Boat Dog

One of my friends and a fly customer, Steve Sawczuk, from Plainville, Connecticut, invited me this past winter to join his group again at the Wantastiquet Trout Club near Weston, Vermont. We arrived on June 16th, and spent several days there. Fellow fly tier and friend, Roger Plourde, was there,  – See my Silk Gut for Sale Post – that’s Roger, he still has some available. He is also from Plainville and was an invited guest as well. Last year Steve invited me, and I ended up taking Abigail, my Cocker Spaniel, along. We had great fishing to evening hatches of yellow drakes, and we hoped to hit that hatch again. We were a week later, but last year the weather was unseasonably warm early on. There were six of us in the group: Steve, Roger, Dick Heffernon, Bill Keister, Ray Riley, and myself. This year Abigail tagged along again, and Zeb, a Border Collie mixed-breed, owned by Ray, another Trout Club member, joined the group as well. He and Abigail got along great. Zeb rides in the boat. Abigail on the other hand, at eleven-and-a-half years of age, has never been in a boat in her life. That was, not until this past June 17th.

Zeb and Ray

Zeb and Ray returning to our camp at the Wantastiquet Trout Club.

On Monday afternoon, I decided to try taking Abigail in the boat. At first she was hesitant, in fact, probably terrified is a better description, because I could not coax her to come to me in the boat. I actually had to get out of the boat and catch her, then physically carry her back to the dock and place her in the boat. Once we motored off, she pretty much settled down and was about as passive and uninterested as she possibly could be about the whole experience. We drifted and anchored and motored about, trying here and there, catching a decent number of trout, and yet Abigail seemed, well, bored, which she expressed by lying flat on her side. But she’s a very low-key dog anyway, unless there is some possibility of her snagging a morsel of food. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog treat or people food, regardless, she wants it, twenty-four-seven. I feed her one cup of kibble per day and a few other treats, and that’s it. Whenever she’s in a group of people, no matter how many, if only one had some food, even a stranger, Abigail becomes their new best friend. She was a little overweight for a couple years when my mother-in-law was caring for her during a rather unsettled period of my life from 2008 to August of 2011, but once I got her back and got her food under control, she’s right where she’s supposed to be with her weight.

Arriving at camp there was an immediate problem, because Zeb is fed with an “open feeding” policy, and the very first thing Abigail did upon entering the cabin was to follow her nose, zero in on Zeb’s bowl and start eating his food. I wrote Ray in an e-mail beforehand indicating that she would do that. The poor little girl is now also about ninety-percent deaf. Fortunately even as a pup, I trained her not only with voice commands, but also simultaneously used hand-signals as well. That has proven to be fortuitous. When she was a younger dog, it was a good feeling to simply give her a mere hand signal and have her come, sit, stay, etc. Now, it helps a great deal, and could even save her life.

Anyway, with each occasion that Abigail got into the boat, she got more used to it, and I believe she grew to enjoy it more and more. The first two times when we docked up after fishing, she was afraid to make the three-inch jump from the seat of the boat to the dock. But the third and subsequent times, she left the boat without hesitation.

Abigail

Abigail – the “Boat Dog” – surveys the lake as Ken Hall, aka Quill Gordon, author of Fish in A Barrel Pond Blog, handles the trolling motor, guiding us to a “hot spot” on the lake. Sorry to cut your body out of the photo Ken, but Abigail is the star of this show. Besides, your pictures are coming up soon.

This is a photo of our camp.

This is a photo of our camp. That’s Ray on his cell phone, talking on the porch because you can’t get a signal inside. Funny how moving just a few feet makes the difference in the signal strength.

heavy weather moving in.

Heavy weather moving in Tuesday afternoon on Wantastiquet Lake. At the time I was in the boat with Dick Heffernon, another guest in the party. We had a bit of an experience with this approaching storm.

On that Monday afternoon I was with Dick in the boat, and the storm was well to the north at first, though we could hear the thunder far off. We were hopeful that it would pass without incident. After a little while, there seemed to be darkening clouds gathering more to our immediate west, and we thought about moving the boat closer to camp, just in case we had to bolt for the dock.

Clouds and rain in t

Clouds and increasing wind create ominous conditions of an imminent storm.

At about this point, I looked to the west, and there appeared to be a bank of fog moving in. But I knew it was no fog bank. It was rain; the kind of rain that is so heavy it can cut visibility to near-zero. Visibility was still good, however, and I estimated the rain was about two miles distant. Dick and I quickly agreed that we’d better haul our butts toward shore. Roger and Ray had passed us about five minutes earlier, calling the fishing over for a while, with the thunder approaching and getting louder.  But right before we made the decision to get of the water, Dick got his fly line got tangled around the propeller on the trolling motor. I dropped the anchor to keep us from drifting down the lake, which would have carried us farther away from our dock and camp. When Dick raised the motor up, he could see that there was no hope of untangling his line from the prop, considering the wave action effecting the boat, plus the reality that Dick would have to be possessing the body of a professional gymnast or a contortionist circus performer to assume the necessary posture and balance to do the work at hand. And that he is not, nor am I. Option number two was to row, row, row the boat back. But there wasn’t going to be any singing of that traditional campfire round during this trip.

Just then a fantastic, jagged, sprawling, and very bright jolt of lightning streaked across the sky over the mountain to the north. The ends of its long, scraggly fingers dipped below the horizon, perhaps a strike somewhere. I quickly pulled the anchor, mounted the oars, and started rowing. We had to travel about a quarter of a mile. When we were about 100 yards from the dock, the wind increased exponentially in velocity, seeming to blow about thirty or more miles per hour. It came up very fast, and despite my best exertion of rowing strength and efforts of guidance with the oars, we missed the mark and the boat settled against the shore, fortunately though, only about thirty feet from end of the dock. By now it was starting to rain, luckily for us not pouring, but the wind was blowing like it was during the storm scene from the movie The Wizard of Oz. Except in our situation there was no funnel cloud, no musical sound track, and the Wicked Witch of the West was not flying across the sky on her broom threatening to cart me and Abigail off to her lair. In retrospect that would have been a perfect and entertaining time for me to do my best falsetto imitation of the Wicked Witch: “I’ll get you yet, my pretty, and your little dog, too! Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, h-a-a-a-a-a!”

Dick and I managed to reach the dock, chain the boat, and get out of Dodge. It had started raining, though not real heavy yet, which was a good thing because we had to walk about fifty yards to our camp. Just as we reached the safety of the cabin, the wind and rain arrived with a vengeance. Indeed, in less than one minute the rain was so heavy we could not see across the lake, and in fact, we could barely see the dock fifty feet away. The cabin porch faces directly to the west, and the wind drove that rain right through the screens onto the porch and everything on it. Fortunately a half-hour later the storm had passed and the lake was again calm. We watched as a few trout started rising, but we made a trip to the grocery at Londonderry, and after returning, we hung around camp, enjoying camaraderie, libations, and cigars while waiting for dinner. I also set up my fly tying stuff and hoped to tie a few more extended-body Yellow Drakes, since most of the guys took trout on them Sunday evening, despite that fact there was not really a big hatch of them. What I actually ended up doing that afternoon was repair several flies that I had given Steve and Roger. Steve had one of my Yellow Drakes from the year before, that the hackle came partially unwound – see this post from Fish in A Barrel Pond Blog: http://fishinabarrelpond.com/2012/06/25/trout-candy-eye-candy/ So I repaired it for him, a simple matter of attaching a new hackle feather.

I’ve never had one of my extended body drake patterns fall apart in any way, but Roger had one where the thread ribbing over the extended abdomen came off. I basically made a new abdomen, cut off the old one, and attached the new one in its place. Ken was watching me do this work, and the guys were all getting a big kick out of it and commenting on “Don’s Fly Repair.” At one point Ken made the remark, “Would you like to purchase a Service Agreement with that fly for an additional five dollars? Guaranteed repairs for the life of the fly.” By the time I completed the repairs, it was time for me to clear the table for dinner. I had made lasagna ahead of time on Sunday morning before my departure, chilled but not baked it, and also created a tossed salad, and a fresh-made pecan pie (I made it myself) that was still warm when we served it right after dinner. If you checked the post above, you’ll note from Quill Gordon’s photos that the weather was nice enough in 2012 for me to have my tying stuff permanently set up on the cabin porch. That was the year we were sipping the “Weapons Grade Head Cement Thinner, aka Moonshine. 😉 It was too cold this year. We had a few night time temps in the upper forties and low fifties.

I don't know whether Abigail was looking or sniffing, probably both.

I don’t know whether Abigail was looking or sniffing, probably both. Something seemed to have her attention. Perhaps she saw a fish.

Abigail, Queen of the Boat.

Abigail, Queen of the Boat.

The middle seat became Abigail's favorite resting place.

The middle seat became Abigail’s favorite resting place. Yeah, as her owner, I’m partial and prejudiced, she’s a beautiful little girl and her beauty is only enhanced by her sweet disposition. Ray noted her facial markings are appropriate, her eye mask makes her appear like a little bandit. Indeed!

Ken and I motored about, here and there…picking up an occasional trout.

At one point we passed close to Ray and Roger.

At one point we passed close to Ray and Roger…and Zeb.

Zeb is very interested in what goes on in the boat. He sees trout rise and practically goes on point if they surface close to the boat. He knows the sound and the reason of a reel drag, and has learned to associate that sound with a hooked fish. He still gets excited even if one of the anglers in his boat merely strips off more line to make a longer cast. He loves being in the boat so much that he’ll just go sit on the dock and wait, hoping to go fishing.

Ken Hall

“Quill Gordon” has a fish on.

Ken, aka Quill Gordon, wrote a post on his blog and made a few remarks about our visit and my time with him in the boat. To check that out follow this link:

http://fishinabarrelpond.com/2013/06/22/stubbornly-waiting-for-drakes/

The Caddis Emerger Ken refers to in his writing is my Floating Caddis Emerger, or more appropriately, my older pattern called the Hatching Caddis Adult, which is also another surface caddis emerger pattern.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was with Steve in the boat. We trolled a bit and drifted here and there. He was fishing various nymphs and drys with a George Mauer Sweetwater bamboo rod, a seven-foot, nine-inch seven weight. I used my sink-tip and was casting a Wooly Bugger. I managed to draw only two strikes, and Steve had done nothing. I said, “I’m thinking of putting on my Floating Caddis Emerger, I can’t do any worse with that than I am with this Bugger.” Next thing I know, in barely three minutes, Steve has a fish on. I asked, “What did you get him on?”

“You’re not gonna believe this, but I got him on your emerger pattern,” He replied.

“No s***!” I exclaimed. I hadn’t even noticed that he changed flies. Steve soon got another trout. By then I changed to a floating line and also put on a Floating Caddis Emerger, a tan-bodied pattern. Steve caught another trout. And another. And another. Meanwhile I could not buy a strike with my fly. I inspected his, and it was one of some that he had tied during the winter, with a darker ginger-brown body than what I had. What we both found interesting too, was that if no trout took the fly after the cast was made, rather than pick up and cast again, Steve worked the fly in slowly with a hand-twist retrieve. It would remain on the surface, or just under the film, so he’d either see a surface take or a swirl and feel the strike. And as my luck would have it I had left a container of those flies at home on my tying table. By the time he tallied seven trout on that fly in less than an hour, Ray and Steve trolled by. “Are you guys getting anything?” Roger queried.

“Steve is kicking my ass with my pattern,” I answered laughingly. Steve chuckled with obvious satisfaction.

“What’s that?” Roger inquired.

“My Floating Caddis Emerger,” I said. “The tally for our boat is: Steve – seven, me ZIP!”

A little while later, Steve offered for me to try casting his Mauer bamboo rod. He had mentioned that earlier, since indicating in an e-mail that he’d he recently bought that rod, I replied that I had known George Mauer for a few years before he passed away. The wind had died down and the lake was flat. I can’t say what the trout thought this fly was, because there were no caddis about, other than an occasional stray. Yet as we drifted about fifty yards from shore near a small cove, the first trout that rose within casting distance, fortunately for me, rose twice, just as I was making a cast. I was also standing up, which helped me adjust quickly. I was able to immediately alter my distance and targeting, and sighting the two rises in succession I determined the fish was moving from right to left. Trout in lakes and ponds seldom remain stationary as they do in flowing water. They cruise for food and it’s always a crap-shoot when you try to target a rising trout in a lake because he’s got a three-hundred sixty degree radius for possible movement and change of direction after the rise. I led the second rise by about four feet, hoping he was moving in that direction, and as luck would have it, he must have seen it hit the water. The trout came right up, slowly, we could both see the fish. He tipped up and without hesitation, kept coming and gently sucked in the fly. “Fish on!”

I offered Steve his rod back, but he was relaxing in his chair, smoking a cigar and said, “No, you go ahead.”

“Thanks! I’ll take you up on that.” I replied. We drifted a while, I cast here and there, enjoying the feel of the rod, and occasionally Steve turned the prop on the trolling motor a bit to keep the boat positioned just off shore. The next trout I took I did so while I was fishing blind, in other words, casting without seeing any rises. The water was flat calm and suddenly as I watched my fly, I saw something white off to the right, it was moving, then I realized it was the belly of a trout. Then I saw the shape of the fish. He was closing the distance to the fly, rising up, and just like the first trout, never stopped until he reached the fly and confidently gulped it in. Fish on again!  It was a very good feeling that we had success with my pattern during rather adverse conditions. Or at least the conditions did not seem so adverse, it was a nice, calm afternoon, it’s just that the trout were not on the feed.  Steve and I tallied nine trout that afternoon, to the other guy’s couple, or maybe three per boat. When we got back to camp, I made myself a spicy Bloody Mary and set about tying a batch of ginger-colored #16 Floating Caddis Emergers.

Quill Gordon brings a trout to the boat.

Quill Gordon brings a trout to the boat.

On Tuesday evening Ken offered to take me in the boat. Abigail and I graciously agreed. The photo above is of Ken landing one of the fish he took. I took two fish on my Floating Caddis Emerger, since we really were not seeing Yellow Drakes in numbers to say there was an actual hatch. And this was after Steve had done so well with it earlier in the day. But alas, I lost my last Floating Caddis Emerger in a fish, doing something that I know from experience I should not have done. Life is like that. On occasion we do the wrong thing even when we know better. I grabbed the 5x tippet and held on to it, trying to remove the fly from the jaw of a fourteen-inch brown, and when he made a sudden lunge, I hung on, and he broke the tippet knot and took the fly. I could have replaced it with one of two well-worn Floating Caddis Emergers, but I have retired both of them from service, except that I ask them to pose for an occasional photo to demonstrate their effectiveness. The photo posted there, of one of them, in late December of 2012, and again below, was one I took thirty-four trout with. The foam overback is all chewed and tattered, but otherwise the fly is intact. I ended up using an older pattern, another original fly I created in 1996 that was actually the predecessor to my Floating Caddis Emerger, mentioned above, it’s called the Hatching Caddis Adult. There’s a whole ‘nother collection of fish stories about that pattern as well. I’ll add that pattern and recipe and fish stories here sometime next week.

As I fished the Hatching Caddis Adult, a dry fly pattern similar in a number of ways to the Floating Caddis Emerger, I demonstrated to Ken how, if during a retrieve or pull of the line, that fly, due to its components and design, when treated with floatant,  submerges, but then when you stop, it resurfaces. The pattern literally breaks through the surface film. So does the Floating Caddis Emerger. I had demonstrated that about three times, even saying, “Watch this!”

Ken said, “That’s pretty cool,” and just then, SWOOSH! A nice trout struck the fly. But he missed, there was no connection when I raised the rod tip. But the point was made with additional emphasis from the fish. Nice!

A well-used Bastian's Floating Cadis Emerger, this fly lanede thirty-four trout in May of 2006.

A well-used Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger, this fly landed thirty-four trout on Spring Creek, Pennsylvania, one day in May of 2006. This pattern can be ordered from Orvis, http://www.orvis.com/store/product.aspx?pf_id=7R6A

I recently created a revised version of the Floating Caddis Emerger pattern that I have been selling. Bastian’s Floating Caddis-Mayfly Emerger with a ginger body, as I’m calling the revised pattern is available to order from me. I made a couple alterations to change the fly so it would not compete with the contract I have with Bastian’s Floating Caddis Emerger with the Orvis Company.

Bastian's Floating Caddis-Mayfly Emerger

Bastian’s Floating Caddis-Mayfly Emerger. I decided to add the chartreuse foam strip for an indicator to improve visibility of the pattern. The other difference is that instead of a single hackle wrap, I side-lashed hen back fibers for the legs.

Other than myself, the first anglers to test the new Hi-vis version of my Floating Caddis Emerger were Tom Ukena and his wife Sue, of Northborough, Massachusetts. They were on the Missouri River the first week of June, guiding with Tim Linehan, the Orvis 2013 Guide of the Year, and they really did extremely well with that pattern, taking as Tom wrote in an e-mail, “a good number of great fish, 18″ to 21”. I’ll be making a separate post about that fly before too long.

There was a nesting pair of loons on the lake this year.

There was a nesting pair of loons on the lake this year. The male stands guard not far offshore from the nest, and believe me, we knew he did. Not alarmed by our boats, but when a great blue heron flew over he cut loose with a loud, raucous, threatening series of calls and wails that I’m sure, included what would pass for loon profanity. The heron kept his distance.

The female loon on the nest, incubating two eggs.

The female loon on the nest, incubating two eggs. The top of her mate’s head is in the foreground.

On Quill Gordon’s Stubbornly Waiting for Drakes post, there is a photo of both loons and their freshly-hatched chicks on the water. And a bunch of yellow drakes too. Check it out!

PorterCove

Porter Cove on Wantastiquet Lake. I was in the boat with Bill, and while there I took two trout on my Floating Caddis Emerger. One of them was a fifteen-inch brown that smashed the fly like a largemouth bass hitting a plug. The water here is quite shallow, and since it was flat, I had to make some pretty long casts, probably sixty feet, to take trout. That’s one reason why I favor a six or seven-weight rod for boat and float tube fishing. Too much effort to struggle with a three or four-weight, especially if it’s windy and long casts are required. Even if you can cast fifty or sixty feet with a three-weight, it usually requires an extra effort of false casting. I believe ninety percent of all your casts can and should be made with only two backcasts – including your pickup stroke. In the end the reason for this is all about increasing your fishing efficiency.

Sunday June 16th on my way to camp, I stopped at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in nearby Manchester on a prearranged visit. Deputy Curator Yoshi Akiyama had the remaining seven plates of the original Orvis flies that were published in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, gathered together for me to photograph. They were not there in June in 2012 when I made the initial series of photos for my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892. On my way back to Pennsylvania on Thursday June 20th, I stopped again at the museum and photographed another dozen or so flies from the 1893 Orvis Fly Display that I had not previously included. I’ll be adding these pattens to my book, increasing the number of additional fly patterns to about two-hundred twenty-five, beyond the two-hundred ninety-one from Marbury’s book. By the way, the new display, The Wonders of Fly Fishing, is now open at the Museum.

And so concludes another visit to Wantastiquet Lake. We all had a great time!

I just threw some seasoned chicken thighs on the grill, turned the heat down low, and I’ll leave them slow cook for at least an hour. In the meantime, I’m going to go make myself a spicy Bloody Mary.

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The View From Wantastiquet Lake, Vermont

The View from Wantastiquet Lake, Vermont, is something that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy on two occasions during the last eight months. My friend, Quill Gordon, the caretaker at The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club near Weston,Vermont, has a blog titled The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond. It’s on my blog list on the right, but also here: http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/  The View… is always good reading; often humorous, sometimes side-splitting funny, usually entertaining, always interesting, and contains various insights covering a multitude of the aspects of a remote camp caretaker’s interactions with humans / local government / anglers / responsibilities / sporting camp visitors / nature / and trout. It is well worth checking out, perhaps even posting it to your favorites. In addition to today’s post on The View…, if you need your spirits lifted, check out; “Quill Gordon and the Nonesuch Mountain Howler.” http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/quill-gordon-and-the-nonesuch-mountain-howler/

If you do, better pee first, you may just wet your pants laughing. It’s very much akin to a Pat McManus outdoor tale.

Yesterday Quill wrote a post that at first I thought was all about bugs. In large part it was, but not entirely. He has some really great macro images of a “hex” dun (Hexagenia limbata mayfly), moths, damsel flies, etc. Here’s my favorite bug photo:

Luna Moth Convention near Weston, Vermont, at a camp on The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club, where I recently visited. If you’ve never seen a Luna Moth, these things have a wingspan of four inches. “Quill Gordon” photo.

I have only ever seen two or three Luna Moths in my entire life, and one of these was on June 12th at the camp in Vermont.

I visited the Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club a couple weeks ago as a guest of Steve, Dick, and Bill, mentioned in Quill’s post. I had a great time, caught lots of trout, most all on drys, some on buggers, and two nice rainbows on a Trout Fin wet fly. I need to load and post my photos and my own report of that trip. But these pictures and the following text were taken from Quill’s post. I thought you would find them enjoyable.

“I admit it would have to be a pretty special set of circumstances for some of those big moths or their caterpillars to wind up in the water, but you can bet a trout would eat them if they did. Mayflies and damselflies, on the other hand, are eaten by fish at all stages in their lives and one of the most challenging aspects of fly fishing is coming up with a suitable imitation. I am not a rotten fly tier (“tier” vs. “tyer”; discuss below) but, while I may play around and try a few new patterns over the winter, I certainly don’t sit down and whip off a few dozen of anything, even if it is claimed the trout will eat them “like candy”. Of course, what we anglers present is more like the Halloween candy they warned us about when we were kids — the kind with a razor blade in it — but we anglers don’t like thinking about that, do we?  I’m the kind of guy more likely to gaze at the water in late afternoon, take a guess, and tie up three or four flies I think might work that evening. If I’m lucky I’ll finish before dark and actually get on the water with my concoctions. If I’m really lucky, someone else will sit down and tie some flies for me.”

“A couple of weeks ago that someone was Don Bastian. Don has fished here before and knows my super-secret true identity. He is also a good sport, taking a good-natured ribbing as well as anyone I’ve met and, as it turns out, he is also a pretty good angler. Don and I shared a boat one evening last week, fishing a yellow drake hatch that came off just as nicely as a hatch can on these waters, using a couple of extended-body patterns Don tied before we went out. The fish were feeding close to the bank and we each hooked up on nearly every cast. Bird song and the sound of slurping trout filled the air as we drifted along the shore in the fading light until only a thrush remained, serenading us from fifty feet away. Eventually, even the thrush went to bed and, as the other boats headed in, I lost my fly and reeled up my line but Don kept right on fishing. I have a feeling that if the hatch hadn’t shut down and full-on dark set in we’d still be out there now.”

Quill, I only stopped fishing because I was a guest and everyone else was done for the night. I wanted to “fit-in.” :mrgreen: I remember that night, so many trout! My favorite was when we both saw those two rises, two fish feeding close together, you made your cast, I was mid-cast in a different direction and instantly changed my angle of stroke to punch my Yellow Drake Dun pattern six feet from yours. It was classic! A second apart, slurp, slurp, two trout took both our flies for a double hook-up.

The song of that hermit thrush was especially memorable, so close to us, the sound of its ethereal voice echoing eerily through the otherwise silent stillness of the deepening gloom of night. Thank you for sharing that evening with me.

After the evening fishing, I was tying (using head cement) at the station shown below until about eleven PM.

My screen porch tying station, June 2012 at Wantastiquet Lake. First time in my life that I ever tied on a screen porch. Lovely! I had set this up on my arrival Monday afternoon, and tied up ten Extended-body Yellow Drakes before the evening fishing. Five of each, parachutes and spinners, so that everyone would have two flies to fish with. In fact, one of them is still in the jaws of my vise. Quill Gordon photo, used without permission. 😉

“Above: A well-stocked fly tying station in late afternoon on the porch of a camp, complete with vise, light, bobbins, thread, tinsel, scissors, etc. I have no idea how that beer got in there, but the Mason jar contained weapons-grade head cement thinner which just happened to be blackberry flavored in case someone got thirsty (we did). In the foreground is a full beaver pelt with enough fur to dub hundreds and hundreds of flies. I’m still learning about natural fur dubbing so I asked Don if he could do anything with it. In mere minutes, Don had half a dozen nymphs ready to go.”

I can explain the beer bottle; it’s pretty simple: I was drinking it. And the beaver pelt will dub thousands and thousands of flies.

My “Flying Bobbin.” I was using the full beaver pelt from an animal trapped on the lake this past winter by Quill to tie some Black Drake nymphs, and a few other creations. Quill Gordon photo.

Beaver fur nymphs. I tied these except for the one at lower left. Not sure how that one slipped in there. Perhaps Quill applied a little too much of the blackberry-flavored head cement thinner. The one at lower right employed the use of beaver fur in a split-thread dubbing loop. Quill caught a couple trout on that one. It’s entirely beaver fur, tail of guard hairs, abdomen and thorax – beaver fur. Quill Gordon photo.

Application of some of the weapons-grade head cement thinner described above “enhanced” the tying of these nymphs.

Extended-body Yellow Drake Parachute Dun, Ephemera varia imitation. Pattern design concept, tied by, and photographed by Don Bastian. This dun pattern and a spinner were part of a batch of ten that I tied on the afternoon after my arrival at the Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club. They worked very well. Everyone caught trout on them. They held up remarkably well to more than ten-twelve or more trout per fly; I was nearing 20 myself. I finally lost my parachute pattern in a fish that was deeply hooked, and the spinner took over where the parachute left off. I’ll make a separate post of this fly and the recipe.

On my way back to Pennsylvania on June 13th, I had the opportunity to examine and photograph a Yellow Drake Dun in Ulster, Pennsylvania, about 11:30 PM. It was resting on a support post at a mini-mart when I stopped for gas. Since seeing that fly, I changed the brown thread rib on my pattern to yellow, because Yellow Drakes don’t have brown ribs, but they do have brown mottled markings on top of their abdomen. I have figured a way to incorporate these alterations into a more accurate representation, not that I needed to do that after the phenomenal success we all had with the patterns on The Lake, but the result is that this pattern, a prototype, has been improved. I’ll make a separate post of this prototype, the new fly, and the real one soon.

“I had a blast hanging out with Don (and Steve and Dick and Bill, who I see on a regular basis) and, even though his bobbin moves so fast it’s a blur, I picked up a few tricks and a lot of fly tying inspiration while Don was here.”

Be sure to visit The View…you’ll be glad you did.

The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond – LL Bean Post

My friend “Quill Gordon,” the caretaker at The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club in Weston, Vermont, where I believe I will be visiting again this year in June – has posted a very interesting, intriguing, tinged with his usual dry humor, and informative post on his blog, The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond. The post is titled; When Art Imitates Art, Good Fish Die.” In this blog he writes about the photographic recreation / replication / digitized reproduction of the cover of a 1933 LL Bean Catalog. This artistic effort was done by photographer Randal Ford, in conjunction with the 1912 founding of L. L. Bean Company in Freeport, Maine. This year – 2012 – is the 100th Anniversary Year of L. L. Bean.

Quill mentions at the end of his post that Don Bastian (that would be me) is tying flies there on March 16th, and suggests you may want to drop by. I would enjoy that, and thanks, Quill, for the plug. I appreciate your support and enthusiasm, and I look forward to seeing you there!

The date mentioned in his article is the first day of the L. L. Bean Annual Spring Fishing Expo, to be held on March 16 – 18. In addition to demo tying from 1 PM until 5 PM on the 16th, I will be leading the regularly scheduled Friday evening tying class at 7 PM as we collectively dress a Maine streamer pattern, the Footer Special. I am also one of the 2012 Expo Featured Fly Tyers and I will be tying classic wet flies and traditional streamers on both Saturday and Sunday from 10 AM until 4 PM.

Here is the permalink to Quill Gordon’s entertaining post; it is worth checking out!

http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/when-art-imitates-art-good-fish-die/#more-2788

I hope Quill won’t mind, but I borrowed one of the photos from his post so you would at least have something to look at here on my blog, since my picture files currently have nothing relevant for inclusion anyway. Besides I wouldn’t want to take anything away from his writing and photos. Thanks Quill, and as usual, nice work!

Original (left) and reproduced version of 1933 L. L. Bean Catalog Cover. The fish are or should I say, were, real and alive...but if Quill's facts are correct, PETA won't like the end result.

The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond

This post was placed on Wednesday, November 23rd, by “Quill Gordon,” caretaker of The Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club, aka writer of a blog titled, “The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond.”

I know it’s very easy at times, to spend entirely too much time on the internet, but this article, while written primarily as a review of my October visit to The Wantastiquet Trout Club near Weston, Vermont, is focused on my tying of traditional wet flies, it is nevertheless a very entertaining and humorous read, as are some of the other posts on his blog.

http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/wets/

As a teaser to read Quill’s post, here is a photo of a nice brook trout I landed during my visit:

Brook Trout caught by Don Bastian at the Wantastiquet Trout Club in Vermont

And here is a photo looking north from the dock at our cabin:

The Wantastiquet Trout Club lake near Weston, Vermont. The weather was mostly like this, cloudy, rainy, foggy, misty; but still beautiful, with a captivating allure despite the chill in the air.

My companions for the trip: Derrick, Luke, Paul, and me (left to right), when I was starting to grow a winter beard.

The invitation from one of my Lancaster County friends, Paul Milot, to go on this trip provided a perfect opportunity for me to visit the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, since I had just signed the contract for my book on the 19th Century Orvis fly patterns from Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. I had previously been in discussion with the folks at the Museum, and it was interesting when speaking with my Pennsylvania friend Paul on the phone, who had called to invite me on this trip. I asked, “Is this place anywhere near Manchester?”

“About 20 miles,” Paul replied.

“Perfect,” I replied, then followed up with this question: “Would it be possible for me to visit the museum during the trip?”

Paul answered affirmatively. As we made our plans, I was delighted to suddenly be presented with a chance to accomplish several things, including a personal visit to the Museum during the trip which afforded me a perfectly-timed opportunity to conduct a little preliminary research for my book. I had previously been planning an imminent trip to Connecticut and Massachusetts anyway, to deliver the remaining seven frames to complete a 10-frame set of mounted wet flies; Plate Nos. 4 through 10 from Trout by Ray Bergman, to a customer who lived near Boston. The patterns in these framed sets are from the Wet Fly Color Plates of Ray Bergman’s Books; 440 out of a total of 483 framed wet flies being sourced from his epic 1938 work, Trout, with the remaining 43 patterns coming from additional flies in Ray Bergman’s other books.

The invitation to join these fellows on this trip was a serendipitous turn of events, plus I got to hang out with friends at the peaceful lakeside camp at The Wantastiquet Trout Club, meet some new friends, tie a few flies, have a little Scotch, relax, and of course – fish! Quill visited our cabin Saturday afternoon to take some photos of the wet fly frames, and he posted some of his pictures of the mounted flies on The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond in his recent post, simply and aptly titled, Wets.

During this, my first-ever visit to Vermont; on Friday afternoon, October 14th, departing the cabin near Weston, Vermont, in the pouring rain so no one wanted to fish, my three companions and I paid a visit to the Museum in Manchester to see Yoshi Akiyama, the Deputy Director. This was the initial stage of research for my upcoming book, and Yoshi graciously spent well over an hour with us and allowed us to see and actually hold – while wearing white cotton gloves – many of the original 32 Plates of mounted flies that were used for Marbury’s book. I had not known these were still in existence until fellow fly tier Paul Rossman informed me. Holding, viewing, and studying these flies was a very moving, spiritual, fascinating experience. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. And yes, also enlightening. The flies were individually hand-sewn with white cotton thread onto some type of mat boards which were secured in small wooden frames. It was fascinating to see the homespun cross-hatched thread pattern on the backside of these boards. The sewing process began with the first fly and continued from one pattern to the next, going over the hook bend and silk gut loop or snelled flying-lead of silkworm gut to secure each fly. The flies on each plate were used as models for the hand-painted renderings that were reproduced in Marbury’s book by a 19th Century state-of-the-art process known as chromo-lithography.

An unexpected bonus at the Museum was the display assembled by Mary Orvis Marbury for the 1893 Chicago World Exposition. There are many large display panels, made I think, drawing on my ancient Associate Degree in Forestry Technology and learned experience to recognize some types of wood, of American chestnut. These beautiful glass-covered frames are filled with photographs and mounted flies. This display is essentially a promotional not only for Orvis Company, but is also very clear that Mary Orvis organized it to promote and compliment the geographical theme and layout of her recently published book.

The Orvis display in the Museum captivated me. I returned the next day and spent an hour taking photographs of nearly 150 of the flies in the display, and I skipped over most of the trout flies and hackles. This was a very interesting, fascinating, and enlightening experience. As I later reviewed and zoomed in on various fly patterns, questions I had, as have others, on various components and ingredients – which have been perceived as ambiguous in many cases, and even assumed to be correct for over a century, are in some instances unveiled in a “new light” by these photos. Um, dare I say, different?

This is like detective work and is fascinating to me; part of the process of my book will be to continue and intensify my research and if necessary, make corresponding adjustments in fly pattern recipes. Considering some of the facts I have discovered, I know there are “variations” from some of these accepted Orvis fly recipes. This is confirmed by what I see with my eyes on photographs I took myself. The lack of written pattern recipes in Marbury’s book and the vagaries of visual verification on the painted color plates contributed to persistent questions on some of the materials used. And in fact, this reality hit me during a July 2011 conversation with a fellow fly tier. This realization was the spark of an idea that made me propose a book that would combine the patterns and recipes in a format available to the fly tying public, unlike Forgotten Flies, which, while beautiful, is out-of-print, hard to find, expensive, and at a weight of nearly twelve pounds is too cumbersome, large, and heavy to use as a fly tying desk reference. During that phone conversation, my friend suggested, “Donnie, you should write a book on this.” So the process began.

I would like to give special thanks to my friend Paul Rossman, who is participating as one of the contributing fly tiers for The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury. Among a dozen-and-a-half patterns that Paul is graciously providing, there are included some of the same exact flies that he tied, and which were published in the 1999 tome Forgotten Flies. Paul will be accompanying me to the Museum this spring for a weekend session of photographing the original 32 plates with 291 mounted flies. Paul will be using his state-of-the-art computer high-tech camera equipment and his photographic expertise for the addition of photographs of the original 1892 fly plates that will be featured in this book. My original intent was to use the old lithograph images, but when Paul informed me the actual flies are in the possession of the museum, it was like hitting pay dirt. The publication of these photos will provide a treasure trove of information on the flies and will be an invaluable asset to this project.

I shall endeavor to do my best as this project moves forward. Special thanks to Paul and, thank you,  to each of my contributing fly tiers! Your work is much appreciated! Your involvement will enhance, embellish, and diversify this project.