Fly Tying Weekends

I returned home yesterday afternoon after spending time at my family cabin with a couple friends for a long winter weekend. While we did not actually take any photos during our fly tying session last weekend, here are a couple photos from our January outing, taken by a friend with his new camera, during the last weekend of the Pennsylvania muzzle loader deer season on January 14th. We had seven guys in camp then, with three gunners, meaning they own the appropriate firearm and have the permit to legally harvest a deer. One of them killed a doe on Saturday afternoon, which means more venison!

My fly tying that weekend was focused on tying replicas of antique fishing flies to sell to fly collectors at shows. Specifically, I was tying snelled wet flies on blind-eye hooks. I used Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury as a reference source. The photos show my friend Truman, and me in the foreground, at our drop-down fly tying station. My paternal grandfather, whom I never knew, because he passed in 1946 before I was born, bought this property around 1915. It has been in my family ever since. I plan to photograph and add some pictures and recipes of the flies I tied during that weekend to this post later today.

This immediate past fly tying weekend, I was working on my next set of Carrie Stevens Collectors Edition streamer flies. This next set features the three patterns named after businessman / fly tier / decoy carver / story-teller Charles E. Wheeler, including his official namesake pattern the Charles E. Wheeler, along with Shang’s Favorite, and Shang’s Special. I have three of those sets already sold, and as I tied them in order, I figured to make a couple extra sets, and then I got on a roll and I made a total of eight sets – 24 streamers; three patterns, eight of each pattern. I will post them here today as well.

Don Bastian - foreground - and Truman McMullan tying flies at the Bastian Cabin. Photo by some guy who doesn't want his name on the internet. Lots of details and memories in the background; the small black and white photograph on the shelf to the left of the clock is my brother, Larry, and me in the garden at the Bastian Funeral Home in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, taken by my Aunt Freddie in 1964. That is the year we both started tying flies...my grandfather custom built - modified this cabinet / shelf / desk / bookshelf into and along the wall. The American Flag in the far side gun case is a pre-1958 48-Star Flag. For those of you too young to remember, or if you didn't pay attention in history class, that was before Alaska and Hawaii were admitted into "The Union." We still fly that flag on holidays. The clock is older than I am by a couple decades, and still keeps perfect time, and the Westminster chimes ring true. Note the Carrie Stevens streamers hanging up to dry on the support chain...

Another version of the photo above; note I have something in my mouth - my friends would say, there's always something in my mouth - FOOD! You know how your "friends" can tease...I am biting the tip of the silk gut leader material to flatten it prior to tying it to the hook. This flattens it and makes it wrap more smoothly and blend into the body of the fly.

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NYMPHS

The Vanity license plate on my car. I know what I meant…it was an afterthought…honest!

That’s right, this is the Vanity license plate on my car. It was not intended, but the end result after years have passed, I am happy with it. This plate has been the source of lots of humor and one single negative instance among my family and friends. The single negative instance involved my second failed marriage and my wife at the time and her flat “her-way-or-the-highway” refusal to allow me to put it on my car. Eventually I took the highway, and so did this license plate. That in itself is a whole ‘nother story. Which may never be told…but putting this plate back on my car last fall is a small representation of me getting my life back together. One other blog site, last January, after I made an announcement that I was in the process of a divorce, made the observation that I was taking time off for “personal realignment.” Getting my life back together, personal realignment, yeah, either definition works.

Returning to my mindset of humor, education, and inspiration to post this topic; about ten or so years ago, I submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation an application for a Vanity Plate. I had to submit three choices, and I naturally wanted a fly fishing theme. The first three I tried were: FISHON, FISHONN, AND WETFLYS. I really wanted FISHON because I holler that a lot when I fish with my friends. But the form came back with all three rejected. They sent me another application so in the second round I picked: TYZFLYZ, TYSFLYS, and for lack of being able to come up with anything else, I impulsively wrote, NYMPHS. As evidenced by the photo above, this is what I got. They say, be careful what you wish for, you may get it. I got NYMPHS even though I didn’t actually wish for it.

I had put the new NYMPHS plate on my red ’90 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser-S Station Wagon, and a few days had passed without my wife, Lou Anne, seeing it. I knew it would not be a problem, because she was a wonderful woman with a great sense of humor. Nevertheless, I was just waiting until she noticed it. On the occasion of her discovery, I had parked the Olds  in the garage, rear-end facing out. My beloved Lou Anne, to whom I was married for almost 34 years before she prematurely passed away five years ago, was riding with me in our other car, and I was driving as we came down the driveway to the shed. There was the Nymphmobile, as it came to be known, facing us head on, or more like, rear-end on. Lou Anne saw the plate for the first time and exclaimed, “Nymphs!”

Then she said it again, only with more emphasis, as in, “NYMPHS! NYMPHS! Why did you get that?” she asked somewhat incredulously. It is important to note that she was smiling.

I mumbled and sort of stammered an excuse along the line that I did not get the plate I really wanted; that I picked NYMPHS as an impulsive choice and never thought I would actually end up with it. Lou Anne was never angry or even slightly displeased with this situation.

I told her. “Nymphs are aquatic insects, and I’m a fly fisherman, who would think otherwise?”

She said, “Uhhhhhhhh,” deliberately dragging it out for emphasis, “That word means more than that…look it up in the dictionary.”

So I did. I was enlightened by this primary definition of ‘nymphs ‘in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

Nymphs – Minor divinities of ancient mythology represented by beautiful maidens residing in forests, fields, mountains, meadows, and waters.

Ever since then, I have committed the primary definition of ‘nymphs’ to memory. The aquatic insect definition has taken second billing. Oh well, it was done. But, I didn’t mind, and neither did my wife. We just started having fun with it – you know, the old double entendre. We got a lot of laughs and jokes over it. She always appreciated the related humor and various incidents, comments, and even double-takes on the highway. And she never minded driving the “Nymphmobile.”

Once I was passed by a car load of co-eds who tooted, hollered, and waved. I tooted and waved back at them. Another time I was parked along Fourth Street in my hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, right in front of the bank, where I had gone do to what you do when you go into a bank. When I came out, there was a car stopped, in traffic, behind the Nymphmobile, occupied by a young couple, and the male driver was leaning out over the door of the convertible, the top was down, and he was using his cell phone to take a picture of my NYMPHS plate. His girlfriend was giggling. He said, “Cool plate, dude!” It probably ended up on facebook or youtube…

A friend from my local Trout Unlimited Chapter once served as a host for a group of the New York Angler’s Club, one of them drove his New York vehicle with a NYMPHS license plate, but in his case, it was on both front and back of the car.

To clarify my reason and to hopefully legitimize this Vanity Plate on my car, here are a few photos of some nymphs, aquatic invertebrate imitations, and not beautiful maidens, that I tied up. Excuse me, tied:

Golden Stonefly Nymph #8, tied by Don Bastian

Golden Stonefly Nymph #8, tied by Don Bastian, same fly as above, different angle. Sometimes that is all you have to do to the trout, present your nymph in a slightly different manner…or angle of drift.

Isonychia Nymph Size #10, aka, Slate Drake, side profile. Note the realistic side-profile bulge in the wing case…that’s specific tying material application to imitate the real bugs.

Isonychia Nymph Size #10, top view. Note the short legs, again, realism designed to match the natural nymphs.

Isonychia Nymphs #10

This is one of my favorite nymph patterns. I made this post today, but am heading to my cabin very soon for a winter weekend of fly tying and camaraderie with friends. I will follow up next week with pattern recipes, and more information. Oh, and to clarify, I’ll be driving the Nymphmobile.

Added Monday, February 13: The weekend at the cabin was great, lots of fun, and while I made a pot of chili, ham & cheese omelets one morning, pancakes and bacon the next, and grilled Rachael and Reuben variations for lunch, one much-appreciated favor was that one of my friends cooked the evening dinners. Since I normally do most of the cooking, I really enjoyed the respite of tying flies until called for dinner.

Golden Stonefly Nymph:

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 Brown

Hook:  #8 2x long or 3x long nymph hook; may be be curved or a bent-shank nymph hook. The body is widened by side-lashing sections of .020 wire to the hook shank.

Tail:  2 amber colored goose biots (apply a small amount of dubbing to the hook before attaching the biots to the end of the body. The biots are best attached to the side-lashed wire, not the hook itself; this gives them the realistic separation similar to naturals, as visible in the photo.

Rib: 2 strands of Danville brown rayon floss, twisted tightly before winding

Abdomen: Rabbit dubbing; this color is custom-blended with amber, yellow, orange, and cream.

Wingcase: Pale yellow raffene (synthetic raffia).

Legs: One or two mottled brown hen back feather sections tied into thorax area, the dubbing is applied and then the leg feathers are pulled forward so that the barbs spread out to the sides under the wingcase.

Thorax: Same as abdomen

Head: Brown

The Golden Stonefly Nymph is a good searching pattern in any waters where stoneflies occur.

Isonychia or Slate Drake Nymph

This is basically the pattern of my friend Dave Rothrock. Dave is a meticulous tier, and I tend to tie some patterns with deliberation, but since this nymph is so effective, my commercial tying experience kicked in and I made some changes in the materials to speed up the tying process.

Hook: #10 nymph hook, 2x long

Thread: Uni-Thread Dark brown or Black, 8/0

Tail: 3 sections of natural ostrich herl, cut along the tips to imitate the comb-like hairs of the naturals.

Rib: A single strand of Danville brown rayon floss, tightly twisted, 6 – 7 wraps.

Abdomen over-back: Black scud back, 1/8″

Over-back Stripe: Danville white 3/0 Monocord, or 2 strands of 6/0, twisted.

Abdomen: Dark Brown Haretron dubbing, picked out along the sides.

Wingcase: Black polypropylene yarn, 2 strands

Thorax: Dark brown Haretron dubbing, with white over-back abdominal stripe pulled over wingcase as well

Legs: Gray speckled hen back fibers, side-lashed

This is a swimming nymph, and I never fish it on tippet lighter than 4x. It is one of my favorite nymph patterns because of the fact the isonychia emerges in both summer and fall. The dates to fish this nymph are from Memorial Day weekend until mid-July, and from mid-September through October.

The poly wingcase was one of Dave’s ideas, the bulging side profile it creates because of the bulk in the material is highly imitative of the naturals.

L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo

These photos were taken last March, 2011, by my niece  Emily Bastian, at the Annual L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo; held at their Flagship Store in Freeport, Maine.

I am pleased that I have been invited to return this year, and I feel very honored to participate in this Expo, to join in the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of L. L. Bean.

http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/1000001706

Don Bastian talks with visitors as fellow fly tyer Joe Cordiero gestures and explains his Flat Wing Streamer fly designs to onlookers

View of the Featured Fly Tyers area, including my framed wet fly display of 483 patterns from books by Ray Bergman, on the mezzanine at L. L. Bean, Freeport, Maine, Spring Fishing Expo 2011. This set is now in the possession of a private collector.

The Expo this year will be held on March 16 – 18. I am presenting a fly tying demonstration on Friday, March 16th, from 1 to 5 PM, in this area of the store on the mezzanine you see in this photo; and then I am teaching Bean’s regular Friday evening Fly Tying Class; we will be tying the Footer Special. The classes are free, and held in the fly tying department on the second floor. This year I don’t have a set of wet fly frames like I did in 2011, but I will have 40 or more different Carrie Stevens streamer patterns tied by me as part of my display.

Frame Nos. 1 – 4 of my wet fly display from Ray Bergman’s 1938 book, Trout.

Don Bastian at the L L Bean Spring Fishing Expo 2011. I can see and remember; the orange wool and white tail – I am winding a wool body for a Fontinalis Fin winged wet fly with my hackle pliers. (I had to wear this blue shirt from the International Fly Tying Symposium); I wanted to wear my light green L. L. Bean 2010 Spring Fishing Expo shirt that day, but it accidentally got a steam iron-shaped hole in the right sleeve in my hotel room that morning. The previous user of the iron apparently had it cranked up to HIGH, (which I failed to notice). Luckily for me, my sister-in-law in nearby New Gloucester came to the rescue with a replacement shirt. Whew!

Getting ready to grip the orange wool with my hackle pliers for the Fontinalis Fin…both scissors and hackle pliers in hand…(this photo was taken ahead of the one above where I am already winding). The use of hackle pliers on a single strand of wool prevents your stroking finger action form pulling the wool apart. Hackle pliers also enable you to wrap more precisely than by hand.

Over-the-shoulder hands-on image – working on the Fontinalis Fin wet fly. The white tail and orange wool is clearly visible. This photo is prior to the two above images in the tying sequence, and I’m not exactly sure what tying procedure I was doing when this image was taken.

Don Bastian explains wing quill cutting to visiting members of The Penobscot Fly Fishers. Don Corey of Annika Rod and Fly is partially hidden in the back; the fellow in front took my class a week later, and I can only remember he has close relatives that live within 20 miles of Cogan Station where I live. Small world. My brother Larry shares a laugh in the left foreground. Fellow tyer and friend Joe Cordeiro is to the upper left.

Crowd visiting the Featured Fly Tyers at the L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo, March 2011. 

Tying the Fontinalis Fin wet fly

I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at this year’s Expo. Here is a link to a pdf. Adobe file with a complete listing of events during the Expo:

http://www.llbean.com/shop/retailStores/media/images/120227_MK21651.pdf

Red Trout Minnow Streamer

This fly is the Red Trout Minnow pattern from Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, by Joseph D. Bates. This fly is the image from The Complete Sportsman website, and was tied by me back in the spring of 1998.

Red Trout Minnow Streamer, tied by Don Bastian. This image is from the book, Forgotten Flies.

Red Trout Minnow

Hook: Mustad 3665A Size #4

Thread: Black Danville 6/0 Flymaster

Body: Embossed silver tinsel

Wing: Blue goose shoulder married to red goose shoulder, with gray mallard folded over top

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Black

This was the first and last time I ever tied this pattern; a once-and-done fly. I have been thinking lately that I want to tie some more of the Red Trout Minnow…the problem is there are too many fly patterns to tie, let alone fish!

Gray Ghost – Streamers365.com

February 1, 2012, on Streamers365.com, Darren MacEachern’s site for an ambitious feather wing streamer project, the Gray Ghost from several tiers was featured. This version in the photo below was one I tied used some bronze tinted hackles that are from an older rooster cape. In the Carrie Stevens book by Graydon Hilyard, there are several Gray Ghosts tied by Carrie Stevens with hackles that are almost a perfect match of these, that is why I chose to use them.

The Gray Ghost was a featured pattern in my 2007 streamer DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. This DVD is available on MyFlies.com. This DVD was filmed in Hi-def by Kelly and Jim Watt, both fly tiers, as part of their New Hooked on Fly Tying Series of DVD’s, so the photography, editing, and macro images of the tying steps and sequences are in superb clarity. Here is the item page for your convenience to place an order for this DVD:

http://www.myflies.com/Traditional-Streamers-and-Bucktails-P622.aspx   MyFlies.com offers secure and convenient electronic online ordering. Your order for this DVD will be received, processed, and shipped by me, so your order receives my personal attention. Signed copies of the DVD are available by request.

Gray Ghost, size #2 - 8x long - Streamers365.com, February 1, 2012

Hook: #2 – 8x long Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Streamer
Thread: White Danville 3/0 Monocord for underbody
Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Body: Orange floss / silk
Ribbing: Fine flat silver tinsel
Belly: 4 – 6 strands of peacock herl followed by a small bunch of white bucktail
Throat: Golden pheasant crest
Underwing: A long golden pheasant crest extending past the hook bend
Wing: 4 olive-grey hackles
Shoulder: Silver pheasant
Eye: Jungle cock nail
Head: Black (with orange band optional)

It is interesting to note, the Bates book on streamers, specifies a red banded head on the Gray Ghost, but the Carrie Stevens book, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, with many photos of this fly, shows them all with an orange band, so I have adjusted my Gray Ghost heads to be banded with orange from now on. Carrie Stevens specified that the wing, belly, and golden pheasant crest underwing should all be as long as the wing.

Carrie Stevens Streamers – Collector Sets

I finished these two sets of my Carrie Stevens Streamers, Collector’s Set No. 1; last week for a couple orders that I received from MyFlies.com. Here is the link to the merchandise page:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Fly-Selection-Set-1-P658.aspx

I posted this photo of both sets together partly for the artistic image of the patterns and colors of the flies, but moreover I wanted to illustrate one of my mantras on fly tying instruction: “Fly tiers should endeavor to develop good habits of uniformity and continuity in all their tying, regardless of the type or style of flies being tied. Flies of the same pattern and size should look like clones.”

Carrie Stevens Streamers Collector's Edition - Set No. 1 - tied and packaged by Don Bastian.

I really love tying flies, all types of flies, and wet flies in particular have become my most-recognized type of flies, but these Carrie Stevens streamers and other traditional styles of flies are right up there in my enjoyment of tying.

Carrie Stevens and Elizabeth Duley – Sister’s Pink Lady Streamers

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.

Pink Lady streamers – the top fly was tied by Elizabeth Duley, sister of Carrie Stevens, the bottom fly was dressed by Carrie G. Stevens. Photo by Don Bastian.

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:

https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/streamer-four-packs/

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.

Pink Lady Streamer tied by Carrie Stevens. From the collection of Ed “Muzzy” Muzerol, Don Bastian photo.