Slate Drakes – aka “Isonychias”

Fall fishing is a time of year when aquatic insect activity is minimal compared to the spring hatches. Therefore any hatch activity at all is usually met with anticipation and eagerness by the trout. Oftentimes windy weather and or rain will dislodge terrestrials from trees and bank-side vegetation; these include inchworms, ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, bees, caterpillars, and spiders. This activity can be sporadic, heavier at some times than others from resulting conditions; consequently autumn dry fly fishing with terrestrial patterns can be effective. Beetles, ants, and my original Floating Inchworm pattern are my fall favorite terrestrial patterns. Among the buffet of terrestrial activity, there are still a few aquatic insect fall hatches that we anglers can take advantage of. One of my favorite mayflies in the spring, the Slate Drake, or Isonychia bicolor, also begins to emerge in the fall as the second brood of this species begins to hatch in mid-to-late September. Common in the Eastern United States on freestone waters, Slate Drakes can run almost to the end of October, often providing a near-exclusive aquatic insect match-the-hatch, dry fly fishing opportunity.

Floating Inchworm - extended body designed and tied by Don Bastian. The hook is a #16 Tiemco 2488, short shank,wide gape. This is a great fall terrestrial searching pattern.

Floating Inchworm – extended body designed and tied by Don Bastian. The hook is a #16 Tiemco 2488, short shank, wide gape. This is a great fall terrestrial searching pattern.

The first hatches of Isonychia bicolor in spring begin as early as mid-may and continue through July, sometimes sporadically, but there can be periods when these large, dark, slate-and-brown colored mayflies emerge in fairly heavy numbers, inciting trout to feed vigorously on the emergers and duns. The Slate Drake Spinner is also a significant element of this hatch and should not be overlooked. Typically these nymphs migrate to the shallows, but the nymphs living in large streams and rivers far from shore simply emerge from the water when their hatch time is ready.

A Slate Drake dry fly pattern in various styles is a good dry fly searching pattern whenever they are in season, but they are especially good in the fall when competition from other hatches is not as intense as the spring and early summer. Some traditional Slate Drake dun patterns include the White-gloved Howdy and Dun Variant. I like my BXB (Bastian Extended Body) Slate Drake Thorax Dun, Parachute, and Spinner patterns better than any other pattern style for this hatch. I’ve been fishing these patterns for nine years with wonderful success. Below is a photo of my BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern, still wet after it was removed from the jaw of an eighteen-inch brown that confidently took it on Big Pine Creek in May of 2012.

BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern. The hook is a size #14 but the fly is actually what would normally be considered a #8 or #10.

BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern. The hook is a size #14 but the fly is actually what would normally be considered a #8 or #10. The length of the pattern not including the tails is a good 3/4″ to 7/8″ in length. This fly was knotted to 4x tippet because I was fishing a fairly heavy riffle section, and I expected to encounter big trout. I did!

And here is a photo of that trout:

18-inch brown trout taken on my Extended Body Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern, Big Pine Creek, May 2012.

18-inch brown trout taken on my Extended Body Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern, Big Pine Creek, May 2012.

Here is a nineteen-inch brown I took fifteen minutes after the fish shown above:

19-inch brown taken on Big Pine Creek,May 2012, on my Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern.

19-inch brown taken on Big Pine Creek, May 2012, on my BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern.

This article started off with the intention that it would be only about Slate Drake nymphs, but it obviously morphed into a work to also include dry fly patterns. These insects are large, often requiring size #8 hooks. That size may sound too large to some anglers, but if you consider the actual body length of a Slate Drake dun and compare it to the shank length of a standard dry fly hook, that’s what you would need to use. Too many fly anglers dislike large drys; they don’t know what they are missing by not using them. Large imitative or attractor dry fly patterns like the Fan Wing Royal Coachman or Royal Wulff can really stir up some excitement on the water. I’ve read the words of some writers who say that the fall Slate Drakes are as small as a size #14, but I personally have never seen a Slate Drake that small in my life. I would not tie this pattern smaller than a size #12 standard hook length for fall fishing, and I have full confidence fishing my large extended body patterns that imitate the spring hatches of the Slate Drake. Though I generally dress them on a #14 Tiemco 2488 hook, these flies are the equivalent size compared to a standard dry fly pattern in a size #8 or #10. Some of the same line of thinking by other fly tiers and anglers expresses surprise at my devotion to size #14 Sulfur patterns for Spring Creek, when most other anglers fish #16’s. Heck, I’m just imitating the actual size of the bugs I see on the water. And it’s not that #16 Sulfur dry flies don’t take trout, but a larger fly is easier to see under most conditions, and floats better. Most importantly, it works!

Here are two similar Slate Drake nymph patterns; the first one was tied by my friend Bill Shuck, of Jarretsville, Maryland. Below that are photos of the same pattern that I tied. Bill made a couple modifications because he did not possess all the same materials that my recipe calls for.

This is essentially the Slate Drake nymph pattern conceived by my friend Dave Rothrock, but I made a few modifications to it in the interest of making it tie easier and faster.

Slate Drake Nymph - tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Slate Drake Nymph – tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Here’s a side view:

Side-view - note the bulge of the wingcase proflie

Side-view – note the bulge of the wing case profile. This is Dave Rothrock’s pattern design, with some tying modifications, but the use of poly yarn for the wing case is Dave’s accurate material usage to simulate the natural high wing-case profile of the Isonychia nymphs. This imitative design is a “strike-trigger” to the trout. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Isonychia / Slate Drake Nymph – Bill Shuck version

Here is Bill’s list of materials in order of tie-in::

Hook: Daiichi 1760, Size #10
Thread: Uni-Thread 6/0, black
Tail: Three natural grey ostrich herl strands, trimmed short
Rib: Pearsall's Gossamer silk thread, brown, doubled and twisted
Median stripe: Uni-Thread 6/0, white, doubled and twisted
Over Back: Medallion sheeting, dark dun
Abdomen: Blend of hare's fur, 50% claret/25% brown/25% black
Wing case: Black poly yarn, two strands
Thorax: Same dubbing as abdomen
Legs: Badger hen cape feather barbs

Bill wrote me in his e-mail with the recipe: “All typed out like that it seems like too much stuff to
bother with, eh?”
To which I replied, “Not when you consider how well this pattern works. The extra tying time 
pays off."

Today, Monday morning, two days after I initially published this article, Bill sent me another 
Isonychia nymph pattern, this is the same fly with the addition of a single strand of natural ostrich
herl wound as a rib. 
Isonychia nymph variation - tied with natural gray ostrich herl gills. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Isonychia nymph variation – dressed with natural gray ostrich herl gills. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Slate Drake Nymph - tied and photographed by Don Bastian.
Slate Drake Nymph – tied and photographed by Don Bastian.
Slate Drake Nymph - top view

Slate Drake Nymph #10 – 2x long – top view. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Isonychia / Slate Drake Nymph – Don Bastian version

Hook: #10 - 2x long nymph hook, or 3x long TMC 200R or Dai-Riki 270
Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black, or #73 Dark Brown
Tail: Three fibers of natural ostrich herl
Median Stripe: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #1 White
Ribbing: One strand of Uni-thread 6/0 Dark Brown
Overback: Black scud back 1/8”
Abdomen: Haretron Dubbing #16 Dark Brown
Gills: Abdominal dubbing picked out and trimmed parallel to body.
Wingcase: Black polypropylene yarn, two strands
Thorax: Haretron #16 Dark Brown
Legs: Natural mottled hen back, short and sparse
Head: Black
The main design of this pattern goes to my friend, Dave Rothrock, guide, and fly tier, from Jersey 
Shore, Pennsylvania. He uses a stripped cream hackle feather for the median stripe; the use of
thread is obviously a huge time-saver. I also use ostrich herl strands from anywhere along the 
stem, Dave uses only the tips, which are limited in number on any feather or bundle of ostrich
herl. I can make several sets of tails from just three strands of ostrich. I cut the tips at an angle with
my scissors, trimming only the outside edge of the barbs.

I also chose to change the dubbing to Haretron; my reason is that the increased density of fine fibers – 
under fur and the Antron – makes it easier to pick out the gills. Dave’s use of poly yarn for the wing 
case is a stroke of genius in imitative pattern design. Its bulk simulates the natural profile of the live
nymphs. This is a trigger-point for the trout and significantly contributes to the inducement of strikes,
if not being the primary reason that trout take this pattern with voracity.
Below is a photo of my Slate Drake Parachute Dun:
Don Bastian's BXB Slate Drake Parachute Dun.

Don Bastian’s BXB Slate Drake Parachute Dun.

Any of these pattern can be ordered by visiting my product pages at MyFlies.com: http://www.myflies.com/BXB-Slate-Drake-Set-P741.aspx

or the Slate Drake Nymphs may be ordered by visiting my Custom Order page: http://www.myflies.com/Don-Bastians-Custom-Fly-Orders-P750.aspx

If you get a chance to venture out for some fall fishing, most streams in the Eastern United States have Isonychia populations – be prepared, and have some of these patterns to fish with.

I meant to include these photos yesterday when I wrote this post…the wordpress format was having “issues,” giving me technical difficulties, and I forgot. Here is a soft-hackle Slate Drake Flymph tied and photographed by Bill Shuck:

Isonychia Flymph - tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Isonychia Flymph – tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Here is the recipe for this pattern:

Isonychia / Slate Drake Flymph

From Bill: “This was a pattern that I posted on the Flymphforum in April 2012. The vintage hook is one given to me be a friend in Virginia, and the European hare dubbing was dyed by another friend who lives in Holland, the same guy I hosted for two weeks this past spring and who gave me an excellent 5 wt. bamboo rod he made himself.

Hook: Vintage Mustad 3913B. Size #12

Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer silk thread, #14 claret

Hackle: Medium dun hen saddle

Tail: Three moose body hairs

Body: European hare dyed claret, spun in a dubbing brush with claret silk thread

Nice that you got a bamboo rod for hosting your friend! Such a deal!

I close this with image of a half-dozen Slate Drake Nymphs:

Slate Drake Nymphs, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Slate Drake Nymphs, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

And one final shot, lined up in a row:

#10 3x long Isonychia - Slate Drake Nymphs. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

#10 – 3x long Isonychia – Slate Drake Nymphs. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian. These are dressed on Montana Fly Company Curved shank straight eye nymph hooks, #7002 Stimulator Hook.

Tricos and Baetis on Spring Creek

Yesterday my neighbor, Jim, and I went fishing on Spring Creek, Centre County, Pennsylvania. This was a prearranged trip through a customer who lives near Altoona. His name is Bruce; he’s bought my DVD’s, commented here on the blog, and recently bought a set of seven color variations of samples of my Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger, along with the recipes and instructions. Bruce and I have been in e-mail contact for the past seven or eight years. We started planning this trip about three weeks ago.

I have not yet received my new camera, and I could just simply forget about this, but I wanted to write a review of the trip yesterday, so I’ll make an effort to paint pictures with words.

A fourth companion, Ed, who used to own a rod making company in Beech Creek, also joined us. I’ve known Ed since the 1980’s; he used to display and sell at the Susquehanna Chapter Trout Unlimited Annual Outdoor Show. We’ve seen each other on occasion in recent years at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey. Unfortunately Ed has some health issues that prevent him from fishing, but he wanted to come along and offered to cook lunch for everyone. About that, “Such a deal!” my wife Lou Anne, would always say. We met at the bridge at the park in Milesburg at 9:30.

The Fishing:

There was heavy fog in the area, though I had worn my sunglasses for the drive down. The water flow was low, but the stream is larger in that section, so there was plenty of water. We rigged up and dispersed, staying relatively close together. I wanted to fish the section below the bridge that is normally rough and tumble riffs and white water, and pretty difficult to fish and wade in early season. I had tied a #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail nymph on a twelve or so foot leader, to a 5x tippet, one #4 split shot, and to start, about two feet under an indicator. Second cast, “Fish on!” Fifth cast, after lowering the fly another foot to fish the slightly deeper water beyond where I took the first trout, “Fish on!” With nymphing, most anglers would simply keep casting. I learned and have always believed and taught my students over the years that an indicator should be one that is easily moveable, because a cast with set rigging in one place may not be correctly set up for making another cast even two feet away from the previously fished drift lane. Effective nymph fishing is all about versatility and constant observation, making necessary adjustments to your rig so that your presentation is correct for every location you fish. Rigging adjustments of the indicator placement also includes adding or removing split shot. I constantly make adjustments in my rig, changing patterns far less frequently than making other adjustments of weight and indicator placement.

Jim fished the junction pool with Bald Eagle Creek and took one fish swinging a #16 winged wet fly, not sure of the pattern; it was basically a Ginger Quill, but had a brown hackle and dark quill body. After two trout in the first three minutes, I over-confidently thought I was going to kill ’em. Wrong. I fished hard, thoroughly working the seams, riffs, and runs all the way to the mouth, for more than an hour, with nary another strike. I motioned to Jim that I was going to head back upstream. I entered and fished first pool below the bridge with the same nymph.

After a little while, Jim came up and I commented that I was starting to see a few small bugs in the air. The number of these insects steadily increased in minutes. I thought they were Tricos, but I couldn’t see the tails. Guess it was just the lighting, or perhaps my need for new glasses. Jim finally caught one and positively identified them as Trico spinners. No trout were rising, and it was about eleven-thirty. I decided since the nymphing had been fruitless, that I would prepare for the hoped-for trico spinner fall and rise of trout. So I added 6x tippet, rummaged through my fly boxes and tied on a #22 Trico Spinner in anticipation of some surface action. That paid off. The heaviest part of the rise probably occurred after we departed for lunch, but I managed to take two trout that I saw rising, stung a third, and had three more rise and miss the fly. When Jim arrived, having hooked a couple fish, we gathered Bruce, who had landed six, from upstream and headed for our lunch rendezvous with Ed at Fisherman’s Paradise.

Lunch:

When we pulled in, Ed had the grill smoking. Nice! This was indeed, such a deal! Ed had thick, juicy elk burgers sizzling away, with the addition of hickory chips to the fire. Added to this were sliced whole wheat buns, a jar of Ed’s home-canned hot peppers, sliced, garden-fresh tomatoes, big, but nice and thin, sweet onion slices, a bag of chips that Bruce brought, plus a batch of home-made potato salad from yours truly. I included the recipe at the end of this post, for anyone interested. It’s pretty good.

Our picnic table was right beside the stream. As we enjoyed our lunch, we saw a mature bald eagle soaring high overhead. We also saw a huge congregation of Trico spinners in the air, thirty to forty feet above the water. I started watching for rises as we concluded our meal. When we were done eating, we put a few things away, and then I saw it: a rise! When I saw another, I said, “I’m gonna make a few casts; heck I still have that Trico spinner on my leader.” This particular Trico Spinner pattern is simple:

Trico Spinner

Hook: Straight-eye dry, #20 – #24.

Tail: Three fibers of light dun Microfibetts, divided with thread

Abdomen: White Uni-thread 8/0, started at thorax, wound back, divide the tail, then forward so the body is two layers

Wing: Sparse white E. P. Fibers

Thorax: Black Rabbit dubbing

Retrieving my rod from the car, which by the way, was a nine-foot, five-weight with a six weight line – way too heavy for low-water fall fishing in most people’s minds – more on that later; I walked over, stood at the water’s edge, since wading is prohibited in this area, and started casting and observing. I had a small audience by now, another fellow had joined Ed, Jim, and Bruce. Working the first trout I saw rising, he came up with a nice swirl, but missed the fly. A minute or so later, I hooked the first one. I landed and released that one, and I rose and stung a second trout in short order. Even though there really was not a major rise in process, Jim commented, “These fish must be looking for those spinners.” Surely, Jim was correct; the trout have had Trico spinners on the daily menu for a few weeks already. Trico hatch number two in the fall begins fifty-nine days following the emergence and mating of the first Tricos in July.

A few minutes after my first trout, I hooked and landed another. I rose two more, then Bruce asked, “Where are we gonna fish this afternoon?”

“We can go below Bellefonte if you want to,” I replied. We made arrangements to go downstream, below town, just below the entry of a small tributary named Buffalo Run.

The Afternoon Fishing:

We parked our vehicles and got out. I spent the first half-hour sitting and talking with Ed on a convenient stream-side bench, catching up on things, watching the water for rises. Saw none. Bruce hooked a couple trout on nymphs at the head of the pool. After a while, I started fishing with that Trico spinner anyway, thinking I might interest a fish or two. I know, using a Trico as an attractor or search pattern isn’t high on most angler’s list of regular tactics, but that’s what I did. To no avail. Jim hooked a trout or two on nymphs.

After about an hour, Ed departed and the three of us walked downstream to the old bridge abutment near the sewage treatment plant. By then I figured if I was going to catch any more fish, I better rig up with nymphs again. So I did. I tried a pink San Juan Worm, but in a few minutes lost the whole rig on brush that hung out from the bridge abutment. When I re-rigged, I put the same fly on, but in wine color. Hooked a nice, acrobatic rainbow about thirteen inches in length, who stayed on long enough to give me some action, complete with a couple jumps. Then he got off, saving me the trouble of getting my hands wet. About 4:40 PM Jim and I decided to head upstream, to catch up with Bruce who had started fishing his way upstream a half-hour or so earlier. He had not done a thing. The three of us were ready to call it a day.

The Finale:

When we got below the long, flat pool above an island, we saw rises. Quite a few of them, stretched out over a couple hundred feet of the length of the pool. Bruce asked, “What do you think they’re takin’?”

“My best guess is blue-wing olives,” I replied. “The light is less intense, we’ve had a bit of cloud cover this afternoon, and they’re the bug in season,” I added. We decided we could not walk away from this potentially entertaining opportunity. We went along the railroad tracks some distance, to a spot just below the middle of the pool, and I sat down to detach my nymph rig. Removing shot, indicator, and nymph, I tied on a section of 6x tippet, and then knotted a dark-bodied BWO Thorax Dun pattern, #20 to the tippet. The wing was gray E. P Fibers with a dark dun hackle, clipped on the bottom.

Bruce entered the water below some rising fish. I chose to stay on the bank, kneeling or sitting as I targeted some rising trout close to shore. After some futile attempts at these fish, which were in very shallow water, I decided to move upstream, above Bruce, where the water was deeper, hoping for better luck. Here’s where my nine-foot, five-weight rod with six-weight line came in handy again. Some of the trout were rising against the far side. The railroad tracks were behind us, so there was unlimited back casting room. Unlike Jim and Bruce, I stayed on the bank. Working a few trout, soon I hooked and landed one in the middle of the stream. Eventually I was targeting the trout rising along the far side. The nice thing about the heavier rod and line: I could pick up the entire line, make one back cast, and one stroke forward – and be right back on target. No stripping, no unnecessary false casting, no having to reset my accuracy and distance to the target. This tactic makes for more effective and more efficient fishing, simply because your fly spends more time on the water and less time in the air. And this was possible with the heavier rod and line, despite the fact that I was making fifty-to-sixty foot casts. I learned that earlier last year one day on Spring Creek in the Paradise, when the wind was gusty and brisk. My companions (all using three and four weights) wondered how I could cast so easily in the wind, even to rising trout against the opposite bank. Remember too, that with the addition of a couple feet of 6x tippet, my leader was probably fourteen feet long. I hooked and landed two fish, lost another one, and had four more miss the fly. Bruce and Jim each took fish as well, we were all using various BWO dry patterns. What a great way to close the day of a fine fishing trip!

When we returned to our cars, as we were taking our boots and waders off, Bruce got a cellphone call from Ed. He had gone to Fly Fisher’s Paradise Fly Shop in State College. The fishing report from every angler coming into the shop was: everyone was skunked. And Bruce questioned again Ed to make sure, there were no reports of other anglers taking any trout that day. That made us all feel even better. It’s especially rewarding to be able to catch trout under adverse conditions and circumstances. The best part of the day was not the fishing, it was the camaraderie, the great lunch, and the promise among us all to do it again.

Potato Salad Recipe:

My wife, Lou Anne, made potato salad from a recipe. And it was really good, heavily spiced with crushed dill. But I seldom use a recipe for most of my cooking, unless I’m preparing a dish where exacting recipe components and quantities are necessary. When I make potato salad, macaroni salad, pasta salad, etc., depending on how much I make, I always estimate or “eyeball” the amount of the spices, seasonings, and dressing.

This can be made in as small or as large of a batch as you desire, from a few servings, or perhaps where some leftovers are desired, to a large casserole dish for a family or church picnic.

Use any kind of potato. It’s even OK to mix varieties, a few red skinned taters add color. Three to ten potatoes will make a small to a large batch, depending on the size of your taters. Wash them of course, but I do not peel them. Dice into bite-size pieces. Cook 10 to 11 minutes. You can taste if you like. They’ve got to be done, but not Al dente, nor do you want them mushy. Drain. Use two to four hard-boiled eggs.

1/2 to a whole white or sweet onion (more for a larger batch), diced, red onion may also be used

Two to three stalks celery (more for a larger batch), diced

I like to saute` my onions and celery in butter or light olive oil until they begin to caramelize. These are added to the cooked potatoes. If you want to skip this step, simply pour the hot potatoes on top of the diced celery and onion in a dish and leave at room temperature. The heat from the potatoes will soften the onions and celery somewhat, but I prefer the added flavor from the caramelized vegetables.

Seasonings to taste:

Primarily you’ll need mayonnaise, 1/2 to 1-1/2 cups, depending on the size of your batch. It’s best to add some gradually and mix it in, then you can usually see if more is needed. I don’t like soppy potato salad.

Additionally you’ll need: Salt, pepper, crushed dill, garlic powder (not garlic salt which is mostly salt!), or garlic and rosemary ground mix, and paprika. A little rosemary by itself is also good. I also add one to three tablespoons of vinegar, sometimes adding and mixing it to a small bit of Italian dressing, like when the bottle is about empty. Pout the whole blend over the salad, I generally do this before adding the mayo. Also, a little mustard can be added, either yellow, Djion, spicy brown, or a horseradish mustard. Another nice variation is to add some blue cheese crumbles to the potato salad. I dice my eggs and mix them throughout, but one could also slice them and arrange them on top. Paprika sprinkled on the finished salad is a nice touch. The same basic recipe can be used for macaroni salad. You can eat it fresh made, but it’s always better after it has had time to steep in the fridge. Enjoy!

Mustang Sally

I have been wanting to notify everyone of a situation affecting my blog. I mentioned a while back that I was having some technical, electronic problem with my camera. It was still working, but the selective shutter and exposure options were somehow compromised and worked intermittently at best. I was, at times, stirred up enough to be tempted to perform some percussive maintenance on it, you know, whack it with a hammer to “get it going again.” Sometimes that works, like in The Empire Strikes Back, when Han Solo whams his fist against a bulkhead in the Millenium Falcon, which gets the engines going after a faltering start.

Early last week I completed an order of a half dozen #4 Cheney Bass Flies and a half dozen #6 and #8 Puffer Trout Flies. Both of these flies are historic patterns dating from the 1800’s. The customer happens to own an antique brass-faced Hardy Perfect reel with A. N. Cheney’s name engraved on it, hence his interest in these two particular patterns. The accounts of Cheney’s connections to these flies is recorded in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, pp. 349-350, and 402. Eventually I’ll do that post, combining photos of these patterns along with Cheney’s old Hardy reel owned by my customer. In the meantime I’m ordering a new camera.

Here is what happened to throw a wrench in the works: When I was getting ready to photograph the flies, I placed my Canon G9 camera on the edge of a TV tray (that’s my high-tech studio set-up photo image platform), and walked away. THUD! I turned around and the camera was on the hardwood floor. I picked it up and set it back on the TV tray, really thinking nothing of it. I mean, it only fell a little over two feet. Then I went about doing something else for a few minutes. When I turned the camera on, the lens extended, but I had no image on the view screen. Then it beeped like never before, next I got this message on the screen: “Lens error. Restart camera.” Which I did. Multiple times, to no avail. The lens would not retract when I turned it on and off. I took the battery in and out a few times. I even tried a little percussive maintenance to get it going again, to no avail. So apparently my camera is history.

Mustang Sally – a great song written and recorded in 1965 by Mack Rice. Course, we all know Mustang Sally gained greater popularity in 1966 in the single release by Wilson Pickett and on his album, The Wicked Pickett. Besides being a fly tier, I’m also a musician and I’m into music trivia. Here’s more interesting info from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustang_Sally_%28song%29

Here is a great black and white, 1960’s TV video version of Wilson Pickett performing Mustang Sally live:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfuHgzu1Cjg

It’s authentic and live alright, one of the horns is occasionally a tad out of tune, and there’s even a short trumpet mistake note at the end. Why Mustang Sally? Well, I wanted to write something to let everyone know why there has not been any new photo posts here recently, and why there won’t be for a little while longer yet. Though I do have some archived photos. Now I get to the point.

Combining the recent post about my renewed interest in playing and upgrading my drum set; I went to a local bar last Sunday evening, called The Crippled Bear. They have a covered outdoor pavilion and have bands every Sunday night, all summer long, until the end of September. A local classic rock band called Flipside was playing. I had seen them a month ago at the same place and enjoyed them very much. I knew some of the members from local 1960’s bands when I started playing in a band with my brother, Larry, in junior and senior high school. A connection here between fly tying and playing drums is that I started doing both at about the same time in my life, 1964, in the summer after my fifth grade year. I knew the drummer in Flipside, one of them anyway, since I later found out this band uses four or five different drummers; on this night it was Mike Mummey. After not seeing him for thirty-four years I had to tell him who I was after I said, “Hi, Mike,” and after his courteous reply with no reaction of recognition to me, I then asked, “You don’t remember me do you?”

“No.” He replied. When I announced my name, it was a typical hearty handshake and greeting that one would expect after years of not seeing one another. At the end of a brief conversation, he asked, “You wanna play?”

I answered, “Yeah, if you don’t mind, that’d be kinda cool!” We made arrangements for me to do Mustang Sally, since he sings the lead on that and could front the band on the vocal. There were a few of my friends there, but I didn’t tell anyone in advance. They called me up in the middle of the third set, at which point in the evening most of the patrons were, shall we say, really enjoying themselves. It was great! Mike counted us off, and Mustang Sally came to life. Took me a verse to get into the groove and settle into a relaxed mode of playing, but it was wonderful to play in front of a crowd again! The acoustic guitarist, Rock Anello, took me under his wing and cued me to the breaks, they more or less follow The Commitments version on that aspect, which was a good thing since I never performed that song in my life. Though as a drummer, back in the day, all I ever did to learn a song was to keep listening to it. The performance comes when you sit down at the drum set. There were no horns, but the keyboard player used the digitized note settings to fill them in. With double lead guitars, a hot lead guitar solo was inserted in the middle of the song for an entire verse. The dance floor was full, the band was good, and it was really fun! After the break, Shane Wittman, the keyboard / guitarist / lead vocalist / bandleader told me I did a good job and would be welcome to sit in anytime. Most likely I’ll be looking up their playing schedule and take them up on it.

The Liar’s Bench at The Angler’s Nook, Shushan, New York

I received a fly order from a customer in Delaware last month. Our back-and-forth e-mail correspondence eventually turned his initial dozen-and-a-half order for my Floating Caddis / Mayfly Emerger into a very sizeable order, as he kept adding more patterns until his order reached ten dozen, including some sulfur Comparaduns and Thorax Duns, and a few dozen of a pattern by Jim Slattery, originator of the Stimulator, called the Triple Threat Caddis. Here’s a link to Fly Angler’s On Line (FAOL) with that pattern: http://www.flyanglersonline.com/flytying/fotw2/091304fotw.php

The TTC, as I call it, while I’ve never fished it, looks like a great pattern. I’m definitely going to tie some up for my personal fly box. And I had fun tying it. I did them for my customer in tan with orange thread as the FAOL article suggests, a ginger-brown version, and olive. Anyway, to The Liar’s Bench at the Angler’s Nook. My customer in Delaware and I have been in contact and he has sent me some photos. One from earlier this past week caught my attention because of the names painted on the wall. This was all new to me, but I recognized a couple names in the photograph. Investigation that I’ve done led me to this post on Sparse Gray Matter: http://www.sparsegreymatter.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1421

Here is why this simple contact for a fly order morphed and grew into a fascinating bit of fly fishing nostalgia. The photo sent to me by my customer in Delaware is something that I have not been able to find on line, that is, a photograph of The Liar’s Bench at The Angler’s Nook, which was George Schlotter’s fly shop in Shushan, New York. Originally the shop was owned by Ralph Entwhistle. Two names jumped out at me: Lew Oatman, who lived in Shushan, creator of numerous baitfish streamer imitations, including one of my all-time favorite streamer fly patterns – the Brook Trout, sometimes called the Little Brook Trout, and John Atherton. Here is a link to the Brook Trout tied by Chris Del Plato, along with several of Lew Oatman’s other original patterns. https://sites.google.com/site/cdelplato/lewoatmanpatterns

John Atherton, 1900-1952, is the author of The Fly and the Fish, published in 1951. Here is a link to a site with detailed information about John Atherton: http://www.sullivangoss.com/john_Atherton/

Atherton was a very talented artist as well as a fly tier, angler, and author. I encourage you to read the information about his life, it is fascinating. One of his famous award-winning paintings, The Black Horse, hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. John Atherton had more than one-hundred covers published on The Saturday Evening Post.

Here is the photo sent to me by my customer in Delaware. He and his family visited there and he fished the Battenkill River as a young man. The photo was taken in the 1970’s. Don’t forget folks, you can click your mouse on the image to view an enlarged version.

The Battenkill - The Angler's Nook Liar's Bench

The Battenkill – The Angler’s Nook – Liar’s Bench. Photo courtesy of Richard Gordon. Chris Del Plato informed me that Al Prindle was the Shushan Postmaster, for whom Lew Oatman’s pattern of the same name was created.

The remaining names on the bench did not turn up anything on a google search, but I only checked the first page that came up. I’m sure there are some folks who might be familiar with them. Possibly author Mike Valla, who spent some time in The Angler’s Nook, can shed some light on the remaining names. I am very pleased that my customer gave his permission to post this photo. As I noted, I failed to find a single image online of this particular Liar’s Bench. Most of them led to various bars and pubs across the country with this name. Thank you Richard, for sending the photo. This is an incredible bit of fly fishing history for the Vermont – New York area.

An edit with additional information: The comment below posted by Chris Del Plato corrected my original statement (edited above to reflect the correct info) that Lew was the postmaster in Shushan. Chris informed me that Al Prindle was the Shushan Postmaster. If I had looked this up in Joseph Bates Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, 1966, 1996, I would have read this: “This bucktail (Shushan Postmaster) was originated by Lew Oatman of Shushan, New York, about 1953 and named for the postmaster of the town (Al Prindle), who was one of Lew’s favorite fishing companions on the Battenkill River, which flows from Vermont into New York state.” Thanks Chris!

Another edit: Rich Norman, in the comments below, corrected the name Peggy as the family dog.

Additionally, I found a photo of a Normal Rockwell cover painting from The Saturday Evening Post. Subsequent research that I did, again sparked by information provided by Chris Del Plato, led me to discover that Al Prindle was the subject of at least two Norman Rockwell paintings. This one is titled “Catching the Big One” though I read online that the original title was “Fishing Lesson.” It was the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in on August 3, 1929.

Catching the Big One - painting by Norman Rockwell. This was originally titled Fishing Lesson. Al Prindle,the postmaster in Shushan, New York, for whom Lew Oatman's Sunshan Postmaster fly was named, was the subject for the painting.

“Catching the Big One” – painting by Norman Rockwell. This was originally titled “Fishing Lesson.” Al Prindle, the postmaster in Shushan, New York, for whom Lew Oatman’s Shushan Postmaster fly was named, was the subject for the painting. This photo came from http://www.rockwellplates.com.

Spring Creek Trout Unlimited Chapter Stream Project

This is a report on a recent stream improvement project from the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited, based in Centre County, Pennsylvania. The Chapter recently completed this project on the lower end of Spring Creek, very near its confluence with Bald Eagle Creek at Milesburg.There will also be another project to plant trees, the information is included in this post. I took the information from an e-mail sent by Chapter Vice-president, Robert Vierck. The following is from Bob’s Chapter e-mail notice:

The construction phase of the Lower McCoy Bank Stabilization and Buffer Buddies program was completed on June 25th – on time and within budget.  This is due to all the efforts that our volunteers put into this project – really well done with great cooperation from all. Some information:

1.  We had a total of 18 volunteers on June 24, and 17 volunteers on June 25.

2.  We were able to complete 95% of the construction of the mud-sill on Monday with final rock placement this morning, (on July 3rd).

3.  We installed 5 multi-log vane deflectors using 25 ‘ logs today, (July 3rd), before we broke for lunch.

4.  A total of 160 tons of #6 Limestone rock was used to stabilize the stream between the two locations.

4.  We planted grass seed and covered it with straw.

5.  The final seeding was extremely wet as the storms came – but some valiant volunteers finished the seeding.

6.  The deflectors and mud-sill stood up very well in spite of being tested extensively by a major storm on June 27th.

Here are some of the photos from the Chapter e-mail:

Spring Creek, in I believe, the project area before work was started.

Spring Creek, at Milesburg, Pennsylvania – in the project area before work was started.

The project included a hands-on youth session.

The project included a hands-on youth session. Here a chapter member looks on as some participants “catch bugs.”

Informal session on aquatic entomology.

Informal stream side session on aquatic entomology.

Checking out that fly rod!

Checking out that fly rod grip.

Work progresses for the installation of a log vein.

Work progresses for the installation of a log vein. I believe there were also personnel from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

This was a very successful project. We were able to construct the longest mud-sill to date on Spring Creek, and install five multi-log vane deflectors in two-and-a-half day’s work. On July 3rd we actually watched a fly fisherman catch a nice brown trout behind a rock next to the new mud-sill.

Included here are some of the Chapter photos of the project.

More are available on our Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/springcreektu and on the home page of our website – http://springcreektu.org/

Still working on that log vein installation...

Still working on that log vein installation…the large hand-drills are used to drill through the logs for placement of steel re-bars to anchor the logs to the stream bed.

Looking

Looking downstream toward part of the project area.

Upstream view

Upstream view at a log vein site. There is a second log vein upstream, just to the left of the utility poles on the right-hand bank, and a third one, submerged between the two.

Area of limestone rock rip-rap.

Area of limestone rock rip-rap, looking upstream from the bridge at the park in Milesburg. The ground has been seeded and mulched with straw. This will help to secure the stream bank and greatly reduce erosion. The submerged rocks also provide cover for trout and habitat for aquatic insects.

Once again, thanks to all of our volunteers.  We are now planning the planting stages….keep tuned.

October 7th & 8th our chapter will need 15 volunteers to assist in the planting of trees and shrubs in Milesburg. The in-stream work is complete. Now we need to do the planting along the bank. We will be obtaining the plants and other materials from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. At present we are awaiting contract approval from the landowner – FirstEnergy.  The above dates are tentative, pending approval from FirstEnergy.

 

To volunteer contact Bob Vierck   (vpres@springcreetu.org) or call: 814-360-3702, or e-mail Jim Lanning (jlanning@ncikrg.org)

I’d like to add that this project is great news. it is sure to enhance the fishing in this section of stream. In fact the last several years have seen good developments for Spring Creek and increased and enhanced angling opportunities. In 2007 the old McCoy dam below Bellefonte was removed, and the Spring Creek Trout Unlimited Chapter and PA Fish and Boat Commission work installed log veins and stream improvement devices in that section. The dam removal opened up to fishing a new stretch of about one-quarter mile that was formerly inundated with water. The McCoy dam had been in place since the late 1700’s. The three-mile stretch of Spring Creek between Bellefonte and Milesburg is a great summer fishing location. Even in the hottest weather the water temperature seldom exceeds sixty degrees in this stretch because of the influx of cold water from the big spring in down town Bellefonte.

The PA Fish and Boat Commission also opened to wading the upper section of Fisherman’s Paradise, just two years ago. This is above the park area and upper parking lot where the grass in mowed. This section was always difficult to fish because of the trees, brush, and no wading law. Additionally the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institute at Rockview opened up the formerly closed to trespassing “canyon” stretch of Spring Creek between the Paradise and Benner Springs. Finally, a formerly closed-to-fishing section in downtown Bellefonte was also opened to fishing. The new water is between the High Street and Lamb Street bridges, if you don’t mind fishing “in town.” In all, these combined changes have added almost a mile of “new” fishing water to Spring Creek. And the entire section of open, accessible water on Spring Creek is all Catch-and-Release. It is one of the best wild brown trout fisheries in the state of Pennsylvania. Give it a try!

Barnes Special Streamers – One Dozen

The Barnes Special is a classic Maine streamer pattern that was among six featured on my 2007 DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. http://www.myflies.com/DVD-Traditional-Streamers-and-Bucktails-P622.aspx

I recently got a custom order from MyFlies.com http://www.myflies.com/Don-Bastians-Custom-Fly-Orders-P750.aspx

for a dozen Barnes Special streamers for a fellow heading to Maine later this month. I also tied the Barnes Special for Streamers365.com. There are several archived posts here featuring the Barnes Special, (you can go to the search tab and type the name in, then hit “enter” and locate the older posts), but I thought the new and different twist with this post would be to show the completed order of a dozen streamers. And I also decided to add the photos of the completed bodies, something I generally do when tying streamers of the same pattern, make the bodies ahead of time as part of a separate production run.

Here are the bodies:

A dozen streamer hooks, sizes #4 and #6, "bodied up" ready for tcompletion of the rest of the pattern. The hooks are Gaelic Supreme Rangeley style streamers,

A dozen streamer hooks, sizes #4 and #6, “bodied up” and ready for completion of the rest of the pattern. The hooks are 8x long Gaelic Supreme Rangeley style streamers. The tail is two paired jungle cock body feathers, as ore the original recipe by C. Lowell Barnes, a Maine guide in the Sebago Lake region.

The bodies were whip finished and head cemented. Here are the dozen patterns, placed pretty much as I dropped them in preparation for insertion into plastic sleeves.

One dozen Barnes Special streamers, sizes #4 and #6.

One dozen Barnes Special streamers, sizes #4 and #6. Tied by Don Bastian.

I have posted the recipe on the archived topics with this pattern, but I have included the recipe here as well.

Barnes Special

Hook: 6x or 8x long streamer hook

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red; black or any color may be used for the bodies.

Tail: Two jungle cock body feathers, paired, just a tad over the hook gap in length

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Underwing: Sparse red bucktail followed by sparse white bucktail, to end of tail or a very short distance past tail

Wing: Two yellow hackles flanked on each side by two grizzly hackles

Hackle: White, tied as a collar

Head: Red

The heads have four coats of clear ProLak cement, though I sometimes use a single coat of Wapsi Red lacquer coated with clear lacquer. The yellow hackles were selected from a saddle and the grizzly hackles came from a cape (or neck). The tinsel body is medium sized Mylar, double-wound by starting at the head, winding back, then forward. This provides better coverage and is more durable. The white collar hackles were made from schlappen feathers, using the tip sections, chosen for proper barb length. Schlappen feathers are great for this because of their very small stem diameter and flexibility, and also the softness and webbing of the barbs. When tying this and other streamer patterns with bucktail bellies or underwings, it’s best to keep the hair sparse. Here is a macro of a single fly:

Barnes Special, size #4 - 8x long. All flies tied by and photographed by Don Bastian.

Barnes Special, size #4 – 8x long. All flies tied by and photographed by Don Bastian.

The Barnes Special is still a very popular streamer pattern in Maine. These are going to a customer in Wisconsin, who is heading to Maine later this month. I wish him luck and success with these streamers!

One final group shot, set up in nice rows:

One dozen Barnes Special streamers - sizes #4 and #6.

One dozen Barnes Special streamers – sizes #4 and #6.

Thank you for the order Scott! Tight lines on your trip!

Hacklebarney Trout Unlimited Chapter Meeting

This coming Thursday evening, September 12th at 7:30 PM, I am presenting a program at the Hacklebarney Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Whippany, New Jersey. This is the first chapter meeting after summer vacation. I am presenting my program on Fly Fishing the Moosehead Lake Region of Maine. The public is invited. For more information and directions, please check their website: http://www.hacklebarneytu.org/

I’ll have some display flies, featuring Carrie Stevens Rangeley style streamers, some fishing flies for sale, some collectible wet flies available to purchase, along with my DVD’s. Hope to see you there!