Partridge and Hare’s Ear Soft-Hackle

My friend Bill Shuck in Maryland just sent me another photo and recipe of his latest fly tying efforts. It is a Pete Hidy style rendition of the Partridge and Hare’s Ear Soft-hackle wet fly / flymph.

It is taken from a recipe in the book, The Masters on the Nymph, by Migel and Wright.
Caddis “Partridge and Hare’s Ear.”
Hook: Gaelic Supreme Jack Mickievicz Letort Dry Fly Standard Shank, Size #14
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer, #10 Ash
Hackle: One or two turns of partridge hackle slightly longer than the hook
Ribbing: Fine gold wire
Body: Hare’s poll on ash silk thread
Head: Same as body thread
This looks like a killer pattern; simple, easy to tie, all-purpose generic food item that has wide appeal to the trout. Thanks Bill for your great tying and for the photo!
Partridge and Hare's Ear Soft-hackle Caddis / Flymph. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Partridge and Hare’s Ear Soft-hackle Caddis / Flymph. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

This fly has got to be a great performer in a two or three fly rig, swung down-and-across.

Parmacheene Belle – Antique Replica

Some of my readers have heard me say that I don’t have a “favorite” classic wet pattern, which is true; it’s so hard to pick only one from the hundreds of possibilities. But considering I first tied the Parmacheene Belle forty years ago in 1974, and the fact that it was also my first-ever married wing wet fly, it has remained at the top of a list of my favorite wet flies. I enjoy tying them; I’ve probably tied more than five hundred of them over the years,  and I also love looking at any well-tied Parmacheene Belle. The fly has a great combination of color – selection, arrangement, and balance, as well as material choice, and the best part: It catches fish! It was a successful fly back in 1876 when Henry P. Wells first created the pattern and named it for Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. Back then it was still possible to catch brook trout in the Rangeley Lakes that exceeded eight pounds in weight. The “Belle” also proved an effective fly for landlocked salmon as well. Well over one-hundred thirty years later, my fly fishing relatives, my friends, a number of my customers, and me, have all caught trout on this fly in waters scattered across the country. I have customers every year who order some to fish with. Successful catches of fish on the Parmacheene Belle also includes the unexpected bonus of brown and rainbow trout. I’ve even heard tell of anglers out west catching cutthroat trout on them as well. Hairwing versions of this fly were among some early 20th century steelhead patterns; in fact Plate No. 11 in Bergman’s Trout presents a hairwing version of the Parmacheene Belle.

I have written a number of posts on this fly during the last four years since I started my blog, and if you care to research them, simply use the search tab, type in “Parmacheene Belle,” hit the enter key and off you go! It will bring up every article that is titled or even mentions this fly. I did a married-wing streamer version of this about three years ago.

My introduction to this pattern came through Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a favorite pattern of his for catching large brook trout. In fact, in With Fly, Plug and Bait, 1947, Ray describes an occasion when he caught a large brook trout in Canada using a tandem wet fly rig consisting of two Parmacheene Belle wet flies, I believe they were both size #4. These flies were close together, much like a miniature tandem streamer.

The research for my ongoing book project, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, led me to the American Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vermont, where the actual fly plates used in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, are stored and occasionally placed on display. I had the privilege of gaining access to and viewing, studying, and photographing these historic fly plates. My work with them allowed me to ascertain many previously misidentified components of these patterns. This includes the tying recipes listed in every known publication that has claimed to represent these old wet fly patterns that were at one time cataloged by the Orvis Company. The problem was that Mary did not include the fly dressings for the patterns in her book. My research also led to to the 1883 book written by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney, called Fishing With the Fly. In that book, there is a chapter called Fly Fishing in the Rangeley Region by Henry P. Wells, the originator of the Parmacheene Belle. In his chapter he presents the complete (almost- see below) original dressing for his pattern. I found it odd that the Orvis version did not feature the original white-with-red-stripe married wing that he specified, but rather, a simpler wing of married red and white in equal parts. Subsequent variations of this pattern developed over time, some no doubt modified to make them easier to tie commercially, and others as a result of unknown reasons.

A friend provided actual, custom-dyed mohair dubbing that I could use for the body, as specified by the originator. This mohair dubbing is available on John McClain’s website: www.feathersmc.com

I also started tying and teaching the reverse-wing method that was widely used in the 19th century for mounting wings on practically all fishing flies. My reasoning for this is that the threads in use for fly tying at the time were made of either cotton or silk and lacked the tensile strength of modern threads. Therefore, to prevent wings pulling out of the flies, someone developed the method of mounting the wings to be tied in, backwards, with the butt ends facing to the rear, wrapped in place, then the forward portion of the feathers were folded over to make the wing of the fly, and a band of thread, resembling a collar, was wound in place over the folded butt end of the wings to provide the final stage of secure the feathers to the hook. This caused the heads of the fly to be large, bulky, and rather unattractive, but nonetheless, completely functional. This method also calls for longer sections of wing quills to complete the process; goose wings quills are my preference, and one must be careful regarding the proportions so that the finished, folded-back wing is properly sized to the hook.

This method also gave the flies of the day their characteristic high wing angle. My personal feeling is that too many tiers today attempt to replicate these historic flies, and they too often use the widely available goose shoulders for the wings. This material looks fine, depending on your point of view, but goose shoulder was used mostly to make “splits” or side-sections on wings to add extra colors to a pattern, and was not used on wings, according to the hundreds of antique flies that I have seen and studied. Goose shoulder was used to make wings and sometimes tails on the old lake, bass, and trout flies. Flies made like this today are perfectly acceptable in that they look fine, they display well, especially to an untrained eye, and they will catch fish, but with the inherent low, sleek-looking wing that goose shoulder renders, they are not historically accurate. I’m talking about the original patterns, not just following or substituting ingredients and then lashing them willy-nilly to the hook. I believe the accurate reproduction of these historic flies is important, and is something that should not be forgotten. Like our society and culture in general, even in fly tying, at times it seems like there is too much of an “anything goes” attitude.

Following that slight but pertinent digression, I present a historically accurate reproduction of the famous the Parmacheene Belle:

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0.

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0. The authentic silk gut leader is doubled at the head of the fly, creating what was known as a “helper” or bite guard. This was either whipped with thread and varnished, or knotted an inch or so ahead of the head of the fly, and then another loop was made on the leader to provide a snelled loop-to-loop connection. The bite guard was thought to strengthen the leader and prevent the fish from breaking off the fly at this critical joint in the connection. This specimen also features the traditional closed-wing, tip-down mounting of the quills that was most popular at the time. Red was often used as a finishing thread on old flies.

Here is Henry Wells’ written narration of his recipe description for the Parmacheene Belle, taken from the text of his chapter in Fishing With the Fly:

“This fly somewhat resembles the No Name figured as No. 15 of Lake Flies in this book. As I tie it, the tail is two strands of white and two of scarlet; the body of yellow mohair, with silver tinsel; the hackle double; first white, with scarlet hackle wound over this – capping the former, so to speak; the wing white, striped with scarlet. By scarlet, the color of the scarlet ibis is to be understood.”

Wells does not mention the tag or butt components, but these ingredients, determined by my visible inspection of the 1893 Orvis Fly Display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing, are silver tinsel and peacock herl. Cosmetically speaking, especially considering the head, this is not representative of my “cleanest, most tidy” work. But that is not the intent with this article. My desire was to accurately replicate an actual 19th century Parmacheene Belle Lake Fly, as if you went back in time. I believe this is right on to what you would find in 19th century fishing fly store bins. The 2/0 hook was not outlandishly large for a brook trout upwards of five pounds.

My friend, Roger Plourde, has vintage silk gut for sale in various sizes, the price is $15.00. His e-mail is:  rplourde01@comcast.net

I decided to include and re-post the photo of my Parmacheene Belle Streamer as well:

Parmacheene Belle Streamer

Parmacheene Belle Streamer, dressed on a 4x long hook. This older version features a yellow-dubbed body, rabbit fur. This fly illustrates is a little more “polished” representation of my fly tying.

Some of you might have noted a recent reduction in my posts here over the last few months. The reason for that is that I have been extremely busy since mid-November. I’ve added a couple new and significant and fun things to my life, one of which is drumming. I resurrected my musical ability and involvement after years  of inactivity. My rock band disbanded in 1979, and other than an occasional performance in church or at a theater musical, I haven’t played in years. My late wife, Lou Anne, and I sang in a gospel quartet for twenty-seven years, and I have not sung anywhere since our last performance in August of 2006. She passed seven years ago this month.

I started off as a substitute drummer in a local classic rock band for a New Year’s Eve gig. Considering my schedule of two November fly tying shows, Thanksgiving, deer season, and Christmas, I ended up having to learn over sixty songs in two weeks. In early February, my drumming with the Pepper Street Band suddenly became a full-time position due to the fact their regular drummer has developed a serious health issue that has side-lined him for a while.

Right after New Year’s Day I also committed to joining the contemporary praise and worship band, Firstborn, at Pine Street United Methodist Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where I have the added musical experience and fun of playing an electronic drum set. I also started singing again, mostly regular visits with friends to karaoke bars where I sing anything from George Thorogood to Toby Keith to Trace Adkins, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Georgia Satellites, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, even Frank Sinatra. I’m also the newest member of Cornerstone, the contemporary choir at Pine Street church as well. Firstborn performs every Sunday at the 8:30 service, and Cornerstone sings at the same service twice a month. Plus, I sing the lead vocals on a half-dozen of the songs on the Pepper Street playlist. Here’s a link to their song list: http://www.pepperstreetband.com/song_list%20II.html

Don’t worry folks, I’m not giving up my fly tying career! Just suddenly having a lot more fun! I thank God for my renewed good health! I also found out the best thing to do with negative, toxic, trash-talking people who try to mess with or mess up your life is to forget them and not address them in any way. That’s healthy too! Besides, it is impossible to reason with people who habitually spread rumors and prevaricate the truth about someone else for their own, selfish interests and perceived personal gain. You know what they say:”What goes around comes around.”

I’ve gotten more active on facebook; my band gigs and schedule is generally posted there, along with a link from my blog as well. Anyone interested in following my more personal and / or musical activity, just let me know, besides a friend request, please include a PM.

Thank you all for your many years of support! I am personally grateful to each of you for your belief in me and what I do. Me? I’m having too much fun, doing what I’ve always done, and going back to my musical roots. I was singing and playing drums before I ever started tying flies. Adding the music and meeting so many new people who are nice, decent folk, has already brought new friends into my life. I have a feeling this is only going to get better!

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!

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!

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!

Project Healing Waters – Fly Tying

“Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc. is dedicated to the emotional and physical rehabilitation of disabled active military personnel and disabled veterans through fly fishing and associated activities…”

From the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. web site:  http://www.projecthealingwaters.org/

To read more please visit their web site, and also the Project Healing Waters facebook page.

This post was prompted by a comment from a fly tying instructor at Quantico US Marine Corps Base and Ft. Bevoir, regarding my last post, Classic Wet Fly – Tying Class. Here is the comment in its entirety from Jim Ottevaere:

Mr. Bastian,

Fly tying is a central focus of our Project Healing Waters program here at Quantico USMCB and Ft. Bevior. Your web-site has been very useful to us. Your photos are excellent and your recipes are straightforward. Thank you for providing such a useful training aid to our wounded and injured Soldiers, Marines and disabled veterans.

This photo is a plaque that was recently presented by us Quantico volunteer to a retiring Marine member of our fly tying program. The fly bodies represent the ribbon colors of each one of this highly decorated Marine’s personal awards, including the Bronze Star and the Marine Combat Medal.

It is not too far a stretch to say that your fly tying was the inspiration behind choosing traditional wet flies for this presentation.

Best,

Jim Ottevaere, PHWFF Fly tying instructor Quantico, USMCB

I am pleased to post the photo of the award frame that was sent to me by Mr. Ottevaere, and put together by the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing volunteers and participants. I am also deeply honored and moved by Mr. Ottevaere’s kind and complimentary words; the fact that I have been a helpful part of this program and an inspiration, without even knowing it, provides proof that we never know what impact our efforts and actions may have, in some cases reaching far beyond what we perceive to be the immediate sphere of our influence. These veterans and the volunteers are to be admired for their service, dedication, commitment, and their efforts to help active and veteran disabled US military personnel. Here is the photo of the award frame:

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc, presentation frame of contemporary designed classic wet flies.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc, presentation award frame of classic wet flies, the designs were inspired by the colors of US Marine Corps Medals. The individual fly tiers are unknown.

Thank you to Jim Ottevaere and his crew of volunteers at Quantico USMCB and Ft. Bevoir for their dedication and devotion to project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc.

Classic Wet Fly – Tying Class

Last March I taught a classic wet fly class at Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop on Rt. 1 in Cape Neddick, Maine. Please check their link on my Fly Shop link list on the right. I hope they will invite me back this year; well, next year, since it would be in 2014. It’s a good possibility they’ll want me to return, since this year’s class booked full with thirteen students in less than two weeks when announced in October. Moreover, people registered on a cancellation list, and then more people were turned away because the waiting list was “a mile long.” I heard all this through eight or nine people who I spoke to at the Marlborough Fly Fishing Show and at the L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo, who informed me they wanted to sign up but were too late. It’s gratifying to have affirming interest like that pertaining to one’s avocation.

I have wanted to post a review of that class here on my blog, but like other topics, there is only so much time in a day, and each day seems to slip by faster than the one before. Is that me, or does time really speed up?  I intended to post each individual fly pattern and recipe for interested persons, but I’m having some trouble with my camera. Seems it will not function properly on “TV” mode, aka “Shutter Speed Priority” setting. I was forced to shoot these images on “Auto,” consequently I lost all control over depth-of-field. After previewing the individual images, I decided they are not up to my usual standards, so they won’t be included here, sorry folks. Moreover the mom-and-pop camera shop where I bought my camera has since gone out of business, a victim of “big-box store” competition.

One thing I hope to accomplish with this post was to review my itinerary and maybe have interested persons, fly shops, or organizations consider booking me to teach a class. That’s what I do, in part, to earn my living. So I hope everyone realizes that fact without me seeming to be “too commercial” or “too much like a used car salesman.”

I have also recently started teaching private fly tying lessons here at my home. This can be for a day or two, accommodate one to three persons, and include meals and lodging if desired. Depending on time of year, some fishing can also be included. Topics available are classic dry flies, classic wet flies, 19th century wet flies – including traditional tying styles of snelled and snood wet flies on authentic antique blind-eye hooks, traditional streamers and bucktails, specializing in Carrie Stevens unique Rangeley method of streamer component assembly, and general tying of all-round fishing patterns, nymphs, drys, emergers, and soft-hackles. I have almost fifty years of fly tying experience, and thirty years of teaching fly tying classes. All materials are provided for my private lessons. Please contact me for more information.

The class at Eldredge Brothers originally was to include nine wet fly fly patterns, but with experienced students in attendance, we moved along a bit ahead of schedule. The Coachman was tied to demonstrate a point in response to a student question, and when we finished about forty minutes early, I added the Parmacheene Belle as the final pattern after the student’s unanimous vote.

The list of flies included the teaching of Helen Shaw’s seven different wet fly body components; chenille, dubbing, floss, herl, quill, tinsel, and yarn. A variety of four different wing-mounting methods was included, as well and multiple methods of hackling. The patterns started out with the simplest ones first, gradually progressing in complexity, presenting increasing difficulty, and concluding with the Ibis and White, Armstrong Fontinalis, since everyone loves the Trout Fin fly patterns, and the Parmacheene Belle. You’ll also note on the Reuben Wood that I included a pattern with a gray mallard wing, since that seems to be a frequent question.  In addition to goose and duck quill wings, we also included wings of turkey wing and tail feather sections.

Below is a photo of the flies from the class:

Alder, Brown Turkey,

Starting at top row, left to right: Alder, Brown Turkey, Coachman, Black and Silver, Black Quill, Reuben Wood, Captain, Forsyth, Ibis and White, Armstrong Fontinalis, and Parmachenne Belle. All flies are dressed on #6 hooks, Mustad 3366 straight eye, except for the Coachman, it’s on a #3399 Mustad, and the Parmacheene Belle is on a #4 – 3399 hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

The Alder is supposed to have a wing of brown mottled turkey, but I had plenty of gray turkey, so we used that instead, since my objective in tying this pattern, besides this being a herl-bodied fly, it  was more about preparing and mounting the softer turkey wing than about having the exact color. I have mailed these flies off to Jim Bernstein, shop manager at Eldredge Brothers, and I believe they will eventually be published on their web site. These are all good fishing flies, they were historically, and still are today.

The Companion To Alfred Ronalds Fly Fishers Entomology

I just placed this item for sale on eBay: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=130965401615

Top-half view if the front cover

Top-half view of the inside front cover to, The Companion to Alfred Ronalds Fly Fishers Entomology, 1862.

It is an original, circa 1862, edition of The Companion, which accompanied the sixth printing of Ronalds’ work. I have owned this item for a number of years, and decided to put it up for sale. Before it is no longer in my possession, I will take photos of each page, listing the 47 fly patterns named herein, and maybe if I can find recipes for them, it would be nice to replicate the patterns and post each fly with the matching name and description from this classic work. I thought the historical nature and posting of this memorabilia would be interesting. Here are a couple more photos:

Flies for March.

Flies for March.

Flies for March, with opposite vellum folds for fly storage.

Flies for March, with opposite vellum folds for fly storage. This page is the worst in terms of condition.

Flies for April.

Flies for April.

Many of these fly names are right out of Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Those of you familiar with her book, may not have realized that many of the patterns in her book were already more than seventy-five years old, some of these pattern listed in Ronalds book are much older than that, having been written about by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton.

Flies for May.

Flies for May.

Antique snelled wet flies, on the interior bound-in felt page.

Antique snelled wet flies, on the interior bound-in felt page. There are three modern eyed hooks among the thirteen antique flies; hook sizes are all small, probably no larger than a #14. Ravages of bugs are evident. The hooks are still good, and the gut as well, could probably be used to replicate antique wet flies. (Soak well in water before attempting this). How about the Hare’s Ear in the lower center, still in very good condition; looks like the wing could possibly be whimbrel or curlew; a material no longer readily available, if even legal, yet it was once popular in some old patterns.

Macro image os small wet fly, approximately a #16 hook.

Macro image of small, quill-bodied wet fly, approximately a #16 hook.

Flies for August.

Flies for August.

Thus concludes another bit of fly fishing history .Thank you for reading.