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:
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
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.