Old Wet Flies

These are some classic wet flies, tied with gut snells, on traditional style barbless hooks. In 2011 at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, Massachusetts, a man came to my table and told me about some old wet flies he had. He didn’t have them with him, but he did bring them to the show, they were in his car. When he brought them in and opened the container, I was pretty impressed with the flies, the quality of the tying and the array of colors. It was a real nice cache of classic brook trout flies. With his permission I took some photos:

A collection of classic barbless wet flies, probably circa the teens or the 1920's.

A collection of classic barbless wet flies, circa the early 1900’s. Note: they are snelled, but on eyed hooks. Some of the patterns include: Coachman, Silver Doctor, Parmacheene Belle, Colonel Fuller, Jock Scott, Black Gnat, and what I believe to be a couple Montreals. They are all tied with doubled-gut at the hook eyes. This was sometimes done to increase the strength of the gut at its weakest point, the hook eye, due to the strain of playing fish.

Notice how the tips of the quills have been clipped on the turkey-winged patterns. This must have been an effort by the tier to “clean up” the ends that are a result of the tips of the barbs being thin and wispy.

I was particularly imressed with this jay-winged pattern; it is unlike nay of those that I have seen previously. I have no idea what this fly is named, but it's areal beauty, in my opinion.

I was particularly impressed with this jay-winged pattern; it is unlike any of those jay wing flies that I have seen previously. I have no idea what this fly is named, but it’s a real beauty, in my opinion. All these flies were dressed on hooks that appeared to be size #6 and #8.

I have had these photos for over two years, and have wanted to post them on my blog, but like so many things, out-of-sight, out-of-mind, or some other excuse. Anyway, at long last, here they are. Enjoy!

Edit: If you check the comments, Bob Mead asked the question about what manufacturer made these hooks. I did not know, but posted these photos and asked the question at Classicflytyingforum.com, Lee Schecter of Connecticut gave this reply: ” Those barbless hooks are “Jamison” – made in the 1920s by Allcock in the UK solely for WJ Jamison company of Chicago – thus they were marketed as Jamison hooks – not Allcock.” Thanks Lee!

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The Fly Young Knight

The Fly Young Knight is a poem that was written by Frederick L. Whiting in 1927. It was copyrighted and made into 12″ x 22″ posters in 1950. As I understand, the original with mounted wet flies, hangs in the Adirondack  League Club clubhouse in New York. According to their website, there is an address in Old Forge, New York, but that is a PO Box and I am uncertain of the actual clubhouse location. This group is open to membership, and is dedicated to “the preservation and conservation of the Adirondack forest and the propagation and proper protection of fish and game in the Adirondack region.”

A copy of The Fly Young Knight also hangs in The Angler’s Club of New York. According to the writer, this whimsical poem was written about the Gray Knight, an old wet fly pattern given a mythical life in verse as the Gray Knight, with this distinction in the second line of the poem: “Emblazoned on his shield he bore a Parmacheene Belle.” Thus the poem continues with more fly patterns named as the tale unfolds.

When Jim Deren, owner of The Angler’s Roost in Manhattan passed away in 1983, Judith Bowman and Hoagy Carmichael, Jr., cleaned out Jim’s shop and his infamous “backroom.” They found a stack of rolled poster copies of The Fly Young Knight, and decided to engage a fly tier from Massachusetts to make ten sets of the flies, then mounted and framed them and sold them at a sale for $250.00. That was in 1985.

I never heard of The Fly Young Knight until last summer when a friend sent me a copy of the poem in the mail as a surprise gift. I recently tied the patterns for a customer in Connecticut, he was going to mount the flies himself. I took photos of the patterns and have copied The Fly Young Knight into a computer file with the intent to post the poem and fly photos inserted among the verses on the blog. Here it is:

The Fly Young Knight

by Frederick L. Whiting

Forth to the fight a good

Gray Knight

rode manfully and well.

Emblazoned on his shield he bore a

Parmachenee Belle

 

And from his tried and trusty lance there glittered in the sun

A gaudy

Alexandra

and a

Pale Blue Evening Dun.

From which you’ll please to understand, don’t fail to get this right,

The flies were on his armor, but there was none on the

Gray Knight.

 

No heed he gave to life or limb, nor fear lest he might fall,

He’d often fought in

Beaverkill

and also

Montreal.

Two squires attended his needs and with him cast their lot,

The one a

Royal Coachman

and the other

Jock Scott.

They polished off their golden spears; they oiled their gear and tackle.

And on their silken bonnets wore a

Bucktail

and a

Hackle.

The banner each one held aloft, renowned in song and story,

Was garnished with a

Katydid

beneath

Greenwell’s Glory.

Two husky heralds named

Cahill

made all the welkin ring,

And from a wood hard by appears a dashing

Grizzly King.

With haughty mien he makes salute, his plume waves in the wind,

While he defies the world to match the charm of

Jenny Lind.

What ho! Responds the proud

Gray Knight,

none ever yet heard tell

Of a maid so fair as can compare with

Parmachenee Belle.

Quick to the list these champions, their sturdy charges drew,

While overhead

Jungle Cock

and

Scarlet Ibis

flew.

Each laid his trusty lance in rest and dashed across the flat

When in the eye of

Grizzly King

there flew a fierce

Black Gnat.

This put his optics out of whack, he tumbled in the dirt.

He “bust” the buttons off his pants and split his undershirt.

So when he loudly yelled for help and made a great to do

They brought him a

Professor

and a

Silver Doctor

too.

Their ministrations hurt him so he gave them both a kick,

And for a fee he handed each a

Cowdung

on a stick.

In kicking them he hurt his toe which made him more forlorn

They put

Blue Jay

plaster then upon his knightly corn.

The wrathful

Grizzly King

was placed in bed attended by his daughters,

And she who bathed his injured eye was called the

Queen of Waters

Moral:

This goes to show that knights of old when walloped in the eye

Would belly ache about their pain like any other guy.

The Fly Young Knight, written, 1927, by Frederick L.Whiting. 1950 is the copyright date on the poster.