Carson Lake Special Wet Fly

Carson Lake Special – Don Bastian’s interpretation of this pattern. These are dressed on size #4 Mustad 3906 irons.

A customer in Colorado recently requested me to tie this pattern for him among some other traditional wet flies in a custom order for his collection. This is the Carson Lake Special, a regional pattern that is still sold in Colorado fly shops. He sent me samples, and says it’s an older pattern. He remembered his dad talking about it when he was a boy. I tied these flies in the photo on #4 – Mustad 3906 wet fly hooks; he wanted them that size for his order along with a couple traditional winged wets. When I asked his permission to place this pattern on my blog, he also thought maybe some people could help shed some light on the history or origins of this fly. Any input on this fly would be greatly appreciated.

Seems to me, even in this big hook size, the Carson Lake Special would really be a good fish catcher. It looks fishy as hell all get out, as we say here in Pennsylvania. Indeed, I believe it surely must be a good fly in the smaller 8’s, 10’s, 12’s that it is still sold in, otherwise it would not have survived. Most of the fly shop versions of the Carson Lake Special and other flies for that matter, are tied in Timbuktu and Timbukthree by non-fly fishing fly tiers as per usual these days for store bought flies, and I mean most places, the majority of shops and big box stores; flies come from Sri-Lanka, Kenya, Central America, and who knows where else.

My customer sent me samples that were store bought and one he tied; close examination of these had me elevate the rib with a bodkin on one of the samples and I found a definite rib, not wire; there was a rib, and it was definitely green which resulted in me using the green floss, twisted for the rib. The body would be natural dubbing because I got the impression the fly was in existence before the age of synthetic dubbings. He said he would be interested to see what I came up with, this is it:

Carson Lake Special

Thread:        White Danville Flymaster 6/0

Hook:             3906 Mustad size #4

Tag:                Lagartun green silk floss

Tail:              A single black or brown hackle tip, to match body color

Rib:                 Lagartun green silk floss, twisted

Hackle:         Black tied palmer, clipped; or brown tied palmer, clipped

Body:              Black Wapsi squirrel dubbing, or Brown Wapsi Squirrel dubbing

Hackle:         Collins Hackle Farm grizzly hen back, two turns

Head:             Lagartun green silk floss, finished with Danville Black Flymaster 6/0

After struggling through tying the first two I suddenly realized it was easier to clip the palmered hackle; then wind the rib, and also to clip the palmer hackle before you tie in the collar; I did that once too. Also, the Lagartun floss is multi-stranded, so I separated it into two and three strand sections to wind the tag, rib, and head. A bit of a pain-in-the-ass challenge, but it was necessary, even on this large hook.

If you tie any Carson Lake Specials to fish, I would appreciate your replies of successful fishing reports…or not-so-successful reports.

January 5th, 2012 additional comment:

My customer in Colorado received his order today, and sent me an e-mail. I was very pleased. Here is what he wrote:

“Man the flies look incredible! My dad loved the look of the Carson Lakes… in fact he said that those flies you tied were the first ones that he’s seen, that look exactly like the originals.”
“At some point I’d like to have a Q and A session regarding the technique that you used to tie them… as
I’d rather not open up the cases if I don’t have to.”
What his dad said is a real compliment to me; I don’t know how I managed to accomplish that; replicate an unknown regional pattern almost dead-on, without being actually sure how to proceed when I started, other than to give it my best shot. Must have been some luck and my fly tier’s intuition.
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Bee – 1900’s Orvis Wet Fly Pattern

This Bee, a reproduction of a 19th century Orvis Lake Fly, was tied by and the photo was taken by one of my friends from Maine, Dave Lomasney. Dave lives in York, and is a member of classicflytying.com. I met him last year when I was presenting at the Annual L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo in Freeport, Maine. On that note, I have been invited to return to Bean’s in Freeport, Maine, again this March; it will be a special event because this is the 100th Anniversary Year of L. L.  Bean. Dave recently posted this pattern on classicflytying, and since Dave did such a nice job on the Bee I thought I would post it here as well.

Below are Dave’s posted comments on the Bee:

“Happy New Year friends!!!! This is my last fly for 2011…a BEE in the MOM (Mary Orvis Marbury) style. After seeing it in Don Bastian photos from the Orvis Museum in Vermont, and I noticed the wing feather of the Bee fly had an iridescent sheen to it. Well it just so happens I was given a complete turkey fan last week from a friend that killed a wild turkey this past spring while hunting. When I saw the fan I noticed it had some of those shiny little feathers at the base of the tail…The wing on my BEE is cut from slips of the feather, a left and right, and then doubled (I gave Dave that suggestion because the barbs are a little sparse on these feathers, and I’ve done that with other feathers with good results). The hook is a Mustad sproat bend 3371 bronze, marked #2.”

Bee - Lake Fly version, tied on a Mustad 3371 #2 bronze blind-eye hook by Dave Lomasney, from Maine. This is the Lake Fly version from Fishing With the Fly, 1883, by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney. The Bee also appears as a trout fly in Mary Orvis Marbury's 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories.

Here is the text about the Bee from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, p. 223, where the Bee appeared as a trout fly:

No. 98.  Imitations of bees have been made since early times with no special restrictions as to material, so each maker has chosen his own. The one illustrated in the plate of trout flies, also in the plate of lake flies in Fishing With the Fly, was first made by C. F. Orvis in 1878, for use in the streams west of the Mississippi River. The peculiar burnished effect of the upper body feather of the wild turkey used for the wings, and the alternate rings of chenille which permitted a bulky bee-like body without too much weight, has been so satisfactory that it now seems to be the generally accepted method.”

Below is posted the actual Bee from the Lake Fly Plates from which the artist painting for the chromolithograph plates were made for the 1883 Orvis book. I took this photo of the actual mounted set of six Lake Flies through display glass at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, this past October.

Bee - No. 13 - Lake Flies - Fishing With The Fly - actual mounted fly from the plate used for the paintings. This photo and the full plate image were posted before Christmas in my 1883 Orvis Flies topic. Note the wing has been severely damaged by the ravages of bugs. It is also interesting to note the trout version of the Bee on fly Plate M in Marbury's 1892 book shows a furnace hackle; this one appears to be natural black. The "peculiar burnished effect of the wild turkey feathers" is still visible in the remnants of the wing despite the damage.

Below is posted my photo of the color plate Bee from the source I am very lucky to possess, a first-edition copy of the 1883 Orvis book.

My photographed book image of the Bee, No. 13 from Lake Flies. This photo is of a first edition, 128 year-old chromolithograph image in my copy of the Orvis book, Fishing With the Fly. I must say it does not do justice to the lithographs. They have an allure and vivid appearance that is lost in photography. Note: there is a small tag of flat gold tinsel on this fly, not visible on the actual fly because of the chenille and mostly lost from tarnish. Here the hackle appears to be black and brown mixed...which suddenly reminded me of an old TV show--- "Will the real Bee, please stand up?"

I wanted to make this post with Dave’s Bee in combination with a feature using the other photos. Thanks Dave for your contribution, and nice tying! The recipe for the Bee was posted in my older Orvis fly post.