Queen of the Waters – Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern

Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, contains information on the wet fly pattern, Queen of the Water. It is pattern No. 195, and the information begins on p. 351 in her book.

Marbury writes, “The Queen of the Water is credited to both Professor John Wilson (“Christopher North”) and his brother, the naturalist, Professor James Wilson.” The Wilson brothers were from Scotland. John Wilson also created the Professor wet fly in 1820. It is plausible to assume that the Queen of the Water wet fly pattern is nearly as old.

Marbury also writes of a possible connection between the Professor and Queen of the Water, the Professor without the scarlet ibis tail, being very similar to the Queen, except for the palmer hackle on the body of the latter, and a minor variation of the body color.

Additional text in Favorite Flies continues: “It is claimed by old fishermen the Professor fly was originally made without the bits of scarlet ibis representing the stylets of an insect, and many experienced fishermen of today cut these fibres of ibis feather off, while others consider the fly useless without them. If, as is asserted, the Professor was first made without them, then there was very little difference between the Professor and the Queen of the Water, except that the body of the latter is of a darker shade of yellow, almost an orange, and the hackle is wound the entire length of the body; therefore it is reasonable to assume the two are only variations of the original fly, which in time came to be known as two distinct patterns.” Most anglers refer to the Queen of the Waters with an “s” on the end.

The Carrie Stevens version of the Queen of the Waters streamer was published in Forgotten Flies, Complete Sportsman, 1999. In the chapter titled, The Rangeley Region, Carrie Stevens, and Beyond, there is a fold-out photo gallery page that includes an original Queen of the Waters streamer tied by Carrie Stevens. This fly was another of her wet-fly-streamer conversion patterns, yet the book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, Stackpole Books, 2000, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, does not include the Queen of the Waters. Furthermore, the reproduced Queen of the Waters Stevens pattern in the text and photos of Forgotten Flies varies from the photograph of the Stevens original. The reproduced pattern recipe includes a belly of white bucktail, with a body of flat silver tinsel. Careful study of the photo of the original Queen of the Waters tied by Carrie reveals a body of orange floss with a tag and ribbing of flat silver tinsel. That makes more sense as well, in comparison to the orange floss body on the original wet fly pattern. The old adage, “Seeing is believing,” is relevant in this case. My choice is to believe what I see, rather than place trust in written text that conflicts with what is clearly visible to the eye. The fact that there exists a photograph of an original Queen of the Waters streamer pattern originated and tied by Carrie Stevens, offering the opportunity for visual inspection is good enough for me.

Here is a photo of my rendition of the Queen of the Waters, still in my vise:

Queen of the Waters streamer, Carrie Stevens pattern.

Queen of the Waters streamer, Carrie Stevens pattern. The lighting and image may not be great, but it’s kind of like “mood lighting,” or how things may sometimes appear when viewed in dim light.

Queen of the Waters - the hook is a size #2 - 8x long - gaelic Suptreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

Queen of the Waters – the hook is a size #2 – 8x long – Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

Queen of the Waters

Considering the facts presented above, the recipe for Carrie Stevens Queen of the Waters streamer according to the photo of her original pattern is:

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Orange floss

Throat: Brown hackle fibers

Wing: Four white hackles

Shoulders: Gray mallard

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Black with an orange band

This topic is the result of one of my subscribers in England writing to ask if I knew any history of a Queen of the Waters streamer pattern. I had remembered the pattern being included in Forgotten Flies, and we exchanged some correspondence on the subject. The end result was I decided to tie this pattern and post it here. Thank you Darrell!

Queen of the Waters -

Queen of the Waters – tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Forgotten Flies lists the head band color as red, and while it is difficult to confirm this from the photograph of Carrie’s fly, I believe the band is orange, which again, seems to go hand-in-hand with the body color of her version of this traditional wet fly pattern.

By the way, the recent Stevens streamers published here, the Donald Bartlett series, and this fly, have head cement of clear Pro Lak (available in Canada). It seems to go on with no bubbles and no discoloration, but it does take five coats. That is worth the time if it holds up well.

Brook trout and landlocked salmon seem to be attracted to many predominantly white streamers and bucktail patterns. I have never tied (or fished) this pattern prior to tying this first specimen shown here, but like so many other flies, it would most likely fish well.

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Professor

I tied a Professor wet fly for a customer this week; he wanted to add it to his fly collection. I took a couple photos of the fly before mailing it. Back in 2006, I wrote an article in Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine on the Professor, including information on the pattern history. The Professor was created in Scotland in 1820, and according to Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, was named for Professor John Wilson, who was also known as Christopher North. Perhaps that was a pen-name. John’s brother, the naturalist, James Wilson, and John are also credited with the creation of the Queen of the Waters.

The Professor went on to secure a place in American fly fishing history, became more popular in America than its country of origin, and is one of a few patterns that was made into just about every other style of fishing fly except for a nymph. Though it would probably be a good fly if the Professor was “nymphed.” A Professor nymph would be similar to the Tellico, though perhaps with the wing case like a Zug-Bug. I can vouch for the effectiveness of both the Tellico Nymph and Zug Bug.

The Professor was traditionally made as a trout wet fly, but it also because popular as a large lake fly, a dry fly, fan-wing dry fly, streamer, and hairwing steelhead pattern.

Professor wet fly, size #6. This wing was tied on in the older style of the 1800’s, at least with regard to the tip and shape of the barb sections. By the 1900’s the popular style among most commercial fly companies was to elevate the tip of the wing quill or flank feather sections to the top side, with the tip pointing up. Dr. Edgar Burke’s wet fly paintings in Ray Bergman’s Trout, Just Fishing, 1932,and With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, are all representative of tip-up wet fly winging. My research over the last eight months on the 1800’s Orvis flies has shown the turned-down tip to be the popular winging style of that time period. In fact the original flies from Marbury’s book, and the flies in the 1893 Orvis display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, all exhibit the tip down wing. I’m getting more interested in this because of its historical significance, and maybe I’m even liking it more. It’s not always completely true that people are set in their ways, or that they can’t learn to appreciate different things. This style of winging makes the flies look more “retro,” to use a modern term. Classic, traditional, or historic representations of our heritage wet fly patterns would be a more fitting description.

Professor:

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, size #1 to #12

Thread: Danville #1 White Flymaster for body; #100 Black for head.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet quill section(s); scarlet ibis was traditionally used for tailing

Ribbing: Flat (oval on 1800’s Orvis patterns) gold tinsel

Body: Yellow floss

Hackle: Brown

Wing: Gray mallard

Head: Black

Fishing With the Fly, 1883, coauthored by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney, lists the Professor as pattern No. 11 on one of the color plates as a Lake Fly Pattern. Lake Flies were traditionally dressed on larger hooks, for brook trout and land locked salmon, that is why I listed hook size above as large as size #1. The Professor Lake Fly dressing is identical to this recipe but also has white slips married into the tail, underneath the scarlet ibis.

Pennsylvania author James “Jim” Bashline, indicates the Professor is a good fly in sizes #2, #4, and #6 in his book, Night Fishing forTrout. I can also vouch for the effectiveness of the Professor as a large night fly. And it just hit me, there really isn’t that much difference between “night flies” and the old “lake flies.” With the exception that night flies were dressed with a focus on brown trout, which according to scientific research on their optic system, have better night vision that other species of the trout family. Brown trout were still living in Europe and the British Isles when American Lake Flies were originated.

My research for the last nine months on the 1800’s Orvis flies, including actual visual inspection of Marbury’s book flies and her 1893 display, (lucky me), indicates most all of the tags on those flies were flat tinsel, and the ribbing was most often oval.

On this wing I used two large, select gray mallard flank feathers, a matched pair forming a left and a right wing using the same method as when cutting equal-width slips when using a matched pair of wing quills. The historic patterns, and all that I have seen size #6 and larger, used tips of whole feathers to make the wings. These were placed bottom, concave sides facing together. Whole feather wings would be especially true on the Lake Flies. The Professor’s companion pattern, the Grizzly King, was also made as a Lake Fly.

The hackle was tied in at the clipped butt section, wound three times, then the barbs were folded down, divided, and wrapped over a few times with tying thread to secure it.

Professor wet fly, mounted and labeled, to be packaged in clear plastic, business card size box, with a separate signature card included. This year I upgraded my packaging of Collector’s Flies. It takes a little more work, but the flies look better. Enhanced appearance makes almost everything look better. I used to insert the hook point into a small square of foam. Now I carefully wire the hook at the eye and bend, and I am also using another section of card stock in back. My display flies are now all double-sided with card stock backing, using acid-free cement.

My plan for the Arts of the Angler Show at the Ethan Allen Inn, Danbury, Connecticut, on November 10 and 11; and The International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey, November 17  and 18 is to have a big inventory of a wide range of Collector’s Edition wet fly styles in stock. More than usual. At least that’s my plan.

Along with 20th century wet flies, representative of the dressings and patterns in Ray Bergman’s books, I also hope to include new (for me) patterns from Helen Shaw’s book, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989; J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, and H. J. Noll’s Guide to Trout Flies and How to Tie Them, 1965. I have been using these resources for some years already, but there are new patterns that I want to include. There is a wealth of additional wet fly patterns in these sources that I have not previously tapped. I also will be presenting many more of the 18th century Lake and Bass Fly patterns, including some previously unpublished patterns I have discovered that are presently unknown. I’ll be including at least thirty previously unpublished 19th century trout and lake flies to my current book, The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury.

The flies I recently posted in The Fly Young Knight were dressed in the tip-down style of wings.

The Fly Young Knight

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

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

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

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

The Fly Young Knight

by Frederick L. Whiting

Forth to the fight a good

Gray Knight

rode manfully and well.

Emblazoned on his shield he bore a

Parmachenee Belle

 

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

A gaudy

Alexandra

and a

Pale Blue Evening Dun.

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

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

Gray Knight.

 

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

He’d often fought in

Beaverkill

and also

Montreal.

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

The one a

Royal Coachman

and the other

Jock Scott.

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

And on their silken bonnets wore a

Bucktail

and a

Hackle.

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

Was garnished with a

Katydid

beneath

Greenwell’s Glory.

Two husky heralds named

Cahill

made all the welkin ring,

And from a wood hard by appears a dashing

Grizzly King.

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

While he defies the world to match the charm of

Jenny Lind.

What ho! Responds the proud

Gray Knight,

none ever yet heard tell

Of a maid so fair as can compare with

Parmachenee Belle.

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

While overhead

Jungle Cock

and

Scarlet Ibis

flew.

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

When in the eye of

Grizzly King

there flew a fierce

Black Gnat.

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

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

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

They brought him a

Professor

and a

Silver Doctor

too.

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

And for a fee he handed each a

Cowdung

on a stick.

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

They put

Blue Jay

plaster then upon his knightly corn.

The wrathful

Grizzly King

was placed in bed attended by his daughters,

And she who bathed his injured eye was called the

Queen of Waters

Moral:

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

Would belly ache about their pain like any other guy.

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