Fly Tying Classes – Eldredge Brothers, Cape Neddick, Maine

Hi everyone! Following a very successful class in March of 2013 at Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop in Cape Neddick, Maine, that filled to capacity a couple weeks after being announced, shop manager, Jim Bernstein has invited me back again this year. Two class dates are set:

Saturday, March 15, 2014 and

Sunday March 16, 2014.

The Saturday class topic is classic wet flies and will feature the heritage patterns of 19th century Maine Lake Flies, such as the Belgrade, Rangeley, Richardson, Cupsuptic, Parmacheene Belle, etc. The class will include tying patterns on eyed hooks, which became popular in the mid-1890’s, as well as dressing a fly or two on a classic blind-eye hook using both a gut snood and a snell.

Sunday’s class will focus on classic Maine feather-wing streamers and will include traditional Eastern styles of tying, with a special feature of two Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, presenting her unique Rangeley method of streamer construction, combined with my personal adaptations (for starters, unlike Carrie Stevens, I use a vise). Full details of her methods using information from classic streamer guru, Mike Martinek, Jr., and Austin Hogan’s  notes on his deconstruction of Carrie’s flies will be included.

Here is a link to the class information on the Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop site:

http://eldredgeflyshop.com/seminars

For additional information feel free to contact the shop or me directly at: dwbastian@chilitech.net

Fly Tying Classes

Fly tying classes have been around for some time, but not for a long time. If you have more than a couple decades or half-a-lifetime or most of your life, of fly tying experience, then perhaps you’ve heard stories how fly tying used to be, back in the old days, somewhat of a closely guarded profession, secrets were kept, even though there were a few books written on the subject. Back in the early 1930’s Walt and Winnie Dette, famous Catskill fly tying husband and wife team, asked Ruben Cross, author of Tying American Trout Lures, 1936, to teach them how to tie flies. They offered Rube the tidy sum of $50 in return for lessons, which at that time, considering it was the Great Depression, was more than pocket change. Their request  was met with Rube’s terse reply, “Go to hell.” Undaunted, the Dette’s bought some of Rube’s flies, carefully took them apart, made notes, and taught themselves how to tie flies. The rest of that chapter is history.

Back in 1964 when I started tying flies, my dad showed my brother and I how to get started; a short lesson consisting of dad tying three flies, then giving all his tying tools and materials to Larry and I. We progressed for several years tying and trying, using the instructions in Ray Bergman’s Trout and the brief chapter titled, On Tying Flies, and How to Tie Flies, by E. C. Gregg, 1940. Fly tying lessons were slow to catch on in the late 1960’s and through the ’70’s. Nowadays, many fly shops have in-house demos and lessons and there is a plethora of fly tying videos on the market. And then there is the internet; forums, online how-to articles, and you tube videos of tying hundreds of fly patterns. There are many fly tying “arm-chair experts” out there, some qualified, some, well… Considering the wealth of available fly tying information, still, the best learning source is to take a class with an experienced, professional, accomplished fly tier who knows their work and also has an ability to teach and has appropriate organizational and instructional skills to lead a class.

DVD’s are great, but when I started teaching fly tying lessons twenty-eight years ago, I learned that even “professional” fly tying instructors are not always the best teachers. How did I learn this? I learned it over time from my students, and also from people that stopped by my tables at fly tying shows, where I have presented and demonstrated for over twenty years. Repeated questions on a number of tying topics convinced me that many fly tying instructors take too much for granted in their students, they assume knowledge and / or a level experience that may not be what they believe. My definition of a professional fly tier is one who has several notches in their gun belt. More on those “notches” in a few moments.

Whether one should take a fly tying class or not is a question that perhaps you have pondered. I started tying in 1964, and never actually took a fly tying class until I was working for Cathy and Barry Beck. Barry suggested I sit in on a class being taught by the late, great Jack Gartside.The next step for me was to serve as assistant instructor in a class taught by Barry Beck. Prior to these early 1990’s class sessions with the Beck’s, in 1985 I organized a new format for a beginner’s fly tying class for my local Trout Unlimited Chapter in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. I found out the chapter formerly conducted fly tying classes, but they had not been held after I joined in 1974. I served as class coordinator for these classes, and several chapter members who were also experienced fly tiers participated as teachers and assistants. Extra help can be a good thing and is generally beneficial, but oftentimes, there are some personal preferences and variations in individual fly tying habits that can be passed to the students by well-meaning assistants. Favorite methods of one person are not necessarily those of another. This can also be a good thing, I’m all for presenting multiple methods of skinning the cat, but there is also the possibility that the assistants can inadvertently contradict what the head instructor is teaching, and in the end, this can be confusing to the students. Good organization is key.

I heard a piece of fly tying class news over the past weekend at the International Fly Tying Symposium, which is not uncommon, but what I heard from a former student in a particular fly tying instructor’s recent class made me think that perhaps a bit of advice from a veteran fly tying instructor might be a good thing to pass along, especially if you or anyone you know is considering taking a fly tying class. The particular class report I heard was that in a three-hour session, the students did not even complete one fly. Aside from being a little bit dumbfounded, all I will say about that is: “Something’s wrong with this picture.” I was informed about this because by comparison, last winter I taught a streamer class to that same group, we completed six patterns in seven hours, including a break for lunch. We also dressed two Carrie Stevens streamer patterns using her unique Rangeley style material placements and her methods of streamer fly tying / wing assembly. I held that same class twice with the same rate of progress, twenty students in all. I know for a fact, based on my twenty-eight years of fly tying instruction experience, that I could easily finish two or three streamers with six to twelve students in three hours. So…if one is considering taking a fly tying class, here are my recommendations; referencing the aforementioned “notches” in a potential fly tying instructor’s gun belt:

1) Fly Tying Experience – the more the better. A qualified instructor has more than a few years, I’m talking decades of fly tying experience. If taking advanced classes, one ought not be able to count the potential tying instructor’s years of experience on the fingers of one hand. Intermediate tiers can teach others the basics of beginning and intermediate fly tying. Regardless of that, the best fly tying instructors have twenty, thirty, forty or more years of experience in fly tying no matter what the subject matter.

2) Fly Tying Teaching Experience – like number one, the more the better. A good instructor for teaching advanced fly tying patterns and methods should be one who has taught classes for at least ten years. That said, there are a few fly tiers who have excelled in a particular style of tying in a relatively short period of time. Pat Cohen of New York, a deer hair master with only about five years of tying experience, comes to mind. A good instructor can plan the class itinerary, stick to it, proceed at a comfortable pace, and get the lessons across without leaving any student lingering for lack of understanding the material and methods being presented. The instructor should also be skilled enough to plan for contingency variations, often tailoring specific tying procedures to the students needs or requests.

3) Teaching Ability – differs from teaching experience. Tenure does not necessarily translate to good instruction. A good fly tying instructor knows threads, deniers, and applications, and also should know, for example, the reason and explanation why left-handed fly tiers often have trouble with fraying threads. A good class instructor will be able to have his students learn in a relaxed atmosphere, and be able to answer their questions and help them trouble-shoot any problems they may be having. A good instructor can present each pattern and material usage and tying method and application in a manner that is easily understood by all the students, without skimming over or skipping significant details. This is more common that you might think; much of my personal teaching methods and instruction style is very detail-oriented; the result of fielding questions from fly tiers who have taken other classes and came away, shall we say, less than completely satisfied.

4) Versatility – a good fly tying instructor for advanced classes is one who has pretty much achieved a personal level of mastery of a particular group or groups of fly patterns and tying styles. Catskill Drys for example. If one ties and fishes only drys, then there’s not much point learning how to tie saltwater flies. But the more accomplished a fly tying instructor is, the better teacher they can be. Even though as an instructor I admit willingly to still being on the learning curve, as we all are. A good fly tying instructor knows wet flies, streamers, bucktails, dry flies, saltwater flies, and possibly hairwing salmon flies; these are basically bucktails and wet flies combined; a smidgin of bass bug information and maybe a little deer-hair spinning, and one or more sub-categories within each group. Full-dress salmon flies are a nice notch to have in one’s gun belt, but are not essential to being a good qualified fly tying instructor.

5) Knowledge and Ability – a good fly tying instructor knows how and why things work the way they do, and knows how to explain and teach methods that enable students to learn “how and why,” so the students can progress, learn, and make things work as they should.

6) References – last but not least, a good fly tying instructor will provide references of their past teaching experiences from a number of sources; venues, shops, and locations. References from former students and fly tying clubs should also be readily available. And it goes without saying, these should be good references.

Watch this blog for upcoming class schedules. I’ll be at a location in Massachusetts in February, and Maine in March. Possibly a few more locations. Details to be announced!

International Fly Tying Symposium This Weekend

The International Fly Tying Symposium will be held this weekend in Somerset, New Jersey, at the Garden State Exhibit Center. The show hotel is the nearby Doubletree.

Here is a link containing information to the Fly Tying Symposium: http://www.internationalflytyingsymposium.com/

I am displaying and demonstrating at the Symposium this weekend, concentrating on the tying and teaching of Rangeley style streamers, featuring some patterns of Carrie Stevens; classic wet flies, both 19th and 20th century versions – four styles of mounting wet fly wings, and also some blind-eye 19th century patterns, particularly a few of the large fancy Lake and Bass flies. I’ve been tying primarily at shows lately on Mustad #4 and #2 wet fly hooks. Be sure to ask about my “new,” to me, and you too, probably, and greatly improved over all others, wet fly wing mounting method, thanks to my friend Dave Lomasney of York, Maine. I also promised to my readers to demo my method for mounting duck breast feathers for fan wing dry fly patterns. If anyone is interested I can tie a Fan Wing Royal Coachman start to finish.

I’m excited to present (for me anyway, and probably other tiers too), for the first time in public, the historically correct pattern version, every component correct according to originator Henry Wells, of the Parmacheene Belle, famous Maine Lake Fly dating to the year of its origin, approximately 1876. The complete accurate recipe for this fly was recorded in Wells’ chapter titled Fly Fishing the Rangeley Lakes Region in C. F. Orvis and A. N. Cheney’s 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly. Maybe it’s not significant to some, but I finally got hold of some yellow mohair dubbing, which is the original body material, and the color closely matches my photos of one-hundred-twenty year old Parmacheene Belles taken from the Orvis collection at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I have a #1/0 bronze hook Parmacheene Belle tied on a gut snell with a bite guard. Stop by and check it out! It is interesting that the Orvis version of Wells’ famous pattern was created with a married half-red, half-white wing, not the original white-with-red-stripe married wing. Perhaps they developed an easier-to-tie commercial version.

Another author got Well’s mohair body incorrect in a 1950 book by calling for a yellow palmered hackle on a yellow wool or floss body. He likely relied on the painted image in Marbury’s book for his interpretation, because the original mounted fly patterns from her book were not discovered until the 1970’s in the old Orvis fly tying barn in Manchester, Vermont. The fish more likely than not probably don’t care, but I believe strongly in ascertaining historic fly pattern ingredient correctness, whenever possible. My photo of the original Plate Fly of No. 60, the Parmacheene Belle from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, will be available on my table through the wonders of a lap-top computer, which will be running an on-going slide show of more than two hundred images of the actual plate flies from Marbury’s book.

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

Parmacheene Belle, Lake Fly from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I have posted this image previously, but I felt its inclusion here would enhance this post. Note the red and white wing, not Well’s original white wing with red stripe.

Below is an image of the cousin to the Parmacheene Belle, the Parmacheene Beau, which according to Marbury, Henry Wells had nothing to do with. It is surprising that the Parmacheene Beau is included on the Orvis Display, considering her rather derogatory remarks about “the Beau” in her book.

Parmacheene Beau,

Parmacheene Beau, Lake Fly, from the 1893 Orvis Display. Note the scarlet “split” or stripe. The mohair body is more noticeable here, and the tinsel tag is visible; it is there on the Parmacheene Belle, but not visible due to poor lighting. Both these hooks are large, No. 1, 1/0, possibly 2/0.

I’m also on the Saturday evening banquet program, for a short, humorous, musical presentation. Hope to see new and old friends this weekend! Tight threads everyone!

Cementing Streamer Wings – Tutorial

In response to a good question on the comment thread to yesterday’s post on streamer wing cementing methods by one of my subscribers, I answered his questions with a lengthy explanation on my cementing methods. I decided to add that to the tail end of yesterday’s post. I thought the information was significant and possibly helpful enough to add it to that post. And I also included a link to an older post some of you may not have seen; it explains Carrie Stevens’ layering method of stacking or “shingling” the throat hackle fibers, as my friend Mike Martinek, Jr., calls it, and also my (and other fly tiers) method of tapering the butt ends of the feathers in the wing assembly, something that I borrowed from my early years of wet fly tying, tapering the butt ends of the wing quill with your scissors so you can make a nice, evenly tapered head.

Rubber Cementing Streamer Wings

OK folks, I thought I would share an update on the use of Rubber Cement, Elmer’s specifically, for use on cementing streamer wing components together as pioneered by Carrie Stevens in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. Carrie was a milliner by trade, and she began tying flies in 1920, after being gifted with some long shank hooks, bucktails, and feathers by Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler, a family friend and fishing guide client of her husband, Wallace. Shang gave Carrie the materials and encouraged her, probably saying something like, “Why don’t you give this a shot?” The rest is history. Carrie’s Gray Ghost streamer, nearly eighty years after its creation, remains as the pinnacle streamer fly above all others created before or since. It is still sold in fly shops and fishing stores across the state of Maine and New England, because it catches fish. The Gray Ghost is likely to remain where it is, in its proper place of unchallenged prominence as the most famous streamer fly ever created.

Gray Ghost Streamer, from Streamers365.com, tied by Don Bastian. Photograph by Daren MacEachern, owner of Streamers365.com.

Gray Ghost Streamer from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photographed by Darren MacEachern, site originator and owner of Streamers365.com. Interesting to note, the head on this fly was painted, as opposed to my proprietary method later developed to band the heads solely with actual thread colors. I say proprietary because I do this differently than Carrie Stevens did. The wing color on this fly is very similar to some of the bronze-colored hackle feather examples of Mrs. Stevens own Gray Ghosts that are photographed in the book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Stackpole Press, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard.

Carrie cemented her wing components together; wing hackles, shoulders of various feathers, and jungle cock cheeks, using a type of cement or thick varnish. Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, was probably the first modern streamer tier to implement cemented wing components into his replications of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. Mike was mentored by Austin S. Hogan when he was a young man. Austin was the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, besides being a noted fly tier and angling historian. On one occasion, Mike and Austin deconstructed four of Carrie Stevens’ flies. A complete set of Austin’s notes on Mrs. Stevens’ fly tying and assembly methods, consisting of typed text, along with pencil drawings and notations, was included as part of the museum display in Manchester, titled, “A Graceful Rise” which featured fifty women prominent in the history of fly tying and fly fishing. I noticed the notes during a visit to the museum and took photographs of them in June of 2012.

Colonel Bates, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Colonel Bates, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern. This fly also has a lacquered head. I prefer using only thread now to accomplish this.

Studying these notes has been enlightening, and has been instrumental in my personal progression of replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. My years of fly tying experience, combined with the information from the Darrel Martin / Mike Martinek Carrie Stevens 2001 article in Fly Rod and Reel, and bits of information I gleaned from Mike Martinek and a few other tiers over the years has contributed to my present state of finally being satisfied that I am no longer leaving out any details when replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. I tied my very first Gray Ghost when I was in high school, about 1968 or ’69. Some tiers are not as detail-oriented as I am, or as interested in being historically accurate when replicating other fly tiers patterns, but I choose to replicate Carrie Stevens’ patterns as close to her design as I can; I wind the ribbing counter-clockwise as she did – most photos I’ve seen of Carrie Stevens originals with clockwise ribbing were reversed images, besides it makes no sense to think she was not consistent with this important component. I also replicate her elongated, banded heads; I believe the head shape and banding is a tribute to her pattern design, especially since she used a selection of thread colors for the bands, and they were clearly a color-coordinated component of her patterns. I first banded the heads on some of her patterns in the 1980’s, then after a time discontinued it. Furthermore, when Wendell Folkins bought her business in 1953, she wanted him to replicate the head bands to designate the patterns he was tying as hers. I have also gotten very careful about making sure all the components; underbelly and under wings – peacock herl, silver and golden pheasant crest, and bucktail, are all equally as long as the wing of the fly. That is an often overlooked aspect of Carrie’s tying standards.

Jungle Queen, from Streamers365.com, 2012.

Jungle Queen, from Streamers365.com, 2012. This pattern is identical to Carrie’s Yellow Witch. Note the head on this fly is not banded. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Prior to 2011, I tied all my streamer patterns in typical ‘Eastern fashion.’ I had never cemented streamer wings until the early summer of 2011. Another tier suggested it, and with some reluctance I tried it. The initial result was satisfying, particularly on the rather unruly golden pheasant tippet shoulders, since I was tying my first Big Ben streamer. Once I found out how easy it was to mount previously assembled wings, I kept right at it. I would have used Flexament for this but my bottle was thick to the point of being totally unusable. My hometown has no fly shops anymore, so at the local hardware store, I saw and decided to try Elmer’s Rubber Cement. It was only three bucks, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Herb welch originated the Black Ghost, but Carrie tied other popular patterns originated by other tiers of her time; she added her unique method of construction ad banded heads to all her flies. I want to start replicating some of these patterns as she did, in her style.

Herb Welch originated the Black Ghost, but Carrie tied other popular patterns originated by other tiers of her time; she added her unique method of construction and banded heads to all these flies as well. I want to start replicating some of these patterns as she did, in her style, down to the last detail. Carrie and Herb were practically neighbors, he sold her flies in his shop at Haines Landing. The Black Ghost pre-dates Carrie’s Gray Ghost; according to Hilyard’s book, by about six or seven years. The first mention of the Gray Ghost is on one of Carrie’s invoices in 1933 or 1934.

To overcome concerns about durability expressed when I announced that I was going to use rubber cement for cementing streamer wings, I soaked a completed wing assembly in water for thirty-six hours, then shook it hard – three-hundred, wrist-numbing shakes. It held together. Elmer’s is great for this because:

1) It does not bleed through the feathers. I invite anyone to inspect any of my cemented-wing streamer flies and find evidence of bleed-through cement. It ain’t there!

2) It sets up fairly fast, but it can be ‘worked’ – in other words, the cement remains soft enough to position, reposition, and align, if necessary; the neck hackles, shoulders, and cheeks.

3) The fly / wings does not come apart, even when soaked in water and shook violently, as my personal test proved, to simulate casting and fishing.

4) It is inexpensive.

5) It is readily and widely available, Walmart, CVS, Jo Ann’s Fabrics, your local hardware store, etc.

6) It has no obnoxious odor.

7) If need be, components can be disassembled and reassembled without problems (like when I accidentally get the order of wing hackles wrong, oops).

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from Streamers365.com, 2012.

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from Streamers365.com, 2012. This is another popular pattern tied and sold by Carrie Stevens. Mr. Stickney was not a fly tier, but had other tiers bring his creations to life for him. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Last weekend at the Arts of the Angler Show in Danbury, Connecticut, I had the pleasure of tying beside fellow tier, Peggy Brenner, from New Hampshire. Peggy was featured in the Graceful Rise exhibition, and she has taken lessons from Mike Martinek. She’s a good fly tier, tying streamers and Atlantic salmon flies, and she also has a business of selling her flies.

This is where the point of this article, the rubber cement bombshell finally hits the target. This is great news, and validates more what I have been saying about the use of rubber cement for cementing streamer wings. Last weekend Peggy told me that her husband bought her a water tank with a pump to create current, so she could “test” flies for action, performance, etc. Peggy informed me that she inserted into her tank, on a section of leader, a Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, that had wings she cemented with Elmer’s Rubber Cement. Not over night. Not for a couple days. But for three weeks! Peggy said whenever she checked on the fly, it was just swimming and fluttering merrily along. When she finally took the fly out, it was fine and in perfect condition, the cement held. Three weeks of total immersion in a water tank; twenty-four seven, that is a total of five-hundred four hours. Do you know how many fishing hours that translates into? Given the fact that most of us fish a fly for no more than an hour or so at a time, and maybe only a few times per year, if not lost to a big fish, a submerged log or rock, or an errant back cast, and provided the hook did not rust, said rubber cemented streamer fly could be passed along from generation to generation to generation and still have fishing life left. But by then, the thread might rot, or some other component would fail. My point is that rubber cement is a great and durable cement for cementing streamer wings.

I found this especially enlightening and gratifying since the grapevine told me that another fly tying instructor was pooh-poohing my use of rubber cement for streamer wings in their classes. I tell my students what works for me, and what others use, but I’m not going to, nor can I force anyone else to do what I do. I just try to give my best and present the most accurate information I can according to my experience.

BYR Smelt, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

BYR Smelt, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern. The BYR (pronounced by-er) in the pattern name is an acronym for Blue-Yellow-Red in the wing. This is one of my original streamer patterns, but it is totally assembled with Carrie Stevens cemented wing component methods and her style of layering the throat in a process toward the head.

When I get a new camera I’ll be busily filling in the gaps of blog posts that I’ve missed. I’ll have to think about doing a step-by-step of the cementing process, even a video.

I had a comment from a reader that prompted an explanation of my cementing techniques; I decided to add this information to the article to help folks understand my methods and personal tricks of cementing streamer wing assemblies.

For now, and my method is a little different than Leslie Hilyard’s; he cements the jungle cock nail to the shoulder feather, then cements this completed section to the cemented-together hackles. I generally start with the inside feather; some of Carrie’s patterns contain six hackles in the wing; three on a side. I put the lesser quality (if any difference) of the feathers on the inside, that is when they are the same color as on the Gray Ghost, Canary, etc. I dip my bodkin in the rubber cement about 5/8″ to 3/4″ for larger size streamers. Smaller hooks would require less. I probably cement 25% to 30% of the front of the wing, just a bit less than the total length of the shoulder, which Carrie Stevens determined to be 1/3 of the wing length.
Sometimes I swirl the bodkin tip a bit in the bottle to make sure I get enough cement on it. I apply the cement on the top side of the feather along the stem line, holding my bodkin parallel to the stem, and then slowly draw the bodkin off the butt end, while rotating it in my thumb and finger. This rolling action makes the cement slide off the bodkin to lay evenly along the stem. Then I pick up the next feather and align that evenly and press it into place, making sure the tip ends are even, and the stems are perfectly aligned at the shoulder joint. Same process is repeated for a third wing hackle, as on the Firefly, Jitterbug, General MacArthur, etc.
Carrie Stevens didn’t just put a dab on near the ends of the feathers, she cemented a significant portion of the feather length; and she also cemented the (inside of the) wings to the body at the front of the hook shank, cementing both sides together. My method cements the feathers similar to hers and creates the “tight, bulky front end” of the fly that was part of Carrie Stevens’ bait fish design. Though I don’t cement the wings together unless one or both are unruly.
I apply cement to the top of the second (or third) wing hackle as before, then press the shoulder in place. I generally use my Tweezerman non-serrated tweezers to do this, as this allows a more precise handling, positioning, and final placement of the feather. Same with the jungle cock, though I generally demonstrate multiple handling methods to my students and observers. A light touch after each feather is added secures the feathers in place. I have also laid a pair of scissors or hackle pliers on top of the just-cemented wing assembly to add a bit of weight to make it set.
Contrary again to Hilyard and some others, I prefer to trim my butt ends fairly close, not clipping them after the wings are tied to the hook. And like I have been advocating ever since I started teaching tying of classic wet flies, I trim the butt ends of the stems at a sharp angle, not a straight cross-cut. This tapers the end lengths of the individual feather stems so you can wrap over them and smoothly bind them to the hook and make a smooth thread base for the head. See also:

https://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/01/13/carrie-stevens-and-rangeley-style-streamers/

I’m happy to say I’m feeling great, healthy, and not even on any medications; a far cry from a year ago. Barring some unforeseen or unexpected circumstance, I will be at the International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey on November 23 and 24. I’ll be happy to demonstrate and try to answer your questions about tying classic wet flies, historic 19th century trout, lake, and bass flies on snelled or gut-loop eye blind-eye hooks, or Carrie Stevens streamer patterns or her methods.

Thanks to Darren MacEachern for the use of his photos of my flies. I decided to use them since he does great work. And maybe you’re tired of seeing my pictures. Tight threads everyone!

Cheney Bass Fly and A. N. Cheney’s Hardy Reel

A couple months ago I received an e-mail message from a potential customer. He had been searching online for information about fly patterns connected to Albert Nelson Cheney. This is the same A. N. Cheney who co-authored Fishing With the Fly in 1883 with Charles F. Orvis. Cheney is also referred to quite frequently in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. My customer, Howard Weinberg, reached out to me “because my name kept coming up” during his internet quest for information. It’s good that my name came up in association with historic and classic fishing fly patterns, rather than say, any number of other topics I might be connected to if circumstances were different. During a brief exchange of e-mail messages, Howard and I agreed that I would tie a half-dozen each of the Puffer, a 19th century Adirondack trout fly that was used and probably named by Mr. Cheney, and the Cheney, a Bass Fly pattern that was published in Marbury’s Favorite Flies.

Of the Puffer, Cheney had one in his possession, that he described to “A little brown-eyed maiden, once, looking into my fly book, asked why I had the old, frayed flies tied up in separate papers, and marked, while the nice new flies did not show this care. Had she been of maturer years, I might have quoted Alonzo of Aragon’s commendation of old friends; but, instead, I merely said: ‘The nice new flies I can easily buy, but no one sells such old flies; therefore I take the greater care of them because of their rarity.’ ” Favorite Flies, p. 349.

“On another page we find him looking over these same old flies, and he says; ‘Take for instance this one, with the legend written on its wrapper: Puffer Pond, June, 1867 -thirty-five pounds of trout in two hours. The last of the gentlemen that did the deed.’ This to me, tells the very pleasant story of a week spent in the Adirondacks. I remember, as I hold the ragged, faded fly in my hand, and see that it still retains something of the dark blue of its mohair body and the sheen of its cock-feather wings, that it was one of six flies I had in my fly book that day in June that stands out from other June days, in my memory, like a Titan amongst pygmies. That fly had no name, but the trout liked it for all that, and rose to it with as much avidity as though they had been properly introduced to some real bug, of which this was an excellent counterfeit. That glorious two hours’ time, with its excitement of catching and landing without a net some of the most beautiful and gamy fish that ever moved fin, comes back to me as vividly as though at this moment the four walls of my room were the forest-circled shores of that far-away pond, and I stand in that leaky boat, almost ankle-deep in the water that Frank, the guide, had no time to bail, occupied as he is in watching my casts, and admiring my whip-like rod during the play of the fish or fishes, and in turning the boat’s gunwale to the water’s edge to let my trout in when they are exhausted. It is sharp, quick work, and the blue-bodied fly is always first of all the flies composing the cast to get a rise, until I take off all but the one kind, and then, one after another, I see them torn, mutilated, and destroyed. Later, they will be put away as old warriors gone to rest, and their epitaph written on their wrappings; ‘Thy work was well done; they rest well-earned.’ ” Favorite Flies, pp. 349-50.

“The fly without a name, that awakens memories of ‘that June day that stands out from other June days’ is now called the Puffer.” Favorite Flies, p. 350.

Cheney was instrumental in the creation of the bass fly pattern that bears the heritage of his name. In the 1880’s, Mr. Cheney was visiting the Orvis fly tying room in Manchester, Vermont, seeking to develop a new bass fly pattern. According to the account in Marbury’s book, p. 402: “One summer when Mr. Cheney was staying at Schroon Lake, a few flies, all of them new combinations, were sent to him to try. Among them was a fly like that of the present Cheney fly, but with a black wing. Later in the season Mr. Cheney visited Manchester, when he said, “If that fly had a different wing, it would be just about my idea of a perfect fly for black bass.” Feathers were therefore inspected to find a more suitable wing, and finally those of the mallard with a black bar decided upon. The fly was then made, under Mr. Cheney’s supervision. When finished to his satisfaction he named it the Cheney, and his success with the fly in many different waters has proved the correctness of his theories and conclusions drawn from previous experiments.”

I tied the Puffer fly for Adirondack trout, in sizes #6 and #8, and the Cheney Bass Flies in #2 and #4. Then I went about and prepared to photograph those flies for a blog post in conjunction with the bonus photographs that are included here, before I mailed them to my customer. That’s the day my camera fell from the TV tray and landed on the hardwood floor. This fall rendered the camera a total wreck and useless for anything except a paperweight or perhaps a shooting practice target item from that day forward. Which I felt like doing, but in actuality I think I can still get a trade-in allowance for it in the purchase of a new / used camera. I intended to replace it last month, but Abigail, my Cocker Spaniel, (see the topic “Boat Dog” from June 2013), required urgent surgery for a tumor on her spleen. That set me back almost $1100, so the camera allowance was eaten up by the life-saving operation on the dog. Abigail is doing great, so all is well!

Hence, my original plan to post photos of the Puffer and Cheney flies and photos of an antique Hardy brass-faced reel that was owned by and is engraved with the owner’s name, A. N Cheney, has still come to fruition, though not entirely as originally intended. My deepest thanks go to my customer, Howard Weinberg, for taking these photos of his valuable, collectible Hardy Perfect brass-face reel and the Cheney Bass Flies.

Antique brass-faced Hardy perfect Reel, once owned by Albert Nelson Cheney. Photo by Howard Weinberg.

Antique brass-faced Hardy Perfect Reel, once owned by Albert Nelson Cheney, co-author with Charles F. Orvis of their 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly. Photo by Howard Weinberg. Forster Hardy was first granted a full patent for the Perfect reel design in 1889.

A. N. Cheney's Hardy Perfect reel, with two Cheney Bass Flies, tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Howard Weinberg.

A. N. Cheney’s Hardy Perfect Reel, with two #2 Cheney Bass Flies, tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Howard Weinberg. The flies are dressed on vintage Mustad 3906 wet fly hooks.

Hardy reel that belonged to A.N. Cheney of Glens Falls, New York; once editor of

Hardy Perfect Reel that belonged to A. N. Cheney of Glens Falls, New York; Cheney was the editor of the fishing department of Shooting and Fishing. Photo by Howard Weinberg.

Cheney's Hardy perfect reel with Cheney Bass Fly tied by Don Bastian.

Cheney’s Hardy perfect reel with Cheney Bass Fly tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Howard Weinberg.

I think it is amazing to think that Cheney possibly used this reel to fish his Cheney Bass Fly, or that he fished the Puffer in a wet fly cast for trout. Here is the recipe for the Cheney:

Cheney

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Green parrot (or goose shoulder) and barred wood duck

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel over the rear half of the body

Body: Rear half white floss; front half red chenille

Hackle: Yellow collar

Wing: White-tipped black-barred mallard wing coverts, paired as a spoon wing

Head: Light olive with red band at rear of head

My rendition of the head on this fly was taken from one of my photographs of the actual Plate Fly for the Cheney; it is finished with a light olive thread with a red band, fairly well-done in comparison to most of the flies that sport the rather unkempt look of the reverse-winged head used on most of the patterns back then. I also used Elmer’s Rubber Cement to glue the wing feathers together prior to mounting them to the hook, a technique I borrowed from my assembly of streamer wing hackles – shoulders – cheeks for Carrie Stevens’ fly patterns. This works great for winging some of these large-spoon winged flies that may present problematic feathers or mounting when tied in. The cement is applied just along the stem, for a half an inch or so, then pressed and held together for ten to fifteen seconds. Sometimes I lay the cemented wing down and place an object like an extra pair of scissors on the wing; the weight helps to hold them together while the cement sets.

Below is a photo of the Puffer from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

The Puffer wet fly, an Adirondack trout fly pattern.

The Puffer wet fly, an Adirondack trout fly pattern. This fly is labeled in Mary Orvis Marbury’s handwriting, from the 1893 Orvis Fly Display, presently held at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. Photo by Don Bastian.

Puffer

Tag:                 Fine flat gold tinsel

Tail:                 Red duck or goose quill

Ribbing:          Fine flat or oval gold tinsel

Body:               Dark blue mohair dubbing

Hackle:            English grouse, or dark brown mottled hen

Wing:              Iridescent blue rooster or mallard wing  sections

Head:              Black thread

This dressing for the Puffer is correct according to study of this photo and the information presented in the text of Marbury’s book. I hope you have enjoyed this trip back in time!

Arts of the Angler Show – November 9 – 10

I would like to remind my readers and their friends that this coming weekend, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum will hold its annual Arts of the Angler Show at the Ethan Allen Inn, in Danbury, Connecticut. The Ethan Allen Inn is located off I-84 at Exit 4, Lake Avenue. The Arts of the Angler Show is a full feature fly fishing show in an elegant atmosphere.

Saturday hours are from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM. Sunday hours are from 9:00 AM until 3:30 PM. Admission is $12 per day or $20 for both days. Saturday evening will feature a price-fixed dinner for $23, including tax, gratuity, and a complimentary glass of wine. A live auction is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM. Dinner reservations must be made at the front desk by 2:00 PM Saturday.

The Fly Tying Studio kicks off Saturday morning at 11:00 AM. The first session features yours truly, tying the White Ghost streamer. I will be demonstrating this Carrie Stevens pattern using her authentic and original Rangeley-style of streamer construction, with a few personal modifications such as the type of cement I use to fasten the wing assembly. Also, my use of rayon floss and mylar tinsel does not inherently alter the characteristic of her flies. Oh, and I tie my streamers with a vise. She tied without a vise, and I tried a few of her patterns that way. Honestly, I don’t know how she pulled that off, some of her pattens, yeah, but the more complex ones, you got me. But that’s one reason why Carrie Stevens is one of the greatest female fly tiers who ever lived. My procedure for tying and teaching her streamer patterns and methods is the result of years of experience, but more specifically, from the study of personal photos that are copies of Austin Hogan’s notes on Carrie’s tying methods, which were created by his deconstruction of her patterns. I also incorporate a few techniques adapted from one of the best streamer tiers in the country, Mike Martinek, Jr. Mike was with Austin Hogan in the late 1960’s on one occasion when they disassembled four of Mrs. Stevens’ flies, so he has an inside view and experience and level of knowledge that no other living streamer tier possesses. Thanks Mike, for sharing your knowledge!

Other fly tiers featured in the Fly Tying Studio on the hour are Safet Nickocevic, Peggy Brenner, “Fishy”Fullum, and John Likakis. More than thirty-five fly tiers are scheduled to participate in this event.

Here is a link to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum site on the show, this includes photos and descriptions of the Live Auction items. http://www.catskillflyfishing.org/programs-events/art-of-the-angler-show/

For more information, call the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum: 845-439-4810. Please come and support the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.

To whet your appetite, and to give you something to look at, here is a photo of a White Ghost streamer:

White Ghost streamer, Carrie Stevens pattern tied and photographged by Don Bastian. The hook is a size #1 - 8x long Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

White Ghost streamer – a Carrie Stevens pattern tied and photographed by Don Bastian. The hook is a size #1 – 8x long Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.