Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892

This is the title of my upcoming book, the one that was originally announced here on my blog in November 2011. It was then shared by Fly Tyer Magazine Forum Moderator, David MacConnell, or “D Mac” as he was known. David and I had become friends, and he was frequently sharing my blog posts about streamers to the Fly Tyer Forums page. But he sadly passed away in October of 2013. Here is a link to that book announcement:

http://forums.flytyer.com/forum/36-books-videos/15322-new-book-announcement-from-don-bastian#15322

I will write more below on the book, to update a few things, and the contributing tiers list has changed. Several of the names on the 2011 Fly Tyer Forum list are no longer contributors, and new ones have been added.

The original title was “The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury” but that was changed after a year to “Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.” The reason I did that was because I felt my original title gave too much credit to Marbury, and folks might get the idea, as they clearly have with the phrase, “Ray Bergman wet flies,” that she originated these flies. That is not the case in either instance. I get questions about “Bergman wet flies,” or I read the phrase, “Bergman-style wet flies,” and there is really nothing to that, other than the fact that his book “Trout” – 1938, presented the largest collection of illustrated fishing flies that had ever been published, four-hundred forty wet flies in all. Bergman was modest as a fly tying teacher, and his section on tying wet flies in his book takes up barely three pages. He tied in the popular style of the time. The illustrations indicate that he used “closed wing style” as did nearly all the flies on Marbury’s book, but that he tied tip-up, whereas the patterns in Marbury’s book are nearly all tied tip-down. Bergman tied and fished popular wet flies and personal favorites. As far as “Bergman original wet fly patterns” there is only one wet fly pattern he originated, out of the nearly 500 different patterns that were mentioned in his three books and the second edition of “Trout,” 1952,  and that is the Quebec. Bergman originated nearly thirty dry fly patterns; fishing on top was his favorite method.

“Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892” will be a book containing individual photos of reproductions of all 292 flies from Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, “Favorite Flies and Their Histories,” 1892. These flies are tied by myself and twenty-some contributing tiers from the United States and Canada. Most of you know that my book project had been delayed for various reasons, but it is certainly not dead. Lack of support and zero response from the publisher for over a year-and-a-half is the reason. On the other hand, the delay has had the exceptional benefit in that I have been able to obtain valuable information on the actual tying procedures for these historic, classic flies of our fly fishing heritage. There will be step-by-step photos and tying instructions for all of the classifications of these flies except Salmon Flies. I am not qualified, nor is there a need to write any “how-to” on a topic where a plethora of information already exists. I have also been discovering additional patterns that will be included. I am including additional patterns on the 1893 Orvis Display from the Museum that are not in Marbury’s book.

I am in negotiations with a new publisher, and I will say more than one publisher is being considered. As soon as this is finalized I will let everyone know.

These old flies were made with silk and cotton thread, using the “reverse-wing” method to secure the wing to the hook. This also accounts for the “fat bodies” on the large Lake Flies, Bass Flies, and bigger trout flies. This was the result of the butt ends of the wings being lashed to the hook shank at the start of the fly construction, and then wrapped over with the thread and body materials as the fly was completed.

At the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey, over this past weekend, I had a conversation with Catherine Comar, the Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I visited the Museum two times in 2012 and again in 2013 to photograph the original fly plates from which the paintings were made to present artist renderings in Marbury’s book as colorful lithographs. I had some concerns about how this would come about, since I have photos of each fly plate, save for Plate Z which no longer is part of the collection. This will be the real gem of my book: my conversation with Catherine worked out a how full page photographs of all 31 of the 120-plus years old flies that were published in Marbury’s book, the lion’s share of which were never given recipes for, will be included in my book.

J. Edson Leonard, in his fine book, “Flies” 1950, made an effort to present the pattern recipes. But since I have seen, personally inspected, photographed, and studied both the original flies and the macro images I made from each plate of every single fly from the  original plates from which the Marbury book flies were made, I have discovered that many of the components previously published in both “Flies” and “Forgotten Flies” are incorrect. These material errors run from one to as many as six different items on one fly! My close scrutiny of these patterns will present a high degree of material component accuracy. I am very modest as a rule, but I will state that I am excited about publishing the exact recipes for these historic flies. I will make every effort through my editing process to ascertain the details and hopefully have few errors in the finished product. I am also excited about the fact that my book will contain fly patterns from the 1893 Orvis Display that have never been published anywhere, not that I can find.

Now regarding that post on the Fly Tyer Forum from 2011, I already described the title change and my reasons for doing so. Additionally, these tiers named there are no longer contributors: Dave Benoit, Mike Martinek, Jr., Stanley Miller, and Sharon Wright. Since then I have added John Hoffmann from Ontario, and Peggy Brenner from New Hampshire. This article and comments have been edited on February 2nd, and all I will say is the “As The World Turns” elements of the article and comments have been removed. Recent developments have made this choice very easy, besides being the right and gentlemanly thing to do.

I still need to photograph the flies from my contributors, I have a few flies to tie myself, and a couple chapters to write. Once at the publishers, “Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892” will not be far off.

Thank you all for your support and understanding.

Advertisements

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!

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!

Parmacheene Belle – Revisited

Here is another Parmacheene Belle wet fly. This dressing is correct according to the original recipe written by the originator, Henry P. Wells, in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly, co-authored by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney.

One of the commenters on my last post of this pattern on classicflytyingforum.com, of several weeks ago now, correctly observed that the hackle was a little full, and perhaps too long. (That fly was posted here a couple-three weeks ago). It may have been, especially a tad long, but generally, in the traditional tying style of the period (19th century), hackles were longer rather than shorter, and they were more full, rather than sparse. Tying styles and preferences can change over time, but I am a firm believer in tying and replicating flies in their original dressings and style if possible.

For example, many tiers use goose shoulder for wet fly wings, particularly married wings. My belief is: you have to use goose shoulder, but only for married wings in patterns that also call for turkey. Technically, this does not change the pattern correctness, but in actuality, goose shoulder was not used much for primary wing construction on commercially-tied wet flies of the 19th and 20th centuries. Otherwise, the Parmacheene Belle, for example, and nearly all other married wing wet fly patterns use goose or duck wing quills for the wing. There were some exceptions, as in a married wing pattern like the Munro, Silver Doctor, Lake Edward, and Ferguson, because these patterns also use turkey, which does not marry well to duck or goose wing quill sections. Hence my comment above about marrying goose shoulder to turkey. This is the Prime Directive of Married Wings – “always maintain uniformity of texture as much as possible.” The 19th century “married” wing, or more correctly named, “mixed wing” version of these patterns was generally tied with a full wing of turkey mounted first, then followed with “splits” of other colors; usually of goose shoulder, laid over the wing.

My thought is this: A Black Prince Lake Fly, for example, is properly tied and historically correct with a wing of goose wing quill. When tied with a wing of black goose shoulder, it may look good, but it (goose shoulder) generally gives the fly a “too-low” wing profile, at least when considering it as an accurate representation or rendition of a 19th century classic pattern. The low-swept wing makes it look more like a contemporary  steelhead or salmon pattern, rather than a 19th century fly, which would have the wing at a sharp upward angle of forty-to-fifty degrees. A quick glance at the color plates of the Lake Flies, Bass Flies, and Trout Flies in Marbuy’s book confirms this.

So in my case, until just a few years ago, my personal representation and tying of wet flies was in the 20th century style, with wing-tips up, melded with the divided wing style (formerly my favorite) preferred by J. Edson Leonard, author of Flies, 1950, and opposing Bergman’s method (and the generally accepted traditional method) of mounting wet fly wings with concave sides together. My 2010 wet fly article in Hatches Magazine presented the four different methods or styles of setting wet fly wings. All are correct in my view. More recently I have been somewhat converted to the older looking, more traditional, and more historically correct method of setting the wings with the tip down, giving the wing a slightly lower profile, and a perhaps more pleasing to the eye, sweeping natural curve that starts right at the base of the wing at the tie-in point. This is the result of my observation and study of the display flies from the 1893 Orvis Exhibition in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, and my good fortune to have been granted access to, and held (while wearing white cotton gloves), examined, and photographed the “holy grail” of the thirty-one actual fly plates that were used for the artist’s paintings for Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 epic book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. There were thirty-two original plates in Marbury’s book, but Plate Z is missing from the museum collection.

The angle and mounting style of the wings was also different in the 19th century. Nearly all wet flies, whether using single or married quill feather sections, whole “spoon wing” feathers, or tips of gray mallard, barred wood duck, bronze mallard, or quill wings with splits, were all tied “reverse-winged.” That is, with the wing tied down, butt ends to the rear, tips pointing forward over the front of the fly, then pulled back over and lashed in place with a half dozen or so wraps. The bulky head of the fly included the visible folded-over butts of the stems or quill sections. This also gave the wings a higher angle relative to the body. This technique was used on blind-eye and eyed hooks, that became increasingly more popular just one year after Marbury’s book was written. John Betts wrote an article about the reverse-wing method in a 1996 article in The American Flyfisher, the magazine of the American Museum of fly Fishing. Well, I’m getting carried away, or free-lancing my thoughts on this topic…

More of this type information will be in my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, which includes all 291 of the patterns published in M. O. Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, plus more than 200 additional patterns from the Orvis archives.

Here is the Parmacheene Belle, original pattern version; this is tied on a  size #2, vintage Mustad 3399 wet fly hook.

Parmacheene Belle -

Parmacheene Belle – this version is tied divided wing, “tip-up.” The yellow rabbit dubbing substituted for the original yellow mohair does a reasonable job of imitating the original material. Some later 20th century commercial versions of the Parmacheene Belle eliminated the silver tinsel tag, and changed the butt to black ostrich herl, and the body to yellow floss.

The only recipe change I made is I used yellow rabbit dubbing in place of Wells’ original yellow mohair specified on the body.

In March of this year, I taught an extended weekend fly tying class for Wilson’s Fly Shop of Toronto and Fergus, at a Bed and Breakfast in the lovely town of Fergus. We covered traditional wet flies, Carrie Stevens streamers using her proprietary methods, and on Sunday morning, flies from Marbury’s book. When the subject of reverse wings came up, it was unanimous that the students wanted to try this. The only problem was that the instructor, yours truly, had never done it. Their desires prevailed against my hesitation, so it was agreed that attempting the reverse-wing tying method would be a learning experience for everyone. We tied at least three patterns using this method, and everyone did fairly well with the process, despite it being a totally new experience for everyone.

One of my Canadian friends, John Hoffmann, of Fergus, tied a few patterns for my book. John works part-time for the Fergus location of Wilson’s, and also guides and does some teaching of fly tying and fly fishing for the shop. Besides the bed and breakfast stay where the class was held, John, his wife Cathy, and their Airedale, Gracie, were my hosts for a few extra days. Thanks John, Cathy, and Gracie!

I intend to make the posting of those patterns, my first effort at reverse-winged flies next on my blog – hopefully later this week. Thanks to everyone for your subscriptions and devotion to my writings!

Fitz-Maurice Lake Fly

This pattern as represented in Trout by Ray Bergman is a little different than the old, original 19th century version I discovered on the 1893 Orvis Display Plates at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. Bergman’s book obviously includes the Fitzmaurice as a trout pattern, while as represented in size on the Orvis display, it could be a either a Lake Fly, intended for brook trout and landlocked salmon, or a Bass Fly, or perhaps both.

Here is the version replicated from the recipe of Trout:

Fitzmaurice wet fly, recipe from Trout by Ray Bergman.

Fitzmaurice wet fly, recipe from Trout by Ray Bergman.

Fitzmaurice, Trout version:

Tag: Oval gold tinsel – the addition of the tinsel tag is mine, note the flat gold tinsel tag on the Orvis version

Tail: Peacock sword fibers

Butt: Black chenille

Body: Red chenille

Wing: Bronze mallard

Hackle: Yellow

Head: Black

Following is my photo of the Fitz-Maurice from the 1893 Orvis Display:

Fitz-Maurice

Fitz-Maurice from 1893 Orvis Display, hook size is approximately a #1/0. The Lake Flies were traditionally tied in sizes this large, as were the Bass Flies.

Fitz-Maurice – Orvis Dressing:

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Peacock sword fibers

Body: Rear 1/2 red chenille, front 1/2 black chenille

Hackle: Golden yellow, wound full over front 1/5 of hook shank

Wing: Gray mallard, two whole feathers; this could be classed as a spoon wing. The stems were tied reverse-wing.

This pattern has a gut loop eye, often referred to back in the day as a snood. The chenille is very dense, most likely a fine grade of silk chenille. The Fitz-Maurice is not listed in Mary Orvis Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, but as you can see it is on the 1893 Orvis Display, and it will be among more than 200 additional 19th century fly patterns, beyond the 291 in Marbury’s book, that will be listed by name with the accurate recipe, determined by visual inspection of actual flies, and from study of my collection of fly photos, in my upcoming book in progress, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. The additional fly patterns from the 1893 display include flies in all categories of Marbury’s book: Hackles, Lake Flies, Trout Flies, Salmon Flies, and Bass Flies.

Alexandra Wet Fly

The Al4exandra Wet Fly - from the 1893 Orvis Display

The Alexandra Lake Fly – from the 1893 Orvis Display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. This fly is 120 years old. The hook size is approximately a 1/0. Note the whole light brown mottled turkey quill wing under the peacock sword. This previously unknown full quill wing is just one tidbit of actual fly pattern component discovery that I have unearthed during my research for my book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. The turkey wing on the Alexandra has seemingly been missed from most, if not all fly pattern sources where this pattern was published for over one-hundred years.

Alexandra

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and red floss

Tail: Peacock sword fibers

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Chinchilla (grizzly that is mostly white), or grizzly

Wing: Light brown mottled turkey with peacock sword topping and red splits

Head: Red or black

The Alexandra is pattern number thirty-six of the Lake Flies in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories.

J. Edson Leonard’s Recipe for the Alexandra:

Tag: Flat gold tinsel * (see footnote)

Tail: Peacock sword fibers

Tip: Flat gold tinsel * (see footnote)

Ribbing: silver

Body: Gray floss

Hackle: Gray dun or badger

Wing: Peacock sword, red splits

* J. Edson Leonard in his 1950 book, Flies, lists the tip as a “red floss tip, gold tag,” while this is his own definition of a tip: “A tip is any winding such as floss or tinsel located immediately behind the body and may or may not be accompanied by a tag, which is always under the tail fibers, whereas the tip always encircles the tail fibers. Alternately, Leonard defines a tag as: The tag is a narrow winding of silk, tinsel or fur located at the rear of the body and under the tail fibers.” He elaborates further: “…not synonymous with “tip” which, although disputed by some authorities, is always in front of the tag winding and immediately behind the body.”

Leonard’s own line drawing, Figure 7, p. 37 in Flies, shows a contradictory labeling of “tip” and “tag.” The fly on Figure 7 shows a two-part tag and no tip, even though the front floss portion of the tag is labeled as the “tip.” I am going to go with his written definition, as it makes more sense, even though this is one of the rare occasions that I choose to place more trust in what I read rather than what I can see. I love J. Edson Leonard’s book, Flies, don’t get me wrong on that. It is very detailed and covers a ton of material. Yet there are mistakes in his fly pattern recipes taken from Mary Orvis Marbury’s book plates, that I have discovered according my visual inspection and study of the actual flies that were used for the painted color plates in Marbury’s Favorite Flies.

I listed the tag, tip, and tail on Leonard’s recipe according to his written definition of the material placement, though this contradicts further with the Marbury / Orvis published pattern, from which Leonard reputedly took his recipe for the Alexandra.

According to Mary Orvis Marbury’s writing in Favorite Flies and Their Histories; the Alexandra “was originally named by General Gerald Goodlake ‘Lady of the Lake,’ but this name was afterwards abandoned in favor of Alexandra.” The Alexandra takes its name from Princess Alexandra of Great Britain. Marbury considered that the Alexandra “may not properly be called an artificial fly, being intended as a vague imitation of a minnow, and was originally recommended to be cast and played minnow fashion just below the surface of the water.”

“The pattern was invented by Doctor Hobbs a number of years ago, and it came into great favor with English fishermen; indeed, it was believed to be so taking that its use was forbidden on some streams. The favorite method was to allow the line to run with the current, and then draw it back up stream by short, sudden jerks that opened and closed the hackles, giving a glimpse of the bright, silvery body.” (Note Leonard’s body of gray floss).

Marbury also wrote: The Alexandra is “preferred on large hooks, and is used for trout in deep, dark waters, or for black bass, for either of which it is frequently effective, owing probably to its likeness, when being drawn rapidly through the water, to a tiny minnow.”

My family and friends have found the Alexandra to be a particularly effective pattern for brook trout and landlocked salmon in Maine. My niece Emily also had success one year right over the hill from my home on Pennsylvania’s Lycoming Creek, trailing an Alexandra behind a Wooly Bugger. On that Memorial Day afternoon in 2006, Emily landed seventeen trout, and just three fish took the bugger. The remaining thirteen trout were taken on the Alexandra, Yellow Sally, and Parmacheene Belle. Guess nobody told those browns and rainbows she caught that they weren’t supposed to eat classic brook trout flies.

This writing is a sampling of the fly pattern information that my research has turned up in my work on writing my first book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. The book is in the final phase of completion.

Owner – 19th Century Bass Fly

Owner Bass Fly.

Owner Bass Fly. This fly was also known as the Red Guinea. It is card-mounted as I sell these flies at shows and events. The hook is a Gaelic Supreme 2/0.

The Owner was originated in 1885 by Mr. J. S. Owner, of Hagerstown, Maryland. He was a close friend of E. D. Bowly, of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. As one of the correspondents to Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, Mr. Bowly writes of success with the Owner on the Potomac River. The Owner was also known as the Red Guinea. Mr. Bowly did personal research on the Potomac related to water conditions. He wrote of lying on his back in three to four feet of water, studying the body colors of various artificial flies as they drifted past relative to the murkiness of the water. One of Mr. Bowly’s favorites was a Queen of the Waters, with a yellow body, tied on a size 1 hook. This was a version he created for smallmouth bass. He wrote of one occasion fishing a Queen of the Waters on the point, with an Owner as a stretcher, and taking sixteen smallmouth bass in the Potomac on eight casts, though the casts were not consecutive.

Five Owners,

Five Owners, three 2/0, one 1/0, and one size #2. The #2 is on an eyed hook.

Some of the correspondents to Marbury’s book in 1892 were already recommending their personal preference to use eyed hooks and to tie their own tippets to their flies. The 1893 Orvis Display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, has a good number of flies dressed on eyed hooks. The 1890’s were the period of transition from blind-eye to eyed hooks, even though many companies and anglers continued to use flies dressed on blind eye hooks. With this information in mind, it is perfectly acceptable to replicate a 19th century fly pattern on a vintage or antique eyed hook, and still be historically correct.

Owner

Owner – 2/0. The correct ribbing for this pattern is fine yellow or pale green chenille. Chenille comes in five sizes: extra small, small, medium (Wooly Bugger Size), large, and extra large. Most fly shops sell only the medium size.

The Marbury book Owner plate fly appears to have a ribbing of very light, pale green chenille, while the version from the 1890 Orvis display has a yellow chenille rib. The book pattern has a black chenille head while the display version has a thread head.

Owner from the 1893 Orvis Museum Display. Note the absence of the chenille head, which was a component of the book pattern.

Owner Bass Fly from the 1893 Orvis Museum Display. Note the absence of the chenille head, which was a component of the book pattern. I would estimate this hook size as a 2/0 or 3/0. Note the beautiful density of the chenille. It was probably silk, but may have been wool chenille.

J. Edson Leonard’s pattern version in his 1950 book, Flies, of a body for the Owner of yellow floss with a ribbing of “thick yellow floss” is not what I consider a pattern variation. It makes no sense to me as a fly tying recipe. Let me say, fly pattern “political correctness” is not my thing. I love Leonard’s book, but I have no idea how he arrived at this recipe, or a good number of others from Marbury’s book that are “different.” My work with the actual photos I took of the original flies from Marbury’s book and plates of actual flies has been a strong focus in my current book in progress, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. By publishing accurate pattern recipes based on meticulous study of the actual flies and photographs, I hope to clarify these patterns and their components for the benefit of all interested fly tiers.

Thank you for your interest in classic patterns.