Carrie Stevens – Silver Doctor

Not too long ago a friend sent me this picture of a streamer. At first we were not sure what it was, though we were both pretty sure it was a Carrie Stevens tied fly. My friend sent the image to Don Palmer, of the Rangeley Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc, Maine, and he identified it as a Silver Doctor, though sans a few parts.

It’s pretty well beat, missing both cheeks, and the shoulder is gone as well on one side. The significant part of this image is that you can see evidence of Carrie’s use of cement / varnish, in the interior section of the wing. In addition to pre-assembling and cementing her wing components in advance; hackles, shoulders, and cheeks, she applied cement to the inner portion of the wing to help hold the fly together, and also used it to help set the wings. Here you go:

Silver Doctor Streamer, tied by Carrie Stevens.

Silver Doctor Streamer, tied by Carrie Stevens. The jungle cock cheek is missing. The normally red head has oxidized and changed color from rusting of the hook.

And here is the revealing image that most of us never get to see:

The inside of a Carrie Stevens streamer fly - look closely, you can see residue of cement that held the shoulder in place. This also bears witness to how much cement she used, and how long of the stem portion of the feathers she applied it to.

The inside of a Carrie Stevens streamer fly – Silver Doctor, missing both the gray mallard shoulder and jungle cock cheek. Look closely, you can see residue of cement that held the shoulder in place. This also bears witness to how much cement she used, and how long of the stem portion of the feathers she applied it to. You can also see more of the throat fibers exposed, revealing a bit of her unique, self-taught, layering method of applying the throat to her flies. The copy of notes I have that were made by Austin S. Hogan, angling historian, and the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, reinforce all that I have described here.

Don’t forget, you can click on the pic, enlarge it, and be better able to view the cement residue. Remember, Carrie Stevens was a milliner by trade, so when she started tying flies in 1920 when she was already in her forties, it was only natural for her to apply what she learned in her trade to her new profession of fly tying.

The other thing that is noteworthy; you can also see the slight up-angle of the wing, the stems are not in perfect parallel alignment with the shank of the hook, as I’ve seen some tiers do, but are at a slight angle above the horizontal line of the hook shank. I mean to me, if you’re gonna tie Carrie Stevens patterns then I think they ought to be done as she did…that is, if you know the facts and have the ability to tie the fly in “true Rangeley Style.”

Thanks to my friend, Lance Allaire of Maine, for sending these pics to me.

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Gem – A New and Unknown Carrie Stevens Pattern

Two different people sent me this photo over the weekend of an unknown (as far as I know), carded  Carrie Stevens bucktail pattern. Obviously, it is her card, her handwriting, and her fly. And very interesting in that fly is is a similar design to the FRS Bucktail patterns she originated for her friend and client of her guide husband, Wallace Stevens. The client for whom the FRS bucktails were created and named was Francis Reast Smith, 1873-1950.

Here is the pic of the Gem:

Gem bucktail, created and tied by Carrie G. Stevens of Upper Dam, Maine.

Gem bucktail, created and tied by Carrie G. Stevens of Upper Dam, Maine. This hook is a variation from her standard use of the Allcock 1810 Regular Heavy Sproat turned-down eye streamer hooks that she normally used. Not sure what it is, but it is known she used some Mustad hooks similar in design to the Allcock 1810 after World War II.

By zooming in on the image, I was able to ascertain that the head is red with a black band, and there is a tag on the fly, though it is impossible to determine the color of it. Perhaps if I made another image, cropped it to the tag, and them zoomed in and maybe lightened the brightness I might be able to find that out. That’s a little detective project for later on…

This is also interesting for another reason: chenille was like, never used on any of Carrie Stevens’ other named and well-known and known, but unfamiliar patterns. On the tag, it is very likely that it is a silver tinsel, because of all her named and known patterns, give or take a hundred-plus, she used gold tinsel on only five of them. Upon close inspection, the profile of the tag seems to indicate that it is oval tinsel as well, presenting the use of another material that she did not use on the dressings of her standard Rangeley Style streamers.

Don’t forget folks, you can click on the image to enlarge it, and another click will make it even bigger Check it out!

The topping appears to be green hackle fibers. Body is yellow chenille, and the wing is white bucktail over red bucktail. I’m sticking my neck out a bit and am calling the tag oval silver tinsel, without having made the aforementioned detailed investigation.

To my regular followers…I have a major life-change event on the horizon…all good. Moving on and forward from some of the negative residual of my ill-fated second marriage which ended almost four years ago. I have been very busy with all that. At some point I will be more in control of everything and will be able to focus on more regular writing here as well. I send my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your patience and devotion.

I will be at the International Fly Tying Symposium in November, the 22nd and 23rd, in Somerset, New Jersey.

Fly Tying Classes – Eldredge Brothers, Cape Neddick, Maine

Hi everyone! Following a very successful class in March of 2013 at Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop in Cape Neddick, Maine, that filled to capacity a couple weeks after being announced, shop manager, Jim Bernstein has invited me back again this year. Two class dates are set:

Saturday, March 15, 2014 and

Sunday March 16, 2014.

The Saturday class topic is classic wet flies and will feature the heritage patterns of 19th century Maine Lake Flies, such as the Belgrade, Rangeley, Richardson, Cupsuptic, Parmacheene Belle, etc. The class will include tying patterns on eyed hooks, which became popular in the mid-1890’s, as well as dressing a fly or two on a classic blind-eye hook using both a gut snood and a snell.

Sunday’s class will focus on classic Maine feather-wing streamers and will include traditional Eastern styles of tying, with a special feature of two Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, presenting her unique Rangeley method of streamer construction, combined with my personal adaptations (for starters, unlike Carrie Stevens, I use a vise). Full details of her methods using information from classic streamer guru, Mike Martinek, Jr., and Austin Hogan’s  notes on his deconstruction of Carrie’s flies will be included.

Here is a link to the class information on the Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop site:

http://eldredgeflyshop.com/seminars

For additional information feel free to contact the shop or me directly at: dwbastian@chilitech.net

Rubber Cementing Streamer Wings

OK folks, I thought I would share an update on the use of Rubber Cement, Elmer’s specifically, for use on cementing streamer wing components together as pioneered by Carrie Stevens in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. Carrie was a milliner by trade, and she began tying flies in 1920, after being gifted with some long shank hooks, bucktails, and feathers by Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler, a family friend and fishing guide client of her husband, Wallace. Shang gave Carrie the materials and encouraged her, probably saying something like, “Why don’t you give this a shot?” The rest is history. Carrie’s Gray Ghost streamer, nearly eighty years after its creation, remains as the pinnacle streamer fly above all others created before or since. It is still sold in fly shops and fishing stores across the state of Maine and New England, because it catches fish. The Gray Ghost is likely to remain where it is, in its proper place of unchallenged prominence as the most famous streamer fly ever created.

Gray Ghost Streamer, from Streamers365.com, tied by Don Bastian. Photograph by Daren MacEachern, owner of Streamers365.com.

Gray Ghost Streamer from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photographed by Darren MacEachern, site originator and owner of Streamers365.com. Interesting to note, the head on this fly was painted, as opposed to my proprietary method later developed to band the heads solely with actual thread colors. I say proprietary because I do this differently than Carrie Stevens did. The wing color on this fly is very similar to some of the bronze-colored hackle feather examples of Mrs. Stevens own Gray Ghosts that are photographed in the book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Stackpole Press, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard.

Carrie cemented her wing components together; wing hackles, shoulders of various feathers, and jungle cock cheeks, using a type of cement or thick varnish. Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, was probably the first modern streamer tier to implement cemented wing components into his replications of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. Mike was mentored by Austin S. Hogan when he was a young man. Austin was the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, besides being a noted fly tier and angling historian. On one occasion, Mike and Austin deconstructed four of Carrie Stevens’ flies. A complete set of Austin’s notes on Mrs. Stevens’ fly tying and assembly methods, consisting of typed text, along with pencil drawings and notations, was included as part of the museum display in Manchester, titled, “A Graceful Rise” which featured fifty women prominent in the history of fly tying and fly fishing. I noticed the notes during a visit to the museum and took photographs of them in June of 2012.

Colonel Bates, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Colonel Bates, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern. This fly also has a lacquered head. I prefer using only thread now to accomplish this.

Studying these notes has been enlightening, and has been instrumental in my personal progression of replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. My years of fly tying experience, combined with the information from the Darrel Martin / Mike Martinek Carrie Stevens 2001 article in Fly Rod and Reel, and bits of information I gleaned from Mike Martinek and a few other tiers over the years has contributed to my present state of finally being satisfied that I am no longer leaving out any details when replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. I tied my very first Gray Ghost when I was in high school, about 1968 or ’69. Some tiers are not as detail-oriented as I am, or as interested in being historically accurate when replicating other fly tiers patterns, but I choose to replicate Carrie Stevens’ patterns as close to her design as I can; I wind the ribbing counter-clockwise as she did – most photos I’ve seen of Carrie Stevens originals with clockwise ribbing were reversed images, besides it makes no sense to think she was not consistent with this important component. I also replicate her elongated, banded heads; I believe the head shape and banding is a tribute to her pattern design, especially since she used a selection of thread colors for the bands, and they were clearly a color-coordinated component of her patterns. I first banded the heads on some of her patterns in the 1980’s, then after a time discontinued it. Furthermore, when Wendell Folkins bought her business in 1953, she wanted him to replicate the head bands to designate the patterns he was tying as hers. I have also gotten very careful about making sure all the components; underbelly and under wings – peacock herl, silver and golden pheasant crest, and bucktail, are all equally as long as the wing of the fly. That is an often overlooked aspect of Carrie’s tying standards.

Jungle Queen, from Streamers365.com, 2012.

Jungle Queen, from Streamers365.com, 2012. This pattern is identical to Carrie’s Yellow Witch. Note the head on this fly is not banded. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Prior to 2011, I tied all my streamer patterns in typical ‘Eastern fashion.’ I had never cemented streamer wings until the early summer of 2011. Another tier suggested it, and with some reluctance I tried it. The initial result was satisfying, particularly on the rather unruly golden pheasant tippet shoulders, since I was tying my first Big Ben streamer. Once I found out how easy it was to mount previously assembled wings, I kept right at it. I would have used Flexament for this but my bottle was thick to the point of being totally unusable. My hometown has no fly shops anymore, so at the local hardware store, I saw and decided to try Elmer’s Rubber Cement. It was only three bucks, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Herb welch originated the Black Ghost, but Carrie tied other popular patterns originated by other tiers of her time; she added her unique method of construction ad banded heads to all her flies. I want to start replicating some of these patterns as she did, in her style.

Herb Welch originated the Black Ghost, but Carrie tied other popular patterns originated by other tiers of her time; she added her unique method of construction and banded heads to all these flies as well. I want to start replicating some of these patterns as she did, in her style, down to the last detail. Carrie and Herb were practically neighbors, he sold her flies in his shop at Haines Landing. The Black Ghost pre-dates Carrie’s Gray Ghost; according to Hilyard’s book, by about six or seven years. The first mention of the Gray Ghost is on one of Carrie’s invoices in 1933 or 1934.

To overcome concerns about durability expressed when I announced that I was going to use rubber cement for cementing streamer wings, I soaked a completed wing assembly in water for thirty-six hours, then shook it hard – three-hundred, wrist-numbing shakes. It held together. Elmer’s is great for this because:

1) It does not bleed through the feathers. I invite anyone to inspect any of my cemented-wing streamer flies and find evidence of bleed-through cement. It ain’t there!

2) It sets up fairly fast, but it can be ‘worked’ – in other words, the cement remains soft enough to position, reposition, and align, if necessary; the neck hackles, shoulders, and cheeks.

3) The fly / wings does not come apart, even when soaked in water and shook violently, as my personal test proved, to simulate casting and fishing.

4) It is inexpensive.

5) It is readily and widely available, Walmart, CVS, Jo Ann’s Fabrics, your local hardware store, etc.

6) It has no obnoxious odor.

7) If need be, components can be disassembled and reassembled without problems (like when I accidentally get the order of wing hackles wrong, oops).

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from Streamers365.com, 2012.

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from Streamers365.com, 2012. This is another popular pattern tied and sold by Carrie Stevens. Mr. Stickney was not a fly tier, but had other tiers bring his creations to life for him. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Last weekend at the Arts of the Angler Show in Danbury, Connecticut, I had the pleasure of tying beside fellow tier, Peggy Brenner, from New Hampshire. Peggy was featured in the Graceful Rise exhibition, and she has taken lessons from Mike Martinek. She’s a good fly tier, tying streamers and Atlantic salmon flies, and she also has a business of selling her flies.

This is where the point of this article, the rubber cement bombshell finally hits the target. This is great news, and validates more what I have been saying about the use of rubber cement for cementing streamer wings. Last weekend Peggy told me that her husband bought her a water tank with a pump to create current, so she could “test” flies for action, performance, etc. Peggy informed me that she inserted into her tank, on a section of leader, a Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, that had wings she cemented with Elmer’s Rubber Cement. Not over night. Not for a couple days. But for three weeks! Peggy said whenever she checked on the fly, it was just swimming and fluttering merrily along. When she finally took the fly out, it was fine and in perfect condition, the cement held. Three weeks of total immersion in a water tank; twenty-four seven, that is a total of five-hundred four hours. Do you know how many fishing hours that translates into? Given the fact that most of us fish a fly for no more than an hour or so at a time, and maybe only a few times per year, if not lost to a big fish, a submerged log or rock, or an errant back cast, and provided the hook did not rust, said rubber cemented streamer fly could be passed along from generation to generation to generation and still have fishing life left. But by then, the thread might rot, or some other component would fail. My point is that rubber cement is a great and durable cement for cementing streamer wings.

I found this especially enlightening and gratifying since the grapevine told me that another fly tying instructor was pooh-poohing my use of rubber cement for streamer wings in their classes. I tell my students what works for me, and what others use, but I’m not going to, nor can I force anyone else to do what I do. I just try to give my best and present the most accurate information I can according to my experience.

BYR Smelt, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

BYR Smelt, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern. The BYR (pronounced by-er) in the pattern name is an acronym for Blue-Yellow-Red in the wing. This is one of my original streamer patterns, but it is totally assembled with Carrie Stevens cemented wing component methods and her style of layering the throat in a process toward the head.

When I get a new camera I’ll be busily filling in the gaps of blog posts that I’ve missed. I’ll have to think about doing a step-by-step of the cementing process, even a video.

I had a comment from a reader that prompted an explanation of my cementing techniques; I decided to add this information to the article to help folks understand my methods and personal tricks of cementing streamer wing assemblies.

For now, and my method is a little different than Leslie Hilyard’s; he cements the jungle cock nail to the shoulder feather, then cements this completed section to the cemented-together hackles. I generally start with the inside feather; some of Carrie’s patterns contain six hackles in the wing; three on a side. I put the lesser quality (if any difference) of the feathers on the inside, that is when they are the same color as on the Gray Ghost, Canary, etc. I dip my bodkin in the rubber cement about 5/8″ to 3/4″ for larger size streamers. Smaller hooks would require less. I probably cement 25% to 30% of the front of the wing, just a bit less than the total length of the shoulder, which Carrie Stevens determined to be 1/3 of the wing length.
Sometimes I swirl the bodkin tip a bit in the bottle to make sure I get enough cement on it. I apply the cement on the top side of the feather along the stem line, holding my bodkin parallel to the stem, and then slowly draw the bodkin off the butt end, while rotating it in my thumb and finger. This rolling action makes the cement slide off the bodkin to lay evenly along the stem. Then I pick up the next feather and align that evenly and press it into place, making sure the tip ends are even, and the stems are perfectly aligned at the shoulder joint. Same process is repeated for a third wing hackle, as on the Firefly, Jitterbug, General MacArthur, etc.
Carrie Stevens didn’t just put a dab on near the ends of the feathers, she cemented a significant portion of the feather length; and she also cemented the (inside of the) wings to the body at the front of the hook shank, cementing both sides together. My method cements the feathers similar to hers and creates the “tight, bulky front end” of the fly that was part of Carrie Stevens’ bait fish design. Though I don’t cement the wings together unless one or both are unruly.
I apply cement to the top of the second (or third) wing hackle as before, then press the shoulder in place. I generally use my Tweezerman non-serrated tweezers to do this, as this allows a more precise handling, positioning, and final placement of the feather. Same with the jungle cock, though I generally demonstrate multiple handling methods to my students and observers. A light touch after each feather is added secures the feathers in place. I have also laid a pair of scissors or hackle pliers on top of the just-cemented wing assembly to add a bit of weight to make it set.
Contrary again to Hilyard and some others, I prefer to trim my butt ends fairly close, not clipping them after the wings are tied to the hook. And like I have been advocating ever since I started teaching tying of classic wet flies, I trim the butt ends of the stems at a sharp angle, not a straight cross-cut. This tapers the end lengths of the individual feather stems so you can wrap over them and smoothly bind them to the hook and make a smooth thread base for the head. See also:

https://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/01/13/carrie-stevens-and-rangeley-style-streamers/

I’m happy to say I’m feeling great, healthy, and not even on any medications; a far cry from a year ago. Barring some unforeseen or unexpected circumstance, I will be at the International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey on November 23 and 24. I’ll be happy to demonstrate and try to answer your questions about tying classic wet flies, historic 19th century trout, lake, and bass flies on snelled or gut-loop eye blind-eye hooks, or Carrie Stevens streamer patterns or her methods.

Thanks to Darren MacEachern for the use of his photos of my flies. I decided to use them since he does great work. And maybe you’re tired of seeing my pictures. Tight threads everyone!

Arts of the Angler Show – November 9 – 10

I would like to remind my readers and their friends that this coming weekend, the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum will hold its annual Arts of the Angler Show at the Ethan Allen Inn, in Danbury, Connecticut. The Ethan Allen Inn is located off I-84 at Exit 4, Lake Avenue. The Arts of the Angler Show is a full feature fly fishing show in an elegant atmosphere.

Saturday hours are from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM. Sunday hours are from 9:00 AM until 3:30 PM. Admission is $12 per day or $20 for both days. Saturday evening will feature a price-fixed dinner for $23, including tax, gratuity, and a complimentary glass of wine. A live auction is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM. Dinner reservations must be made at the front desk by 2:00 PM Saturday.

The Fly Tying Studio kicks off Saturday morning at 11:00 AM. The first session features yours truly, tying the White Ghost streamer. I will be demonstrating this Carrie Stevens pattern using her authentic and original Rangeley-style of streamer construction, with a few personal modifications such as the type of cement I use to fasten the wing assembly. Also, my use of rayon floss and mylar tinsel does not inherently alter the characteristic of her flies. Oh, and I tie my streamers with a vise. She tied without a vise, and I tried a few of her patterns that way. Honestly, I don’t know how she pulled that off, some of her pattens, yeah, but the more complex ones, you got me. But that’s one reason why Carrie Stevens is one of the greatest female fly tiers who ever lived. My procedure for tying and teaching her streamer patterns and methods is the result of years of experience, but more specifically, from the study of personal photos that are copies of Austin Hogan’s notes on Carrie’s tying methods, which were created by his deconstruction of her patterns. I also incorporate a few techniques adapted from one of the best streamer tiers in the country, Mike Martinek, Jr. Mike was with Austin Hogan in the late 1960’s on one occasion when they disassembled four of Mrs. Stevens’ flies, so he has an inside view and experience and level of knowledge that no other living streamer tier possesses. Thanks Mike, for sharing your knowledge!

Other fly tiers featured in the Fly Tying Studio on the hour are Safet Nickocevic, Peggy Brenner, “Fishy”Fullum, and John Likakis. More than thirty-five fly tiers are scheduled to participate in this event.

Here is a link to the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum site on the show, this includes photos and descriptions of the Live Auction items. http://www.catskillflyfishing.org/programs-events/art-of-the-angler-show/

For more information, call the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum: 845-439-4810. Please come and support the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.

To whet your appetite, and to give you something to look at, here is a photo of a White Ghost streamer:

White Ghost streamer, Carrie Stevens pattern tied and photographged by Don Bastian. The hook is a size #1 - 8x long Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

White Ghost streamer – a Carrie Stevens pattern tied and photographed by Don Bastian. The hook is a size #1 – 8x long Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

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!

Black Witch – Unknown Austin S. Hogan Original Pattern

Last winter, around February I suppose, a friend from Maine, Lance Allaire, sent me a photo of an unknown streamer fly tied by Austin Hogan. Lance asked me if I knew the pattern, but I did not. In fact I’d never seen it before. I checked several sources but came up empty-handed. He sent it to me thinking I may be able to help. The long story made short is this: I finally thought that Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, would be the best person to ask the question of the origin of this unknown streamer. Mike was mentored by Austin Hogan in the late 1960’s, and Mike knows more about Carrie Stevens and Austin Hogan, and many other streamer tiers, both living and dead, of the New England states than probably anyone else alive. Mike thought the pattern was called the Black Witch. I came up with nothing else in a name search, except for some fly pattern of that name in England that is much newer in origin than 1973, as this fly is dated. So I give credibility to Hogan’s Black Witch.

I wanted to tie this fly, and in asking Lance via e-mail one day about the dressing of this pattern, since from the photo he sent me I could not ascertain the presence or content of tail, tag, body, and ribbing, if in fact all these components were present on the fly. I requested if he could check the fly out for me, but Lance did something even better. “How about I send the fly to you?” Lance asked me in his e-mail reply.

“Perfect!” I replied. So I finally got around to tying the pattern a few weeks back, and today I photographed the Black Witch, both Austin’s fly and mine as well, separately and together. Here is the Black Witch:

Black Witch streamer fly -

Black Witch streamer fly – originated and tied by Austin S. Hogan, formerly of Fultonville, New York. The hook is a #6 – Mustad 94720 8x long streamer. The dark stain is where scotch tape was used over the bend of the hook to secure the fly in place. The adhesive of course, degraded over time. Austin’s original signature and date can be seen. The date is 1973, forty years ago.

Black Witch streamers -

Black Witch streamers – above by Austin S. Hogan, originator, and Don Bastian. My streamer is on a Mustad size #4 – 94720 8x long. In tying my first replica of Hogan’s pattern, I wanted to use the same manufacture of hook as his original.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian, on Mustad #4 - 94720 8x long.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian, on Mustad #4 – 94720 8x long.

Black Witch

Hook: Standard streamer hook, 6x to 8x long, sizes #2 to #8

Thread: Danville 6/0 Flymaster #100 Black

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Underbelly: Four to six strands of peacock herl, then white bucktail

Throat: Orange hackle fibers

Wing: Four white hackles

Shoulders: Lemon wood duck flank featheras

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Black

I assembled this fly in authentic Rangeley style, cementing the hackles, shoulder, and cheeks together, and I also layered the throat in sections, starting well behind the head as Carrie Stevens did. It was Austin S. Hogan who first deconstructed some of Carrie Stevens flies to see how they were made. He made extensive notes and diagrams of Mrs. Stevens’ methods. Hogan was the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. Much of Hogan’s personal collection of fly fishing memorabilia is stored there.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian.

Black Witch - tied by Don Bastian.

Black Witch – tied by Don Bastian.

Head, shoulder, and cheek macro image of Black Witch, tied by Don Bastian. I used clearPro Lak cement, several coats, and a final coat of black Pro Lak.

Head, shoulder, and cheek macro image of Black Witch, tied by Don Bastian. I used several coats of clear Pro Lak cement and a final coat of black Pro Lak.

The Black Witch is similar to another of Hogan’s patterns, the Grizzly Prince, except that pattern has an orange tail, and grizzly hackles over the white, but the lower barbs of the grizzly hackles are stripped off on that pattern. That was one of Hogans rather unique techniques, as also expressed on his Black and White Streamer. See Joseph D.  Bates, Jr., book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Hogan created about a dozen original streamer patterns. They are all listed in the 1996 edition of Bates book.