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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Classic Wet Fly Display – 483 Flies

Last Saturday I returned to Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, with my girlfriend, Mary Fortin. I wanted to show her the ten-frame set of classic wet flies that the owners purchased from me at the Fly Fishing Show in College Park, Maryland, in January of 2002. Tower Oaks opened in the fall of that year. We also coordinated our trip to visit a dear friend who is having health problems.

Since it has been twelve years since this collection of framed flies was placed on display, and considering that the last time I was there was in 2005, I was curious to see how they are holding up. From time to time I have friends and customers tell me they have seen the display, and they always have complimentary remarks. The wet fly collection from Ray Bergman’s book, Trout, was something I vowed I was one day going to do. This was back in 1974, and resulted when I tied my first-ever Parmacheene Belle, and mounted it in a frame for my dad’s birthday. I made this commitment to myself: “Someday I’m going to tie and frame all those flies.” That goal was a dream come true; first in replicating the entire collection of color plate wet flies for the book, Forgotten Flies, 2000, and then for Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Subsequently I have replicated this entire set two additional times for private collectors. The display at Tower Oaks is, as far as I know, the only location in the entire United States where the wet fly color plates from Ray Bergman’s 1938 book, Trout, have been reproduced and are on permanent display. Trout is the only fishing book ever written to remain continuously in print for more than fifty years, and is the most-published in that genre as well, having sold more than 250,000 copies in all its volumes and editions.

There are ten frames in the set; all flies are reproduced exactly in the order and number of the artist’s rendition, and according to the pattern recipes listed in the back of the book. The paintings were done by Dr. Edgar Burke, a close friend of Ray Bergman.

An accurate and historically correct reproduction of Henry P. Wells famous Parmacheene Belle. He originated the fly in 1876, naming it after Lake Parmacheene in Maine's Rangeley Lakes Region. This dressing is given by Wells in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney.

An accurate and historically correct reproduction of Henry P. Wells famous Parmacheene Belle. He originated the fly in 1876, naming it after Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. This dressing is given by Wells in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney.

The Parmacheene Belle above was tied in traditional blind eye style, with a snelled double leader; a “bite-guard,” doubled at the head, as they were sometimes called. The wings are also tied in traditional reversed style. You can see the but ends of the wings which were tied in facing forward, then pulled back over. This makes for a garish-looking and large head, but it served its purpose in the durability department. The original body is yellow mohair, the original tag is peacock herl. This fly is dressed exactly to the originators specifications. It is curious that the Orvis / Marbury version of this fly was changed to a wing of half red and white, using ostrich herl for the butt. Various pattern component alterations have transpired over the decades, but this dressing is the correct one as put forth by the creator of the pattern. I digressed a bit to add some background on the interest of classic wet flies and their history.

In examining the frames, I noticed that as a result of routine cleaning, the finish is beginning to wear on the frames, especially along the top edge. The corners of the frames and the edges are showing a nice aura of natural aging, taking on an antique appearance, giving them a natural patina that matches more appropriately compared to the age of the flies contained within. Neither Mary nor I had a camera along, so there will be no actual photos. Not this time. But we plan to go back.

Below are a series of wet flies that are framed, using my original method of wire-mounting the flies to the mat board. It is virtually invisible in the display and my frames, making the flies appear suspended and uncluttered by pins, wire, cork pegs, and certainly no cement of any kind is used.

Hopatcong - #6. This pattern was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury's book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, so it is well over one-hundred years old. She indicated that she would like to have included it among the Lake Flies.

Hopatcong – #6. This pattern was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, so it is well over one-hundred years old. She indicated that she would like to have included it among the Lake Flies.

Pope - #6.

Pope – #6.

Logan - #6; another old pattern.

Logan – #6; another old pattern.

Romeyn - #6. Illustrated in Marbury's book, and also included as a Lake Fly in the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Romeyn – #6. Illustrated in Marbury’s book, and also included as a Lake Fly in the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Victoria - #6; the green variation. There is also a Victoria with a dark blue body.

Victoria – #6; the green variation. There is also a Victoria with a dark blue body.

The wire I use to mount the flies...

The wire I use to mount the flies…

...and the view of a Red Hackle Peacock showing the wire mounted to the hook shank. The short 5/8" to 3/4" long section is bent 90 degrees and lashed - tightly - to the shank. It is inserted after the tag, ribbing and floss is attached, while winding forward to the head. It can be bent down to place wings and throats for inch wraps, then stood out to mount. A bobbin is used to make the hole in the mat, then the wire is inserted, the fly positioned just off the surface of the mat board, and then taped down in the back with acid-free archival cloth tape.

…and the view of a Red Hackle Peacock showing the wire mounted to the hook shank. The short 5/8″ to 3/4″ long section is bent 90 degrees and lashed – tightly – to the shank. It is inserted after the tag, ribbing and floss is attached, while winding forward to the head. It can be bent down to place wings and throats for inch wraps, then stood out to mount. A bobbin is used to make the hole in the mat, then the wire is inserted, the fly positioned just off the surface of the mat board, and then taped down in the back with acid-free archival cloth tape.

Mounting area of Plate No. 3 from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Display area of frame; Plate No. 3, Wet Flies, from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. This photo is from the third set of these flies that I completed. These are available for purchase on MyFlies.com, or by contacting me personally. Available as a complete set or as individual Color Plate reproductions, and also, custom selected patterns are available.

Here is the MyFlies.com link where images of all ten frames can be viewed.

http://www.myflies.com/Ray-Bergmans-emTroutem-Wet-Fly-Series–P592.aspx

Here is the link to Tower Oaks Lodge: http://www.clydes.com/tower

If you are ever in the metro Washington, DC, area or traveling in central Maryland, this place is worth a visit. The website presents information on the decor, which is exclusive. It is like a museum – the Adirondack Lodge area with the fishing displays,art, and artifacts; the Chesapeake Bay duck hunting section with antique decoys, boats, boats, and more boats, decoy baskets, full of original duck and goose decoys, and at least ten double-barrel shotguns; and the “Horses and Hounds” section, devoted to the racing and fox hunting traditions of estates in Hunt Valley Maryland. And the food, service, and ambiance is excellent. Five Stars!

International Fly Tying Symposium This Weekend

The International Fly Tying Symposium will be held this weekend in Somerset, New Jersey, at the Garden State Exhibit Center. The show hotel is the nearby Doubletree.

Here is a link containing information to the Fly Tying Symposium: http://www.internationalflytyingsymposium.com/

I am displaying and demonstrating at the Symposium this weekend, concentrating on the tying and teaching of Rangeley style streamers, featuring some patterns of Carrie Stevens; classic wet flies, both 19th and 20th century versions – four styles of mounting wet fly wings, and also some blind-eye 19th century patterns, particularly a few of the large fancy Lake and Bass flies. I’ve been tying primarily at shows lately on Mustad #4 and #2 wet fly hooks. Be sure to ask about my “new,” to me, and you too, probably, and greatly improved over all others, wet fly wing mounting method, thanks to my friend Dave Lomasney of York, Maine. I also promised to my readers to demo my method for mounting duck breast feathers for fan wing dry fly patterns. If anyone is interested I can tie a Fan Wing Royal Coachman start to finish.

I’m excited to present (for me anyway, and probably other tiers too), for the first time in public, the historically correct pattern version, every component correct according to originator Henry Wells, of the Parmacheene Belle, famous Maine Lake Fly dating to the year of its origin, approximately 1876. The complete accurate recipe for this fly was recorded in Wells’ chapter titled Fly Fishing the Rangeley Lakes Region in C. F. Orvis and A. N. Cheney’s 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly. Maybe it’s not significant to some, but I finally got hold of some yellow mohair dubbing, which is the original body material, and the color closely matches my photos of one-hundred-twenty year old Parmacheene Belles taken from the Orvis collection at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I have a #1/0 bronze hook Parmacheene Belle tied on a gut snell with a bite guard. Stop by and check it out! It is interesting that the Orvis version of Wells’ famous pattern was created with a married half-red, half-white wing, not the original white-with-red-stripe married wing. Perhaps they developed an easier-to-tie commercial version.

Another author got Well’s mohair body incorrect in a 1950 book by calling for a yellow palmered hackle on a yellow wool or floss body. He likely relied on the painted image in Marbury’s book for his interpretation, because the original mounted fly patterns from her book were not discovered until the 1970’s in the old Orvis fly tying barn in Manchester, Vermont. The fish more likely than not probably don’t care, but I believe strongly in ascertaining historic fly pattern ingredient correctness, whenever possible. My photo of the original Plate Fly of No. 60, the Parmacheene Belle from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, will be available on my table through the wonders of a lap-top computer, which will be running an on-going slide show of more than two hundred images of the actual plate flies from Marbury’s book.

Parmacheene Belle, from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Parmacheene Belle, Lake Fly from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I have posted this image previously, but I felt its inclusion here would enhance this post. Note the red and white wing, not Well’s original white wing with red stripe.

Below is an image of the cousin to the Parmacheene Belle, the Parmacheene Beau, which according to Marbury, Henry Wells had nothing to do with. It is surprising that the Parmacheene Beau is included on the Orvis Display, considering her rather derogatory remarks about “the Beau” in her book.

Parmacheene Beau,

Parmacheene Beau, Lake Fly, from the 1893 Orvis Display. Note the scarlet “split” or stripe. The mohair body is more noticeable here, and the tinsel tag is visible; it is there on the Parmacheene Belle, but not visible due to poor lighting. Both these hooks are large, No. 1, 1/0, possibly 2/0.

I’m also on the Saturday evening banquet program, for a short, humorous, musical presentation. Hope to see new and old friends this weekend! Tight threads everyone!

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!

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!

Parmacheene Belle

The Parmacheene Belle is arguably the most famous and most-well-known of all the married wing brook trout flies. It was created by Henry P. Wells in 1876. He named it after Parmacheene Lake in the Rangeley Region of Maine. He fished it in that area and took a number of large brook trout on it. The Parmacheene Belle was first published in Fishing With the Fly, 1883, coauthored by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney. It was not shown among the lithographed color plates of the Lake Flies and Trout Flies in that book, but there is a chapter written by Mr. Wells titled, Fly Fishing for Trout in the Rangeley Region. Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, contains letters from a number of the correspondents who named the Parmacheene Belle among their favorite trout flies.

Over the years, different fly dressers, different fly companies, and different authors presented different versions of the Parmacheene Belle. This version here is identical to Mr. Wells’s specifications that he presented in his chapter of Fishing With the Fly, save for the fact that on the body, I used yellow rabbit dubbing instead of yellow mohair as called for by him in the correct dressing.

Favorite Flies and Their Histories presents a different version of the Parmacheene Belle, in that the wing of the Orvis pattern is not “white striped with scarlet” as specified by Mr. Wells, but rather is half-and-half red and white. The color plate in the Marbury book is also unclear as to the hackle. J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, contains three errors or differences, if you prefer “fly pattern political correctness,” in the dressing for the Parmacheene Belle. His mistakes on that pattern possibly came from him trying to analyze the image of the plate fly in Marbury’s book, which can be an effort in futility. You’ll see the correct dressing for the Parmacheene Belle listed below the photo of my rendition as presented by the originator of the fly, Mr. Henry P. Wells. A friend commented recently about fly patterns on another forum, that any dressing or pattern recipe as presented by the originator should be the “correct one.” Indeed.

Leonard lists the following errors / variations on the Parmacheene Belle: “Hackle – scarlet; Body – yellow floss, palmer yellow hackle.” I believe Leonard misinterpreted the artist’s rendition of the mohair body, which in order to appear scraggly, appears as fibers protruding from between the tinsel ribbing. I have a photo of the original plate fly, and the body is yellow mohair, there is no palmered body hackle. I also posted a while back, the Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 Orvis display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing. I decided to edit this post and ad that photo here as well:

Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in manchester, Vermont.

Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. The hook size is large, as a Lake Fly, about a number 1 or perhaps even a 1/0. I checked my photo of the actual book plate fly, there is definitely a tinsel tag on that fly, though it is tarnished. Note the spelling, that is correct, as also written on the road signs in that area of Maine. Note the reverse-tied wing; the folded butt ends of the quill sections are visible in front of the few thread wraps that lock the wing back into position.

Of course, to reiterate, as I noted above, different companies, authors, and fly tiers have modified this dressing, and of course, not intentionally over the one-hundred thirty-six years since its creation. I’m just glad that since I first tied the Parmacheene Belle in 1974, that I finally got it right.

Parmacheene Belle -

Parmacheene Belle – dressed by Don Bastian on Mustad #3906 size #4 wet fly hook, according to the recipe by the originator, Henry P. Wells. His article in Fishing With the Fly, 1883,  states that the Parmacheene Belle was created “some seven years ago.”

Parmacheene Belle

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, #2 to #10

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #1 White for body, #100 Black for head

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Scarlet and white, married (I personally prefer the scarlet on top)

Butt: Peacock herl

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Yellow mohair

Hackle: “White fronted by scarlet” per Mr. Henry Wells

Wing: White striped with scarlet, married

Head: Black

The correct pronunciation of this name, according to the original Abenaki Indian language, has four syllables: “Par-ma-CHEE-nee.” Here is the written account of the recipe by the originator of the pattern:

H. P. Wells’s description of the Parmacheene Belle, Fishing With the Fly, from his chapter titled Fly-Fishing in the Rangeley Region, p. 90.

“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 a scarlet hackle wound over this – capping the former so to speak; the wing white, striped with scarlet. By scarlet the color of the red ibis is to be understood.”

He does not mention the silver tinsel tag, yet the Orvis pattern has that component, and I like that addition as well, so it included it on my dressing.

As noted above I used yellow rabbit dubbing for the body since I don’t have any yellow mohair. This fly was initially created as a Lake Fly, which was a designated category of large trout flies, sometimes with added components to dress them up a bit more, that were intended for use in the remote and wilderness locations of Canada, the Adirondacks, and parts of Maine for the historically larger fish that used to be abundant in those locales. Henry Wells wrote in his article: “…indeed – hooks as large as numbers 1, 2, and 5…are at times not at all amiss.”

Too bad we can’t go back in time for a fishing trip!

Parmacheene Belle, 19th Century

I thought you would all enjoy seeing an anthentic 120-year old fly. This is the Parmacheene Belle from the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Parmacheene Belle

 Here is the pattern recipe:

Tag: Flat silver tinsel (tarnished)

Tail: Scarlet and white, married

Butt: Peacock herl

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel (note how wide it is, and tarnished)

Body: Yellow mohair

Hackle: White fronted by scarlet

Wing: Scarlet and white, married. The original version of the wing, as described by the pattern originator, Henry P. Wells, in the 1883 edition of Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney, he states the wing to be white with a scarlet stripe. It is unclear why the Orvis company chose to make the wing simply red and white.

Head: Red thread, and the butt ends of the humped over, reverse-tied wing, the butt of materials and the hook shank. This is how they did it back then. Most likely because all they had was cotton and silk threads, none strong enough to bind the wings securely in place.

Just a taste of what you’ll see in my book, in progress. We plan to publish full plate images of all 32 original color plates from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury.