small, deep pocket below a boulder as the drift boat passed by. The first trout of the day took the fly as the drift boat was barely out of the gate, my host hardly had time to start the drift until I hollered the magic words, “Fish on!”

Parmacheene Belle

Parmacheene Belle

 Parmacheene Belle

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: White and red duck quill sections – married

Butt: Black ostrich herl

Rib: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Yellow wool or dubbing

Hackle: Red and white mixed

Wing: White with scarlet stripe – married

Head: Peacock herl

I have fished the Parmacheene Belle with great success. It is a favorite of my niece, Emily, who by the way is one of Maine’s newest Wardens – she graduated number 2 in the class of 54 Cadets this past December. She has caught trout and landlocked salmon in her home state.

King of the Woods - a slight variation because the color sequence of the wing is out of order (my fault, tying from memory). See recipe notes below and in text above.

King of the Woods

Tag:                Flat gold tinsel

Tail:                Yellow and scarlet – married

Rib:                 Oval gold tinsel

Body:             Yellow floss

Hackle:         Black

Wing:             Scarlet, brown, and white – married. The scarlet and brown combined should comprise the upper half of the wing, the bottom half is white.

Head:             Red wool or thread, or black if desired. Note the unfinished rather rough looking head on the 1893 fly below.

This written recipe is the correct one from Marbury’s 1982 book and has been verified with a photograph of the King of the Woods from her 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. The actual fly above was tied from a different photo on the cover of Adirondack Life magazine, a 1987 issue. It was done by another fly tier, so I copied the pattern visually last year and incorporated it into my classes as a blind-eye snelled wet fly pattern. On top of that pattern variation, I tied the above sample from memory last March, so while the sequence of the wing colors is supposed to be white, brown (at the time I though black), and  red, I erred in mixing them up. Technically that fact alone does not change the pattern significantly, but I am anal detail-oriented when tying flies according to recipes and standards, any type of fly for that matter, unless I’m on a creative bent. Through study of the color plate image of Favorite Flies and Their Histories, I had believed the wing to be white, black, and red. But the photo I took of this fly in October while at the museum verified what I thought to be black in the wing as brown, and the hackle was black as opposed to dark green as listed in Leonard’s Flies. The King of the Woods is a beautiful wet fly pattern, a fancy fly typical of many 19th century wet flies, designed to lure the exotic appeal of native brook trout into a strike. I have never fished this pattern, but I can tell you, I plan to. Posted below is my photo of the King of the Woods from the 1893 Orvis Display.

King of the Woods - Lake Fly - from 1893 Orvis Museum Display, the hand-writing is that of Mary Orvis Marbury. Some of the colors are faded and the oval tinsel rib is tarnished. Note the reverse-tied wing, and the gut-loop eye; the Favorite Flies and Their Histories version is illustrated with a snell.


This version of the Logan differs from the version in Ray Bergman’s 1938 book, Trout, but is as it appears in the books he penned before and after Trout. The color plate painting in Just Fishing, 1932, and the painting and recipe in With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, records the dressing for the Logan as I have tied it here. Instead of a red and orange wing and tail as listed in Trout, this version sports red and yellow, and the peacock herl head, a typical older technique, was part of the color plate image in Just Fishing. I added it here to give the pattern a more “retro” look.


Tag:          Flat gold tinsel

Tail:          Red and yellow – married

Rib:           Flat gold tinsel

Body:       Brown floss

Hackle:    Brown

Wing:       Yellow with red stripe – married

Head:       Black with peacock herl


The McGinty is very similar to the old Orvis pattern, the Bee, that I posted here after this topic, as tied by my friend Dave Lomasney from York, Maine.


Tail:          Mallard and scarlet

Body:       Black and yellow chenille

Hackle:    Brown:

Wing:        White tipped turkey or mallard flight feather with iridescent blue

Head:        Black

Prime Gnat

Named after its originator, W. C. Prime, author of the 19th century book, I Go A Fishing.

Prime Gnat

Tag:             Orange floss

Body:          Black ostrich herl

Hackle:      Black

Wing:          Black – crow was original

Head:          Black


By the time Mary Orvis Marbury wrote Favorite Flies and Their Histories, the Professor was already over seventy years old. It is of Scottish origin, created in 1820. The Professor was on my fly tying list and in my fly boxes from the time I was thirteen years old.


Tag:          Flat gold tinsel

Tail:         Scarlet duck quill

Rib:          Flat gold tinsel

Body:      Yellow floss

Hackle:   Brown

Wing:       Gray mallard

Head:       Black

Queen of the Waters

Queen of the Waters

Hackle:        Brown tied palmer

Body:           Orange floss

Wing:           Gray mallard or teal

Head:          Peacock herl and black

This is a very simple fly with just three components, not including the peacock herl head, which is not done much these days, even among those replicating “classic” wet flies. Some dressings add a tail of brown hackle fibers.

Royal Coachman

The Royal Coachman is among the most famous of all wet flies, and one that has survived in various forms. Consider the Royal Wulff, a dry pattern sold in virtually every fly shop still in business in 2011; the Royal Coachman wet fly is the Great-grandfather of the Royal Wulff.

Royal Coachman

Tag:          Flat gold tinsel

Tail:          Barred wood duck  – This was later replaced with golden pheasant tippet, probably as a result of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 that gave wood ducks protected status nationwide until 1941. Most states did not allow resumption of wood duck hunting until 1959.

Body:        Peacock herl with red floss center

Hackle:      Brown

Wing:         White

Head:        Peacock herl and black

This Royal Coachman, while not exactly tied to be a MOM – Orvis pattern, is no doubt representative of how this pattern was tied by the many other companies in business before the turn of the 20th Century. The Royal Coachman was a very popular pattern. This specimen is tied as the old version with the barred wood duck tail as it first appeared in Fishing With the Fly, 1883, by Charles Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney, and also in Mary Orvis Marbuy’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories nine years later.

I did not add the red floss part of the tag as their dressing images show, but rather I tied this fly as part of a custom frame order, kind of tying the recipes from memory and making them look generic for the time period, and “older” on the blind eye hook and gut snell.
As time passed the production of commercially tied flies grew, and as with any manufacturing operation, companies look for ways to cut costs. Many of the extra accoutrements in the dressings, such as multiple tail components, two-part tags, butts, peacock and ostrich herl heads, etc. were omitted in the interest of lowering costs and increasing worker productivity. There were many old, small companies making flies, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 had a bearing on the diversion and use of the exotic feathers from that point onward; plumage that was available to these companies for their indiscriminate use in the 19th Century suddenly diasppeared. This caused many flies to be reduced in dressing; and may have been the reason why the tail on the Royal Coachman was changed to the more commonly known golden pheasant tippet. It is also one reason why the patterns in Bergman’s Trout, 1938, are simplified in some cases when compared to the Orvis 19th Century dressings. Bergman most likely used pattern recipes indicative of what was being mass-produced at the time, especially since he continued to have a good relationship with his former employer, William Mills and Sons, just one of many companies in fishing fly manufacture at the time. The federal protection of exotic and endangered birds contributed to this ‘dressing down’ of fly patterns.



Tag:         Flat gold tinsel

Tail:         Golden pheasant crest

Rib:          Flat gold tinsel

Body:       Claret floss

Hackle:    Claret

Wing:        Golden pheasant tippet with narrow bronze mallard over

Head:       Peacock herl and black

The Saranac that I replicated here, is as many of these patterns are, sourced in Ray Bergman’s books, dressed a bit more minimally than their 19th century ancestors of the Orvis books, but in some cases, these flies are virtually the same or nearly so as ones made 50 – 75 years earlier.

Scarlet Ibis

The Scarlet Ibis was named because the feathers to dress it originally came from the bird of the same name. After 1918 the Scarlet Ibis was protected.

Scarlet Ibis

Tag:            Flat gold tinsel

Tail:           Scarlet duck quill section

Rib:             Flat gold tinsel

Body:         Scarlet floss

Hackle:     Scarlet

Wing:         Scarlet duck quill

Head:         Black

Soldier Palmer

The Soldier Palmer was a popular old pattern belonging to a group collectively known as “hackles.”

Soldier Palmer

Tag:        Flat gold tinsel

Rib:        Flat gold tinsel

Body:     Red wool

Hackle:  Brown tied palmer, full at throat

Head:      Black

Finally, because I know someone will ask, these flies are tied with the Lagartun wire, cut into short pieces about 5/8″ long, which are then bent at ninety degrees and tied into the body as the fly is tied. This allows me to quickly, easily, and invisibly mount the fly – my proprietary method – it’s in an older post on classicflytying forum), and the tip of the snell is also tacked in place on the mat with fine gold wire. The double loop of the gut was the way Mary Orvis Marbury looped the snelled flies for the 1893 Orvis Chicago Exposition Exhibit of 78 framed panels of flies and photographs, that is still on display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Silver Jungle Streamer

One of my blog visitors, Gary Fraser, from Nova Scotia,  penned this e-mail to me last August:

“The reason I am e-mailing you is to thank you for the work you put into your blog. I am an avid trout fly fisherman and chase what is left of our salmon around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick some. I will be fishing Cape Breton a lot this fall from our camp and while going through your site looking at your wet flies some caught my attention more than others. The salmon runs here in the fall love big orange flies (in my opinion)  and one of your wet trout flies sparked so much interest as I am tying filling boxes for 4 weeks of fishing that I have tied many the last few days. It’s the Silver Jungle fly, and I can not wait to fish it for brookies but also I liked the pattern so much I have also bastardized it into some patterns I would bet a paycheck on will fish well this fall. I have unbelievable luck fishing Muddlers here and in saying that I have come up with something I cannot wait to pass by our fall salmon. I hope you will not be offended by these 2 flies but more flattered as I am actually quite excited about them.
I hope you enjoy them; and if I am fortunate enough to have them in the mouth of our beloved Salmo salar and brookies this fall; I will send along some photos as well.”

Silver Jungle Streamer - variation of wet fly - tied by Gary Fraser

Silver Jungle Streamer – version by Gary Fraser

Hook:        L87-3665A Mustad 7x long streamer limerick
Thread:   Uni 3/0 orange
Tail:           Orange Krystalflash
Rib:             Oval Silver
Body:        Rear ½ flat silver tinsel, front ½ orange floss
Hackle:    Grizzly hen tied palmer over front half of body
Wing:        White Polar Bear (lacking polar bear hair, gray fox could be substituted – Don B.)
Cheeks:   Jungle cock eyes

The streamer itself raised a few fish for a friend of mine this fall when we fished Cape Breton’s late salmon run but the water levels were almost non-existent the week we were there. Orange is my go to color for fall salmon here so I have no problem placing faith in this fly for sure. A variation of this fly is the “Silver Jungle Muddler.” (Same fly with orange deer hair head, 6/0 Uni-thread used to spin the hair). I think it will fish amazing here as well and April 1 when our season opens I will be trolling these 2 with high anticipation during our early high water fishing. I have several friends I have shared this with and they all feel it will be a productive fly but we will give it more testing in 2012.

The pattern on my blog that inspired Gary is the Silver Jungle wet fly, as the pattern appears in Trout by Ray Bergman. Thank you Gary for your creative version of the Silver Jungle!

Steaming Saddle Hackle for Streamers

I have known about steaming duck and goose wing quills and a few other feathers for years, but for some reason I never thought to apply this technique to saddle hackle until this past October when I was tying with my friend, Truman, at the Bastian family cabin in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. We were tying tandem streamers, and I had made three two-hook rigs with bodies for the Carrie Steven’s pattern, Allie’s Favorite. For this pattern in tandem size; #2 in front and a #4 in the rear, I required extra long black and orange saddle hackles, and sorting through two half-ounce strung bundles of each color, looking for a total of 12 feathers, it was getting difficult to find “perfect” feathers; so many had stems that were crooked, bent, and twisted. And these were all brand new packs of saddle feathers. Suddenly I said to my friend, “I wonder if I can steam them?”

“Can’t hurt to try,” TG replied. So I fired up the stove with the required number of saddle hackles waiting for the kettle to boil. Once I had a head of steam I held the feathers over the spout, six feathers at once of each single color, and when I did so, magic occurred. In just a few seconds I was delighted to see that the perfect-except-for-crooked-and-bent-stem saddle hackles I had chosen straightened out perfectly. Once they were steamed I placed them on the stove top with a weight on the stems, left them there for a few minutes, and then proceeded to cement the wings together to complete the flies.

This morning I am tying a streamer and decided to take a before and after photo of the feather I used to demonstrate this procedure. Here you can see the results:

Saddle hackle from strung bunch, before steaming - bent stem as you can see

The same saddle hackle feather as above, after steaming

The photos were hand-held so not sharp, but my intent was to demonstrate the before-and-after effectiveness of steaming saddle hackle feathers. This technique will work to straighten neck and saddle patch feathers as well as those from strung bundles, allowing us to increase the utilization of our feathers for streamers.

Black Doctor From Russia

When I posted Mike’s version of the Silver Doctor the other day, I was unaware that he also had tied a version of the Black Doctor. I had an absolute flood of Russian visits to my blog the day I posted his Silver Doctor, and it was gratifying to have two record-high days with the number of visits to my blog just three days apart. The first new record of visitors came after I made my first new posts after a three-plus week period of inactivity from before Thanksgiving and through the Pennsylvania deer season; the 1883 Orvis Flies, and then the Michigan Grayling Post. Thank you everyone for your interest and support of my blog. When I posted Mike’s Silver Doctor from Russia, he placed a link to his fly and my blog on a Russian fly tying site, and I suddenly had a Russian invasion on my hands. But a good one, it was a cultural invasion, the kind we can benefit and learn from.

As a companion to his Silver Doctor, here is Mike’s version of the Black Doctor:

Mike's photo and his size #6 version of the Black Doctor. It is great that he felt creative to attempt a trout version of this well-known salmon fly, and of course, this pattern and size could also be fished as a salmon fly.

Here is Mike’s reply to me through http://www.classicflytyingforum.com:

“Yes, I posted the link to your blog on our fly tying forum. Some guys knew it and visited before, but some of the members didn’t visit it before. I hope they will visit your blog in the future, because there is a lot of useful information about fly tying. And I must to admit that now we have wet fly tying boom among our fly tyers society.”
“I’m glad to know, that you like my Black Doctor variant. Here is the recipe for it:”

Hook: – Ken Sawada DT4 old limerick wet #6
Thread: – 10/0 Red
Tag: – UNI-Mylar gold tinsel #16
Tail: – Golden Pheasant Crest
Butt: – Wool Fl. Red
Body: – Black Silk
Rib: – UNI-Mylar gold tinsel #16
Throat: – Claret schlappen and Eurasian blue jay
Wing: – Peacock shoulder, goose shoulder (red, blue, yellow) mottled turkey wing quill, and kori bustard.

The wing of this Black Doctor is more detailed than his Silver Doctor wing; there is a lot of work in this fly on this size hook. Thanks Mike! Well done!

PS: Following some of the incoming stats after the Silver Doctor, I must say I got a real kick out of checking “google translation” and suddenly seeing my blog page entirely in Russian. It sure looked Greek to me…!

Silver Doctor – from Russia

Silver Doctor tied by Mike from Russia - the photograph is also by Mike

This version of the Silver Doctor was posted on the Classic Fly Forum recently and I was so impressed with it that I just had to post it on my blog. But, it’s late now, near my bedtime, and I’ve had a l-o-n-g day, but I’ll add the recipe on Friday….for now the photo alone will have to do…enjoy!

December 23rd:

OK, everyone, Friday morning, I’m tending the wood fire, having coffee and it’s time to finish this post. Following up on this photo, this version of the Silver Doctor was tied by Mike from Russia. He is “Severyanin,” a member of http://www.classicflytyingforum.com, and other sites. This fly was tied by him, expertly so, I might add. I also want to add that I grew up experiencing those drills in elementary school where we hid under our desks in the event the Russians had launched a nuclear missile attack against the United States. A few things have changed in the intervening fifty years.

Here is the recipe:

Silver Doctor

Hook – Ken Sawada DT4 old limerick wet #6
Thread – UNI 8/0 Fire Orange
Tag – UNI-Mylar gold tinsel #16
Tail – Goose shoulder, yellow
Tail veiling – Goose shoulder, blue
Butt – Wool fluorescent red
Body – UNI-Mylar silver tinsel #14
Rib – Lagartun oval silver tinsel, small
Throat – Blue and guinea
Wing – Pintail, blue, red, & yellow goose shoulder) and light brown mottled turkey wing quill

Here are a few notes he sent to me along with his recipe:

“I must say that it will be big honour for me if you post my fly on your blog. And thank you for you kind words about my tying…”

“This Silver Doctor is my own version. Maybe somebody, somewhere has tied the same variant, but I didn’t see… All Doctors I’ve seen were slightly different from it.”

“Severyanin – it’s nickname, it means “A man from North” or just northerner. (I was born on Chukotka. This is not far from Alaska, but on the other bank of Bering Strait).”

Thanks Mike, for your beautiful work, and for permitting me to post your fly.


Traditional Wet Fly Selection

Don Bastian's Traditional Wet Fly Selection

This is my Traditional Wet Fly Selection that is available for purchase on MyFlies.com

You can click the link on the right-hand sidebar for the ordering page of MyFlies.com to place an order for this selection.

There is full information on the site about this selection. Nevertheless I’ll just mention here that these are fishing flies tied in sizes #8 and #10 on standard wet fly hooks, modern high-carbon steel, chemically sharpened, with mini-barbs. A nice assortment for wet fly fishing!

There are several product reviews on the site for this item so I’ll allow my customers to speak for me. Each set comes with a separate signature card, $27.50 including shipping.

I have fished all these patterns myself and they all catch fish!

Michigan Grayling

Michigan Grayling caught in 1896 or 1897, in Bear Creek. Native Grayling are extinct in Michigan, largely the result of yet another sad story of 19th century Amrican greed and environmental abuse.

The fascinating thing I just discovered today is that the second fish from the front looks like it was still alive when the photo was taken. I know this may start the discussion of the eye of a live fish always looking down, but in my lifetime of fishing, I’ve never seen that test fail. I have however, seen some fish with the dead-eye look, that I was told were, “still alive.” Another discussion perhaps. Back to the fish in question: its eye is definitely looking down. On with my post…

I guess you could say this photograph resulted in my earliest fly tying related effort that was deliberately focused on 19th century fishing flies. While I had tied traditional wet fly patterns in the 1960’s as a boy, including the Professor, for example, which was originated in 1820, I knew very little at that time about fly pattern history.

Around 2002 when I saw this print for sale in a mail order catalog, I immediately got the idea to make a frame with replicated antique Grayling fly patterns using this photo as the centerpiece. I ordered three of the photos from the supplier, The Rogue Angler, located in Medford, Oregon. The print also includes a copy of a typewritten note dated 1931, below:

Letter from J. Hanselman describing the glass plate negative and the photo.

According to the information in The Rogue Angler catalog, the original glass plate “negative was discovered in a cabin overlooking the North Branch of the AuSable River near Lovells, Michigan.”

The photo and letter may still be ordered:


I had initially made two custom framed pieces including this photo, Mr. Hanselman’s letter, and six Grayling flies, tied on blind-eye hooks with snelled loops. Late in the year 2002 I researched the Grayling flies in the Michigan section of Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories and choose selections of patterns to be framed from this list of favorite Grayling flies. Below is the letter that I created which was affixed to the backside of the frame:

In 1892 Mary Orvis Marbury published the book Favorite Flies and Their Histories. She did not write the entire book, but compiled the text with letters from fly anglers all over the country. Through this effort she, along with her father, Charles F. Orvis, was instrumental in helping to establish a system of standardization that brought order to what had previously been fly pattern chaos.

The fly patterns named below were among those listed by the following individuals who sent their favorite flies for Grayling fishing in Michigan to Marbury. Wet fly fishing was the order of the day during this time period. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, streamers had not been invented, and dry fly fishing was in its infancy. Nymph fishing was also to become a method of the future. Unfortunately, not long after this photograph was taken, native Grayling disappeared from the waters of Michigan.

These individuals sent their Grayling fly patterns to Mary Orvis Marbury:

H. N. Botsford, Port Huron, Michigan – Coachman, Bee, Brown Hackle, Red Hackle, Professor, Grizzly King, White Miller, Blue Bottle, and Gray Hackle.

F. H. Thurston – Central Lake, Michigan – Brown Hackle, Grey Miller.

John A. Sea – Independence, Missouri – Professor, Coachman, Royal Coachman, and Hackles.

G. Henry Shearer, Bay City, Michigan – Coachman, Grizzly King, Professor, Hackles, Bee, Silver Widow, and Grayling Fly.

George M. Kilmer, Lansing, Michigan – Professor, Scarlet Ibis, Coachman, White Miller, Yellow May.

Herschel Whitaker, Detroit, Michigan – Professor, Grizzly King, Cow Dung, Black Gnat, Coachman, Montreal, Silver Doctor, Red Hackle, Brown Hackle.

Frank N. Beebe, Columbus, Ohio – Silver Doctor.

W. P. Andrus, Minneapolis, Minnesota – Brown Gnat, Gray Gnat, Silver Doctor, and Grizzly King.

Written by Don Bastian, January 4, 2003.

I added the fly photos below to enhance this topic with some of the named fly patterns that were used for native Grayling. The Coachman, Cowdung, and Professor are from an old mat board with 15 mounted flies, many are severely bug-damaged, but this plate of flies was not used in either Marbury’s book or her father’s 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly.

For more information on this antique Grayling photo or to order:

The Rogue Angler



Coachman Wet Fly, circa 1880's, used for Michigan Grayling

Cowdung wet fly, circa 1880's, used for Michigan Grayling

Professor, authentic Orvis wet fly, circa 1880's used for Michigan Grayling

Brown Hackle, from Orvis 1893 Museum Display, used for Michigan Grayling. Note how stout all these hooks are, despite the relatively small size of the flies; approximately #6 to #10.

Note the border on the Professor and Coachman, I deliberately left those in without cropping so you could see that they appear to be hand-drawn in ink. The photos are not crystal sharp, but I cropped each one from a full plate of mounted flies, so they were radically enlarged, which sometimes causes degradation of clarity. The numbering is vertical rather than horizontal as in the plates of both these books. Perhaps this plate was one of the sample plates that Mary Orvis Marbury used to take on the road when she made sales calls.

1883 Orvis Flies

Actual flies from 1883 Orvis book, Fishing With the Fly. From top left: Bee, Tomah Joe, No Name, Blue Bottle, Grasshopper, and Canada.

This is a photo I took of an actual mounted Plate of Lake Flies, taken back in October when I was at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont (besides my visit to The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club a.k.a. Fish in a Barrel Pond). I thought the flies looked familiar; when I returned home I checked my library. They are not from Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, but rather these patterns appeared in a book her father co-authored in 1883 with A. Nelson Cheney, Fishing With the Fly.

(Important: you can click and click again on each image to bring them up to full size).

These flies are 128 years old! I thought you all would enjoy seeing them. From upper left, going row by row, the patterns are: Bee, Tomah Joe, No Name, Blue Bottle, Grasshopper, and Canada.

Note the tail on the Tomah Joe is not golden pheasant crest, but a single yellow hackle feather. The wing on the Bee is pretty badly bug-damaged, but the recipe from Marbury’s book, one of a few patterns in her work that actually says what an ingredient is; Upper body feathers, paired, from a wild turkey providing a “peculiar burnished effect.” The quotation is from the text of Favorite Flies

Here you can see the patterns from the book Lake Fly Plate image, as they were each hand-painted from the actual sample above, reproduced in the book, Fishing With the Fly, 1883.

The photo above is of the lithograph image from my first edition copy of the Charles Orvis book.

I apologize to my subscribers, but you have surely noticed that I have neglected my blog for a little more than three weeks now, sorry about that folks. I have been away for a while; I was at deer camp at my family cabin in Tioga County, Pennsylvania; not hunting so much as I was working on stuff, fly tying orders, letters, and my book project. Yes, some of you already know that I have a book contract for project titled: Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. I took my computer to camp and worked – no internet – which was probably a good thing because offline, one can stay on task more efficiently, at least I can when I don’t have the pull of e-mails and so on. And yes, we did get some venison. I made a really wonderful Venison Shepard’s Pie one night, from scratch, using the meat and broth from bones utilized from a butchered deer (we do that ourselves) that we cooked down in a large kettle for about nine hours on an outdoor wood stove. It was delish! One of my friends told me I should publish that recipe.
The 19th century fly pattern book I am working on will be a tier-friendly volume. Myself and 24 other talented tiers are replicating all 291 patterns from Marbury’s book. Some of Paul Rossman’s exact flies that were published in Forgotten Flies will also appear in this new book. The idea for this book was simply that the recipes for Marbury’s patterns are not recorded anywhere with images or photos except for Forgotten Flies, and that volume is: expensive, out-of-print and consequently inaccessible to many tiers who want to tie these patterns, and at almost twelve pounds, it is not very tier friendly. It’s hard to find room on your tying bench for Forgotten Flies, as a reference, not to mention many of us have coffee, tea, scotch, red wine, or a beer nearby on tying occasions, and the risk of spills is, well, we never spill head cement do we? Not to mention the occasional slice of sharp cheese, bologna, sardines and what-have-you as a snack. That would not be good.

As my work has progressed since the initial announcement about the Marbury / Orvis flies book, the more research I do on these pattern recipes, the more variations & discrepancies I find from current known recipes. That in itself is very interesting. There is not a ton of totally different things, but there are some. The most glaring one just discovered, is that two patterns are switched in her book, and this error was never corrected in subsequent editions. Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, while a great book and one I love, with many of the Marbury recipes recorded in it is, I am finding out, not-so-accurate with some details on many of these patterns. A few flies have incorrect material components numbering four or even five items.

My hope and goal is to present more accurate and updated information based on my research and verification when Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892 is published. Plus, I will have access to all the original flies that are mounted on mat boards, and in the possession of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I plan to visit there this spring to take the photos; it will be a boon to study the original flies. I’ll be able to examine the flies, make notes, and certify any new information.

There is an older topic announcement here from November with more details of the book, the list of contributing tiers, and how to reserve your advance, limited edition copy.

Below are macro photos of each actual fly and of the fly plate image from my first-edition copy of the 1883 book. Note the penciled notations on the mat board – Mary Orvis was 25 at the time. It is most likely her handwriting; I have compared it to more than 140 other flies labeled in ink by her for an 1893 Orvis Display exhibited in Chicago, that is still on display in the Museum in Vermont.

Bee – Lake Fly. Note that despite the bug damage, there is still evidence of the “peculiar burnished effect” in the turkey feather wing.

Bee – Lake Flies Color Plate Image. Look closely at what remains of the wing on the actual fly above, and compare it to the detail in the artist’s rendition of the feather markings of the wing. Quite accurate I’d say.

Tomah Joe – Lake Fly. Oval silver tinsel body, wound edge-to-edge, and an ostrich, not peacock herl butt on this one.

Tomah Joe – Lake Flies Color Plate Image

No Name – Lake Fly. Note the tarnished oval silver tinsel rib, and scarlet ibis tail and shoulder. The flat silver tinsel tag has tarnished into near oblivion, and the red floss portion has faded to a pinkish hue.

No Name – Lake Flies Plate Image

Blue Bottle – Lake Fly. The rib on this is what salmon tiers know as gold twist; oval tinsel in two strands.

Blue Bottle – Lake Flies Plate Image

Grasshopper – Lake Fly

Grasshopper – Lake Flies Plate Image

Canada – Lake Fly

Canada – Lake Flies Plate Image

I thought since I had been absent here for so long that I would make my first new post something worthwhile for my readers to enjoy. The recipes for all these flies and almost 400 others will be in my book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. I hope you all like these photos.