Black Prince

The Black Prince wet fly is an old pattern. It is shown on the Lake Flies in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. It is also in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a popular pattern and has appeared in other publications as well. The Orvis version has a body made entirely of flat gold tinsel, while the later version in Trout sports a black floss body with a gold tinsel ribbing. Both have red tails, the version in Marbury’s book also has a jungle cock cheek. Hackle and wings on both versions are black, with natural black hackle being used on the original plate fly. I have a photo of that and recognized it as natural black; more of a dark charcoal color.

The reason I am inspired to post this article is that I recently completed an order of four dozen Black Prince wet flies, for a customer for fishing. She wanted them in sizes #12, #14, #16, and #18. The surprising part, not to me, but likely to many of you, is that my customer recently fished Pennsylvania’s famed and reportedly difficult to fish, at times anyway, Penn’s Creek. This is a stream where no stocking is done in a large section of Special Regulation water. The fish are almost all wild, stream-bred brown trout. I received her e-mail message today, as follows:

“ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE!!! A short time ago I had a great afternoon on Penn’s Creek above Coburn with the Black Prince.  I would lay odds that is a fly that has not been seen around here in 50 years!!  And neither have the trout.”
My customer did not specify the size(s) she used, nor did she indicate how they were fished, but it’s a sure bet the flies were simply swung down-and-across. The hooks I used to supply her fishing fly order were modern hooks; I used Tiemco wet fly hooks – #3769. I prefer vintage and antique hooks for display and collector flies; and contemporary, high-carbon steel, mini-barb, chemically sharpened points to get the job done if the flies will be getting wet. Modern hooks are unquestionably better for fishing.
Here is a photo of the version of the Black Prince from Trout:
Black Prince - classic wet fly. The hook size is #6,Mustad vintage style No. 3399.

Black Prince – classic wet fly. The hook size is #6, Mustad vintage style No. 3399. The hackle on this fly was applied after setting the wing, using an old-fashioned technique. This method combines the winged wet with the effectiveness of a soft-hackle.

Black Prince

Thread: Danville Black Flymaster 6/0

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #18 – large hooks, full hackle to replicate Lake Fly style.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet hackle fibers of a section of red duck quill – may be two matching slips paired, or a single slip of duck or goose wing quill, as was done almost exclusively in the 1800’s

Ribbing: Narrow gold tinsel

Body: Black floss

Wing: Black duck or goose wing quill, matched and paired; may also be natural crow

Hackle: Black

It is the tiers discretion to apply the hackle as a false or beard style hackle, or as a soft-hackle collar, which may be wound either before or after placing the wing.

If one desired to replicate the Orvis version of the Black Prince, use fine flat gold tinsel for the tag, make the body from medium flat gold tinsel, use a scarlet dyed quill section for the tail – traditionally in the 1800’s, scarlet ibis feathers were used for this – and add a jungle cock cheek.

Like so many classic wet flies, trout do not see them, and one ace-in-the-hole trick you can tuck up your sleeve is to hit the water with something different than what everyone else is fishing. How about the Black Prince?

Next on my customers custom order – the Grackle, another old classic pattern.

19 comments on “Black Prince

  1. flydressersguild says:

    Hi Don, yes showing the trout something different definitely does work!
    …and it appears that flymphs are, as most techniques seem to be, straight out of the old school!

  2. Doug Daufel says:

    Nice article and great fly Donnie! I think fishing larger wets would work really well for our fall run browns and rainbows. Going to have to give them a shot!!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Doug:
      I know for a fact they would work…have a good story about Truman and his buddy killing the trout on the Bighorn…yeah that’s right! Those “finicky” “small-fly only” trout. Glad you liked it! Be sure to give some of these old classics a shot!

  3. Kelly L says:

    This kind of fly to me, is spectacular! Thanks for sharing this fly, and the blog today. Loved it! I always get a kick out of the old school classics. 🙂

  4. Murray Buck says:

    Nice to see you tying and posting ….miss your classics sir!

  5. Bill says:

    Nicely presented, DB. Your classic fly postings are always informative and well researched. A question about the wing on this one: Are the paired slips mounted with the tips up and out or up and together? It is a bit difficult to tell in this photo.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bill;
      I remember these flies, they were the ones for the ill-fated Bergman Collection on Classic Fly Tying forum that was never finished. …oh well, I got paid. 🙂 All the wings were tied as in Bergman’s book illustrations, tip up. And I personally tied them dull side, top-side out. Even though Bergman, in his very brief, how-to section on wets – not more than a few paragraphs, did tie them concave sides facing each other, as did George Harvey, Humphreys, and most other 19th century flies. When you have straight quill sections, they look good either way. I generally prefer the divided wing, but have been doing more tying tip-down as in the 19th century Orvis flies. Thanks for your comments, glad you liked the post!

  6. That’s a good one Don – thanks, as always. They never get old.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks! Glad you liked it! I have more info from my customer with additional fishing success with the Black Prince; on Penn’s Creek again and also Spring Creek. I’ll be making another post…thanks for your comment!

  7. Gin Clear says:

    Reblogged this on Finding Confluence and commented:
    Need to tie some of these. Thanks for the history a details on the Black Prince, Don!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Dean;
      Thank you for your reblog of this post, and also “The Black Prince Rides Again.” Always nice to have help getting thee word out on classic wets. Thanks again!

      • Gin Clear says:

        You’re welcome, Don. Love your work! I did reblog initially to my business blog by mistake and can’t undo, but did put a link to this post in the reblog of the “Black Prince Rides Again” at Gin Clear page.

        I do want to tie up a few of these as I love the classic patterns.

      • Don Bastian says:

        Thanks again Dean!
        I just presented my Moosehead Lake Region program last night at the Angler’s Club of Philadelphia. Of course I talked about classic wet flies and told some stories…they still work!!! Thanks again for your compliment, and for the sharing of the information!

  8. […] the original Black Prince recipe posted earlier by […]

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