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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Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892

This is the title of my upcoming book, the one that was originally announced here on my blog in November 2011. It was then shared by Fly Tyer Magazine Forum Moderator, David MacConnell, or “D Mac” as he was known. David and I had become friends, and he was frequently sharing my blog posts about streamers to the Fly Tyer Forums page. But he sadly passed away in October of 2013. Here is a link to that book announcement:

http://forums.flytyer.com/forum/36-books-videos/15322-new-book-announcement-from-don-bastian#15322

I will write more below on the book, to update a few things, and the contributing tiers list has changed. Several of the names on the 2011 Fly Tyer Forum list are no longer contributors, and new ones have been added.

The original title was “The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury” but that was changed after a year to “Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.” The reason I did that was because I felt my original title gave too much credit to Marbury, and folks might get the idea, as they clearly have with the phrase, “Ray Bergman wet flies,” that she originated these flies. That is not the case in either instance. I get questions about “Bergman wet flies,” or I read the phrase, “Bergman-style wet flies,” and there is really nothing to that, other than the fact that his book “Trout” – 1938, presented the largest collection of illustrated fishing flies that had ever been published, four-hundred forty wet flies in all. Bergman was modest as a fly tying teacher, and his section on tying wet flies in his book takes up barely three pages. He tied in the popular style of the time. The illustrations indicate that he used “closed wing style” as did nearly all the flies on Marbury’s book, but that he tied tip-up, whereas the patterns in Marbury’s book are nearly all tied tip-down. Bergman tied and fished popular wet flies and personal favorites. As far as “Bergman original wet fly patterns” there is only one wet fly pattern he originated, out of the nearly 500 different patterns that were mentioned in his three books and the second edition of “Trout,” 1952,  and that is the Quebec. Bergman originated nearly thirty dry fly patterns; fishing on top was his favorite method.

“Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892” will be a book containing individual photos of reproductions of all 292 flies from Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, “Favorite Flies and Their Histories,” 1892. These flies are tied by myself and twenty-some contributing tiers from the United States and Canada. Most of you know that my book project had been delayed for various reasons, but it is certainly not dead. Lack of support and zero response from the publisher for over a year-and-a-half is the reason. On the other hand, the delay has had the exceptional benefit in that I have been able to obtain valuable information on the actual tying procedures for these historic, classic flies of our fly fishing heritage. There will be step-by-step photos and tying instructions for all of the classifications of these flies except Salmon Flies. I am not qualified, nor is there a need to write any “how-to” on a topic where a plethora of information already exists. I have also been discovering additional patterns that will be included. I am including additional patterns on the 1893 Orvis Display from the Museum that are not in Marbury’s book.

I am in negotiations with a new publisher, and I will say more than one publisher is being considered. As soon as this is finalized I will let everyone know.

These old flies were made with silk and cotton thread, using the “reverse-wing” method to secure the wing to the hook. This also accounts for the “fat bodies” on the large Lake Flies, Bass Flies, and bigger trout flies. This was the result of the butt ends of the wings being lashed to the hook shank at the start of the fly construction, and then wrapped over with the thread and body materials as the fly was completed.

At the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey, over this past weekend, I had a conversation with Catherine Comar, the Executive Director of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. I visited the Museum two times in 2012 and again in 2013 to photograph the original fly plates from which the paintings were made to present artist renderings in Marbury’s book as colorful lithographs. I had some concerns about how this would come about, since I have photos of each fly plate, save for Plate Z which no longer is part of the collection. This will be the real gem of my book: my conversation with Catherine worked out a how full page photographs of all 31 of the 120-plus years old flies that were published in Marbury’s book, the lion’s share of which were never given recipes for, will be included in my book.

J. Edson Leonard, in his fine book, “Flies” 1950, made an effort to present the pattern recipes. But since I have seen, personally inspected, photographed, and studied both the original flies and the macro images I made from each plate of every single fly from the  original plates from which the Marbury book flies were made, I have discovered that many of the components previously published in both “Flies” and “Forgotten Flies” are incorrect. These material errors run from one to as many as six different items on one fly! My close scrutiny of these patterns will present a high degree of material component accuracy. I am very modest as a rule, but I will state that I am excited about publishing the exact recipes for these historic flies. I will make every effort through my editing process to ascertain the details and hopefully have few errors in the finished product. I am also excited about the fact that my book will contain fly patterns from the 1893 Orvis Display that have never been published anywhere, not that I can find.

Now regarding that post on the Fly Tyer Forum from 2011, I already described the title change and my reasons for doing so. Additionally, these tiers named there are no longer contributors: Dave Benoit, Mike Martinek, Jr., Stanley Miller, and Sharon Wright. Since then I have added John Hoffmann from Ontario, and Peggy Brenner from New Hampshire. This article and comments have been edited on February 2nd, and all I will say is the “As The World Turns” elements of the article and comments have been removed. Recent developments have made this choice very easy, besides being the right and gentlemanly thing to do.

I still need to photograph the flies from my contributors, I have a few flies to tie myself, and a couple chapters to write. Once at the publishers, “Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892” will not be far off.

Thank you all for your support and understanding.

Rangeley Lake Flies

Earlier this fall, I tied an order for a customer going to Upper Dam in the Rangeley Region of Maine to fish for brook trout and land-locked salmon. He told me to select the patterns, so I thought it only appropriate to choose the flies for his trip from among the famous, historic, heritage Lake Flies, some of which were listed in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. These flies were in the Orvis inventory, and also for sale by other firms, such as Abbey & Imbrie, who went out of business in 1920.

I tied them on size #6 and #8 Mustad hooks, though I did use contemporary wet fly hooks, in this case, Tiemco #3769, 0x-long wet fly hook. The reason for that is that vintage wet fly hooks such as the #3906 and #3399 Mustad, and other hooks such as Partridge, Allcock, Nyack and others, while they make great-looking wet flies, the contemporary hooks are in my view, better for fishing flies. This is due to their manufacture with high-carbon steel, and having chemically sharpened points and mini-barbs. Besides the limited availability of antique and vintage hooks relegates their prudent usage to collector and framed flies.

Here are the pics of part of the order:

A collection of Lake Flies, all originated and / or used in Maine's Rangeley Lakes Region.

A collection of replicated 19th century Lake Flies, all originated and / or used in Maine’s Famous Rangeley Lakes Region. On the left, Montreals; top center, The Tim – named for Tim Pond near Eustis;  right, Richardson, named after Richardson Lake; and center, a dozen Parmacheene Belles in two sizes. The latter was named for Lake Parmacheene, part of the system that the Magalloway River flows out of.

The Tim in Marbury’s book has a black ostrich herl head, but I substituted black rabbit dubbing to replicate the vintage look. This trick also makes for less time and effort where you might otherwise apply numerous coats of head cement to finish the head smooth and shiny. The fly, done this way, with the faux-ostrich dubbed head, looks classic and can be finished – and fished – right out of the vise. On to the next fly…

Rangeley Lake Flies, a bit of a closer image - macro photo.

Rangeley Lake Flies, a bit of a closer image – macro photo.

And finally, The Tim:

The Tim Lake Fly - named for Tim Pond, created in the 1870's-80's...named for Trapper Tim, for whom Tim Pond was named.

The Tim Lake Fly – named for Tim Pond, created in the 1870’s-80’s…named for Trapper Tim, for whom Tim Pond was named. The mallard wing was applied in two sections, basically layering two sections of webby mallard, right over each other. The second, top layer, is folded or tented over the lower portion of the wing.

The Tim:

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Scarlet quill section

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Yellow floss

Hackle: Yellow

Wing: yellow dyed gray mallard

Head: Black wool or dubbing, finished with black thread.

I used Danville white Flymaster 6/0 for the body, and switched to black for the head. These Lake Flies were historically tied in larger sizes, #4, #2, #1, even as large as #1/0 and even 2/0 in some cases.

Oh yes, my customer reported success with the flies on his trip. Classic flies, fun to tie, and they still catch fish! See also the recent posts on the Black Prince, where that classic wet fly has tempted brown trout on Pennsylvania’s famed limestone streams, Penn’s Creek and Spring Creek, for two of my customers.

I have another batch that I took photos of, they were part of a second shipment. I’ll get those posted here as well…after the coming week or so of doing things more important right now…

Black Prince

The Black Prince wet fly is an old pattern. It is shown on the Lake Flies in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. It is also in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a popular pattern and has appeared in other publications as well. The Orvis version has a body made entirely of flat gold tinsel, while the later version in Trout sports a black floss body with a gold tinsel ribbing. Both have red tails, the version in Marbury’s book also has a jungle cock cheek. Hackle and wings on both versions are black, with natural black hackle being used on the original plate fly. I have a photo of that and recognized it as natural black; more of a dark charcoal color.

The reason I am inspired to post this article is that I recently completed an order of four dozen Black Prince wet flies, for a customer for fishing. She wanted them in sizes #12, #14, #16, and #18. The surprising part, not to me, but likely to many of you, is that my customer recently fished Pennsylvania’s famed and reportedly difficult to fish, at times anyway, Penn’s Creek. This is a stream where no stocking is done in a large section of Special Regulation water. The fish are almost all wild, stream-bred brown trout. I received her e-mail message today, as follows:

“ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE!!! A short time ago I had a great afternoon on Penn’s Creek above Coburn with the Black Prince.  I would lay odds that is a fly that has not been seen around here in 50 years!!  And neither have the trout.”
My customer did not specify the size(s) she used, nor did she indicate how they were fished, but it’s a sure bet the flies were simply swung down-and-across. The hooks I used to supply her fishing fly order were modern hooks; I used Tiemco wet fly hooks – #3769. I prefer vintage and antique hooks for display and collector flies; and contemporary, high-carbon steel, mini-barb, chemically sharpened points to get the job done if the flies will be getting wet. Modern hooks are unquestionably better for fishing.
Here is a photo of the version of the Black Prince from Trout:
Black Prince - classic wet fly. The hook size is #6,Mustad vintage style No. 3399.

Black Prince – classic wet fly. The hook size is #6, Mustad vintage style No. 3399. The hackle on this fly was applied after setting the wing, using an old-fashioned technique. This method combines the winged wet with the effectiveness of a soft-hackle.

Black Prince

Thread: Danville Black Flymaster 6/0

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #18 – large hooks, full hackle to replicate Lake Fly style.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet hackle fibers of a section of red duck quill – may be two matching slips paired, or a single slip of duck or goose wing quill, as was done almost exclusively in the 1800’s

Ribbing: Narrow gold tinsel

Body: Black floss

Wing: Black duck or goose wing quill, matched and paired; may also be natural crow

Hackle: Black

It is the tiers discretion to apply the hackle as a false or beard style hackle, or as a soft-hackle collar, which may be wound either before or after placing the wing.

If one desired to replicate the Orvis version of the Black Prince, use fine flat gold tinsel for the tag, make the body from medium flat gold tinsel, use a scarlet dyed quill section for the tail – traditionally in the 1800’s, scarlet ibis feathers were used for this – and add a jungle cock cheek.

Like so many classic wet flies, trout do not see them, and one ace-in-the-hole trick you can tuck up your sleeve is to hit the water with something different than what everyone else is fishing. How about the Black Prince?

Next on my customers custom order – the Grackle, another old classic pattern.

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!

Parmacheene Belle – Antique Replica

Some of my readers have heard me say that I don’t have a “favorite” classic wet pattern, which is true; it’s so hard to pick only one from the hundreds of possibilities. But considering I first tied the Parmacheene Belle forty years ago in 1974, and the fact that it was also my first-ever married wing wet fly, it has remained at the top of a list of my favorite wet flies. I enjoy tying them; I’ve probably tied more than five hundred of them over the years,  and I also love looking at any well-tied Parmacheene Belle. The fly has a great combination of color – selection, arrangement, and balance, as well as material choice, and the best part: It catches fish! It was a successful fly back in 1876 when Henry P. Wells first created the pattern and named it for Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. Back then it was still possible to catch brook trout in the Rangeley Lakes that exceeded eight pounds in weight. The “Belle” also proved an effective fly for landlocked salmon as well. Well over one-hundred thirty years later, my fly fishing relatives, my friends, a number of my customers, and me, have all caught trout on this fly in waters scattered across the country. I have customers every year who order some to fish with. Successful catches of fish on the Parmacheene Belle also includes the unexpected bonus of brown and rainbow trout. I’ve even heard tell of anglers out west catching cutthroat trout on them as well. Hairwing versions of this fly were among some early 20th century steelhead patterns; in fact Plate No. 11 in Bergman’s Trout presents a hairwing version of the Parmacheene Belle.

I have written a number of posts on this fly during the last four years since I started my blog, and if you care to research them, simply use the search tab, type in “Parmacheene Belle,” hit the enter key and off you go! It will bring up every article that is titled or even mentions this fly. I did a married-wing streamer version of this about three years ago.

My introduction to this pattern came through Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a favorite pattern of his for catching large brook trout. In fact, in With Fly, Plug and Bait, 1947, Ray describes an occasion when he caught a large brook trout in Canada using a tandem wet fly rig consisting of two Parmacheene Belle wet flies, I believe they were both size #4. These flies were close together, much like a miniature tandem streamer.

The research for my ongoing book project, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, led me to the American Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vermont, where the actual fly plates used in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, are stored and occasionally placed on display. I had the privilege of gaining access to and viewing, studying, and photographing these historic fly plates. My work with them allowed me to ascertain many previously misidentified components of these patterns. This includes the tying recipes listed in every known publication that has claimed to represent these old wet fly patterns that were at one time cataloged by the Orvis Company. The problem was that Mary did not include the fly dressings for the patterns in her book. My research also led to to the 1883 book written by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney, called Fishing With the Fly. In that book, there is a chapter called Fly Fishing in the Rangeley Region by Henry P. Wells, the originator of the Parmacheene Belle. In his chapter he presents the complete (almost- see below) original dressing for his pattern. I found it odd that the Orvis version did not feature the original white-with-red-stripe married wing that he specified, but rather, a simpler wing of married red and white in equal parts. Subsequent variations of this pattern developed over time, some no doubt modified to make them easier to tie commercially, and others as a result of unknown reasons.

A friend provided actual, custom-dyed mohair dubbing that I could use for the body, as specified by the originator. This mohair dubbing is available on John McClain’s website: www.feathersmc.com

I also started tying and teaching the reverse-wing method that was widely used in the 19th century for mounting wings on practically all fishing flies. My reasoning for this is that the threads in use for fly tying at the time were made of either cotton or silk and lacked the tensile strength of modern threads. Therefore, to prevent wings pulling out of the flies, someone developed the method of mounting the wings to be tied in, backwards, with the butt ends facing to the rear, wrapped in place, then the forward portion of the feathers were folded over to make the wing of the fly, and a band of thread, resembling a collar, was wound in place over the folded butt end of the wings to provide the final stage of secure the feathers to the hook. This caused the heads of the fly to be large, bulky, and rather unattractive, but nonetheless, completely functional. This method also calls for longer sections of wing quills to complete the process; goose wings quills are my preference, and one must be careful regarding the proportions so that the finished, folded-back wing is properly sized to the hook.

This method also gave the flies of the day their characteristic high wing angle. My personal feeling is that too many tiers today attempt to replicate these historic flies, and they too often use the widely available goose shoulders for the wings. This material looks fine, depending on your point of view, but goose shoulder was used mostly to make “splits” or side-sections on wings to add extra colors to a pattern, and was not used on wings, according to the hundreds of antique flies that I have seen and studied. Goose shoulder was used to make wings and sometimes tails on the old lake, bass, and trout flies. Flies made like this today are perfectly acceptable in that they look fine, they display well, especially to an untrained eye, and they will catch fish, but with the inherent low, sleek-looking wing that goose shoulder renders, they are not historically accurate. I’m talking about the original patterns, not just following or substituting ingredients and then lashing them willy-nilly to the hook. I believe the accurate reproduction of these historic flies is important, and is something that should not be forgotten. Like our society and culture in general, even in fly tying, at times it seems like there is too much of an “anything goes” attitude.

Following that slight but pertinent digression, I present a historically accurate reproduction of the famous the Parmacheene Belle:

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0.

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0. The authentic silk gut leader is doubled at the head of the fly, creating what was known as a “helper” or bite guard. This was either whipped with thread and varnished, or knotted an inch or so ahead of the head of the fly, and then another loop was made on the leader to provide a snelled loop-to-loop connection. The bite guard was thought to strengthen the leader and prevent the fish from breaking off the fly at this critical joint in the connection. This specimen also features the traditional closed-wing, tip-down mounting of the quills that was most popular at the time. Red was often used as a finishing thread on old flies.

Here is Henry Wells’ written narration of his recipe description for the Parmacheene Belle, taken from the text of his chapter in Fishing With the Fly:

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

Wells does not mention the tag or butt components, but these ingredients, determined by my visible inspection of the 1893 Orvis Fly Display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing, are silver tinsel and peacock herl. Cosmetically speaking, especially considering the head, this is not representative of my “cleanest, most tidy” work. But that is not the intent with this article. My desire was to accurately replicate an actual 19th century Parmacheene Belle Lake Fly, as if you went back in time. I believe this is right on to what you would find in 19th century fishing fly store bins. The 2/0 hook was not outlandishly large for a brook trout upwards of five pounds.

My friend, Roger Plourde, has vintage silk gut for sale in various sizes, the price is $15.00. His e-mail is:  rplourde01@comcast.net

I decided to include and re-post the photo of my Parmacheene Belle Streamer as well:

Parmacheene Belle Streamer

Parmacheene Belle Streamer, dressed on a 4x long hook. This older version features a yellow-dubbed body, rabbit fur. This fly illustrates is a little more “polished” representation of my fly tying.

Some of you might have noted a recent reduction in my posts here over the last few months. The reason for that is that I have been extremely busy since mid-November. I’ve added a couple new and significant and fun things to my life, one of which is drumming. I resurrected my musical ability and involvement after years  of inactivity. My rock band disbanded in 1979, and other than an occasional performance in church or at a theater musical, I haven’t played in years. My late wife, Lou Anne, and I sang in a gospel quartet for twenty-seven years, and I have not sung anywhere since our last performance in August of 2006. She passed seven years ago this month.

I started off as a substitute drummer in a local classic rock band for a New Year’s Eve gig. Considering my schedule of two November fly tying shows, Thanksgiving, deer season, and Christmas, I ended up having to learn over sixty songs in two weeks. In early February, my drumming with the Pepper Street Band suddenly became a full-time position due to the fact their regular drummer has developed a serious health issue that has side-lined him for a while.

Right after New Year’s Day I also committed to joining the contemporary praise and worship band, Firstborn, at Pine Street United Methodist Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where I have the added musical experience and fun of playing an electronic drum set. I also started singing again, mostly regular visits with friends to karaoke bars where I sing anything from George Thorogood to Toby Keith to Trace Adkins, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Georgia Satellites, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, even Frank Sinatra. I’m also the newest member of Cornerstone, the contemporary choir at Pine Street church as well. Firstborn performs every Sunday at the 8:30 service, and Cornerstone sings at the same service twice a month. Plus, I sing the lead vocals on a half-dozen of the songs on the Pepper Street playlist. Here’s a link to their song list: http://www.pepperstreetband.com/song_list%20II.html

Don’t worry folks, I’m not giving up my fly tying career! Just suddenly having a lot more fun! I thank God for my renewed good health! I also found out the best thing to do with negative, toxic, trash-talking people who try to mess with or mess up your life is to forget them and not address them in any way. That’s healthy too! Besides, it is impossible to reason with people who habitually spread rumors and prevaricate the truth about someone else for their own, selfish interests and perceived personal gain. You know what they say:”What goes around comes around.”

I’ve gotten more active on facebook; my band gigs and schedule is generally posted there, along with a link from my blog as well. Anyone interested in following my more personal and / or musical activity, just let me know, besides a friend request, please include a PM.

Thank you all for your many years of support! I am personally grateful to each of you for your belief in me and what I do. Me? I’m having too much fun, doing what I’ve always done, and going back to my musical roots. I was singing and playing drums before I ever started tying flies. Adding the music and meeting so many new people who are nice, decent folk, has already brought new friends into my life. I have a feeling this is only going to get better!

Cracker Bass Fly

My lack of presence here on my blog over the last couple months was previously explained in a couple recent posts. Since deer season ended on December 14th I have been home, but I was especially busy; spending most of my time learning the drum parts for a list of almost sixty songs in preparation for my drumming gig on New Year’s Eve with the Pepper Street Band. That all went very well, the band members were pleased by my time spent learning their music, and they all told me I did a great job. It was a BLAST! That was the first full band gig I played in thirty-four-and-a-half years. I hope to do that more often. I will say, that yesterday and even today, the muscles in my fingers, wrists, and forearms are showing a little soreness from the exercise I got drumming. And my right leg too, from working the bass drum pedal. It’s a good kind of pain! It is a wonderful feeling to revive my music playing ability, which I regret to have kept dormant for so long. In the coming months and years, I hope to continue both my fly tying, fishing, and music interests, since they are primarily my main hobby interests in life.

To start off 2014, I wanted to post the beautiful fly tying and photographic work of a friend, Royce Stearns, who is also one of the contributing tiers to my book, Favorite Fishing Flies: 1892, a work still in progress. This is the Cracker, from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. Royce and I were in a bit of an e-mail exchange before Christmas; he wanted to know what my book research turned up for the blue body on the Cracker. I also discovered, not surprisingly, since it seems to be a recurring theme, a few other differences in previously published pattern recipe components when comparing my photographs of the actual book plate flies and my personal examination of the flies and my macro photos. The Cracker was included among the plates of Bass Flies in Marbury’s book, but according to its originator, George Trowbridge, of New York, New York, “It (the Cracker) has caught every variety of fish which rises to the fly, when it has been cast over the waters that these fish inhabit.”

J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, states the body on the Cracker is blue floss. Forgotten Flies, 1999, calls for a body of deep blue dubbing. Neither is correct, though some would say those are “pattern variations.” Which is true, but only to a certain extent. Any writer can alter one ingredient of a fly, publish it as “correct” and if that happens a couple times with different authors, then guess where that might lead? Both books call for married black and white goose in the wing. Another “difference.” The actual black and white in the wing is neither of those feathers, but rather is white-tipped turkey. That can even be recognized in the book plate fly through scrutiny of the wing. Here’s another tidbit of pattern recipe information, from the originator’s words in Marbury’s book: “It is purposely overdressed. The mohair of the body should be picked out to make the fly.” Ah ha! Mohair body! And this in the words of the pattern originator. So that component has been positively identified. I have a sneaking suspicion that Leonard studied the play fly images from Marbury’s book when he recorded their pattern recipes in Flies, and made his best guess as to what they were. If one is recording fly pattern recipes for posterity, then they should be correct, or at least as close as possible to what the originator intended. That is my belief. I’m not really knocking the excellent work of writers that went before me, because overall, Flies is a great book and a valuable resource and fly tying reference. Forgotten Flies is a one-of-a-kind volume. It’s just that I’m detail-oriented to determining the exact pattern components of the 120-year-old flies from Marbury’s book, considering up to this point time, that has not been done for every fly in her book. On to the Cracker:

The Cracker

The Cracker, dressed and photographed by Royce Stearns.

Cracker

Tag:                 Flat gold tinsel and yellow wool

Tail:                 Peacock sword, blue, red, yellow, and gray mallard, mixed

Ribbing:          Flat silver tinsel

Body:               Medium blue mohair, well picked out (seal fur could also be used)

Wing:              Red, yellow, blue, and white-tipped turkey, with shorter sections of peacock sword

Hackle:           Orange

Head:             Black or dark gray thread

There are slight differences between the pattern recipe and the fly tied by Royce, but the recipe was determined by my close study of the actual 120-year-old plate fly. There is no gray mallard visible on the tail of the book plate fly, but the pattern used for the book has the gray mallard on it. Artist omission? Possible. See; anytime information is passed along from one source to another, there is the risk of errors. I’m not perfect, but I hope to minimize mistakes and get these flies right.

Here are a few more notes about the Cracker – the kinds of fish taken on it as recorded by Mr. Trowbridge: Tarpon, channel bass, sea trout, cavaille` (Jack Crevalle), rovaille` (don’t know what that is), bluefish, Spanish mackerel, grouper, mangrove snapper (redfish), skip-jack, sheepshead, sailor’s choice (no idea what that is), and another nondescript fish. It is interesting for a “Bass Fly” that it was not known by Mr. Trowbridge to ever be tried for black bass at the time of his letter to Mary Orvis Marbury, but it was successful in the North for salmon, and trout in Maine, the Adirondacks and Canada. Hook sizes preferred by the originator ranged from No. 8 “for small brook trout in Maine, ‘Kennebago size’ as they say there. No. 3 is about right for trout from 3/4 lb. to 1-1/2 lb. No. 1 is what I use for the largest channel bass. It is a good size for trout from 1 to 3 lbs. in Canada. If trout are expected to run larger than that, I prefer a larger fly.”

This pattern has been a sleeper for many years, and while it is a complex fly to tie, I believe it would be worth it to experiment for some of the fish mentioned in Mr. Trowbridge’s letter. Thank you Royce, for sending me the photo and for allowing me to post your fine work!