Tomah Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomah Joe

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: A single yellow hackle feather

Butt: Peacock herl

Body: Oval silver tinsel

Hackle: Scarlet fronted by yellow

Wing: Barred wood duck

Head: tiers discretion

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

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

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

Have fun!

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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!

Mustang Sally

I have been wanting to notify everyone of a situation affecting my blog. I mentioned a while back that I was having some technical, electronic problem with my camera. It was still working, but the selective shutter and exposure options were somehow compromised and worked intermittently at best. I was, at times, stirred up enough to be tempted to perform some percussive maintenance on it, you know, whack it with a hammer to “get it going again.” Sometimes that works, like in The Empire Strikes Back, when Han Solo whams his fist against a bulkhead in the Millenium Falcon, which gets the engines going after a faltering start.

Early last week I completed an order of a half dozen #4 Cheney Bass Flies and a half dozen #6 and #8 Puffer Trout Flies. Both of these flies are historic patterns dating from the 1800’s. The customer happens to own an antique brass-faced Hardy Perfect reel with A. N. Cheney’s name engraved on it, hence his interest in these two particular patterns. The accounts of Cheney’s connections to these flies is recorded in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, pp. 349-350, and 402. Eventually I’ll do that post, combining photos of these patterns along with Cheney’s old Hardy reel owned by my customer. In the meantime I’m ordering a new camera.

Here is what happened to throw a wrench in the works: When I was getting ready to photograph the flies, I placed my Canon G9 camera on the edge of a TV tray (that’s my high-tech studio set-up photo image platform), and walked away. THUD! I turned around and the camera was on the hardwood floor. I picked it up and set it back on the TV tray, really thinking nothing of it. I mean, it only fell a little over two feet. Then I went about doing something else for a few minutes. When I turned the camera on, the lens extended, but I had no image on the view screen. Then it beeped like never before, next I got this message on the screen: “Lens error. Restart camera.” Which I did. Multiple times, to no avail. The lens would not retract when I turned it on and off. I took the battery in and out a few times. I even tried a little percussive maintenance to get it going again, to no avail. So apparently my camera is history.

Mustang Sally – a great song written and recorded in 1965 by Mack Rice. Course, we all know Mustang Sally gained greater popularity in 1966 in the single release by Wilson Pickett and on his album, The Wicked Pickett. Besides being a fly tier, I’m also a musician and I’m into music trivia. Here’s more interesting info from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustang_Sally_%28song%29

Here is a great black and white, 1960’s TV video version of Wilson Pickett performing Mustang Sally live:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfuHgzu1Cjg

It’s authentic and live alright, one of the horns is occasionally a tad out of tune, and there’s even a short trumpet mistake note at the end. Why Mustang Sally? Well, I wanted to write something to let everyone know why there has not been any new photo posts here recently, and why there won’t be for a little while longer yet. Though I do have some archived photos. Now I get to the point.

Combining the recent post about my renewed interest in playing and upgrading my drum set; I went to a local bar last Sunday evening, called The Crippled Bear. They have a covered outdoor pavilion and have bands every Sunday night, all summer long, until the end of September. A local classic rock band called Flipside was playing. I had seen them a month ago at the same place and enjoyed them very much. I knew some of the members from local 1960’s bands when I started playing in a band with my brother, Larry, in junior and senior high school. A connection here between fly tying and playing drums is that I started doing both at about the same time in my life, 1964, in the summer after my fifth grade year. I knew the drummer in Flipside, one of them anyway, since I later found out this band uses four or five different drummers; on this night it was Mike Mummey. After not seeing him for thirty-four years I had to tell him who I was after I said, “Hi, Mike,” and after his courteous reply with no reaction of recognition to me, I then asked, “You don’t remember me do you?”

“No.” He replied. When I announced my name, it was a typical hearty handshake and greeting that one would expect after years of not seeing one another. At the end of a brief conversation, he asked, “You wanna play?”

I answered, “Yeah, if you don’t mind, that’d be kinda cool!” We made arrangements for me to do Mustang Sally, since he sings the lead on that and could front the band on the vocal. There were a few of my friends there, but I didn’t tell anyone in advance. They called me up in the middle of the third set, at which point in the evening most of the patrons were, shall we say, really enjoying themselves. It was great! Mike counted us off, and Mustang Sally came to life. Took me a verse to get into the groove and settle into a relaxed mode of playing, but it was wonderful to play in front of a crowd again! The acoustic guitarist, Rock Anello, took me under his wing and cued me to the breaks, they more or less follow The Commitments version on that aspect, which was a good thing since I never performed that song in my life. Though as a drummer, back in the day, all I ever did to learn a song was to keep listening to it. The performance comes when you sit down at the drum set. There were no horns, but the keyboard player used the digitized note settings to fill them in. With double lead guitars, a hot lead guitar solo was inserted in the middle of the song for an entire verse. The dance floor was full, the band was good, and it was really fun! After the break, Shane Wittman, the keyboard / guitarist / lead vocalist / bandleader told me I did a good job and would be welcome to sit in anytime. Most likely I’ll be looking up their playing schedule and take them up on it.