Brookie Fin – Classic Wet Fly

The Brookie Fin is another of the six (known to me) historic brook trout fin wet fly patterns. This pattern was published in Helen Shaw’s second book, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989, Stackpole Books. I uncovered mention of using the brook trout fin for bait in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. I remember my dad telling my brother, Larry, and me about that when we fished small mountain streams in northern Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, back about 1961 or ’62. We scoffed. He promptly gave a demonstration; taking a fin cut from a brook trout, impaling it on a hook, swinging it into a small pool, and catching a brookie on the first cast.

Here is an instructional paragraph from Shaw’s book:

“The wing for our Brookie Fin is a built-wing. This time it is made with four strips of different colors of goose, three of which have been dyed. The main strip of the wing is orange. Above it is a narrow strip of red; above that, a narrow strip of black; and over it all you will use a narrow strip of white. The exact number of flues for each color depends on the width of the finished wing for the particular size of hook you are using. The feathers from which you take the strips of flues for the wing also have some bearing on how many or how few you will need. Some goose pointers have wider flues than others. Suffice it to say that the strips of flues above the main part of the wing are narrower by comparison. The four colored strips together should not be any wider than the width of a wing made of a single colored strip.”

Here is an image of a Brookie Fin that I recently tied:

Brookie Fin - classic wet fly pattern from Helen Shaw's book.

Brookie Fin – classic wet fly pattern from Helen Shaw’s book. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Brookie Fin

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel; Shaw’s dressing calls for silver wire

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: White hackle fibers; Shaw’s original dressing calls for polar bear

Wing: Narrow strips of white, black, and red; married to and topping remainder of orange goose quill sections

Head: Black

Shaw’s formula in the recipe plate for the Brookie Fin calls for making the wing 2/3 orange, and 1/9 each Red, Black, and White. That is accurate, but personally I don’t feel like doing more math than I absolutely have to, especially math with fractions, and when I’m tying flies to boot. I generally use two strips each of white, black, and red, and make the rest of the wing, about 2/3, orange. That’s good for #4, #6, and #8 hooks. On a #2 hook, I’d go with three barbs or flues, and on #10 and #12 hooks, one must use only a single barb each of the topping colors. This type of detailed married-wing wet fly tying is what separates the men from the boys, or the women from the girls. It requires good keen eyesight, and steady hands.

No mention of the origin of the Brookie Fin appears in Shaw’s book, but it is quite likely that she originated it. She concluded her writing on the Brookie Fin with these words: “This is an exceptionally good wet-fly pattern, producing strikes when other patterns may prove to be ineffectual under many fishing conditions.”

About Helen’s book, Paul Schullery, former Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont wrote:

“Helen Shaw has long been recognized as one of this century’s foremost fly-tying teachers. With this book, she brings fly tying’s oldest and grandest tradition back to center stage. Not since Mary Orvis Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories was published nearly a century ago (now 121 years) has the wet fly been so well celebrated in words and pictures.”

The book is out-of-print, but may be found if one looks. The ISBN No. is: 0-8117-0607-9.

Though originally published in 1989, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies remains as the best wet fly tying instructional book presently available. – Don Bastian.

Fanwing Coffin Fly

A while back I posted a Green Drake Coffin Fly pattern that I developed with the white foam extended body. It was patterned after the Dette Coffin Fly, which has a white body, short-clipped palmered white hackle, teal breast feathers for wings, and a silver badger hackle. A few weeks ago I also had the inspiration to tie that same fly, but instead add the curved, short teal center breast feathers to create a classic, fanwing pattern. I recall that idea came to me by simply noticing a single teal “fanwing” breast feather lying among my fly tying stuff, and as I picked it up and looked at it in my hand, I decided to make my extended body Coffin Fly pattern into a fanwing version. I know, it’s way past green drake time and that won’t come again for another ten-and-a-half months, but I just today added this pattern to MyFlies.com along with my BXB Green Drake Coffin Fly, and I also will be adding the classic Fanwing Royal Coachman as one of my patterns there before too much longer. I seem to be in a mood to tie and call attention to fanwing patterns, and I and some of my customers have had some great fishing this year on my extended body March Brown, Slate Drake, Green Drake, and Yellow Drake patterns in a number of locales in several states, so here is the Green Drake Fanwing Coffin Fly:

Fanwing Coffin Fly

Fanwing Coffin Fly – the imago, or spinner pattern for the eastern green drake, Ephemera guttulata. The hook is a Tiemco 2488 #10. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Fanwing Coffin Fly

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #4 Pale Yellow

Body: White closed-cell foam, cut into strip about 2mm wide from 2mm sheet

Tails: Three moose body hairs

The Abdomen with tails is made on a mandrel held in the vise; I upgraded to a tube fly jig for this procedure several months ago, but I used to use a simple straight pin or needle. Once the abdomen is made, and I generally make these by the half-dozen at least, usually more, that is attached to the rear of the TMC 2488 hook, just ahead of the barb. But first:

Before mounting the abdomen to the hook, switch tying thread to Danville Flymaster #100 Black, then mount the wings on the hook, just ahead of the mid point of the body. It takes practice to get the wings straight, and they seldom tie on straight, but I discovered a method long ago of using the thread to my advantage. I care not for how they set on the hook; I just want to get them on there, both at once. Once they are mounted, stand them up by damming thread in front of the stem butts, and when they are about vertical, if one or both wings are curved at all to the left or right – which they most likely will be – you start with one feather, post the thread three times taut, but not tight, around the base of that feather. You have to think which way to wrap, because you’re going to use increased thread tension to twist the crooked wing into perfect alignment. This means you have to think and analyze which way you need to spin the feather to straighten it. After posting around the base of the wing, then wrap around the hook shank once, making sure you’re back to clockwise winding, and then pull slowly. The taut, but not previously tight thread will tighten and s-t-r-e-t-c-h around the base of the feather stem, and from this action, the wing feather will twist right or left as needed (and premeditated by the tier, um, that would be you) into the proper position. Repeat this for the other wing, if necessary.

If either wing needs to be turned or twisted to the left, then you post around the base of that stem counterclockwise. If either stem needs to be turned to the right, then you post clockwise. Don’t forget to wrap once or twice around the hook shank before to attempt to tighten the thread to straighten out the wing. It’s a snap. Guess I’ll have to make another video…

After doing this to both wing feathers, if necessary, I then post around the base of both stems together. Doing this means you also have to mount the feathers to the hook with some bare stem on both feathers above the hook and tie-in point. This prevents you from wrapping over any barbs at the base of the wing stems, which if you did, there would be barbs askew at the base of the wings. Not pretty.

Wings: A matched pair of curved teal breast feathers

Body: Black rabbit dubbing

Hackle: Silver badger

Head: Black

This pattern and most fanwings of any size, should be fished on 4x tippet to minimize twisting.

Here’s a front-view of the wings:

Fanwing Coffin Fly -

Fanwing Coffin Fly – front view of divided, over-sized wings, characteristic of fanwing patterns.

Here is a link to the product page for my BXB Fanwing Coffin Fly and this new, Fanwing Coffin Fly on MyFlies.com: http://www.myflies.com/BXB-Green-Drake-Coffin-Fly–P806.aspx

I’m sure some of you will want to see that fanwing tie-in procedure, so I will attempt to make another video, but I’ll also be happy to demonstrate it at any of the shows where I’m appearing. Thanks for reading!

Bergman Fontinalis – Classic Wet Fly

The Bergman Fontinalis and the Fontinalis Fin were the first two brook trout fin wet fly patterns that I ever saw. I’ve written about this before, but at age twelve, my brother, Larry, and I fished with flies for the first time at a farm pond near our cabin in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. We caught lots of bluegills that day. I don’t recall what Larry used, but I fished a Yellow Sally. We became hooked on fly fishing, and when we returned to the farm house that served as our cabin, my dad showed me his copy of Trout. It’s a first edition, 9th printing of the 1938 classic. I still have it with his signature in ink inside the front cover, penciled notations in the margins with the pattern recipes in the back, like “sizes 8-10-12, good for brookies,” and I treasure it. I remember him saying it was a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle.

Recently I tied up six classic wet flies as part of an order for a customer in Alberta, Canada. The Bergman Fontinalis posted here is the fourth pattern in that series, following the Parmacheene Belle, Fletcher, and Golden Doctor. I have five more classic wet flies, mostly Lake Fly patterns, that were tied last Wednesday, July 10th, during a private fly tying lesson with a student from south-eastern Pennsylvania. I have already photographed all those patterns and plan to post them here as well.

One highlight of Dave’s visit was that he wanted to learn how to fish wet flies. Since my area had received more rainfall and storms than normal, I informed him a week or so in advance that we’d have to play any fishing by ear. On Thursday morning July 11th, I took him over the hill to nearby Lycoming Creek. The water level was falling from recent thundershowers, and it was up quite a bit and off color, but you could see bottom in three feet of water. I gave Dave a crash-course in wet fly fishing, demonstrating casting, mending of line, tending of the drift, rod-tip position, and the hand-twist retrieve. I had rigged him up with two flies from his personal box; a #14 Partridge and Yellow in hand position, and a #12 Royal Coachman on the point, both tied on 3x tippet. He got a couple hits, and then after about a half hour, he hooked a trout. It turned out to be a decent brown, and the fish aggressively had taken the Royal Coachman. That made our day.

Getting back to the brook fin wet flies, there are six historic trout fin wet fly patterns that I am aware of; The Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, Brook Fin, Trout Fin, Brookie Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis. I listed them in the order in which I personally learned of each pattern. Somewhere here in my blog archives there is an article dealing with those patterns. Three of these flies, the Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis were all created by Michigan angler and fly tier, Phil Armstrong. The Brook Fin was published in H. J. Noll’s Guide to Trout Flies; the Brookie Fin debuted in Helen Shaw’s, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989; and the Trout Fin was presented in Ray Bergman’s final book, With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, sent to him by fly tier Bert Quimby, of South Windham, Maine, as being a favored brook trout wet fly pattern for fishing in Maine. It does not list who created that fly, but there is a strong possibility it was originated by Quimby. The Armstrong Fontinalis was the last of these patterns that I learned about, a rather johnny-come-lately fly for me, around 2006. It was published in the book by William Blades, Fishing Flies and Fly Tying, 1951.

I have fished several of these patterns and caught trout and land-locked salmon on them in Maine, and also in a lake right here in Pennsylvania. As an aside, the Parmacheene Belle, according to originator Henry P. Wells’ writings, the brook trout fin was the concept for his fly design. I have always disagreed with that a bit, because there is no orange in his pattern, and that fly has a yellow body, there’s no yellow in a brook trout fin. Nevertheless, that pattern, the Kineo, and perhaps the King of the Woods could be considered as possible brook trout fin wet flies. Here is a photo of the Bergman Fontinalis:

Bergman Fontinalis -

Bergman Fontinalis – #4 Mustad 3399 wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Bergman Fontinalis

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #10

Tail: White, natural dark gray, married to and topping slightly wider section of orange, duck or goose quill may be used, in two sections (left and right side)

Body: Alternate ribs of dark gray and orange wool

Hackle: Dark gray

Wing: White, dark gray, married to and topping wider section of orange

Head: Black

I used goose wing quill sections to make the tail and wing on this fly. Two barbs each of the white and gray for the tail; three barbs of orange. In the wing, I used three barbs each of white and gray. The natural dark gray quill sections are best obtained from Canada goose feathers. The hackle was tied as a throat, wound collar style, from the tip end of a gray schlappen feather. The ends of schlappen feathers make great wet fly hackles in larger hook sizes; the stems are very soft, supple, and very small in diameter, so they wrap nicely, and build no bulk at the tie-in point of the wing. The barb density is low so I generally make five to six wraps when using schlappen in this fashion.

The Bergman Fontinalis was obviously created to honor Ray Bergman. At the time Trout was published in 1938, Bergman was the preeminent angling author in the country, having served as angling editor of Outdoor Life magazine since 1934. It was a position he held for thirty-four years.

If you are looking for some enjoyable tying with a bit of a challenge, or want to experiment fishing with some new fly patterns, give the Bergman Fontinalis a try.

Golden Doctor – Classic Wet Fly

The first time I ever saw or heard of the Golden Doctor wet fly was in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. Along with the Silver Doctor it was an attractor pattern, and like the recently posted Fletcher wet fly, it has a three-color married tail. Between that fancy tail and the red and blue goose shoulder “splits” over the gray mallard wing, the Golden Doctor is another beautiful, yet little known classic wet fly. I recently discovered in doing research for my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, that the Golden Doctor is an older pattern than I previously realized. Reading through Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, I found some text where Mary mentions the Golden Doctor, so that means it dates at least to the early 1890’s. My guess is that the pattern is even older than that. I have always liked the Golden Doctor, it is another very beautiful wet fly. The color combinations of materials, the claret hackle and the red head, all make for a dashing pattern. Here is a photo and recipe for the Golden Doctor:

Golden Doctor wet fly -

Golden Doctor wet fly – dressed on a Mustad #4 – 3906 standard wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Golden Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Tail: Red, yellow, green – married

Body: Flat gold tinsel

Hackle: Claret

Wing: Gray mallard flank, with splits of red and blue goose shoulder

Head: Red

I used two full mallard flank feathers, paired, that is, a left and a right, and cut opposing sections from each feather, then I mounted the slips with the tip down, the wing curving downward in the traditional 19th century style. The claret hackle was wound from the tip of a schlappen feather, several turns. These feathers make great collar hackles, because the stems are so fine and flexible.

This is yet another pattern I confess to having never fished, but how could you not? Just look at it, the colors and form are perfect for brook trout and land-locked salmon.

Fletcher – Classic Wet Fly

One of the little-known wet fly patterns from Trout, by Ray Bergman, is the Fletcher. It is not a particularly complicated pattern to tie, except for step two: the tail. It has a married tail consisting of three components. This element gives the Fletcher a special attractiveness and eye-appeal. I admit to never fishing the Fletcher, but I have tied a good number of them over the last fifteen years. I think that is something I should rectify – fish this fly. I’m sure it would take trout and land-locked salmon.

This fly is one of six that is part of an order for a customer in Alberta, Canada. He has ordered five dozen wet flies for fishing, and six wet fly patterns, tied on #4 hooks, mounted, boxed, and signed for his collection. The Fletcher is the second pattern in this series of six, the Parmacheene Belle from the other day was the first pattern in this six-pack. I also intend to post the photos of the fishing flies on this order.

Here’s the photo of the Fletcher:

Fletcher wet fly -

Fletcher wet fly – dressed on a Mustad #4 – 3906 standard wet fly hook. Tied and photogrpahed by Don Bastian.

Fletcher

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, #2 to #10

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red, yellow, and guinea fowl – married

Hackle: Grizzly tied palmer

Body: Black floss

Wing: Brown mottled turkey

The recipe in Bergman’s Trout calls for a gray hackle, tied palmer, but study of the color plate, recognizing artist Dr. Edgar Burke’s attention to detail, and the fact all the flies for the color plates in Trout were painted from actual samples, the hackle on the plate image is clearly painted as grizzly. I married the tail with duck wing quill and guinea fowl wing quill. Wet flies with a palmer hackle have plenty of action in the water. I need to tie some of these to fish with.

Parmacheene Belle

The Parmacheene Belle is arguably the most famous and most-well-known of all the married wing brook trout flies. It was created by Henry P. Wells in 1876. He named it after Parmacheene Lake in the Rangeley Region of Maine. He fished it in that area and took a number of large brook trout on it. The Parmacheene Belle was first published in Fishing With the Fly, 1883, coauthored by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney. It was not shown among the lithographed color plates of the Lake Flies and Trout Flies in that book, but there is a chapter written by Mr. Wells titled, Fly Fishing for Trout in the Rangeley Region. Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, contains letters from a number of the correspondents who named the Parmacheene Belle among their favorite trout flies.

Over the years, different fly dressers, different fly companies, and different authors presented different versions of the Parmacheene Belle. This version here is identical to Mr. Wells’s specifications that he presented in his chapter of Fishing With the Fly, save for the fact that on the body, I used yellow rabbit dubbing instead of yellow mohair as called for by him in the correct dressing.

Favorite Flies and Their Histories presents a different version of the Parmacheene Belle, in that the wing of the Orvis pattern is not “white striped with scarlet” as specified by Mr. Wells, but rather is half-and-half red and white. The color plate in the Marbury book is also unclear as to the hackle. J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, contains three errors or differences, if you prefer “fly pattern political correctness,” in the dressing for the Parmacheene Belle. His mistakes on that pattern possibly came from him trying to analyze the image of the plate fly in Marbury’s book, which can be an effort in futility. You’ll see the correct dressing for the Parmacheene Belle listed below the photo of my rendition as presented by the originator of the fly, Mr. Henry P. Wells. A friend commented recently about fly patterns on another forum, that any dressing or pattern recipe as presented by the originator should be the “correct one.” Indeed.

Leonard lists the following errors / variations on the Parmacheene Belle: “Hackle – scarlet; Body – yellow floss, palmer yellow hackle.” I believe Leonard misinterpreted the artist’s rendition of the mohair body, which in order to appear scraggly, appears as fibers protruding from between the tinsel ribbing. I have a photo of the original plate fly, and the body is yellow mohair, there is no palmered body hackle. I also posted a while back, the Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 Orvis display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing. I decided to edit this post and ad that photo here as well:

Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in manchester, Vermont.

Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. The hook size is large, as a Lake Fly, about a number 1 or perhaps even a 1/0. I checked my photo of the actual book plate fly, there is definitely a tinsel tag on that fly, though it is tarnished. Note the spelling, that is correct, as also written on the road signs in that area of Maine. Note the reverse-tied wing; the folded butt ends of the quill sections are visible in front of the few thread wraps that lock the wing back into position.

Of course, to reiterate, as I noted above, different companies, authors, and fly tiers have modified this dressing, and of course, not intentionally over the one-hundred thirty-six years since its creation. I’m just glad that since I first tied the Parmacheene Belle in 1974, that I finally got it right.

Parmacheene Belle -

Parmacheene Belle – dressed by Don Bastian on Mustad #3906 size #4 wet fly hook, according to the recipe by the originator, Henry P. Wells. His article in Fishing With the Fly, 1883,  states that the Parmacheene Belle was created “some seven years ago.”

Parmacheene Belle

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, #2 to #10

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #1 White for body, #100 Black for head

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Scarlet and white, married (I personally prefer the scarlet on top)

Butt: Peacock herl

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Yellow mohair

Hackle: “White fronted by scarlet” per Mr. Henry Wells

Wing: White striped with scarlet, married

Head: Black

The correct pronunciation of this name, according to the original Abenaki Indian language, has four syllables: “Par-ma-CHEE-nee.” Here is the written account of the recipe by the originator of the pattern:

H. P. Wells’s description of the Parmacheene Belle, Fishing With the Fly, from his chapter titled Fly-Fishing in the Rangeley Region, p. 90.

“This fly somewhat resembles the ‘No Name,’ figured as No. 15 of Lake Flies in this book. As I tie it, the tail is two strands of white and two of scarlet; the body of yellow mohair, with silver tinsel; the hackle double; first white, with a scarlet hackle wound over this – capping the former so to speak; the wing white, striped with scarlet. By scarlet the color of the red ibis is to be understood.”

He does not mention the silver tinsel tag, yet the Orvis pattern has that component, and I like that addition as well, so it included it on my dressing.

As noted above I used yellow rabbit dubbing for the body since I don’t have any yellow mohair. This fly was initially created as a Lake Fly, which was a designated category of large trout flies, sometimes with added components to dress them up a bit more, that were intended for use in the remote and wilderness locations of Canada, the Adirondacks, and parts of Maine for the historically larger fish that used to be abundant in those locales. Henry Wells wrote in his article: “…indeed – hooks as large as numbers 1, 2, and 5…are at times not at all amiss.”

Too bad we can’t go back in time for a fishing trip!

Didymo in Big Pine Creek, Pennsylvania

From an e-mail sent on July 10th by Dr. Mel Zimmerman at Lycoming College in my home town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania:

Attached is a picture we took this morning from a sample above Waterville – coming to a watershed near you.

Announcement:

First record of the invasive diatom Didymosphenia geminata in the Pine Creek watershed, Lycoming County Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Biologists have, as a result of routine monitoring, detected the presence of the invasive diatom Didymosphenia geminata, also known as Didymo, in the Pine Creek watershed, Lycoming County PA.  Representative specimens were sent to The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University where Dr. Marina Potapova confirmed DEP’s identification.

Living Didymo diatoms were obtained on June 18, 2013 from Pine Creek at a location upstream of Waterville in the vicinity of the Hamilton Bottom Canoe Access Area; Lycoming County.  This represents the first evidence of this invasive diatom in this watershed.  In fact, prior to this discovery no Didymosphenia geminata diatoms were known by DEP to exist in Pennsylvania waters except at verified infestations sites in the Youghiogheny River and the West Brach / mainstem of the Delaware Rivers. 

All Water Quality professionals (and ALL anglers) should take precautions against spreading Didymo by properly cleaning and disinfecting aquatic gear prior to working in other waters. For more information, please visit PA Fish & Boat Commission website for a fact sheet and further guidance at:

http://www.fishandboat.com/water/habitat/ans/didymo/faq_didymo.htm

You are encouraged to forward this notice to your Agency co-workers, fellow aquatic biologists and other Water Quality professionals. (and your fishing friends).

Tony Shaw | Water Pollution Biologist IV | Chief, Monitoring Section
Environmental Protection | Point & Non-Point Source Management
Rachel Carson State Office Building
400 Market Street | Harrisburg, PA 17105-8774
Phone: 717.787.5017 | Fax: 717.772.3249
www.depweb.state.pa.us

Didymo - aka Rock Snot confirmed in Big Pine Crek,Pennsylvania, above Waterville. This is bad news.

Didymo – aka Rock Snot confirmed in Big Pine Creek, Pennsylvania, above Waterville. This is bad news.

Rock snot can basically take over the stream bottom, when it colonizes an area, there is room for nothing else to live. It can obliterate the environment where invertebrates live by covering it up. When trout spawn, the female clears a redd, but by the time the eggs hatch, if didymo is nearby, it will have recolonized the redd and the fry will be unable to escape. But, by that time, the eggs will have been smothered anyway.

Anglers and everyone using Big Pine Creek are strongly urged to take the necessary precautions to keep this from spreading. However, the pessimist in me, knowing there will be people visiting Pine Creek that are unaware of the presence of didymo, will most likely unknowingly carry it to other streams in the area. Some of the best trout streams in Pennsylvania – Big Fishing Creek, Spring Creek, Penn’s Creek, Slate Run, Little Juniata River, are all at risk. Please be extremely careful. Guess we’re going to have to start carrying Clorox and a bucket or large dishpan in our cars so we can disinfect our wading shoes and the neoprene feet on our waders when we fish different streams in the same day.