Governor Alvord Wet Fly

I just added this part right here, after most of what is below starting, “Last Saturday…” was written. This turned into more than I envisioned at the start, but I attribute it to artistic inspiration. You could say I got a little bit carried away. Hope you don’t mind my expanded post.

Last Saturday I attended 14th Annual Bear’s Den Fly Fishing Show at their new shop in Taunton, Massachusetts. My friend Peter Frailey, who posted some photos of the Marlborough, Massachusetts, Fly Fishing Show this past January, was also present at The Bear’s Den Show.

When Peter happened my by table Saturday morning, I was tying a peacock herl-bodied wet fly pattern that is listed in Bergman’s book Trout, where I first learned of it, but it can also be found in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. In fact, before starting to tie the Governor Alvord (I did three of them), I pulled out my traveling copy of Favorite Flies… and referred to the dressing therein. I wanted to put a gold tinsel tag on the fly; Bergman’s recipe does not list a tag. Ah, ha! In Marbury’s book, with no recipes of course, hence my reason to write a new book on the 291 illustrated flies in her book, including both photographs and written recipes; I found upon examination of the color plate, a gold tinsel tag. Before I get too much farther, I better point out that Peter took some photos during the show and posted them on his blog;

http://www.peterfraileyphoto.com/bearsden2012  but the reason for the title of this post is that he took the photo that appears below.

A curious fact of the Governor Alvord is that it is one of very few peacock herl-bodied wet flies that has a married wing. The Orvis version is on Plate Y of Marbury’s book as a Bass Fly, and its component parts are almost identical to the version in Trout, and having said that, before I present the pattern recipe, I feel compelled to note that this pattern, like many others, is not a “Bergman wet fly.” That phrase is a bit of a misnomer. Bergman’s “wet flies” were simply patterns that were popular in his day, many long before his day, and some of them he tied, sold through his mail-order business, and of course fished with and wrote about in his many articles and four books.

I am probably in part responsible for this situation, because of my association with the reproductions of 499 wet flies that I tied from Ray Bergman’s books that were published in 1999 in the book Forgotten Flies. I wrote the biography on Ray Bergman that appears in Forgotten Flies, and I still consider that work one of my most significant accomplishments. But the publishers selected the title, Ray Bergman and the Wet Fly, for my chapter of that book. Part of the reason the publishers selected that particular title may lie in the fact that Trout had over 600 illustrated fly patterns in it; more than any other book previously published, and a distinction that it held for almost sixty years. I am grateful to have had that opportunity; the timing and fortuitous nature of the project was a concert of cooperation between The Complete Sportsman and myself. I had decided in 1974 when I first tied the Parmacheene Belle that one day I was going to tie all the wet flies from Trout. I was elated when Paul Schmookler approached me in 1997 to inquire of my interest in reproducing the Trout wet flies. You bet I was!

There is though, an undercurrent of belief in the fly tying and fishing industry that clings to the notion that Ray Bergman was responsible for many of the wet flies – 440 in Trout alone – that were published in his book. Trout was a monumental work, as it holds a record of being the only fishing book ever published to remain continuously in print for over fifty years. Trout, in its three editions and multiple printings, has sold over a quarter of a million copies. This is unprecedented for a fishing book.

Some of this is my personal view of course, but in addition to the matter of Ray Bergman being so strongly associated with wet flies, I also feel that the term “MOM flies” slightly and inaccurately misrepresents 19th Century wet fly patterns. Mary Orvis Marbury wrote Favorite Flies and Their Histories, and by the time the book was published, she was head of the Orvis fly tying department, but it is important to note that the Orvis Company was founded in 1856, and it was not until thirty-six years later that Mary penned her epic work. The “MOM fly” or “MOM style flies” references seem to lump all 19th Century wet flies into “her” style, or Orvis style, while in fact there were many other companies creating patterns and selling fishing flies. I prefer the term, 19th Century Wet Flies.

The only wet fly pattern that Ray Bergman originated was the Quebec, which is not listed in Trout but is published in With Fly, Plug, and Bait. The rest of the “Bergman” wet flies were created and published by other individuals and companies, many years prior to Bergman’s writing, with the exception that some of the patterns, such as the creations of Michigan angler Phil Armstrong, Bergman Fontinalis and Fontinalis Fin debuted in Ray’s book. Some flies, like the Professor, pre-date Bergman’s Trout by over one-hundred years. I realize I am getting going on this topic, but am about to wrap it up if you’ll please bear with me.

My reason for discussing this is that many other 20th Century fly tying and fishing authors have been somewhat overshadowed by Bergman’s popularity and his association with wet flies. I merely want to recognize – at the risk of missing a few individuals – because I am not researching any of this information, but rather, writing from my memory – these individuals have also published wet fly patterns, some of their own origin, but most, with recipes identical to or differing from the recipes published in Trout. Bergman’s dressings were most likely representative of the patterns commercially produced in his day.

These individuals and their books have also made significant contributions to the history of wet flies. I also wish to recognize Mike Valla for his recent wet fly book, and his recognition of other fly tiers and authors. Some of these individuals are, in no particular order: George Harvey, Bill Blades, Helen Shaw, Donald DuBois, J. Edson Leonard, Elizabeth Greig, E. C. Gregg, Poul Jorgenson, Ray Ovington, Dave Hughes, Charles F. Orvis, John Alden Knight, Harold J. Noll, Ken Sawada, Sylvester Nemes, and I am sure there are others I have missed. My point is that the origin of some of the hundreds and hundreds of wet fly patterns are known, many others are obscure.

Macro - Don Bastian whip finishing a #6 Governor Alvord wet fly. Photo by Peter Frailey, of Massachusetts, taken Saturday February 25th at The Bear's Den Show. The exposure and lighting makes the red tail and brown hackle appear a little lighter than they are. This version from Marbury's book includes a hackle that is tied palmer from the mid-point of the body. This is a bit of a trick to pull off; actually, pulling it off may not be a trick but instead, a problem, if the feather stem breaks after you have wrapped the body. It is a bit of a trick to tie in the hackle and winding the peacock herl around the feather, but I like the effect. Other 19th Century patterns used this technique.

Governor Alvord – Marbury Dressing:

Tag: Fine oval gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet quill section. I used a matched pair for a double tail, but most of the 19th century patterns used a single slip of quill.

Body: Peacock herl

Hackle: Brown, tied palmer from middle of body, extra turns in front.

Wing: Slate married to cinnamon or brown

Head: Black

The version of the Governor Alvord in Trout is the same, except minus the tag, and the hackle is either a beard or collar tied in at the head.

I tied three Governor Alvords at the show; the 19th century pattern in a 20th century version. I want to coat the heads with cement to finish them off. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll add the photos to this post.

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The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond – LL Bean Post

My friend “Quill Gordon,” the caretaker at The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club in Weston, Vermont, where I believe I will be visiting again this year in June – has posted a very interesting, intriguing, tinged with his usual dry humor, and informative post on his blog, The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond. The post is titled; When Art Imitates Art, Good Fish Die.” In this blog he writes about the photographic recreation / replication / digitized reproduction of the cover of a 1933 LL Bean Catalog. This artistic effort was done by photographer Randal Ford, in conjunction with the 1912 founding of L. L. Bean Company in Freeport, Maine. This year – 2012 – is the 100th Anniversary Year of L. L. Bean.

Quill mentions at the end of his post that Don Bastian (that would be me) is tying flies there on March 16th, and suggests you may want to drop by. I would enjoy that, and thanks, Quill, for the plug. I appreciate your support and enthusiasm, and I look forward to seeing you there!

The date mentioned in his article is the first day of the L. L. Bean Annual Spring Fishing Expo, to be held on March 16 – 18. In addition to demo tying from 1 PM until 5 PM on the 16th, I will be leading the regularly scheduled Friday evening tying class at 7 PM as we collectively dress a Maine streamer pattern, the Footer Special. I am also one of the 2012 Expo Featured Fly Tyers and I will be tying classic wet flies and traditional streamers on both Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM until 4 PM.

Here is the permalink to Quill Gordon’s entertaining post; it is worth checking out!

http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/when-art-imitates-art-good-fish-die/#more-2788

I hope Quill won’t mind, but I borrowed one of the photos from his post so you would at least have something to look at here on my blog, since my picture files currently have nothing relevant for inclusion anyway. Besides I wouldn’t want to take anything away from his writing and photos. Thanks Quill, and as usual, nice work!

Original (left) and reproduced version of 1933 L. L. Bean Catalog Cover. The fish are or should I say, were, real and alive...but if Quill's facts are correct, PETA won't like the end result.

Commercial and Production Fly Tying

This is a short post on some of my experience with commercial and production tying.

After tying flies for 25 years, I began a four-year stint of commercial tying for Cathy & Barry Beck at their former shop, Fishing Creek Outfitters, near Benton, Pennsylvania. From autumn of 1989 to 1993 I produced over 3,000 dozen flies; a combination of patterns that were primarily drys, including: Marinaro Style Thorax Duns, Polywing Thorax Duns, Hackle and Synthetic spent-wing spinners, Comparaduns, Tricos, Catskill drys, Wooly Buggers, traditional dry fly patterns, mayfly nymphs, Elk Hair Caddis, Wulffs, bead heads, and more. During this time period I changed my preference from using hackle fibers for dived tails on drys to preferring Microfibetts exclusively. I like them because of their consistent quality and ease of use. Also, after watching Barry Beck demonstrate his technique, I modified and (in my opinion), improved on his figure-eight method of dividing Microfibetts with only the tying thread. Using Microfibetts, I can tie in and divide a three-fiber tail for Tricos and Baetis, or a double split: 2/2 – #18 – #22 Baetis; 3/3 – #14 – #16 PMD’s, Sulphurs, Olives; 4/4 – #10 – #12 Hendrickson, March Brown, Slate Drake; or 5/5 – #10 – #8 Green Drake, Brown Drake, Yellow Drake; in less than ten seconds. Speed of secure attachment to move to the next step is important to me in tying split tail drys.

I have said this for years – the amount of tying I did in the first year of commercial tying was way more than in the previous twenty-five years. I learned so much from the sudden intensity of commercial fly tying. That is when I learned to hold my scissors in my hand while tying. I was still using my original Thompson A vise, but in the first year I wore out the original set of jaws and bought new ones. In 1991 I bought my first Regal vise and am still tying on a Regal.

I still have half the skin of an entire deer hide with most of the hair cut off – all of which went one fly at a time, into the tying of Comparaduns. I also tied commercial orders for other fly shops, including Slate Run Tackle Shop in Slate Run, Pennsylvania, and The Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville, Maine.

More than once I went through an entire Metz hen back in one day tying Marinaro style Thorax Duns. More than once I went through a full spool of Monocord in one day tying woolly buggers. Many times, in a single day, all the size #14 hackles from a dry fly cape were pulled off and tied into flies. This experience was of great benefit to my tying ability and I am grateful to have had the opportunity.

The last time I produced a big batch of flies was in the fall of 2009, during a time period where I tied almost 300 dozen flies in about six weeks. No traditional wet flies were tied during this period, but rather I tied a wide range of nymphs and drys in the form of dun and spinner patterns, all for speculative sale. I have been selling some of these flies, but I still have about 175 dozen. I tied 12 dozen #22 and #24 Trico spinners; about 30 dozen Flash-back Pheasant tail nymphs from sizes #12 to #22; about eight dozen Male and Female Hendrickson Comparaduns, another six or so dozen same pattern Polywing Thorax Duns, twenty dozen BWO Thorax Duns from size #14 – for the E. cornuta, to diminutive #22’s for tiny Baetis imitations, and dozens more Sulphurs, Pale Evening Duns, Pale Morning Duns, Light Cahills, Stonefly and Caddis drys, Griffith’s Gnats, Baetis Spinners, and Rusty Spinners. I enjoy tying, and I can’t explain why but it is gratifying to see fly box compartments fill up to the point where you can’t see the bottom.

Here is a link to a forum with my original Hare E. Rooster nymph pattern – http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64579 This fly is a really good attractor – searching pattern. I devised it using the best characteristics of two of the best nymph patterns ever created; the Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail Nymphs. I tie it in natural, olive, black, dark brown, and tan.

I have several more original patterns that I would like to present; my Goose Quill Nymph, my XB Larva, and my floating caddis emerger patterns. In the future I plan to expand my traditional wet fly and streamer offerings here with some of these recipes and photos.

Lou Anne Bastian – In Memoriam

Starting today I will be traveling and working away from home and will also be away from my computer for a while. That is one reason why I made a number of new posts in the last several days, because it will be some time until I am able to resume my posting of new topics here. It is also why I am making this post today, rather than next Wednesday, the date I would have chosen for this post.

I realize this post is unusual, and that it is a departure from my normal range of topics. Nevertheless, I have been thinking of posting something here in remembrance of my beloved wife, Lou Anne, of nearly 34 years. She passed away five years ago on February 22, 2007, following a six month struggle with pancreatic cancer.

I could write many words about what a wonderful woman Lou Anne was; others that knew her were blessed, as I was. As a wife, Lou Anne was an example of what constitutes a very happy marriage, dang near to the point that a man can’t legitimately or reasonably expect more from any woman. All my friends used to tell me how lucky I was to have her. She was very supportive of my devotion to fly tying, fishing, and hunting. As a mother, she excelled with love, devotion, and fairness, as her two daughters, Kimberly and Lyneah, will surely attest. She has four grandsons, Michael Joseph or “MJ,” Gabriel, Benner, and Andrew.

I am about to make a strong statement, but it is how and what I feel on this matter. It is a shame she passed away prematurely, and it is a shame that many people in this world also die before their time. But more than that, her death was just plain wrong; and it is an unfairness of this life that Lou Anne was taken prematurely; being denied the opportunity to meet her grandsons, to know them, and to love them. She would have made a significant impact on their lives. Those of us in her family miss her very much.

Lou Anne enjoying a cup of black coffee during a boat ride in England, 1995. That smirk of a smile captures a tip-of-the-iceberg view into her great sense of humor.

Lou Anne and me at a Fly Fishing Show, back about 1997 when I used to sell materials and stuff. Also when I was a lot younger. Lou Anne was a great asset in the regard that she was so friendly to all our customers and visitors. Her charm was disarming and she made people feel comfortable. (I know, besides being younger, I was a few pounds lighter).

Lou Anne and our Cocker Spaniel, Abigail. She bought the dog for my 50th birthday, but she loved Abigail. And I was usually second choice for a lap companion whenever Lou Anne was around.

Happier times, 2004. Left to right: Lyneah, me, Abigail, Lou Anne, Kim at the Bastian cabin.

Lou Anne Bastian

July 17, 1954 – February 22, 2007.

“She loved the cabin and the singing of the wood thrush.

These words are on her memorial marker at the cabin, not far from the house and near the pond in the special garden spot we created for her, and where her ashes are scattered. Last weekend while there with my friends tying flies, on a few occasions when I stepped outside to just to get some fresh air, stretch my legs, listen to the wind whirring softly in the pine trees and woods that surround the house, or to gaze at the black night sky full of brilliant stars, or to listen for the barred owls, occasionally I could hear the wind chimes in her garden…..softly tinkling, faint, almost inaudible; yet reminding me still, of her love, charm, beauty, wonderful character, and companionship. I love you Lou Anne.

Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition – Set No. 2

Carrie Stevens Collector's Set No. 2 - The "Charles E. Wheeler" Set, featuring the three patterns designed by Carrie Stevens and named for her friend and fly tying mentor, Charles E. Wheeler, of Stratford, Connecticut.

This is the second set in an expanding series of Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition streamer patterns that I am offering for interested collectors. This Set is now available for purchase on my merchandise page at: http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-2-P690.aspx

All orders placed at MyFlies.com for my merchandise are processed and shipped by me personally, so your order will receive my personal attention. Any additional requests may be included by adding a note to the order form at MyFlies.com.

This Set No. 2 features the three patterns named after a Stevens family friend, Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler. Each set comes with a letter of provenance listing the patterns, written on 24 lb., 25% cotton, Fine Granite watermarked paper, and is signed by me and numbered with a number 2 pencil.

The top photo illustrates the interior packaging. These sets come in a very nice white enameled gift box with a raised interior display panel. The inside is customized by me as shown, with gray card stock cemented to the panel, using acid-free cement, and then the streamer mounting cards are cemented as well. The flies are wired to the cards in the same manner that Carrie Stevens wired her flies to her packaging cards, at the hook eye and bend. Each set is consecutively numbered; I am pleased that Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are sold, interestingly enough to a decoy collector in Ohio. The reason for that is that Shang Wheeler was very well known as a decoy carver. He won the amateur division of the International Decoy Makers Contest, held at the National Sportsmen Show in New York City, for twelve years in a row. Mr. Wheeler is still highly-respected among the fans and devotees of waterfowl decoy carvers.

Don Bastian's Carrie Stevens Collector's Edition Set No. 2 Top Exterior Carton Label

Charles E. Wheeler Streamer, size #1 - 6x long.

These flies are all dressed on Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style Streamer hooks, hand-made in England, and designed after hooks that were custom-ordered from Allcock in the 1930’s and 1940’s by Carrie Stevens. Check this link to Gaelic Supreme Streamer Hooks:  http://www.belvoirdale.com/Hooks.html

Charles E. Wheeler streamer - head, shoulder, & cheek macro. I like this fly because of the compound shoulder of teal and red duck breast feather, though I used Whiting American Hen Cape dyed red.

Shang's Favorite, size #1 - 6x long

Shang's Favorite - head, shoulder, & cheek macro

Shang's Special - head, shoulder, & cheek macro

Now I have to tell a story; if you look at this recent post: https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/fly-tying-weekends/ you will see the information that I tied these flies, 2 dozen in all; eight of each of these three Charles Wheeler streamer patterns at my cabin last weekend. I was with some of my best friends; we relaxed, hung out, tended the fire, enjoyed some libations (a balanced liquid diet of selected beers, Chianti and Chablis wines, and a little Jack, conveniently having at our disposal some beverages from the three liquid food groups: beer, wine, liquor. (Thanks to Sharon Butterfield, owner of MyFlies.com for that beneficial description). And we ate good food that we prepared ourselves. And yes, we tied some flies, all four of us.

The Shang’s Special as you see, according to Carrie Stevens’ original recipe, which I have followed, has a red head with a black band. Somehow I neglected to notice that fact while tying eight of them, even though I have tied this pattern previously, though never as many at one time as I did last weekend. Perhaps it was Jack’s fault. Nevertheless, when I started to take these photographs yesterday, I checked the Carrie Stevens…book for the recipes to type with the initial post, and suddenly realized I had messed up. Big time. I dressed the heads black with a red band. What to do? Well, after some thought, I took the first fly, placed it in my vise, and using my super-sharp mini-sized Swiss Army knife, I carefully sliced the head on one side, then peeled off the rest. I then re-wrapped it with red Danville Flymaster 6/0 and finished it with a narrow band of black, same manufacturer. It worked pretty well, so I was at it for an hour or so, repeating the process to repair the heads on all eight flies so that they would be correct. After all, these streamers are being specified by me in the promotional information as tied to “exacting specifications following the original recipes,” and it just wouldn’t do to have the heads wrong. Three coats of clear head cement later, and they were transformed.

Shang's Special, size #1 - 6x long

This is fun!

Charles E. Wheeler, Shang’s Favorite, Shang’s Special

This photo is of the two dozen Carrie Stevens streamer patterns that I tied at my family cabin over the recent three-day weekend spent there with some friends. I was primarily tying flies as evidenced by these photos. The hooks are what I prefer to use; the Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley style streamer hooks, made in England by Gaelic Supreme.

Left to right: Charles E. Wheeler, Shang's Favorite, Shang's Special; eight of each pattern, hook sizes are #1 - 6x and 8x long, and #2 - 8x long.

All three of these patterns were created in honor of Charles E. Wheeler, of Stratford, Connecticut. He was a family friend of Maine Guide Wallace Stevens and his famous fly tying wife, Carrie G. Stevens. His nickname was Shang, hence the Shang’s Favorite and Shang’s Special. The best source for information on Carrie Stevens is the book Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, Stackpole Books, 2000 and 2011.

Shang’s Favorite – Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern

Shang's Favorite - Carrie Stevens streamer pattern tied by Don Bastian on Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Streamer Hook, Size #1 - 8x

My earlier post today about fly tying weekends at my family cabin was partly occupied with my diligent work on these flies. This is the Carrie Stevens pattern – Shang’s Favorite.

Shang’s Favorite

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Red floss

Rib: Flat silver tinsel

Belly: White bucktail

Throat: White hackle fibers

Wing: Four to six strands of peacock herl and four natural grizzly hackles

Shoulder: Duck breast feather dyed red (I used chicken – Whiting American Hen Cape). Nice and rounded, and I had the benefit of selecting them from the “file cabinet” of the cape.

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Black with a red band

Below are some more photos of the Shang’s Favorite in mixed hook sizes:

Shang's Favorite streamers - an eight-pack mix of hook sizes - #1 - 6x and 8x, and #2 - 8x.

Shang's Favorite streamers - head-to-head. Four coats of head cement.

Shang's Favorite streamers - Heads, shoulders, and cheeks...I believe the use of the banded head is a tribute to and in honor of Carrie Stevens, designating the patterns as being her original creations.

These streamers were all made by assembling the complete wings, shoulders, and cheeks ahead of time. I prefer Elmer’s rubber cement for this. You can use it from the bottle without letting it sit, thereby avoiding the “wait” before you can begin having the fun and excitement (really!) of wing assembly a la Stevens style. When I started these I didn’t make plan to make eight because I knew, or thought I knew, I was not going to make that many. I started with three sets of wings. As noted in my earlier post today, I got on a roll. Glad I have them made, my inventory is in a bit better condition. At least on this item…

The additional Steven’s patterns named after Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler, the Shang’s Special and Charles E. Wheeler will follow along behind these flies, eight of each of those patterns too. These are the first sets of this series in the numbered collector’s editions Carrie Stevens streamers that are I am placing on my selling page of MyFlies.com: http://www.myflies.com/ 

This Collector’s Set No. 2 featuring the flies named after Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler are currently listed on MyFlies.com.