New Carrie Stevens Collector’s Set on MyFlies.com

Just today my newest set of Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition of streamers was presented on MyFlies.com. Here is a link to the home page:

http://www.myflies.com/ and here is the product page link:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Set-No5-P772.aspx

This set is themed on some of the patterns that Carrie Stevens used the supernatural realm for the names; ghosts, demons, witches, and devils. Just in time for Halloween!

The patterns in this set are the White Ghost, Demon, Golden Witch, and Red Devil.

Keep an eye on MyFlies for my next Carrie Stevens Collector’s Set to be  released, featuring Lakewood Camps and the Rapid River area: the Lakewood, Larry, Larry’s Special, and Rapid River.

Thank you for your support!

Parmacheene Belle, 19th Century

I thought you would all enjoy seeing an anthentic 120-year old fly. This is the Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Parmacheene Belle

 Here is the pattern recipe:

Tag: Flat silver tinsel (tarnished)

Tail: Scarlet and white, married

Butt: Peacock herl

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel (note how wide it is, and tarnished)

Body: Yellow mohair

Hackle: White fronted by scarlet

Wing: Scarlet and white, married. The original version of the wing, as described by the pattern originator, Henry P. Wells, in the 1883 edition of Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney, he states the wing to be white with a scarlet stripe. It is unclear why the Orvis company chose to make the wing simply red and white.

Head: Red thread, and the butt ends of the humped over, reverse-tied wing, the butt of materials and the hook shank. This is how they did it back then. Most likely because all they had was cotton and silk threads, none strong enough to bind the wings securely in place.

Just a taste of what you’ll see in my book, in progress. We plan to publish full plate images of all 32 original color plates from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury.

Footer Special Frame

This is the frame I made of 29 Footer Specials contributed by fellow fly tiers.

Eric L. Austin – Ohio; Scott Bernard – Maine; Don Bastian –Pennsylvania; Peggy Brenner – New Hampshire; Stephan Briere – Ontario; Richard L. Connors – Massachusetts; Bruce Corwin – New York; Matthew T. Crompton – Virginia; Joe Cordeiro – Massachusetts; Chris Del Plato – New Jersey; Daniel Despres – New Brunswick; Selene A. Dumaine – Maine; Heath Fecteau – Maine; Petr Haisman – Czech Republic; Eunan Hendron – Pennsylvania; Russell Haskell – New Hampshire; David Huntress – Maine; Deryn LaCombe – Connecticut; Danny L. Legere – Maine; Rick Little – New Hampshire; Dave Lomasney – Maine; Darren MacEachern – Ontario; Truman G. McMullan – Pennsylvania; Alec. M. Stansell – Massachusetts; Joel Stansbury – Kentucky; Peter Simonson – New Hampshire; Robert Vincent – Wisconsin; Bill Shuck – Maryland; Paul Tidroski – Florida.

I’ve gotta go, so I’ll add more to this post tomorrow. Thanks to all these talented tiers for their contributions!

87 Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

Carrie Stevens Patterns
Frame No. 1 – 32 Flies:
Column 1: Lady Killer, Artula (3), Pink Lady, Lakewood (2), Rapid River (2).
Coulmn 2: Larry, Mezger’s Special, Jungle Queen, Dr. Gray, Dr. White, Colonel Fuller (3).
Column 3: Orange Miller, Don’s Special, General MacArthur, All Orange (2), Don’s Delight.
Column 4: America (3), Chief, Carrie’s Special, P. L. B. No. 2, Judge, Larry’s Special (2).

Frame No. 2 – 30 Flies:
Column 1: Big Ben, Green Witch (2), Don’s Delight, G. Donald Bartlett (2), Kelley’s Killer (3).
Column 2: Black Cat, Dazzlar, Blue Devil (2), Gray Ghost (2), Casablanca.
Column 3: Larry (2), Jenny Lind (2), Gray Lady, Blue Dragon, Pink Lady.
Column 4: Shang’s Special, Charles E. Wheeler, Shang’s Favorite, Canary Custom, Merry Widow, Lady Miller, Mrs. Duley’s Special.

These flies as arranged on the Riker Mount batting were part of my fly display at L. L. Bean in Freeport, Maine on Friday, September 21st, 2012. That was the date I taught a classic featherwing streamer class from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. I returned before 7:00 PM that same evening to lead the regular Friday night fly tying class at Bean’s, but this event was special because of the organization between myself and Ed Gauvin, Assistant Manager at the Hunt / Fish Store, to host David Footer as the Guest of Honor in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of his classic Maine streamer pattern, the Footer Special. More on that in a subsequent post.

The tying of Carrie Stevens patterns has been a journey for me. I was tying and fishing the Colonel Bates and Gray Ghost as far back as my high school days (my 45th Class Reunion is coming up in 2015).

In the mid-1980’s I tied several additional streamer patterns of hers; the Green Beauty, Shang’s Special, Greyhound, and Don’s Delight, and included them in a slide program I first presented in 1987 on classic Maine streamers.

Then in early summer of 2011 I began tying Carrie Stevens streamer patterns again, but much more in earnest than previously. I tied them in traditional eastern style as I had always done, adding about fifty additional patterns to the list of her patterns I dressed. Then a few months ago I had a very enlightening experience. While at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, I happened to see the enlarged display featuring the notes and drawings made by Austin Hogan, of Carrie Stevens unique tying methods, Austin was a friend of Carrie Stevens – her Austie’s Special pattern is named after him – and he was also the first curator of said Museum. When I saw them, I thought, “Cool!” and took photos of them.

Not until a couple months later, at home, did I finally download these photos and begin to read the text of the notes and study the drawings. Long story short, Carrie’s tying style was not in typical ‘eastern fashion’ as other streamers were tied. She learned to tie flies on her own, never having taking lessons. She applied what she learned as a milliner – selecting, arranging, cementing and gluing feathers together. She also without doubt, incorporated bait fish design, learned from her husband and guide, Wallace Stevens, into her streamer patterns. Her methods of material placement which I had actually seen but not really paid attention to in Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, 1966, 1995, by Joseph D. Bates, are nothing short of ingenius.

Reading Hogan’s notes and studying the methods, I realized that I was tying the Stevens patterns like most other tiers had been, adding the materials to the hook, following the recipe, but not in the particular fashion that she pioneered. I’ve recently had a couple long phone conversations with Michael Martinek, Jr. of Stoneham, Massachusetts. When he was young, Mike was taken under the wing of Austin Hogan and through that relationship, was exposed to a unique opportunity to learn how Carrie Stevens tied her flies. Mike told me that one evening in the late 1960’s, with Austin, in his apartment, he and Mike deconstructed three of Carrie’s patterns; a Gray Ghost, a Big Ben, and I believe, a Blue Devil.

Michael Martinek is the sole source, besides Austin Hogan’s notes, of the information that has led to the resurrection of tying Carrie Stevens patterns in her traditional, authentic, Rangeley style. Mike has the original copy of Hogan’s notes on Carrie Stevens tying methods, hand-written, and he also has one of the first typewritten copies as well. Mike also has a number, more than a couple dozen, of sheets of paper with cellophane packages stapled onto them, with Carrie’s own wing materials and samples and pattern notes in her handwriting. All I can say on that is, wow.

Carrie sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins in 1953, which is curious to note, that the Carrie Stevens patterns in Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, Stewart / Leeman, tied by Folkins, are not tied using Carrie’s metionds, but rather, are dressed in typical “eastern” fashion with everything attached at the head. In fact, some of the recipes have  errors with missing components. The good thing is that many previously unknown Stevens patterns were published in that book.

In 1996, Folkins sold the rights to “Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies” to Leslie Hilyard of Massachusetts, who with his father Graydon Hilyard, is co-author of Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Stackpole Press. Mike has been teaching Carrie Stevens’ technique using her unique methods of applying the underbelly and underwing well behind the head of the fly for thirty years. The throat, of one or two colors, and finishing in some cases with a golden pheasant crest feather, is applied in stages, layered as one would when placing  shingles on a roof. I’ve been doing this for some months now, and I can’t imagine how she managed that while tying in-hand as she did, never using a vise. This information is presented in Mike’s Streamer DVD, Classic Maine Streamers, Bennett- Watt Entertainment, Hooked on Fly Tying Series. It’s pretty difficult for anyone to say there is another person on the planet who knows more about streamers, their history, tying, tiers, origins, than Mike Martinek. Mike has taught a number of the other good streamer tiers such as Chris Del Plato of New Jersey; Richard Connors of Massachusetts; and Peter Simonson of New Hampshire.

I’m certainly a johnny-come-lately to this party, but better late than never. I don’t really like to present information from an authoritative standpoint when I think I’m correct and turns out, I’m not. Oh, yes, some internet writers do that, unintentionally, (as I have unintentionally on occasion, by being uninformed), but some present what they know because they think they know it. It’s best to rely on fly tiers and writers with years of experience and credibility to back up their writings and knowledge.

I have gotten really interested in replicating Carrie’s patterns, using her specific methods of material placement. Some of these flies in the photos are duplicates; and some were tied using the old, traditional eastern tying style (as were the Carrie Steven streamers presented by two very talented South American fly tiers in the book Forgotten Flies,  but they were not tied as Carrie did). I’ll give you a clue – I also started winding the ribbing in reverse, as Carrie Stevens did, so if you note that difference, you can see the patterns that were done before and after my ‘conversion experience.’

One more slightly sour note – last year my new head cement of choice was Wapsi Gloss Coat. After a couple months though I had a problem with it getting milky, gray, & blotchy. I learned it may have been because I was using regular hardware store lacquer thinner to thin it, turns out the use of the proper Wapsi Gloss Coat Thinner makes no difference. I’ve sold Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Sets on MyFlies.com, and I’m going to have to contact everyone who bought the sets when I was using the Gloss Coat to return them so I can re-do the bad heads. I can’t have bad cement ruining the reputation of my work. My friend Truman had the same problem; flies we tied in February at my cabin went gray on him. He poured the Wapsi Gloss Coat onto a log beside his driveway & trashed the bottle.

A couple interesting notes to close and then I’m done. The Don’s Special and Blue Dragon are identical, except with the reversed placement of the blue and gray hackles in the wings. Also, the Don’s Special has a red-banded head; the Blue Dragon band is orange. Another little plus in my belief that her color banding was pattern specific. The Happy Garrison and Carrie’s Special are identical in every component except the throat. The Jungle Queen and Yellow Witch are identical in every detail, wonder why the two patterns were named differently? Finally Carrie was an accomplished artist with her minimal use of body variations in her one-hundred or more patterns. From just five basic bodies, she made all these flies look so different. Primarily, silver tinsel bodies, orange floss, red floss, and black floss, almost all with silver tinsel ribbing; and a very small number of gold tinsel bodies, like you can count them on one hand – Davis Special, Orange Miller, one of the P. L. B. patterns, and um, um, uh…oh the Casablanca. There may be one more. This was changed up only by the occasional addition of a tail, almost always of red, yellow, black, or orange hackle fibers.

Another interesting note; the first mention of the Gray Ghost on the Upper Dam House log book was 1934. Not in 1924, as has been perpetuated for years. She did not catch her record brook trout on a Gray Ghost, but the log book reads on a “Shang’s Go-Getum.”. The Gray Ghost would come later.

April Vokey

Here is a photo of April Vokey, and Jim, a client of hers and one of my best friends, Rick Whorwood, of Ontario, while they were working together on Sunday October 7:

April Vokey and Jim, on Ontario’s lower Grand River. April served as a guide with my friend Rick Whorwood last Sunday. She used her guiding experience on the Dean River in British Columbia to assist their clients, and this was just one of the fish taken.

April owns Fly Gal, http://www.flygal.ca/ a company based in British Columbia where she is from. With his business, Rick Whorwood’s Fly Casting School (see the link in my sidebar), he booked April to conduct a Women’s Fly Casting Clinic on October 6, and then Rick and April used Rick’s raft and drift boat and took four anglers on a  guided float trip on Sunday October 7th on the lower Grand River. This steelhead and others caught by the group run up from Lake Erie. Rick has some dates available for steelhead fishing.

April is a Federation of Fly Fisher’s Certified Casting Instructor, and Rick told me April is a very good single-hand caster. He has informed me that she is also pursuing her FFF Masters Certification as well. Rick has earned all three FFF Certifications; Casting Instructor, Master Casting Instructor, and Two-Hand Casting Instructor.

Before arriving in Ontario, Rick set up a class on Thursday October 4th with April instructing at The First Cast fly shop in Guelph. When that class filled, the shop scheduled a second date, and that filled too.

I talked to Rick on the phone yesterday. He said he was very impressed with April; her knowledge, her professionalism, her experience, her casting ability (you can look up some video of her casting a spey rod), and skill.

I am also pleased to announce that April is also one of the contributing fly tiers for my book on the 19th century Orvis flies, in progress. It is an honor to have someone of her skill as part of the project. Rick is also one of my contributing tiers. He posted this photo on his facebook page and gave me permission to use it here.

April is also one of the field editors for Fly Fusion magazine. Speaking of Fly Fusion, my friend, fellow MyFlies.com fly tier, and Fly Tying Field Editor for Fly Fusion, Al Ritt, recently honored me by asking if I would contribute to their monthly feature, End of the Line. I said, “Sure!”

End of the Line is a single-page feature in Fly Fusion that presents six patterns in a range of numbers. I sent them the following: Two Carrie Stevens streamer patterns – Blue Devils, on #1 – 8x hooks, one BXB (extended body) Slate Drake Thorax Dun (boy did I catch a lot of trout on that fly this past season!), two Bastian’s Delta Trudes (a new original pattern), three Polywing Sulphur Thorax Duns, two 19th century Scarlet Ibis Bass Flies, and two La Belle Bass Flies. I believe it will be in the next issue, though I am uncertain as to its release date.

After more work on the book last night, the number of patterns in my book now stands at 500. Thanks to everyone for your support.

More on the Book

As I continue my rather diligent work on my book, – all day yesterday, Columbus Day, and starting at 5:30 AM this morning until about 12:30 PM, I’m still having fun! Though since I decided to number all the flies, starting at No. 292 after the last pattern in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, besides numbers, I’m also listing them in alphabetical order. The painstaking part is that as I glean the text of Favorite Flies and Their Histories, I keep finding new unnamed patterns, and then that means I have to start wherever the aplha listing was and re-number every fly from that point all the way to the end. I’ve had to do that now a dozen or more times. Right now the count stands at 494; which means I have more than 200 additional patterns beyond the 291 originally listed in Marbury’s book. That’s exciting! I’m finding out about the origins of wet flies that I had previously associated with 20th century pattern books, which for the most part, don’t tell you anything about fly pattern origins. But don’t look for every last fly to be detailed with the history and origin, because in some cases it just isn’t there.

Going through the text, looking for something I saw previously and then didn’t record it right that second, and then going back and trying to find it, has actually yielded the additional benefit of finding more more flies, more details, and other interesting tidbits of information. Thanks for your support folks!

The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury

This is the title for my new book. I mentioned in my Returning Home post that I started working on it pretty diligently the evening of my return to Pennsylvania. I’ve been bitten by the bug of gettin’ ‘r’ done. After my post Friday, I spent Friday evening, all day Saturday, like thirteen hours, and most of today working on the book. It’s been somewhat painstaking and slow, but it’s also been fun. So far I have 484 patterns total. These include all 291 originally published in Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories, plus nearly 200 more. The original flies from her book are being reproduced by twenty-four different tiers. About fifty of these patterns have never been previously published. Gleaning the pages of her book, I have added eleven additional unnamed patterns beyond those presented in Forgotten Flies. These dressing are found tucked away in the text from the contributing writers and also in the notes that Mary presented as well. It is also interesting to read the history and origins of the various patterns. Most of the unpublished patterns are from the 1893 Orvis display plates that is at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

I am pretty excited about this project as this hardest part, the writing, detailing the recipes and pattern notes, begins to fall behind me with the photos still ahead. My feeling is that this is the most difficult and time-consuming part.

I’m most excited about working with the actual plate fly photos, ascertaining and certifying the correct dressings (as there are numerous errors), and presenting the new unpublished patterns. I love the history and human-interest aspects of these flies. I hope to finish it up in the next several months. I plan to make more of a presentation on these 19th century flies at the shows this year.Thanks everyone for your following my my work.