The Fly Young Knight

The Fly Young Knight is a poem that was written by Frederick L. Whiting in 1927. It was copyrighted and made into 12″ x 22″ posters in 1950. As I understand, the original with mounted wet flies, hangs in the Adirondack  League Club clubhouse in New York. According to their website, there is an address in Old Forge, New York, but that is a PO Box and I am uncertain of the actual clubhouse location. This group is open to membership, and is dedicated to “the preservation and conservation of the Adirondack forest and the propagation and proper protection of fish and game in the Adirondack region.”

A copy of The Fly Young Knight also hangs in The Angler’s Club of New York. According to the writer, this whimsical poem was written about the Gray Knight, an old wet fly pattern given a mythical life in verse as the Gray Knight, with this distinction in the second line of the poem: “Emblazoned on his shield he bore a Parmacheene Belle.” Thus the poem continues with more fly patterns named as the tale unfolds.

When Jim Deren, owner of The Angler’s Roost in Manhattan passed away in 1983, Judith Bowman and Hoagy Carmichael, Jr., cleaned out Jim’s shop and his infamous “backroom.” They found a stack of rolled poster copies of The Fly Young Knight, and decided to engage a fly tier from Massachusetts to make ten sets of the flies, then mounted and framed them and sold them at a sale for $250.00. That was in 1985.

I never heard of The Fly Young Knight until last summer when a friend sent me a copy of the poem in the mail as a surprise gift. I recently tied the patterns for a customer in Connecticut, he was going to mount the flies himself. I took photos of the patterns and have copied The Fly Young Knight into a computer file with the intent to post the poem and fly photos inserted among the verses on the blog. Here it is:

The Fly Young Knight

by Frederick L. Whiting

Forth to the fight a good

Gray Knight

rode manfully and well.

Emblazoned on his shield he bore a

Parmachenee Belle


And from his tried and trusty lance there glittered in the sun

A gaudy


and a

Pale Blue Evening Dun.

From which you’ll please to understand, don’t fail to get this right,

The flies were on his armor, but there was none on the

Gray Knight.


No heed he gave to life or limb, nor fear lest he might fall,

He’d often fought in


and also


Two squires attended his needs and with him cast their lot,

The one a

Royal Coachman

and the other

Jock Scott.

They polished off their golden spears; they oiled their gear and tackle.

And on their silken bonnets wore a


and a


The banner each one held aloft, renowned in song and story,

Was garnished with a



Greenwell’s Glory.

Two husky heralds named


made all the welkin ring,

And from a wood hard by appears a dashing

Grizzly King.

With haughty mien he makes salute, his plume waves in the wind,

While he defies the world to match the charm of

Jenny Lind.

What ho! Responds the proud

Gray Knight,

none ever yet heard tell

Of a maid so fair as can compare with

Parmachenee Belle.

Quick to the list these champions, their sturdy charges drew,

While overhead

Jungle Cock


Scarlet Ibis


Each laid his trusty lance in rest and dashed across the flat

When in the eye of

Grizzly King

there flew a fierce

Black Gnat.

This put his optics out of whack, he tumbled in the dirt.

He “bust” the buttons off his pants and split his undershirt.

So when he loudly yelled for help and made a great to do

They brought him a


and a

Silver Doctor


Their ministrations hurt him so he gave them both a kick,

And for a fee he handed each a


on a stick.

In kicking them he hurt his toe which made him more forlorn

They put

Blue Jay

plaster then upon his knightly corn.

The wrathful

Grizzly King

was placed in bed attended by his daughters,

And she who bathed his injured eye was called the

Queen of Waters


This goes to show that knights of old when walloped in the eye

Would belly ache about their pain like any other guy.

The Fly Young Knight, written, 1927, by Frederick L.Whiting. 1950 is the copyright date on the poster.


This is hilarious! SPAM. Everyday, I get it. On my blog it comes into a SPAM folder. I will say WordPress is good about that. And anyone new that has never made a comment here previously needs to be approved by me first. When last Christmas Day I posted a couple excellently tied wet flies, the Black Doctor and Silver Doctor by Michael, my friend from Russia, I had and was very thankful for, a Russian invasion. My first day with over 500 visits, over 300 of these came from Russian websites. Now I get Russian SPAM. Good thing the Cold War is over. I get SPAM in other languages that I can not recognize, even Chinese. I think.

But for the last week, I have been getting this same line, cleverly re-written, and inserted into different leading lines, and it’s coming from a score of different sites. There’s the usual stuff like on-line sex-dating, buy cialis, viagara, discount prom-dresses, etc. But I decided to post this one so you, my faithful readers can see what “cyberspace” is really thinking:

Remember this is my SPAM talking, even the phrasing, punctuation and incomplete sentences:

“I tend not to leave many comments, however after browsing a few of the remarks here Ace of Spades Streamer Don Bastian Wet Flies. I do have a few questions for you if you don’t mind. Is it only me or does it look as if like a few of these responses look as if they are left by brain dead individuals?”

End of SPAM, back to me: To borrow a line from Larry the Cable Guy, “That’s funny right there, I don’t care who you are.”

Perhaps a “brain-dead individual” wrote that line in the first place.

Giant Golden Witch Streamer

I had a special request late last winter to dress a Golden Witch on a large hook a customer provided for me.

For size reference, this Golden Witch is shown above a Colonel Bates that is dressed on a Gaelic Supreme size #1 – 10x long hook. I should have also placed a penny in the image. The gape on the big hook is a full one-inch. The shank length I don’t believe is longer than about 4 or 5xl compared to the gook gape, but my customer wanted a Golden Witch on this hook to go alongside a #1 – 8x long same pattern that I tied for him. He thought it was a Partridge hook, I could not tell.

Giant Golden Witch Streamer. The Colonel Bates below it is dressed on a Gaelic Supreme Streamer hook, size #1 – 10x, 3x stout.

The actual length of this Golden Witch is five-and-a-half inches. Big ‘un!

I used three sections of Danville 4-strand rayon floss, about sixteen inches long to make the body.That’s twelve strands. The peacock herl and bucktail is a little shorter than normal Carrie Stevens streamer specifications, but that was as long as I had. Actually I had peacock herl plenty long enough, but I opted not to make the underwing longer than the belly.

Just for fun, I’m adding: Size does matter. Sometimes. I bet this fly would cast on a tarpon rod, and hook one, too. I also bet that if trolled behind a Rangeley boat, one of those historic eight pound Mooselucmaguntic Lake brook trout would have eaten this fly.

Great Blue Heron Rookery

While in Vermont in mid-June, visiting the Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club near Weston, and the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester for work and research on my current book The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury, I passed this great blue heron rookery along Rt. 20 between Bennington and Manchester. On June 11th on my way there, I saw it but did not stop. On my return on the evening of June 13th I did stop and took some photos.

Great Blue Heron Rookery. These heron nests all have young in them.

There were eight nests, and I counted 13 adults that I could see, though I think some may have been out fishing. I did note one adult wading about 100 yards from the rookery. I stopped my car, crossed the highway, rested my camera on the guardrails, set the telephoto at 2x, zoomed out to 24x, and took these images.

Another nest, one adult is on limb at lower left of tree trunk.

Two great blue herons just hanging out in their ‘hood.

I have always enjoyed seeing great blue herons. Even though they are hell on fish, which sometimes includes trout. I once found a nineteen-inch brown on Pennsylvania’s Letort Spring Run, foundering on its side in two inches of water on a mud flat. I inspected it, seeing no damage or injury at first and thought perhaps it was dying of old age. Then I flipped it over and saw a deep gash on its right gill plate. Then the fact that three great blue herons had flushed from that area when I rounded the bend 100 yards downstream fifteen minutes earlier revealed the truth of what had happened. The trout was surely dead already, doomed by the infliction of having been mortally speared, yet still quivering as its life ebbed away. I thought briefly about keeping that trout; I mean I didn’t want it to go to waste and at that time I couldn’t think of a better use for that trout. I can only imagine how good a wild brown from the Letort would have tasted, stream-bred, cress-bug and scud-fed, but it’s strictly a no-kill area. So I left him there; eventually the herons or a mink or raccoon surely found it. That was over 25 years ago.

I read a bit on Wikipedia on herons; typically they nest in rookeries, more specifically called a heronry, and commonly there can be over one-hundred nests in a heronry. I have only ever seen a handful of heron nest sites; the largest may have had twenty or so nests. They swallow their food whole, and one of them could have gulped that nineteen-inch trout without difficulty, but it is noted that occasionally great blue herons choke on food too large to swallow.

I learned of a local name for herons – “swamp chicken” while in Canada back in the 1990’s. This phrase usually included an expletive or two. The trout clubs in southern Ontario don’t like great blue herons. Some of their feathers were historically used for fly tying, most notably on spey flies. But I also discovered from personal inspection that there is occasional use of great blue heron wing quill slips for wings on some of the flies from the 1800’s in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, and also on the actual fly plates from Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. One pattern in particular, judging by the color plate painting, appears to have a two-color wing. This is The Hart Lake Fly on Plate G. In J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book Flies, he lists the wing recipe for the Hart Fly as “black, teal green over.” This is incorrect, and by a long-shot miss. I doubt that it was a pattern variation either. The wing of The Hart Fly is actually great blue heron, taken from sections of paired wing quills. And I know this without doubt because I had the privilege of holding the 120-year old Plate G (with white gloves) in my hands on June 13th, visually inspected the flies, and also photographed it, along with the 32 original Marbury fly plates, will be published in my book. I have also held heron feathers in my hands; I found a shed once along a stream while fishing. It has a lighter dun-gray color than the darker slate of a Canada goose, and possesses a unique shade of steely-blue-gray, sort of a battleship gray color. The closest thing I have ever seen to the (heron) wing on the Hart Fly was the medium blue-dun dyed wing quills that used to be sold by E. Hille in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Favorite Flies and Their Histories records this information on the Hart:

“No. 48. The Hart is a combination of colors almost unknown among artificial flies, but one that is very beautiful in this fly, which was sent to us by Mr. George Hart of Waterbury, Conn, after whom it was named. In his letter inclosing this fly he wrote us that it had proved one of their best flies in their late expedition to the Maine woods, where he and a party of friends have recorded some phenomenal catches.”

At home, I have recently downloaded all the Orvis fly plate images I photographed from Marbury’s book. Twenty-four out of the thirty-two original plates were out on loan, so I will be returning to the museum to finish photographing the eight remaining plates. Besides filing the original plate images, I have edited and cropped each plate, making macro images of each individual fly. I also photographed The Hart Fly on the 1893 Orvis Display in the museum that Mary Orvis Marbury created for the Chicago World’s Fair. The wing material on both Orvis patterns of the Hart Fly is the same. I love Leonard’s book, but the more research and study I do comparing my visual inspection notes and photos of the actual Orvis patterns in Marbury’s book to the dressings listed in Leonard’s book, I can only conclude with all due respect that he probably made his best guess as to what the materials were on the flies in Marbury’s book by studying the color plate paintings of the patterns. There were no written recipes for the patterns in Marbury’s book. I can understand how this would happen. For example, the Fiery Brown on Plate F in Marbury’s book, according to the painting appears to have a three-color married wing, of a light brown, cinnamon, and slate. Turns out this is “shading” recorded by the artist who painted the original fly. The actual wing on the Fiery Brown is one solid color, a dark-cinnamon, fiery-brown as you might expect. Leonard recorded “brown hen” for the wing on the Fiery Brown, which is also a bit misleading. Of course heron feathers can not legally be used for fly tying.

My friend Truman recently bought a gift for me at a used book store; four copies of The American Fly Fisher, the quarterly publication of the American Museum of Fly Fishing. One of them was the Winter 1998 issue, and he bought it specifically because it contained an article by John Betts of Colorado, noted angling historian, and features the Fancy Lake and Bass Flies in Marbury’s book. About ten of the original plates were photographed and appear in that article. Mr. Betts had some very interesting things to say about the r3verse-winging methods used at the time. I plan to write a review of this article and post some of the photos.

After this slight digression, which is sometimes important to tell the complete story of the subject at hand, or at least makes it more interesting, I conclude with one more heron photo.

Great blue heron eating snapping turtle. Photo by John Harrison from Wikimedia, used by permission. I have been told that the stomach acids of herons are very potent; that would allow for the digestion of the shell and other elements of their diet such as bones, and crab and crayfish shells. In addition to fish, herons will eat frogs, young birds, salamanders, and rodents. And young snapping turtles. The little snapper was probably thinking, “Oh, crap. I’m toast.”

Lycoming Creek Stream Bank Stabilization Project

The week of July 16th was planned by the Lycoming Creek Watershed Association as a work project to stabilize a section of eroding bank on Lycoming Creek in Pennsylvania, near the village of Bodines. Originally the project was to take place last September but a couple of uninvited visitors named Irene and Lee showed up on rather short notice. They were really bad visitors; besides not being invited, they chased away the invited guests, ate all the food, stayed too long, and left a mess when they departed.

So the project was rescheduled to start on July 16th when the water level would hopefully be low enough to permit completion of the work. In addition to the Lycoming Creek Watershed Association, the project also involved the Habitat Improvement Department of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, who engineered the project design, biology students from Lycoming College in Williamsport, and a local contractor, Darren Smith Excavating, of Trout Run. Isn’t that a great name for a little town? It is named for the stream that flows through the village.

My friend, neighbor, and sometime fishing partner Jim and I “volunteered” to help with the project. Volunteers were requested to bring gloves, work boots, waders, hammers, sledge hammers, rakes, shovels, etc. Fun stuff. I picked him up at 7:30 AM on July 16th. We were to report on site at 8:00 AM. The project location is on property owned by Sheshequin Campground. We arrived, parked the car, talked to Mike, the project coordinator, and met the contractor, who as it turned out, I already knew. Darren had installed my new septic system at my home in 2003; a replacement of a failed gravity system dating to 1979 when my wife and I built this place.

We eventually ended up on the creek bank under the bridge, watching the water. There were rising trout all over that pool, and no one was fishing. I have to say it was mighty tempting because I had all my gear in the car. We didn’t do too much except talk for well over an hour until the heavy equipment had a chance to start, and move ahead a bit to allow for the follow up grunt work.

The plan was to install 18 three-log vanes, upstream single-bank stabilization devices on the leeward side of the bank. Darren Smith’s equipment on site consisted of a Bobcat, backhoe, a large power shovel, and a dump truck. He had already placed a couple loads of large rip-rap rock and logs on site. As the shovel and backhoe began excavating along the bank for placement of the first couple log vanes, we continued watching those rising trout. They seemed to be cruising…couldn’t tell what they were taking.

Finally three logs were placed and we got our marching orders. The Fish Commission habitat guys had a large pickup truck filled with tools and equipment; re-bar, power drills and hammers, sledges, shovels, chainsaws, etc. They were a couple young fellows who, due to the physical nature of their work, and their stature; let’s just say I would want them on my side in a fight. One end of the logs would be buried in the bank, the other rested on the stream bed, pointing upstream at about a 60 to 70-degree angle, and they were placed at a slight angle above horizontal, higher on the bank side. This design effectively slows the force of the water which causes lighter sediments, gravel, and smaller rocks to settle out of the current against the bank and above the device. Primarily the devices are intended to divert the main thrust of the current away from the bank, reducing erosion. Each of the two lower logs was drilled and pinned in place by five four-foot long re-bars. Then the top log was pinned to the lower logs by six two-foot re-bars. Once this was done, then the equipment would come in, place rip-rap, and then rock fill and soil is used to top dress each device. A couple times Darren backed his dump truck to the bank and placed an entire load, which was actually half a load due to the weight limit on the bridge over the creek. Then the backhoe would come in and arrange the rock.

The volunteers from Lycoming College consisted of a co-ed group; four people, one man and three women, both days, different crews. I will say they got right into it, which made it easier for us “old guys.” Once the holes were drilled, the team worked starting the re-bar into the logs with small hammers. Then the hammer drill was brought into play. One of the girls, who happened to be a Trout Run native, was helping the habitat employee hoist and operate this beast. This thing must have weighed about 60 pounds. The two of them elevated it to the top of each re-bar, three feet above the top of the log, centering the roughly one-inch opening of the “hammer” over the 5/8″ diameter re-bar, which wasn’t exactly easy. Keith did most of the lifting and Laura centered the hammer over the re-bar. A good team effort. Each re-bar would be driven down leaving about 5 inches protruding, which was then bent over with a long pipe lever and then pounded down with a sledge to hold the logs in place. To give you an idea of the effectiveness of power tools, the hammer drill could pound down a re-bar in about five seconds, compared to a few we did by hand with an eight-pound sledge, twenty-five to thirty whacks taking a couple minutes. Not to mention the beneficial effect of the integral cardiovascular exercise. Keith mentioned that up until three years ago, all the re-bar on their projects was driven by hand. He remarked, “That really separated the men from the boys.” I can vouch for that.

Top view of one of the first log vanes of the project. In the pool below this riffle, fish were rising until the heavy equipment put them down when the power shovel pulled out a mature oak tree in the middle of the pool along the bank. The butt end of that oak tree was cut to size and used for a bank-anchored root ball device.

Darren Smith’s power shovel excavating the bank for the installation of the butt end of the logs.

Keith, from the Habitat Dept. of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PAF&BC) prepare to life “the beast” – hammer drill into position with, Laura, one of the co-ed assistants.

Close up – Keith and Laura driving down the re-bar closest to the bank side. “Supervisor” Mike rests on his sledge hammer handle as the students pound over the re-bar.

Who was the ancient philosopher-guy who said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth?” Was that Archimedes? No matter. One of the students demonstrates the principle of the lever. The length of the pipe allows this woman of small stature to gain leverage and bend over the re-bar stubs. Impressive! I can tell you because I did a few of these myself. You had to put some “umph” into it to git ‘r’ done.

Placing a top log…nothing is drilled or pinned yet.

Watching this equipment do the work, I couldn’t help but think of the history of this valley. Near the village of Ralston there was a 2300 foot incline that was used to haul coal from the mountains.

From Wikipedia:

“The Elmira and Williamsport Railroad (originally called the Williamsport and Elmira Railroad) is a historic railroad that operated in Pennsylvania.

The W&E was organized in 1832 and ran between Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Elmira, New York. It was reorganized as the E&W in 1860, and operated its own property until 1863.

The railroad originally ran north from Williamsport along Lycoming Creek as far as the village of Ralston, and was only extended beyond it to Elmira in 1854.

In 1863 the line was leased by the Northern Central Railway, and in 1910 the line was leased by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The line continued to operate until 1972, when it was destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Agnes.”

This was along time ago. Thad S. Up De Graff in his book, Bodines, 1879, describes a place below Ralston along the creek as “the stone wall.” This was reportedly 800 feet long. The point I’m trying to make is that all this work, the mining, logging, iron ore smelting in the Lycoming Creek valley villages above Trout Run that disappeared well before 1900 was all done by teams of men working by hand along with mules and oxen. That was back when men were really men.

Thad Up De Graff and his companions rode the railway from Elmira to Ralston for their annual fishing trips.

Another top log being lowered into position. Black fabric is visible hanging above the log in the center of the image. These device-length sections of covering are four feet wide, and are placed on the upstream side. Triple-folded top edges are nailed into place on the bottom log, and then spread out full width, and covered with stones and rip rap. The bank end of the covering is buried by the fill. Eventually the current will deposit additional fill material in the area immediately upstream of the device during periods of higher water flows. Mike and one of the PAF&BC employees look on.

“The kids” working on a device. They were a great help. Energetic.

Lycoming College Students starting the re-bar. They are enrolled in classes with Mel Zimmerman, PhD., biology instructor at the college. Mr. Zimmerman and his students do many stream-monitoring projects in this area, with a focus on aquatic entomology. During the work, it was encouraging to see these students pick up rocks and say something like, “Oh look, caddis larva.” And nobody’s cell phone or pager went off during the project.

Group effort – Keith from the PAF&BC and a student run the hammer drill (that thing was loud – note their ear plugs), while a couple of the girls share a laugh, demonstrating that this was actually fun! Partially hidden at top of image are Russ Cowles, President of the Lycoming Creek Watershed Association, conferring with an unidentified Association member taking photos.

Upstream view of the project area. The flow during the project was about 25 cfs. We ended up installing 16 three-log vanes and two root-ball devices. A root ball device is where a tree butt with root ball attached is buried and anchored within the bank, taking advantage of debris in the stream bed. One large, mature oak tree had fallen over last fall and was lying in the pool that starts just at the foreground of this photo. The butt of this was used for the first root ball. Its trunk diameter was almost three feet. The uphill slope of each log vane can be seen in this photo. My friend Jim, is in the background, half-way up the stretch of water, with the white t-shirt, preparing for the installation of the sediment covering.

This project was estimated to take four or five days. We completed it in two, except for the remaining rip-rap and fill work that needed to be performed by the heavy equipment. I imagine Darren and his employee remained later that day and into the evening to finish the work.

While working on this project, Mike mentioned that the village of Ralston, a few miles upstream, had just celebrated their 125th Anniversary. His remark made me think of the Ralston area and its native daughter, Elizabeth S. Benjamin, commercial fly tier from Ralston, born in 1829, who according to additional research I discovered started selling trout flies at age the age of 16. That was in 1845. Some of Elizabeth’s flies are displayed in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. She was quite possibly the first woman commercial fly tier in the country, since Sara McBride, who currently has that distinction as currently listed in several sources, born in 1844, would have accordingly still been in diapers when Elizabeth sold her first flies. Sara became more famous as an author and was also mentioned frequently in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and their Histories, 1892.

And also, looking at the beauty of several beautiful surrounding mountains, with the Pleasant Stream valley to the east, my mind wandered to the thoughts of Thad S. Up De Graff and his book; Bodines; Or Camping on the Lycoming, written in 1879. What was it like back then? He wrote an account of a day spent where he and a companion walked ten miles up Pleasant Stream, their intent being to fish downstream part way, secure overnight lodging at a family log cabin and fish to the mouth the next day. At that time, Lycoming Creek was a brook trout stream. His book speaks of brook trout that averaged a pound, pound-and-a-half, with occasional larger ones being caught. His book is excellent reading, recounting ten years after the Civil War, of month-long annual trips in June spent camping and fishing on the banks of Lycoming Creek. Sometimes the good old days exert a significant pull and influence on our thoughts.

Silver Doctor

Here is a size #10 Silver Doctor wet fly pattern. I realize that I have already posted other pattern variations of the Silver Doctor here, but it is a fly that seems to rate rather high on search engine fly pattern lists. This is a recent and slight variation (two weeks ago) of my initial variation from Bergman’s Trout recipe, created in 2005 that I included in my second DVD, where I used brown duck or goose and guinea fowl wing quill sections instead of brown turkey and teal flank. This pattern uses dark brown turkey while still retaining the guinea fowl. The reason for that is that it’s still easier and faster and more durable to use the turkey, guinea fowl, and duck or goose wing quill sections in red, yellow and blue, than trying to marry turkey to teal flank, and then having to use goose shoulder. Ease of marrying wings is all about maintaining uniformity of the feather slips. Goose shoulder marries well to turkey and barred wood duck and teal, but not so well to wing quill slips.

This pattern was one of 23 wet fly patterns that I tied for a recent project that I’ll soon be posting here on my blog. I have looked, and there is nothing on the internet about this, but in 1927 a man named Frederick L. Whiting wrote a whimsical poem titled, The Fly Young Knight. It was copyrighted in 1950, and also made into a 12″ x 22″ poster with medieval-looking script writing. The verses name the different wet fly patterns throughout, with spaces to mount the flies, weaving a tale of adventure of the encounter of a mythical medieval knight, the Gray Knight (which to me, was a totally unknown wet fly pattern), who meets in a field to do battle with the Grizzly King. Apparently the two had some sort of disagreement over their respective Ladies-in-waiting, Parmacheenee Belle and Jennie Lind.

The original poem, as I understand it, is framed with the flies mounted in place among the verses, and hangs in the clubhouse of the Adirondack League. There is also one in The New York Angler’s Club. Former New York City fly shop owner Jim Deren, of The Angler’s Roost, also figures in this story, a far as where the poem had its last hurrah. More on that later.

The following is excerpted from a March 24, 1985, The New York Times article: “The Angler’s Roost was first situated at 207 East 43rd Street, then in the Chrysler Building and, finally, at 141 East 44th Street near Grand Central, where Mr. Deren held forth until shortly before his death in 1983. Space was limited in each of those locations. At the last place, one felt crowded if more than two other customers were present.” To read the entire article:

Silver Doctor, Size #10, Mustad 3399.

Silver Doctor

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Yellow fibers and short dash of blue fibers

Butt: Red floss

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Guinea fowl and silver doctor blue hackle fibers

Wing: Dark brown turkey tail, guinea fowl, red, blue, and yellow duck or goose, married

Head: Red (Wapsi lacquer)

I’ll be posting the poem and inserting all the fly photos on my blog in a few days. For now this size #10 Silver Doctor will have to do. The smallest I’ve ever tied this pattern in is a size #12.

Ray Bergman’s Advice – 1939

I was sitting here reading through a 1939 Ray Bergman Angling  Specialties catalog, which I am very fortunate to have. It is very fascinating and intensely interesting. The prices, merchandise, services he offered in a 4″ x 6″, 16- page  booklet is remarkable. Besides being a noted author and angling editor of Outdoor Life Magazine from 1934 to 1959, Bergman also operated a mail-order business selling Dickerson bamboo rods, flies, tying materials, leaders, and his own line, Nyack Brand, of fly tying hooks made for him in Redditch, England. This was basically a mom-and-pop business that Ray and his wife, Grace, operated from their home on Cedar Hill Avenue in Nyack, New York. I could write a long post about the catalog and its contents, but for now I just want to share something. Almost a full page of the catalog is devoted to written tips and advice on nymph fishing. One of them reads:

“For use on rising trout you miss or which refuse your dry or wet fly. Cast the same as you would when using the dry fly. Let the nymph float down naturally with the current, retrieving slack so that you can strike but not enough so that it exerts a pull on the lure. If you have trouble in striking a fish or if you fail to note when you get a strike tie a dry fly on the leader about four feet above the nymph. If this fly stops moving or if it makes any movement not natural to the float strike instantly.”

Bergman’s first book, Just Fishing, 1932, contains an account written eighty years ago, where he introduced his friend, Sparse Gray Hackle, a.k.a. real name, Alfred W. Miller, author of Fishless Days, Angling Nights, 1971, to this method of nymph fishing. The dry-dropper rig got real popular as a “new” method in the 1990’s, written much about by Pennsylvania fly fishing author Charlie Meck. Like lots of fly fishing methods presently being touted as new, the dry-dropper rig is not new. As far as I know Bergman is the first angler to combine a dry with a sunken fly with what he called a “dobber.” If anyone has information contrary to this statement, I’d love to hear about it.

(Edit, July 31st: one of my subscribers wrote in a comment that the British, Irish, and Scots were using an indicator fly or sorts in the 1800’s).

Colonel Bates

The Colonel Bates streamer is a Carrie Stevens pattern that she created in the early 1940’s to honor Joseph D. Bates, Jr., a friend and customer of both her and her husband Wallace, a Maine fishing guide. The Stevens’ lived and worked in Upper Dam, Maine, in the Rangeley Lakes Region between Mooselucmaguntic and Upper Richardson Lakes, for almost thirty years.

Joseph Bates wrote the landmark book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, in 1950. The Colonel Bates started out as the Captain Bates, but as Bates’ Army rank advanced during World War II, likewise the rank of the fly was elevated as well. Packaged examples of the Captain Bates, Major Bates, and Colonel Bates exist.

Here is, Darren MacEachern’s photo of my rendition of the Colonel Bates streamer:

Colonel Bates –, Number 203 for July 21, 2012. photo by Darren MacEachern.

The Colonel Bates recipe as listed in Bates’ book has a shoulder of teal flank, and a tail of a section of red feather. The Hilyard Carrie Stevens book, lists the tail as red hackle fibers, with many examples of the fly tied by Carrie illustrating the red hackle fiber tail and gray mallard flank shoulders. It is possible Carrie dressed the pattern both ways. This one was tied by me about a year ago. The head on this specimen is red lacquer, with a black band also painted on. Since then, actually not long after a renewal of my personal tying of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns (a renewed fly tying genera and addition to tying wet flies), and beginning to band the heads again as I once did in the 1980’s for a short time, I have progressed to a method of using thread only, lacquered with Sally Hansen clear Hard-As-Nails to achieve a smooth finish on the banded heads that I believe are integral to Carrie’s pattern designs. That’s my preferred technique at the present time.

Wapsi Gloss Coat which I started using in June 2011 and until March of 2012, and initially loved, unfortunately turned out to provide great smooth coverage in three coats, but after two or three months, gets blotchy, milky-looking, cloudy, and gets a diseased appearance. I discovered this fact through trial-and-error, possibly caused because I used regular lacquer thinner to think the Gloss Coat. However even after the use of only Wapsi Gloss Coat Thinner in my Gloss Coat Cement, the problem remained. So that brand of head cement has fallen from my grace. Like things in life sometimes do; they look good initially and then turn out not so good. Live and learn. I love the smooth finish it produces, but Wapsi Gloss Coat for me is relegated only to fly heads that I will finish with black ProLak or another color of lacquer that hides the problem it apparently causes. Sorry Wapsi, but as a finishing head cement, your product is not so hot. I’m not going to devote serious time and effort to my fly tying only to have the heads ruined with a lousy finish. Onward…

Colonel Bates

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Throat: Brown hackle fibers

Wing: Two yellow hackles flanked on each side by a shorter white hackle

Shoulder: Gray mallard flank

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Red with a black band.

The Colonel Bates was the first Carrie Stevens pattern that I tied after the Gray Ghost. I first used it right out of high school, and caught trout on it in my area streams here in Pennsylvania. I also fished it on my trips to Maine that started in 1986, sometimes as small as a size #12 – 6x long. I’d add the Colonel Bates or a Black Ghost ina #10 or #12 behind a larger size streamer or Wooly Bugger in a tandem streamer rig. Effective! I can’t say why, but it generally seems a high percentage of fish taken like this hit the rear fly.

Carrie Stevens indicated that the Colonel Bates was her most popular pattern, second only to the Gray Ghost.

Ace of Spades Streamer

This is the Ace of Spades streamer, an original pattern that I created about 1998. It was originally published in Forgotten Flies. I just finished it this evening about 10:30 PM, tying, listening to my stereo…this shot was hastily taken, one in a series of one, no set-up, hand-held, and notice the cluttered tabletop of my tying desk. It’s not a good photo because of the busy background, but I’ll add more head cement tomorrow and get a proper photo of the pattern posted here besides this initial photo, along with the recipe. Adding my original streamer creations is another task on my blog bucket list.

I designed the Ace of Spades with an idea to create a casting streamer using claret and black hackles for fishing in the Moosehead Lake region of Maine. The Ace of Spades was tied as a tandem trolling streamer and published in Donald A. Wilson’s latest book, Tandem Streamers – The Essential Guide. Contributing fly tier and owner of the Maine Guide Fly Shop, Dan Legere, dressed my pattern for Don’s book. I would like to extend a thank you to both Don Wilson and Dan Legere for publishing and tying my pattern.

Ace of Spades, an original streamer that I created in 1998. This is the first one I’ve tied in at least ten years.

Ace of Spades – created by Don Bastian

Tail: Black duck or goose quill sections, paired

Rib: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Belly: Black bucktail, wing length

Throat: Claret hackle fibers

Wing: Four claret hackles flanked on each side by one black hackle

Topping: Four strands peacock herl

Head: Black

My original dressing was revised from two claret hackles to four, and I extended the length of the black bucktail belly to be as long as the wing. This specimen was assembled by cementing the wings together and then the cheeks to the completed wings. I do this because it simplifies the final mounting of the wings; it’s all done in one fell swoop.

Here is a much better photo:

Ace of Spades – size #1 – 8x – Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Streamer hook


Only A Fly Tier – Part II

Last spring in late March I wrote a post about my brother’s comment on the fact that a little cubbyhole in my car contained a bottle of Grif’s head cement in it, instead of gum, or lifesavers, or Altoids. Could have been loose change, paper clips, AAA batteries, aspirin; anything but head cement. I thought it perfectly normal, because I’m a fly tier. Well, I have another installment to make along the same topic. In other words, I’m confessing another habit that is normal only to fly tiers.

To understand what I’m talking about, please view the photo below:

My laundry from earlier this week.

What is so unusual about this? A load of bed-linen laundry hanging out to dry. We all know, or at least those of us who have ever had the privilege to sleep on freshly-laundered bed sheets that have been hanging in the open air – there’s no smell quite like it. Or not much that compares to the sensation of falling into bed, tired and clean, when you doze off to the soothing aromatherapy of this fresh, natural scent. And I use scent-free detergent and no softener. It’s au naturel. Some of you won’t even know that I’m talking about. No matter. This is not about what your laundry smells like. Or should smell like. This laundry on the line is all perfectly normal, and would not cause passersby to raise an eyebrow. Look closer:

Buck tail laundry.

Yup. You’re eyes are not playing tricks on you, unless perhaps you have been recently exposed to a large container of weapons-grade blackberry-flavored head cement thinner. That’s a natural, not-dyed deer tail. Why is it on my clothesline?

I was tying some streamers with white bucktail bellies, and I like to stack my bucktail bellies just a little bit. Even the tips, not to perfection, just clean ’em up a bit. This tail was contrary. It felt tacky. The hairs didn’t want to let go of each other and stack nice and orderly as they should. I finally had enough of it, remembering my issue last March tying Footer Specials with dark blue bucktail. I had one that was tacky to the point of being hopeless as far as any loosening of the hair to stack. At that time I’d had it with that tail, and threw it in my brother’s kitchen sink and gave it a good wash ‘n’ rinse in hot water. Stood it to dry on his porch railing. See the post – Washing Bucktail and Cleaning Hairstackers – or something to that effect. You can also click on the tags at the end of this post.

I was watching a bunch of AK Best videos with my friend, TG, the last time were were at my cabin. AK says, “Never let a feather run your life.” Good advice. And I expanded that to include bucktails.

In the sink, wash it, rinse it, no need to repeat, shake it and hang it to dry. It cleaned up good! Nice & soft, like your hair is when you’ve washed it and used creme rinse.

In fact it worked so well that I just might take the next step and empty the contents of my bucktail drawer into the washer and do a whole load. A hot water wash ‘n’ rinse will do wonders for any bugs too. And the hide stays soft. And, they come out smelling better than before. Must be the outside air…

Think about it…if you don’t stack but rather align and try to even the hair tips by hand, it takes you  30 – 45 seconds to do that. Clean bucktail stacks in 3 seconds. You’ll save yourself time and aggravation.