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.

10 comments on “Brookie Fin – Classic Wet Fly

  1. fishingwithflies says:

    Beautifully done photo, Don. Folks don’t generally know how hard it is to keep specular highlights (glare from the lighting) off the lacquered black head. You’ve done a really nice job. And of course what a piece of art the fly is itself. The wraps are exquisite.

  2. Don Bastian says:

    Hi Peter;
    Nice to hear from you! Those comments are from a skilled photographer for sure. 😉 Thanks for that, I really appreciate it. 🙂
    I photograph beside a window, head of the fly facing the window; and use a large piece of white foam-core to bounce or reflect light back onto the shadowed or darker side of the fly. I also filter some of the light from the window side as needed.

    Hope you are doing well! Thanks for your comment and compliments on the tying!

  3. Don Bastian says:

    Thanks Bob! I appreciate that very much!

  4. dlomasney says:

    Hi Don…I never knew the Brookie Fin had a red strip!…I always thought it was just the three colors on the wing. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  5. Don Bastian says:

    Hi Dave;
    Yup! The Brookie Fin does have the red strip. My original Olive Trout Fin, that I posted on the Classic Fly Tying Forum several years ago, also has the red strip in the wing. I got the idea for that from Helen’s Brookie Fin pattern. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Mark W says:

    Gorgeous fly Don! I love the brook trout fin flies! I really want to fish one but they are so beautiful and time consuming to tie, I can never bring myself to tie one on!

  7. Don Bastian says:

    Hi Mark;
    Thanks for your comment! They do work; I have some customers who buy the various brook fin patterns from me and actually use them. Successfully! It would be worth your time to make up a couple and fish them! Don’t worry about getting every last detail perfect for a fishing fly… 😉
    Thanks again for your comment!

  8. Hi Don,
    I came a cross a tidbit this week regarding the Brookie Fin that I wanted to share with you…
    In 1960 Helen Shaw tied a collection of 100 flies as a gift to Arnold Gingrich, then editor of Esquire Magazine. In a magazine photograph I have of the collection, one fly is listed as “Kade’s Brookie Fin”. Although the picture is a bit fuzzy, it is most certainly a “Brookie Fin” with a polar bear throat, as mentioned in her book and noted by yourself. As you may know, Helen originally tied for Arthur Kade’s “FlyCrafters” outfit in WI before moving to NY. Although this doesn’t necessarily prove that Kade originated the pattern, it certainly presents that possibility! I’ve tried for a number of years to find a copy of Kade’s catalogue, to no avail… More for the grist-mill! Alec

    • Don Bastian says:

      Great stuff Alec! I met with a woman whose father knew Art Kade and also met Helen when she was working for him. I’d say with the information you have, if Helen named that pattern as “Kade’s Brookie Fin,” then that probably seals it. She does not give credit for its origin in her book, Flies for Fish and Fishermen. My friend mentioned that she was pretty sure that Art Kade taught Helen to tie. Thanks for your due diligence and for your comments!

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