Emerging March Brown Soft-Hackle – Flymph

My friend Bill in Maryland sent me this photo of a March Brown Soft-hackle / Flymph that he recently tied all in the style of and following the recipe of Vernon L. “Pete” Hidy. Bill is an excellent tier and does great work on these patterns. Here is the e-mail message from Bill. I started off asking him a question about this fly, was it a soft-hackle or a flymph? Here is Bill’s reply, the fly photo, and recipe.

“Technically it’s both; all flymphs are soft hackles. “Flymph” is the term coined by Pete Hidy to describe the type of pattern that Jim Leisenring developed to imitate the stage between a nymph and an adult. Here’s the recipe for this Pete Hidy version of an emerging March Brown as published in T. Donald Overfield’s Famous Flies and their Originators. (Note: Both Leisenring and Hidy used large ribs on many of their patterns, so I substituted for the ribbing in the Overfield recipe to make it look more like their original flies.) Great tying Bill!

Pete Hidy style Emerging March Brown, dressed and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Pete Hidy style Emerging March Brown, dressed and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Emerging March Brown Soft-hackle / Flymph

Hook: Long shank mayfly, Size #12 Mustad R50U

Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer silk, #19 hot orange

Hackle: Brown partridge

Tail whisks: Brown partridge

Rib: Gudebrod “D” rod winding thread (sub for Primrose silk or gold wire)

Body: Blend of hare’s poll (90%) and orange-brown wool (10%) spun in orange silk thread on a Clark spinning block.

Very nice tying job, Bill! Thanks for sharing the photo and information!

Martinis and Thread Wraps

I’m sitting here tying some classic Fanwing Royal Coachman drys, just started on some #8 hooks; all two dozen hooks #8, #10,#12, have the wings already mounted, so the hard part is done! This thought hit me as I set the tinsel tag on the first hook:

What is the similarity between Martinis and thread wraps to secure tags, tails, floss, ribbing?

One is not enough, three is too many!

Yup. Tie in and wrap the tag, secure with two wraps. Add the tail, secure with two wraps. Add the peacock herl for the rear of the body, and here of course you have to wrap forward to the hook point. I’ll try to get photos to post before I ship the order.

Cracker Bass Fly

My lack of presence here on my blog over the last couple months was previously explained in a couple recent posts. Since deer season ended on December 14th I have been home, but I was especially busy; spending most of my time learning the drum parts for a list of almost sixty songs in preparation for my drumming gig on New Year’s Eve with the Pepper Street Band. That all went very well, the band members were pleased by my time spent learning their music, and they all told me I did a great job. It was a BLAST! That was the first full band gig I played in thirty-four-and-a-half years. I hope to do that more often. I will say, that yesterday and even today, the muscles in my fingers, wrists, and forearms are showing a little soreness from the exercise I got drumming. And my right leg too, from working the bass drum pedal. It’s a good kind of pain! It is a wonderful feeling to revive my music playing ability, which I regret to have kept dormant for so long. In the coming months and years, I hope to continue both my fly tying, fishing, and music interests, since they are primarily my main hobby interests in life.

To start off 2014, I wanted to post the beautiful fly tying and photographic work of a friend, Royce Stearns, who is also one of the contributing tiers to my book, Favorite Fishing Flies: 1892, a work still in progress. This is the Cracker, from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. Royce and I were in a bit of an e-mail exchange before Christmas; he wanted to know what my book research turned up for the blue body on the Cracker. I also discovered, not surprisingly, since it seems to be a recurring theme, a few other differences in previously published pattern recipe components when comparing my photographs of the actual book plate flies and my personal examination of the flies and my macro photos. The Cracker was included among the plates of Bass Flies in Marbury’s book, but according to its originator, George Trowbridge, of New York, New York, “It (the Cracker) has caught every variety of fish which rises to the fly, when it has been cast over the waters that these fish inhabit.”

J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, states the body on the Cracker is blue floss. Forgotten Flies, 1999, calls for a body of deep blue dubbing. Neither is correct, though some would say those are “pattern variations.” Which is true, but only to a certain extent. Any writer can alter one ingredient of a fly, publish it as “correct” and if that happens a couple times with different authors, then guess where that might lead? Both books call for married black and white goose in the wing. Another “difference.” The actual black and white in the wing is neither of those feathers, but rather is white-tipped turkey. That can even be recognized in the book plate fly through scrutiny of the wing. Here’s another tidbit of pattern recipe information, from the originator’s words in Marbury’s book: “It is purposely overdressed. The mohair of the body should be picked out to make the fly.” Ah ha! Mohair body! And this in the words of the pattern originator. So that component has been positively identified. I have a sneaking suspicion that Leonard studied the play fly images from Marbury’s book when he recorded their pattern recipes in Flies, and made his best guess as to what they were. If one is recording fly pattern recipes for posterity, then they should be correct, or at least as close as possible to what the originator intended. That is my belief. I’m not really knocking the excellent work of writers that went before me, because overall, Flies is a great book and a valuable resource and fly tying reference. Forgotten Flies is a one-of-a-kind volume. It’s just that I’m detail-oriented to determining the exact pattern components of the 120-year-old flies from Marbury’s book, considering up to this point time, that has not been done for every fly in her book. On to the Cracker:

The Cracker

The Cracker, dressed and photographed by Royce Stearns.

Cracker

Tag:                 Flat gold tinsel and yellow wool

Tail:                 Peacock sword, blue, red, yellow, and gray mallard, mixed

Ribbing:          Flat silver tinsel

Body:               Medium blue mohair, well picked out (seal fur could also be used)

Wing:              Red, yellow, blue, and white-tipped turkey, with shorter sections of peacock sword

Hackle:           Orange

Head:             Black or dark gray thread

There are slight differences between the pattern recipe and the fly tied by Royce, but the recipe was determined by my close study of the actual 120-year-old plate fly. There is no gray mallard visible on the tail of the book plate fly, but the pattern used for the book has the gray mallard on it. Artist omission? Possible. See; anytime information is passed along from one source to another, there is the risk of errors. I’m not perfect, but I hope to minimize mistakes and get these flies right.

Here are a few more notes about the Cracker – the kinds of fish taken on it as recorded by Mr. Trowbridge: Tarpon, channel bass, sea trout, cavaille` (Jack Crevalle), rovaille` (don’t know what that is), bluefish, Spanish mackerel, grouper, mangrove snapper (redfish), skip-jack, sheepshead, sailor’s choice (no idea what that is), and another nondescript fish. It is interesting for a “Bass Fly” that it was not known by Mr. Trowbridge to ever be tried for black bass at the time of his letter to Mary Orvis Marbury, but it was successful in the North for salmon, and trout in Maine, the Adirondacks and Canada. Hook sizes preferred by the originator ranged from No. 8 “for small brook trout in Maine, ‘Kennebago size’ as they say there. No. 3 is about right for trout from 3/4 lb. to 1-1/2 lb. No. 1 is what I use for the largest channel bass. It is a good size for trout from 1 to 3 lbs. in Canada. If trout are expected to run larger than that, I prefer a larger fly.”

This pattern has been a sleeper for many years, and while it is a complex fly to tie, I believe it would be worth it to experiment for some of the fish mentioned in Mr. Trowbridge’s letter. Thank you Royce, for sending me the photo and for allowing me to post your fine work!

Christmas Wet Flies

Last year, a good friend of mine who is a fly tier and lives in Fergus, Ontario, sent me a Christmas card with two original classic style wet fly patterns in it, themed to the holiday season in traditional and festive Christmas colors. Since today is Christmas Day I though it appropriate to share them with my readers and friends.

The St. Nick and The Yuletide

The St. Nick and Yuletide, Christmas wet flies originated and tied by John Hoffmann of Fergus Ontario.

This was a great idea (still is!) and I have kept this card taped to my refrigerator all year, since this was sent to me for Christmas 2012. I added the pattern recipes below in case anyone wants to download them and maybe tie them up for next year’s Christmas cards. Or perhaps these fine dressings will inspire you to create your own Christmas fly patterns for next year!

St. Nick:

Thread: Red

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Butt: Black chenille

Ribbing: Fine flat gold tinsel

Body: Red floss

Hackle: White

Wing: Red married to white

Head: Red

Yuletide:

Thread: Red

Tag: Red floss

Butt: Peacock herl

Ribbing: Fine oval gold tinsel

Body: Red floss

Hackle: Green and red mixed

Wing: Green

Head: Red

A few old classic patterns come to mind if one were to tie some standard patterns for Christmas: Scarlet Ibis, Ibis and White, Katydid, Alexandra, and the Split Ibis, that one especially with its married wing of red and white striping, like a candy cane!

Thanks John, for your friendship, kindness, and creativity! Merry Christmas to all! And to all a Good Night!

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!

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.

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!

Pink Lady Fan Wing Dry Fly

Considering my fly tying and fly fishing roots, in that I was exposed to Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman at age 12, and also How To Tie Flies, 1940, by E. C. Gregg; these two books had a profound influence on my early interest and education in tying flies. Other than seeing my dad tie three flies, I never saw anyone else tie a fly for ten years, except my brother, Larry, since we shared dad’s tying tools and materials until he went away to college in 1972. Primarily because of those two books you could say I am a classically-trained fly tier. Similar to a musician who was classically-trained, but I have stayed closer to my traditional roots than a classically-trained musician who becomes a performer of rock or jazz. My traditional fly tying roots include stories of how the Fan Wing Royal Coachman was a favorite dry fly pattern of my father, Donald R. Bastian.

Ray Bergman wrote about the Fan Wing Royal Coachman in his books, but it was not until later in my tying career that I obtained a copy of Ray’s first book, Just Fishing, 1932. Bergman’s account in Just Fishing describes his initial revulsion at the mere appearance of the Fan Wing Royal Coachman, and then continues in the text of that book as to how and why the pattern quickly became one of his favorite dry fly patterns.

From the single color plate of dry flies in Just Fishing, painted by artist Dr. Edgar Burke, there is a Fan Wing Pink Lady. I always thought that was a beautiful fly. Over a decade ago, bowing to my classically-trained fly tying roots, I put together a boxed selection of five different Fan Wing dry fly patterns, containing, of course the Royal Coachman, plus a Light Cahill, March Brown, Green Drake, and the Pink Lady. Last season during the shows I sold the last boxed set I had, but I have had a few dozen fan wing flies completed, ready to make up a few more sets, save for tying a couple more of the patterns to complete the selections.

The Pink Lady became a well-known dry fly pattern, thanks to George M. L. LaBranche, who in 1914, authored The Dry Fly and Fast Water. LaBranche is credited for originating the Pink Lady. In the 1920’s when Fan Wing patterns became popular, it was only natural that someone would take the Pink Lady and convert it to a Fan Wing pattern.

Here is a Fan Wing Pink Lady that I tied a couple years ago:

Fan Wing Pink Lady - the hook is a size #10 standard fine wire dry fly hook.

Fan Wing Pink Lady – the hook is a size #10 standard fine wire dry fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Fan Wing Pink Lady

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size #8 to #12

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #2 Cream

Wings: White duck breast feathers, see footnote below *

Tag: Narrow flat gold tinsel

Tail: Golden pheasant tippet

Ribbing: Narrow flat gold tinsel

Body: Pink floss, pale in color

Hackle: Light ginger

Head: Cream

* Male wood duck breast feathers can be used for the white wings, though during the Golden Age of Fan Wing Drys in the 1920’s and ’30’s, wood ducks were under the protection of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Nearly driven to the brink of extinction by loss of habitat due to intense logging and unrestricted market hunting, the extirpation of the wood duck was a definite possibility, considering the fate of the passenger pigeon. Mandarin duck feathers were used, as were also the breast feathers from small breeds of white domestic ducks. Wood ducks were fully protected starting in 1918, but some states allowed limited hunting of wood ducks to resume in the late 1940’s. ‘Woodies’ were not hunted again nationwide until 1959. Thankfully wood duck populations are presently healthy, the result of intensive duck box nesting programs and sensible hunting practices.

I apologize that I do not have a front view of the fan wings, but you can check my recent post on the Fan Wing Royal Coachman. The wings look the same. Wing sizing should be equal to the length of the entire hook. A heavier tippet, 4x, is best when fishing fan wing drys, and minimizing your false casting also works to your advantage.

I listed the wings as the first ingredient, because when tying these flies, it is advisable to mount the wings first. I believe there is feather mounting information in my Fan Wing Green Drake post. Don’t forget you can use the search key tab at the to right of my home page; just type in a topic you are looking for, and hit ‘enter.’

The Fan Wing Pink Lady is a classic dry fly pattern.

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor – Classic Wet Flies

I recently added a couple new items to my product page at MyFlies.com, and I wanted to share these items with my readers. The items are Boxed Collector’s Sets of paired classic wet flies. The first to go up was the Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor, then a couple weeks later, this past weekend actually, the second set was posted – The Parmacheene Belle and the Trout Fin. All four are classic wet flies that were (or could also be) classic Lake Flies. In fact only the Trout Fin is not confirmed by my research as an authentic historic or heritage-style “Lake Fly,” but I believe that pattern, sent to Ray Bergman in the mid-1940’s by Bert Quimby of South Windham, Maine, for inclusion in Ray’s fourth book, With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, is of Maine origin and was probably fished in lakes. So there you go. Classic logical conclusion arrived at by deduction of the facts.

These wet fly sets are actually what got me started on the path to being more or less a professional fly tier. I started selling them back in the mid-nineties when I was doing shows as an exhibitor; selling tying materials, flies, fly selections, hooks, tackle accessories, and – boxed pairs, sets of classic wet flies. Back then they were not even called “classic wet flies” because the term had not yet caught on, and I was about the only tier, or one of the few fly tiers around even tying those old “forgotten” brook trout patterns. It’s like at one time, Classic Rock music was just “rock music.” So these old “classic” wet flies were at one time, just “wet flies.”

I had sent the first set of the “Doctors” to a customer in Canada. Then I got another order just last week for a customer in Australia, which could be another story in and of itself, but suffice it to say that it’s amazing to think there are classic salmon and trout fly tiers in the land Down-Under. Bob Frandsen for one that I can think of; member of http://www.classicflytyingforum.com and TheStreamerList.com. (That reminds me of Men at Work, a favorite classic rock band from Australia. I love The Essential Men at Work, it’s one of my favorite CD’s).

So back to doctors in the house – the Silver Doctor was published in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. Not once, not twice, but four times. The first Silver Doctor in Marbury’s book is among the Salmon Flies, then there are three different versions included on the Plates of Lake Flies, the Orvis version, and two more patterns of the Doctor, designed by Henry P. Wells, creator of the Parmacheene Belle, and J. G. Shearer. The Golden Doctor is not as well known as the Silver Doctor, but it is mentioned in Marbury’s book, dating it to the 19th century, certifying its probable use as a fancy Lake Fly pattern.

Here are some photos of the patterns:

Silver Doctor - Don Bastian pattern variation.

Silver Doctor – Don Bastian pattern variation. Dressed on a #4 Mustad 3906 vintage wet fly hook. I added the jungle cock cheek for extra appeal. The basic pattern – tail, tag, tip, body, hackles came from Trout, by Ray Bergman.

This pattern of the Silver Doctor is included in my second DVD, Advanced Classic Wet Flies, though that version has a slightly simpler five-strip wing. I got the idea for these original wing-quill versions of the Silver Doctor by examining commercially-tied Silver Doctor wet flies in The Maine Guide Fly Shop, in Greenville, Maine, about ten years ago. Those patterns were tied with duck wing quills, simply yellow and blue, married together. Up until then I had always tied the Silver Doctor using flank feathers of teal, barred wood duck in some cases, and mottled turkey or bustard, along with goose shoulder for the red, blue, and yellow. Seeing those simple quill-wing versions got me thinking; why not use more durable wing quill slips in place of the harder-to-use – not to mention grading and selecting – and less durable flank feathers? I used plain brown goose for turkey, and guinea fowl for a replacement for the black and white teal feathers. The rest was plain old goose and duck wing quill sections, readily available and easy to marry.

Here is the Golden Doctor:

Goldemn Doctor - dressed and photographed by Don Bastian. This pattern is the one taken from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Golden Doctor – dressed and photographed by Don Bastian. The hook is a Mustad #4 vintage 3906. This pattern recipe is the one taken from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor, card-mounted, boxed and labeled.

Collector’s Set – Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor, card-mounted, boxed and labeled.

Here is the link to this set of wet flies: http://www.myflies.com/Classic-Wet-Fly-Collection-Silver-and-Golden-Doctor-P837.aspx

When I was tying the Silver Doctor for the customer in Australia, I got the inspiration to change the mottled turkey in the wing to light and dark brown mottled peacock wing quill. The mottling of brown is bolder and more contrasting in the peacock feathers, and my reasoning was that it would look better. And I believe it does. All of these flies are tied with the wing tips curving downward, in popular 19th century fashion.

Here is the Silver Doctor, my latest variation:

Silver Doctor - dressed and photographed by Don Bastian.

Silver Doctor – dressed and photographed by Don Bastian. This pattern also differs from the one above in the lack of a tip; both the flat gold tinsel and red floss are part of the tag on this version. Sorry the photo is a little lackluster; I’m still having to shoot on “auto” which severely limits my options for lighting, focus, color, and depth-of-field. I may still decide to change the plain brown-dyed goose to mottled brown turkey for a little more variegation of color.

The Golden Doctor:

Golden Doctor - this version has a full collar hackle applied after the wing was mounted.

Golden Doctor – this version has a full collar hackle applied after the wing was mounted. These wing slips were cut from a matched pair of mallard flank feathers; that is a left and a right, so that the webbed fibers are balanced, left and right. Historically this pattern would have been tied with a pair of whole gray mallard flank feathers for the wing.

Golden Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Hook: #2 Mustad 3906, any standard wet fly hook will suffice

Tail: Red, yellow, and green goose or duck quill sections; married

Body: Flat gold tinsel

Hackle: Claret

Wing: Gray mallard with “splits” of narrow married blue and red goose shoulder

Head: Red – Wapsi lacquer was used over the red thread, and finished with a couple coats of clear Grif’s Thick

Below are both flies together on the wood:

Golden  Doctor and Silver Doctor - size #2 Mustad wet fly hooks, vintage 3906.

Golden Doctor and Silver Doctor – size #2 Mustad wet fly hooks, vintage 3906. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Here are the #2 Doctors, card-mounted, labeled, and ready to be sent off to Australia; thank you Brett!

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor - Mustad #2 vintage 3906 wet fly hooks. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor – Mustad #2 vintage 3906 wet fly hooks. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Silver Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Hook: Mustad 3906 wet fly hook, any standard wet fly hook will suffice

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Golden pheasant crest and short dash of blue schlappen, or kingfisher

Tip: Red floss (see footnote differentiating tip and tag)

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Blue fronted by guinea fowl

Wing: Brown turkey or mottled peacock, brown goose (or mottled turkey), guinea fowl, red, blue, yellow goose; married

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Red – this has a coat of Wapsi red lacquer, with a couple coats of clear Grif’s Thick over

The definition of tag and tip is as follows: A tag is always at the end of the body, but always behind and underneath the tail; whereas a tip is also at the end of the body but always encircles the tail. This definition is clear; taken from J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies. However, in his own excellent Fly Nomenclature drawing, he contradicts himself by, according to his written definition, labeling part of the tag as the “tip.” The pattern in his diagram, p. 37, 1988 edition, actually has no tip. I believe my readers will appreciate this clarification.

Here is a photo of the married wings before mounting; I didn’t count barbs, but figured four each was about right. The individual wings may be off a barb here and there. Two contradictory definitions can not both be correct.

Silver Doctor wings

Silver Doctor wings – married, prior to mounting on the fly.

Silver Doctor wings set in place with two or three thread wraps.

Silver Doctor wings set in place with three or four thread wraps.

Macro-image of the wing set. Notice how the quill sections have compressed perfectly, with not fluting, pleating, or folds. Something I just learned in March of 2012. Read below for that technique.

Macro-image of the wing set. Notice how the quill sections have compressed perfectly, and they are centered on top of the hook shank, with no fluting, pleating, or folds. Something I just learned how to do in March of 2012. Read below for that technique.

I shall endeavor to explain this as succinctly as possible. However, without a photographic step-by-step, or until I can make another video, this is the best I can do. If you don’t quite get it the first time, try reading it slower a second time, and go through the motions with your hands as you read. That should do it.

At the Annual L. L. Bean Spring Fly Fishing Expo in March of 2012, my friend from York, Maine, Dave Lomasney, showed me a “new” method of mounting wet fly wings. I had met Dave just one year earlier. Since he was interested, I spent some time teaching him the basics of tying wet flies and marrying wings. In a few months Dave was turning our great wet flies (see this post in my archives):  https://donbastianwetflies.com/2012/01/02/bee-1900s-orvis-wet-fly-pattern/

In 2012 Dave came up to me as I was tying at Bean’s and announced he had discovered a new way to mount wet fly wings. I did not express too much amazement, because in typical “experienced” fly tier fashion, having tied wet flies for years, I figured there wasn’t much new under the sun. I was about to be enlightened! I’ve learned more than once not to be too stubborn and set in my ways. Most anyone who has tied a few flies can probably teach you something. Dave’s method has actually been around, but to my knowledge and surveys taken since, it was not normally used on feather wing wet flies. It may have been used by salmon fly tiers, but it was primarily developed to tie in bucktail hair wings, a small bunch at a time, the idea being to get a better grip on the hair fibers by tying in smaller bunches in stages. With bucktail, the tying thread is brought completely around the butt ends of hair, then around the hook shank, so two wraps are made over the butts before they are lashed down to the hook. So it is with the feather wing slips on wet flies.

Pinch and hold the wing in the usual position, but elevate it slightly above the hook shank as you make the first wrap, then the second thread wrap is brought underneath the butt ends of the quills, but not around the hook. Two wraps are made over the butt ends of the wing quills before you make the third wrap that takes the thread around the hook shank.

The two wraps over the wing must be made directly above the rear of the head, which is where your tie-in point would and should normally be. They must also be made in place, right on top of each other. Once the two wraps are made over the butt ends of the wing, let go of your bobbin. Then the left hand holds and only holds the wing proper (do NOT make any other motions); while the right hand grasps the butt ends of the wing and makes a slight up and down motion with the exposed butt ends. This action, combined with the gravity weight of the bobbin, relaxes and collapses the thread looped around the wing. Once this is accomplished, 50 to 75% of the wings butt ends will be compressed and collapsed down.

Next stabilize the wing with your left thumb and middle finger, holding the wing vertical, and tight (but not too tight to have the thread cut the fibers of the wing), and maybe even tilted slightly toward you; grasp your bobbin, and tighten the thread slowly, gradually bringing it to up to maximum tension, before making the third wrap. Make two more wraps at max tension, then check your wing attitude.

With practice this method will improve your wing setting by 100%. It may take a few flies and wings and some effort to get it down. And I have learned that it is particularly useful for wider wings on large hook sizes. This technique excels in setting perfect wings on #2 and #4 hooks. I use it all the way down to #8’s; on #10 and smaller it is not necessary. I dare say thank you Dave! I have used this method on virtually every size #8 and larger wet fly wing I have tied in the last year-and-a-half.

One result this method accomplishes is this: It gathers the bottom of the wing quill sections completely together, pulling them in place and centering them top-dead-center on the hook shank. It eliminates any slippage or “creep” of the bottom of the wings down over the sides of the fly body. And it virtually eliminates pleating and folding of the wing. It also ties in the wing at the exact point where the thread initially makes contact on the top of the quill sections, eliminating the forward thread-slippage that almost always occurs when setting wet fly wings with the conventional finger-pinch-wrap method. I still teach the conventional method of setting wings, but in every class I have taught since Dave showed me this trick, I teach this method more than any other. My students unanimously love it better than the old method.

Oh, and yes, I use the same method on the Golden Doctor and other flank-winged wet flies in setting the two opposing sections of gray mallard flank. Works like a charm!

Brookie Fin – Classic Wet Fly

The Brookie Fin is another of the six (known to me) historic brook trout fin wet fly patterns. This pattern was published in Helen Shaw’s second book, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989, Stackpole Books. I uncovered mention of using the brook trout fin for bait in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. I remember my dad telling my brother, Larry, and me about that when we fished small mountain streams in northern Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, back about 1961 or ’62. We scoffed. He promptly gave a demonstration; taking a fin cut from a brook trout, impaling it on a hook, swinging it into a small pool, and catching a brookie on the first cast.

Here is an instructional paragraph from Shaw’s book:

“The wing for our Brookie Fin is a built-wing. This time it is made with four strips of different colors of goose, three of which have been dyed. The main strip of the wing is orange. Above it is a narrow strip of red; above that, a narrow strip of black; and over it all you will use a narrow strip of white. The exact number of flues for each color depends on the width of the finished wing for the particular size of hook you are using. The feathers from which you take the strips of flues for the wing also have some bearing on how many or how few you will need. Some goose pointers have wider flues than others. Suffice it to say that the strips of flues above the main part of the wing are narrower by comparison. The four colored strips together should not be any wider than the width of a wing made of a single colored strip.”

Here is an image of a Brookie Fin that I recently tied:

Brookie Fin - classic wet fly pattern from Helen Shaw's book.

Brookie Fin – classic wet fly pattern from Helen Shaw’s book. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Brookie Fin

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel; Shaw’s dressing calls for silver wire

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: White hackle fibers; Shaw’s original dressing calls for polar bear

Wing: Narrow strips of white, black, and red; married to and topping remainder of orange goose quill sections

Head: Black

Shaw’s formula in the recipe plate for the Brookie Fin calls for making the wing 2/3 orange, and 1/9 each Red, Black, and White. That is accurate, but personally I don’t feel like doing more math than I absolutely have to, especially math with fractions, and when I’m tying flies to boot. I generally use two strips each of white, black, and red, and make the rest of the wing, about 2/3, orange. That’s good for #4, #6, and #8 hooks. On a #2 hook, I’d go with three barbs or flues, and on #10 and #12 hooks, one must use only a single barb each of the topping colors. This type of detailed married-wing wet fly tying is what separates the men from the boys, or the women from the girls. It requires good keen eyesight, and steady hands.

No mention of the origin of the Brookie Fin appears in Shaw’s book, but it is quite likely that she originated it. She concluded her writing on the Brookie Fin with these words: “This is an exceptionally good wet-fly pattern, producing strikes when other patterns may prove to be ineffectual under many fishing conditions.”

About Helen’s book, Paul Schullery, former Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont wrote:

“Helen Shaw has long been recognized as one of this century’s foremost fly-tying teachers. With this book, she brings fly tying’s oldest and grandest tradition back to center stage. Not since Mary Orvis Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories was published nearly a century ago (now 121 years) has the wet fly been so well celebrated in words and pictures.”

The book is out-of-print, but may be found if one looks. The ISBN No. is: 0-8117-0607-9.

Though originally published in 1989, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies remains as the best wet fly tying instructional book presently available. – Don Bastian.