Thanks to Graydon and Leslie Hilyard and their wonderful book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies; Stackpole Books, 2000, much of the historic information about the career and personal life of fly tier, entrepreneur, and milliner Carrie G. Stevens is preserved in the marvelous documentation of photos and written accounts in the book. The portion of the fly tying community who are interested in nostalgia and historical preservation owes Graydon and Leslie Hilyard a debt of gratitude for capturing this information before it slipped into the forgotten vault of the past. Pamela Bates, daughter of Joseph D. Bates who was a friend of Mrs. Stevens and for whom the Colonel Bates streamer was created, wrote in the foreword to the book: “One of the many glories of Hilyard’s research is that he grasped what is most probably the last opportunity to document what little primary source material remains.” Pamela also wrote of Carrie, “As she aspired to perfection, she became the first American tier to employ the British tradition of creating flies for the fishermen and letting the fish take care of the rest.” Indeed.
While at the Marlborough, Massachusetts, Fly Fishing Show over January (2012) 20th to the 22nd, I caught up with fellow fly tier and friend, Ed Muzeroll, from Sydney, Maine. We met more than ten years ago at one of the shows, and I am pleased to say Ed is one of the contributing tiers, recreating the 19th century Orvis fly patterns for my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies o- 1892. See my November announcement on the book: https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/new-book-announcement/
As we visited at my table, Ed showed me this pair of Pink Lady streamers; the unique aspect of these two flies is that they were dressed by sisters, Carrie Stevens and Elizabeth Duley. The streamer at the top was tied by Elizabeth, and the bottom fly was dressed by Carrie Stevens.
I took the photos hand-held with my Canon G9 Powershot using no flash. (I really never get good results photographing flies with flash). Carrie most likely created her Pink Lady streamer as a conversion from the famous wet fly created by George M. L. LaBranche, author of two books: The Dry Fly and Fast Water, 1914, and The Salmon and the Dry Fly, 1924.
Here are some interesting aspects on these flies that I would like to comment on:
It appears the hooks are the same size, but look to perhaps be from different manufacturers. The heads are quite different; Elizabeth’s head is much larger that Carrie’s usual elongated, narrower style and shape. It is important to note that both heads have Carrie’s color band, here appearing to be orange. According to the recipe published in Hilyard’s book, the Pink Lady has a head band of pink thread.
To me, the fact that her sister incorporated Carrie’s band into her fly reinforces my belief that the color band was not Carrie’s signature, as much as it was a component of the fly pattern itself. H. Wendell Folkins, to whom she sold her business in 1953, was given specific instructions by Carrie Stevens to continue the use of her color-banded heads. I believe it is a tribute and sign of respect in recognition of a Carrie Stevens pattern to use the banded heads. I personally came to this conclusion last summer after more than 20 years of tying Steven’s patterns without the bands. See this earlier post on the topic:
Note the length of the bodies on both flies, the body ends above the hook point, while some of Carrie’s flies have shorter bodies. Elizabeth’s Pink Lady lacks the tag of flat silver tinsel; it would appear that Carrie’s fly includes it, but it is difficult to see under the bucktail belly. Note the ribbing – Carrie’s is counterclockwise, while sister Elizabeth wound the rib to the right.
Finally, there is an obvious difference between these flies in the shape of the feathers used for the wings. Most Rangeley style streamer devotees have a strong preference for hackles that are not too wide and also not too long, not too narrow, and not too pointed, preferring more rounded hackles as on Elizabeth’s rendition of the Pink Lady. Carrie’s pattern here clearly utilized some hackles that are narrower and more pointed than what is usually recommended and preferred by experienced Rangeley style streamer fly tiers. This indicates her resourcefulness to use materials at hand, even if they are not of the preferred shape. Fly tiers have been making adaptations and adjustments in their tying for centuries.
I wanted to share these flies through my photos because I believe this is a very interesting bit of history, illustrating the differing fly tying styles between sisters Carrie Stevens and Elizabeth Duley.