Owner – 19th Century Bass Fly

Owner Bass Fly.

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

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

Five Owners,

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

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

Owner

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your interest in classic patterns.

Marbury – Orvis Flies Book Update

I would like to announce an update on my book, formerly and tentatively titled, The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury. After a suggestion from my friend Alec Stansell, I got to thinking. The title may be misleading in that all 291 of the patterns from her 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, were not actually her patterns. Most likely, her book flies were integrated into the Orvis commercial inventory, but a good many of them were sent in by the many correspondents from the United States and Canada.

Considering this my new book title is: Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.

It will include reproductions of all 291 of the patterns from Marbury’s book, with tying recipes taken – corrected and adjusted from my scrutiny of the macros I made of each individual fly pattern, plus the tying recipes for another 211 patterns, a good many of which have never been published previously. I discovered a handful of patterns from the pages of her book not included in the Forgotten Flies – Marbury/ Orvis Chapter. Most of the unpublished patterns are sourced from the framed 1893 Orvis Display created by Mary Orvis Marbury for the 1893 Chicago Exposition, located at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. Here is a list of the twenty-five contributing fly tiers:

Eric Austin – Ohio; Tom Baltz – Pennsylvania; Don Bastian – Pennsylvania; Dave Benoit – Massachusetts; Scott Bleiler – Georgia; John “CJ” Bonasera – Pennsylvania; Austin Clayton – Colorado; Matt Crompton – Virginia; Chris Del Plato – New Jersey; John Hoffman – Ontario; Dave Lomasney – Maine; Ronn Lucas, Sr. – Oregon; Ed Muzeroll – Maine; Ted Patlen – New Jersey; Bob Petti – New York; Roger Plourde – Connecticut; Kat Rollin – New York; Paul Rossman – Connecticut; Dave Schmezer – Florida; Mike Schmidt – Ohio; Bill Shuck – Maryland; Leigh Shuman – Pennsylvania; Royce Stearns – Oregon; April Vokey – British Columbia;  and Rick Whorwood – Ontario.

I find it interesting that these fly tiers are from across the Unites States and Canada, much the same as the correspondents of one-hundred twenty years ago were for Marbury’s original work.

I also want to announce that I just made a CD of the original book plate flies that I have thus far photographed; 24 of the original 32 color plates. I will be running these in slide show format on my laptop at the upcoming shows.

Here is a photo peek at one of the 1893 original flies from the museum display to whet your appetite:

The Juno,a pattern originated for fishing in Maine.

The Juno, a pattern originated for fishing in Maine. This photo was taken through glass that has not been cleaned on the inside for 120 years. There may have been a bit of glare, and it was hand-held. Hopefully you “get the picture.” That’s real scarlet ibis for the wing and tail and silk chenille for the body. I’d say this hook is about a 2/0. Back in the 1800’s there were still a few eight pound brook trout swimming in the Rangeley Lake Region of Maine. That was before the unfortunate extirpation of the forage base blueback trout.

Advance, limited-edition copies of the book can be reserved by contacting:

The Whitefish Press

whitefishpress@yahoo.com

Or by writing:

The Whitefish Press,

4240 Minmor Drive

Cincinnati, OH 45217

Release date is not yet determined.

The Scarlet Ibis

Scarlet Ibis – photo credit Sandy Cole, Wikipedia. Used by Permission. Note the black-tipped feathers are only a few of the outer primaries, so you have a verifiable position of where the quills I used for these flies came from on the bird.

Back in the 1800’s nothing restricted the types of bird plumage that could be used for fly tying. The scarlet ibis was just one of the many exotic birds whose feathers were used for fly tying. Scarlet ibis plumage was used to create the wet fly of the same name. A good number of other patterns also used the wing or body plumage of this beautiful scarlet colored bird. The color scarlet, by definition, is a red tending more toward orange. Crimson on the other hand, is a deep red, tending more to the color of fresh blood. I thought the photo of this bird would be of great aid in making this post. Thanks to Sandy Cole, who also requested me to post this link along with the use of her photo: http://carolinabirds.org/

More information on the scarlet ibis bird may be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlet_Ibis

At the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum Heritage Day Event in Boiling Springs last June, a man inquired of me if I were interested in tying some Scarlet Ibis trout flies from authentic scarlet ibis feathers. Of course, I replied in the affirmative, having never seen real scarlet ibis feathers before, and I was quite excited about the prospect. We made an agreement for him to send me the feathers and that was that. It was not until the Somerset, New Jersey, Fly Fishing Show in January of this year that he stopped by my table with the feathers; two pairs of scarlet ibis wing quills as shown in the next photo. The deal was I tie two flies for him, one snelled wet on a blind-eye hook, and one 20th century version, and in return for me tying these two flies I would keep the second pair of quills. A sweet deal for sure. I tied and included the Bass Fly version as a special surprise for my customer.

Authentic scarlet ibis primary wing quills, before the barb slips were cut for these flies…

So I tied a blind-eye version, using Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, and the second pattern was sourced from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Scarlet Ibis – trout fly version from Mary Orvis Marbury’s book. The hook is a size No. 7, Mustad 3370 japanned, blind-eye. The gut snell is post-war Japanese. The oval tinsel tag and ribbing were wound all in one shot after I wrapped the floss body. The wing is tied tip-down as was customary during the 1800’s.

Scarlet Ibis – the version in Ray Bergman’s Trout. The hook is a size No. 6 Mustad 3399. Both the tail and wing were cut from the scarlet ibis wing quills, and the wing was tied tip-up as Dr. Burke’s paintings in Trout were accurately depicted painted from actual samples.

Scarlet Ibis – antique Orvis Lake Fly version on original 1800’s card packaging. The hook was about a size #2. Note the elaborate, ornate logo design on the packaging. The Tomah Jo is visible at left. Note all three flies have bite guards on the snells.

The above photo of the antique Scarlet Ibis fly was made possible through the courtesy of my friend and fellow tier from Sydney, Maine, Ed Muzzerol. Ed is also one of the contributing tiers for my current book project, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, The Whitefish Press. Hopefully the book will be released sometime in 2013. Ed and I had coffee Friday evening between my obligations at the L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo in Freeport, Maine, March 16 – 18, where I was one of the Featured Fly Tyers. Besides delivering his finished flies for my book, Ed had brought along some antique flies to show me because he knew I’d be interested. As I ogled the flies, I suddenly remembered I had my camera in my pocket. “Can I take pictures of these?” I asked Ed.

“Sure,” he replied.

The photos above and below are the results.

Scarlet Ibis – Orvis original Bass Fly version 1800’s. This photo was taken by me on a table in the 1912 Cafe at L. L. Bean in Freeport, Maine; hand-held, no flash.

Note the extra components beyond those of the trout fly version. This Bass Fly version has a two-part tag of tinsel and floss, a married tail, a peacock herl butt, and an oval tinsel rib (tarnished on the antique fly). The name label was on a piece of paper barely 3/16″ wide, impaled onto the hook point to designate the pattern since often different flies were mounted on these cards. The fly above the Scarlet Ibis is unknown, the other side had a Tomah Jo on it. Both the red section in the tail and the wing are authentic scarlet ibis feathers. I am not sure about the hackle.

Scarlet Ibis – Bass Fly

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and yellow floss

Tail: Scarlet ibis and white goose, married

Butt: Peacock herl

Rib: Oval gold tinsel

Body: Scarlet floss

Hackle: Scarlet

Wing: Paired scarlet ibis body feathers, back-to-back

Head: I used red wool over red thread. The antique appears to have black thread, though it looks like dark red (I zoomed it in to check, inconclusive).

Scarlet Ibis Bass Fly version – tied by Don Bastian. I placed the white strip on top of the scarlet ibis quill section in the tail; I think it looks better there than having the red strip right below the wing. The hook is a Mustad 3366 Size No. 2; a modern fly version of this historic pattern on an eyed hook for conventional fishing use. The wing is made from two paired feathers of Whiting American Hen Cape dyed red – a pretty good scarlet color for this fly. The hackle also came from the Whiting hen cape and was wound as a collar. Two strands of peacock herl (wound simultaneously) taken from near the eye were used to get long barbs of herl for the butt. A red wool head gives the fly a vintage appearance. I can’t wait to try this fly on some lake, pond, and river in Maine this spring and fall.

Group shot of Scarlet Ibis flies tied by Don Bastian – Orvis patterns, both trout and Fancy Bass Fly versions, and the version listed in Trout by Ray Bergman (bottom center).

Scarlet Ibis flies and wing quills. Note the exact perpendicular cuts of the slips relative to the barbs taken for the wings – always cut perpendicular to the run of the barbs, never parallel to the stem. This provides for better accuracy in the visual measurement of your scissors tips when cutting straight across the barbs.

Scarlet Ibis – Orvis Version

Tag: Oval gold tinsel

Rib: Oval gold tinsel

Body: Scarlet floss

Hackle: Scarlet

Wing: Scarlet

Head: Scarlet wool if desired

Scarlet Ibis – Bergman Trout Version *

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet duck quill section(s). It was customary to use just a single quill section on tails; somewhere along the line in the 20th century tail slips from matched pairs became popular; and that is my preference so perhaps that has also influenced fly tiers in their wet fly tying.

Rib: Flat gold tinsel

Body: Scarlet floss

Hackle: Scarlet

Wing: Scarlet duck quill sections

Head: Black thread, or scarlet wool of desired.

* I wish to clarify that the “Bergman” version of the Scarlet Ibis in Trout is not Ray Bergman’s personal pattern of this fly. Like all of the more than 400 wet flies in his books, Ray merely published popular and standard pattern recipes of his day as they were commercially produced and most commonly available. Ray originated only one wet fly, the Quebec, published in his last book, With Fly Plug, and Bait, 1947. I have several Bass Fly Scarlet Ibis patterns tied up.

New Book Announcement!

Don Bastian

And

The Whitefish Press

Have entered into a contract to publish a book on 19th Century Orvis Fly Patterns titled:

Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892

All 291 of the fly patterns from Marbury’s 1892 book will be replicated in a fly tier-

friendly volume including tying recipes.

Featuring:

Hackles, Salmon Flies, Lake Flies, Trout Flies, and Bass Flies –

Dressed by:

Eric Austin, Tom Baltz, Don Bastian, Dave Benoit, Scott Bleiler, John “CJ” Bonasera, Austin Clayton, Matt Crompton, Chris Del Plato, John Hoffmann, Dave Lomasney, Ronn Lucas, Ed Muzeroll, Ted Patlen, Bob Petti, Roger Plourde, Paul Rossman, Dave Schmezer, Mike Schmidt, Bill Shuck, Leigh Shuman, Royce Stearns, Kat Rollin, April Vokey, and Rick Whorwood.

I would like to personally thank each of these contributing fly tiers. Their individual and diverse fly tying talents and experience will enrich and enhance this project.

This book will present high-resolution photographs of the actual antique flies from the 32 original 1892 Orvis Fly Plates that were used as specimens for the painted lithographs in Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, plus close to 100 additional 19th Century Orvis-related fly pattern recipes. For the privilege of access to the original 120 year-old fly plates,  a special acknowledgement and huge thank-you goes out to Catherine Comar, Executive Director, and Yoshi Akiyama, Deputy Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, for their permission, assistance, and cooperation.

This book will include an instructional tying chapter and notes on pattern origins.

Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892

by

Don Bastian

The Whitefish Press

Publisher

Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892 will present replications of all 291 of the historic 19th Century fly patterns from Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, including written and in some instances, updated dressings in a fly tier-friendly format. The combination of photographs and recipes for these patterns will be available to the public for the first time since the publication of Forgotten Flies in 1999.

Exact publication date for Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892 is not yet determined. However, to reserve your Signed Copy of the Limited Edition, please contact:

The Whitefish Press

whitefishpress@yahoo.com – or by writing:

The Whitefish Press,

4240 Minmor Drive

Cincinnati, OH 45217

Thank you!