Tomah Joe

Last weekend at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey, a friend came by and gave me some barred wood duck flank feathers. On Saturday afternoon, I tied this fly for him, a Tomah Joe, dressed according to the original 1880’s recipe. My girlfriend, Mary Fortin, took the picture of it still in my vise with her cell phone. Here it is:

Tomah Joe, tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Mary Fortin.+

Tomah Joe, tied by Don Bastian. Photo by Mary Fortin. The hook is a blind-eye 2/0 antique hook. The red wool head is my personal addition. Oftentimes the heads on these old flies are rather unkempt-looking and unfinished.

Here is a photo I took at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in 2012 of the original fly plate that was used for the artist’s painting for the 1883 book, “Fishing With the Fly,” by C. F. Orvis and A. N. Cheney. The Tomah Joe is on the plate. This image was previously published on my blog.

Tomah Joe, Lake Fly pattern, at top right. This plate of Lake Flies is over 130 years old.

Tomah Joe, Lake Fly pattern, at top right. This plate of Lake Flies from the Orvis Company archives, now in the collection of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, is over 130 years old. The other patterns are: Bee, top left, No Name, Blue Bottle, Grasshopper, and Webster. This is one of the plates of Lake Flies from the Orvis / Cheney book.

Note the tail on the Tomah Joe is a single yellow hackle feather, not fibers, not a golden pheasant crest as is sometimes seen. Multiple examples of the Tomah Joe in the AMFF in Manchester, Vermont, remain consistent with this component of the dressing. That is why I used the material I did on the tail of the Tomah Joe I dressed at the show.

Tomah Joe

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: A single yellow hackle feather

Butt: Peacock herl

Body: Oval silver tinsel

Hackle: Scarlet fronted by yellow

Wing: Barred wood duck

Head: tiers discretion

Here is another photo I added via edit just today. A friend in Massachusetts bought this Tomah Joe from me in 2001. The pattern is tied as in Ray Bergman’s book, “Trout,” 1938. Not whole feather tips for wings, but slips of barred wood duck on each side. And yellow fibers for the tail. This is mounted the way I used to do it, put the hook point into foam bits on a card. Now I wire all the flies to the card…makes for a much better appearance.

Tomah Joe, recipe from "Trout" by Ray Bergman.

Tomah Joe, recipe from “Trout” by Ray Bergman.

Have fun!

8 comments on “Tomah Joe



    Tomah Joe is a great fly, thanks.  

    Thanks also for the email relating to your forthcoming book.  Kindly keep me posted.

    I enjoyed talking with you at Somerset last Friday morning.  I grew up in Pa. (Nanty-Glo) and like most of us learned to fish with a spinning rod and casting rod using live bait and spinners.  Now it is only fly-fishing, and my favorite Pa. streams are Pine Creek and Little Juniata.  I hope to become familiar with Spring Creek and Penns Creek in the next year or so.  Perhaps I will see you there.



    Michael J. Sebetich, Ph.D.  Emeritus Professor of Biology  William Paterson University  Wayne, NJ 07470  Home phone: 973-423-4046

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Michael;

      I enjoyed speaking to you as well. I always thought the town name of “Nanty Glo” was funny! And interesting.

      The Little J is great, but I don’t get there as often since it’s a greater distance for me. You will like Spring ad Penn’s Creeks. 😉

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. flydressersguild says:

    Hi Don
    Is the tail tied “upright” or “flat” – the photo from the AMFF seems to show flat…


    • Don Bastian says:

      Upright would be ideal…I was more concerned with getting it on there…didn’t want to fuss with it…
      You know, I didn’t not think of this until just now,, but to set stems better for tails like this, a tiny pinch of dubbing would give a soft base and pretty much, as I’m thinking at least, eliminate the problematic twisting of stems we get when trying to tie them onto the hard base of thread wrapped on the hook shank. 😉

      I just thought that up! Whaddya’ think, mate? 😀

      • flydressersguild says:

        TBH I’ve never tried to tie a whole hackle feather as a tail – although I know plenty of novice tyers who HAVE when “creating” their first flies, although it’s usually such a mess that it’s hard to tell if they meant the feather to be placed either upright OR flat OR somewhere around 45° to the shank!!!!

        But this evening I think I’ll have a try and see whether dubbing helps or not 🙂

  3. Don Bastian says:

    I would think that a bit of dubbing will help…let me know…and next time I tie one of these I’ll try it too. 😉

  4. Kelly L says:

    One of my all time favorites. Thank you Don!

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