Carrie Stevens Streamer Deconstruction – Who Was First?

This article is sub-titled with an old adage: “You can’t believe everything you read.” There is a very easy answer to that question, but first this: The current issue of “Fly Tyer” magazine states that a new book, just published this month by Stackpole Books, on tying streamers by a newly published female author from Maine, with barely six years of fly tying experience to her credit – not that there’s anything wrong with that 😉 – was the first person to perform and write about the process of deconstructing a Carrie Stevens streamer. In this instance the pattern was the Blue Devil. I don’t know what other information was given (fabricated) about this “deconstruction”, or exactly how this information was presented, because I no longer read that magazine, but I do know this: That statement is totally false. Reference to sub-title. 😉 The first person to deconstruct a Carrie Stevens streamer, as far as we know, AND write about it in some fashion, and record the information, was Austin S. Hogan. Hogan was written about in “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing” by Joseph Bates in 1950, as the originator of a number of streamer patterns. Hogan was also the first Curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing (AMFF) in Manchester Vermont, a position he assumed in 1970. Austin was a noted angling historian, and a personal friend of Carrie Stevens. Hogan had acquired a number of the prepared pattern sheets similar to the ones she sold to Wendell Folkins in December 1953 when he bought her business. A number of these are photographed and shown in the Hilyard “Carrie Stevens” book.

In 1967, Hogan and a young fly tier in his learning years, Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, both members of United Fly Tyers, deconstructed not one, but four Carrie Stevens streamers in Hogan’s apartment. A Big Ben, a Gray Ghost, and a couple other patterns. These flies were all damaged. One was missing a jungle cock cheek, another had a broken hook point, etc. They might be named in another article on my blog, but I’m going from memory here in the interest of getting this written. I have a lot to do this week. Mike was taken under Hogan’s wing, and lucky he was, and how fortunate for the rest of us fly tiers interested in tying streamers, and not only tying them, but also being interested in the historical accuracy of tying them correctly AND tying the patterns true to the style of the originator. Mike observed intently as Hogan did the work, each fly in a vise, and extensive notes were taken during the process. These notes were later copied and made onto poster board images. As recently as 2012 when the AMFF had the display titled “A Graceful Rise” featuring fifty women who made significant contributions in the history and rise of fly fishing and fly tying, Hogan’s set of notes were included in the display on Carrie Stevens. I took photos of those notes, downloaded them to my hard drive, and learned first-hand the exact process of Carrie Stevens streamer construction. From these notes, it can be ascertained how the “deconstruction” would go. The “secrets” of Carrie Stevens’s methods of assembly are revealed in Hogan’s notes, so one could say there is nothing new to discover. But to anyone who does not know any bit or volume of information on any subject, the unveiling of such information is always a “discovery.”
This includes the “elusive” white throat that is part of the Gray Ghost, though it was mysteriously omitted from the recipes of at least five books containing the recipe for the Gray Ghost. For the info on that, go to the search tab here, type in “Gray Ghost White Ghost” and hit the “enter” key. Here is a macro of one page of Hogan’s notes:

Copy of Austin Hogan's notes on the construction of Carrie Stevens streamers.

Copy of a part of one page of Austin Hogan’s notes on the construction of Carrie Stevens streamers. This instruction specifically refers to her Gray Ghost. Don Bastian photo.

Of course the obvious observation is this: Since Hogan made these extensive notes, diagrams, and type-written text on Carrie Stevens’s unique, self-taught methods of streamer construction, it goes without saying that he would have had to deconstruct her streamers to discover and reveal her methods. I have several images of these notes, the complete set that was on display at the AMFF, which at some point I will publish here. More recently, Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, authors of “Carrie Stevens: Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies,” also published an article including the photographic step-by-step deconstruction of a Carrie Stevens Blue Devil. This was done in 2002, in The American Fly Fisher, the journal of the AMFF. Martinek also informed me that Robert Warren, who recreated the 1800’s Rangeley Region Lake Flies in the “Carrie Stevens” book, was present during the Hilyard / Blue Devil deconstruction. Here is a link to that volume with their article: http://www.amff.com/american-fly-fisher-2002.html

I close with clarification of rumors, or glowing false statements being published: Mike Martinek is the current expert on the history, tying, and information of Carrie Stevens streamers, and her methods of tying. He was present when four Carrie Stevens streamers were deconstructed 48 years ago. Mike has been a fly tier all those years, and he has been teaching her methods for many years. A number of Mike’s students are also very knowledgeable and skilled streamer fly tiers,  and they have been  tying flies for decades. No to discredit anyone accomplishments; but some new kid on the block with less than six years experience is not suddenly the new reigning expert on Carrie Stevens, it just does not happen. Nor does being a woman from Maine and a fly tier suddenly make her or any other female resident of Maine, or any state for that matter, the next Carrie Stevens. Experience can only be earned with time and perseverance, it cannot be achieved without the actual time it requires, or bestowed or gifted by a magazine editor, or self-proclaimed by anyone who simply has not gained experience for themselves. It comes as a badge of Honor to anyone who works hard and stays at their craft for years and years. Having talent is a great help, it makes one become good at their craft, but rapid development and growth of talent can occur whether one is an athlete, musician, academic student, wood-carver, etc., but development of talent in a short time span is still no substitute for experience. The information a magazine / editor / newspaper states / presents ought to be thoroughly vetted and fact-checked before publication. That’s good journalism. Fly Tyer magazine needs to publish a correction (at least) and even apologize to their readers, and to Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, and to Mike Martinek for this misinformation as far as I’m concerned. Don’t hold your breath folks.

As noted in the “Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892” article, the “dramatic” true-life experience narratives and comments have been removed. Those of you who were part of that, I thank you sincerely for your support. I am moving on. Life is good!

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Stanley Williams – Streamer Tier

Not long ago I made the online acquaintance of a young man from West Enfield, Maine, by the name of Stanley Williams. He ties a very nice replica, what I have seen so far, of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. I thought I would share one of his flies here, the reason being that I think it is really great that a young fellow like Stanley has found the passion to continue the tradition of tying her patterns, and from what I have learned thus far, he is making every effort to do so in the true and correct historic fashion. I know he mentioned to me in an e-mail that he went to the former home of Carrie and Wallace Stevens in Upper Dam, Maine, set up an impromptu fly tying station in the form of two saw horses, and tied a Gray Ghost streamer in the back yard. That was a pretty cool thing to do.

Here are some images Stanley sent me of his rendition of Carrie Stevens’ Blue Devil.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams. Note the elongated head shape, which was the preference and style of head finished on original streamers dressed by Carrie Stevens.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams.

Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams. Note also: the wing angle – the jungle cock cheek and center line of the stems of the shoulder and wing is slightly above the horizontal line of the hook shank. The length of the bucktail and herl underbelly is equally as long as the wing. These are proportion and material placement details of Carrie Stevens’s original Rangeley Style of streamer tying that some tiers overlook. Stanley has ’em down. 😉

Top view of Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams - showing near-perfect alignment of the wing assembly.

Top view of Blue Devil tied by Stanley Williams – showing near-perfect alignment of the wing assembly.

Very nice Stanley! Keep up the good work!

PS: If memory serves, my blog articles may have had something to do with Stanley’s “conversion” to my preference to band the heads of the Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. While I know she stated the band was her signature of sorts, I believe the band color is moreover a part of the pattern design. Plus this significant fact: When Wendell Folkins bought her business in 1953, she insisted that he continue to include the banded heads and colors she created when tying her patterns, no doubt as a way to continue the “recognition” and signature of her original streamer patterns. Carrie Stevens also tied other popular patterns such as the Black Ghost, Colonel Fuller, Supervisor, and in some cases, she added a slight variation to the materials, and certainly in the tying style.

Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

I have posted these same flies previously, but these are some new flies and new photos.

Carrie Stevens Streamer patterns; closkciws from upper left:

An assortment of Carrie Stevens Streamer patterns; clockwise from upper left: Pink Lady (2); Gray Ghost (2); Blue Devil (2); Colonel Bates (2); Larry’s Special, Larry, Rapid River, and Lakewood, center. All dressed on Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style Carrie Stevens / Mike Martinek streamer hooks. Sizes are #1, #2, #4 all 8x long.

And a macro of the heads, shoulders, and cheeks like spokes of a wheel.

Same flies arranged in a wheel pattern. The head band colors are true to Carrie's original pattern specs.

Same flies arranged in a wheel pattern. The head band colors are true to Carrie’s original pattern specs.

And carded for sale to collectors:

Lakewood - Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, named for Lakwood Camps. Only a few of her 100-plus original patterns sported an orange head with a black band.

Lakewood – Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, named for Lakwood Camps. Only a few of her 100-plus original patterns sported an orange head with a black band.

Larry - a streamer pattern designed by Carrie Stevens and named after Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 to 1974.

Larry – a streamer pattern designed by Carrie Stevens and named after Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 to 1974.

Larry's Special - the second of two streamer patterns created by Carrie Stevens, named for Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 - 1974.

Larry’s Special – the second of two streamer patterns created by Carrie Stevens, named for Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 – 1974.

Rapid River - the fourth streamer pattern created by Carrie G. Stevens and associated with the Rapid River, Lakewood Camps, and former camp owner Larry Parsons.

Rapid River – the fourth streamer pattern created by Carrie G. Stevens and associated with the Rapid River, Lakewood Camps, and former camp owner Larry Parsons.

These four streamers are available in a boxed set, part of my Collector’s Edition series of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. Presently priced at $80, the cost is soon going up for a few reasons – they have been rather inexpensive for one, and also to help cover the 5% fee and shipping costs associated with MyFlies.com. Here is the link to the “Lakewood” Collector’s Edition Set No. 4 on MyFlies.com:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-4-P784.aspx

Originally when I listed these sets for sale, I was winding the ribbing clockwise, but a couple years ago I changed that on Carrie Stevens patterns to wind counter clockwise as she did. I also learned how to apply the throats in her unique, original layered method, the result of my photos and study of the copies of Austin Hogan’s notes that were on display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. This method was first learned by contemporary fly tier, Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts. Conversations I have had with Mike have benefitted me, and his classes have taught other tiers, to name a few, Rich Connors, Peter Simonson, and Peggy Brenner how to replicate streamers in the true Carrie Stevens Rangeley method. Mike had the good fortune to be taken under the wing of Austin Hogan while a young member of the United Fly Tyers in the Boston area. Mike was privileged to participate in the deconstruction of three or four Carrie Stevens original streamer patterns in Austin’s apartment in 1967. The information Mike learned has been presented in a number of articles and videos over the years. Thanks Mike, for your help, and learning and passing on techniques that might have been lost.

I feel the need to make a few more comments: The knowledge and experience of Mike Martinek and other long-time streamer tiers should not be considered lightly. These folks who have put their time in – for years – decades – learning and honing their craft – are the fly tiers who deserve credit for their expertise, knowledge, and credibility. One does not gain “expert” status merely by tying for a few years and then suddenly coming out of the woodwork and writing a bunch of articles and even a book. I don’t care how good a fly tier may be, I realize, like musicians, some folks have talent and aptitude to excel at an early stage. A couple friends in the few years stage of very good fly tying I would make note of are Stanley Williams of West Enfield, Maine, and fellow Pennsylvanian, Eunan Hendron. Yet there is ultimately no substitute for decades of experience. Look at me, I have been tying flies for almost fifty-one years, and it was only in 2012 that I learned the correct way to authentically dress Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamers, in the fashion that she originated. For me the final learning curve was merely noticing and paying attention to details that I ought to have recognized earlier on. However, I do not, and likely never will attempt to hand-tie her patterns. Tried once and quite frankly, I don’t know how she pulled it off, to do her throat method while holding the hook, working the thread, and placing the hackle fibers. An old dog can learn new tricks, but this dog won’t likely tie streamers sans vise.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Colonel Bates streamers. Oddly enough, and I don't like to complain, but the person for whom this fly was named had two components incorrectly labeled in his own book.  Joseph D. Bates "Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing." Subsequent evidence - numerous Carrie Stevens original Colonel Bates streamers, including the Captain Bates and Major Bates, show the tail to be red hackle fibers. This makes sense, since not one  of the 100-plus streamer flies she originated have sections of duck quill for tails. And the shoulders on the Colonel Bates are and always were gray mallard, not teal.

A pair of Colonel Bates streamers. Oddly enough, and I don’t like to complain, but the person for whom this fly was named had two components incorrectly labeled in his own book. Joseph D. Bates “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing.” Subsequent evidence – numerous Carrie Stevens original Colonel Bates streamers, including the Captain Bates and Major Bates, show the tail to be red hackle fibers. This makes sense, since not one of the 100-plus streamer flies she originated have sections of duck quill for tails. And the shoulders on the Colonel Bates are and always were gray mallard, not teal.

A pair of Blue Devils.

A pair of Blue Devils. One of the three streamer patterns in Carrie Stevens “Devil” series. The other two are the Red Devil and White Devil. All three patterns sport shoulders of “partridge” or pah-tridge” – indigenous to her local area near Upper Dam at Mooselucmaguntic Lake in Maine’s famous Rangeley Lakes Region.

A pair of the Pink Lady streamer pattern, originated by Carrie Stevens. This was the final fly tied of her career, on the day in December 1953, when she sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins of New Hampshire.

A pair of the Pink Lady streamer pattern, originated by Carrie Stevens. This was the final fly tied of her career, on the day in December 1953, when she sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins of New Hampshire.

The Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Set No. 1 is available on MyFlies.com:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-1-P658.aspx

One tying note I’d like to point out, and I learned this from experience and just by paying attention: When replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, it is important to note that images of her original patterns – the proportions – the components of underbelly, underwing of bucktail peacock herl, golden pheasant crest, silver pheasant crests, should always be as long as the wing. No shorties. I mean, you can tie them anyway you like to fish with, but for the sake of fly pattern historical accuracy, lets be true to her original design specs and proportions.

Cost of these four-fly Collector’s Sets is going to be increased to $90. Orders may also be place directly through me. Find me on facebook too: Don Bastian.

Fly Tying Classes – Eldredge Brothers, Cape Neddick, Maine

Hi everyone! Following a very successful class in March of 2013 at Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop in Cape Neddick, Maine, that filled to capacity a couple weeks after being announced, shop manager, Jim Bernstein has invited me back again this year. Two class dates are set:

Saturday, March 15, 2014 and

Sunday March 16, 2014.

The Saturday class topic is classic wet flies and will feature the heritage patterns of 19th century Maine Lake Flies, such as the Belgrade, Rangeley, Richardson, Cupsuptic, Parmacheene Belle, etc. The class will include tying patterns on eyed hooks, which became popular in the mid-1890’s, as well as dressing a fly or two on a classic blind-eye hook using both a gut snood and a snell.

Sunday’s class will focus on classic Maine feather-wing streamers and will include traditional Eastern styles of tying, with a special feature of two Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, presenting her unique Rangeley method of streamer construction, combined with my personal adaptations (for starters, unlike Carrie Stevens, I use a vise). Full details of her methods using information from classic streamer guru, Mike Martinek, Jr., and Austin Hogan’s  notes on his deconstruction of Carrie’s flies will be included.

Here is a link to the class information on the Eldredge Brothers Fly Shop site:

http://eldredgeflyshop.com/seminars

For additional information feel free to contact the shop or me directly at: dwbastian@chilitech.net

Black Witch – Unknown Austin S. Hogan Original Pattern

Last winter, around February I suppose, a friend from Maine, Lance Allaire, sent me a photo of an unknown streamer fly tied by Austin Hogan. Lance asked me if I knew the pattern, but I did not. In fact I’d never seen it before. I checked several sources but came up empty-handed. He sent it to me thinking I may be able to help. The long story made short is this: I finally thought that Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, would be the best person to ask the question of the origin of this unknown streamer. Mike was mentored by Austin Hogan in the late 1960’s, and Mike knows more about Carrie Stevens and Austin Hogan, and many other streamer tiers, both living and dead, of the New England states than probably anyone else alive. Mike thought the pattern was called the Black Witch. I came up with nothing else in a name search, except for some fly pattern of that name in England that is much newer in origin than 1973, as this fly is dated. So I give credibility to Hogan’s Black Witch.

I wanted to tie this fly, and in asking Lance via e-mail one day about the dressing of this pattern, since from the photo he sent me I could not ascertain the presence or content of tail, tag, body, and ribbing, if in fact all these components were present on the fly. I requested if he could check the fly out for me, but Lance did something even better. “How about I send the fly to you?” Lance asked me in his e-mail reply.

“Perfect!” I replied. So I finally got around to tying the pattern a few weeks back, and today I photographed the Black Witch, both Austin’s fly and mine as well, separately and together. Here is the Black Witch:

Black Witch streamer fly -

Black Witch streamer fly – originated and tied by Austin S. Hogan, formerly of Fultonville, New York. The hook is a #6 – Mustad 94720 8x long streamer. The dark stain is where scotch tape was used over the bend of the hook to secure the fly in place. The adhesive of course, degraded over time. Austin’s original signature and date can be seen. The date is 1973, forty years ago.

Black Witch streamers -

Black Witch streamers – above by Austin S. Hogan, originator, and Don Bastian. My streamer is on a Mustad size #4 – 94720 8x long. In tying my first replica of Hogan’s pattern, I wanted to use the same manufacture of hook as his original.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian, on Mustad #4 - 94720 8x long.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian, on Mustad #4 – 94720 8x long.

Black Witch

Hook: Standard streamer hook, 6x to 8x long, sizes #2 to #8

Thread: Danville 6/0 Flymaster #100 Black

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Underbelly: Four to six strands of peacock herl, then white bucktail

Throat: Orange hackle fibers

Wing: Four white hackles

Shoulders: Lemon wood duck flank featheras

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Black

I assembled this fly in authentic Rangeley style, cementing the hackles, shoulder, and cheeks together, and I also layered the throat in sections, starting well behind the head as Carrie Stevens did. It was Austin S. Hogan who first deconstructed some of Carrie Stevens flies to see how they were made. He made extensive notes and diagrams of Mrs. Stevens’ methods. Hogan was the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. Much of Hogan’s personal collection of fly fishing memorabilia is stored there.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian.

Black Witch tied by Don Bastian.

Black Witch - tied by Don Bastian.

Black Witch – tied by Don Bastian.

Head, shoulder, and cheek macro image of Black Witch, tied by Don Bastian. I used clearPro Lak cement, several coats, and a final coat of black Pro Lak.

Head, shoulder, and cheek macro image of Black Witch, tied by Don Bastian. I used several coats of clear Pro Lak cement and a final coat of black Pro Lak.

The Black Witch is similar to another of Hogan’s patterns, the Grizzly Prince, except that pattern has an orange tail, and grizzly hackles over the white, but the lower barbs of the grizzly hackles are stripped off on that pattern. That was one of Hogans rather unique techniques, as also expressed on his Black and White Streamer. See Joseph D.  Bates, Jr., book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing. Hogan created about a dozen original streamer patterns. They are all listed in the 1996 edition of Bates book.

Don’s Delight – Carrie Stevens Pattern

Just so you all don’t think I’ve lost my marbles and turned this blog into Wild Kingdom – Cogan Station, with all the recent deer sightings and fawn births, I am posting the Don’s Delight, a Carrie Stevens pattern, as promised, “before too long,” from a few days ago when I posted the Don’s Special.

The Don’s Special was one of three streamer patterns that Carrie G. Stevens, of Upper Dam, Maine, created for George Donald Bartlett. Don Bartlett first visited Upper Dam in 1909 at the age of nine. He made annual trips there for thirty-six consecutive years until his untimely death in 1945 at the young age of forty-five. Don was from Willimantic, Connecticut, as were a couple other notable Carrie Stevens friends, customers, and guide clients of her husband, Wallace. These included Frank Bugbee, for whom Carrie never created a fly, but it was he who thought of the name, Gray Ghost, for Mrs. Stevens most famous fly, indeed, the most famous streamer ever created, bar none. The third individual was Alfred “Allie” French, for whom Carrie created the Allie’s Delight and Allie’s Favorite.

I mentioned not too long ago that among thirty-five Rangeley style streamer patterns I have recently created, one of my patterns, designed in honor of Frank Bugbee, is called Bugbee’s Ghost. I promise to tie Bugbee’s Ghost and get it on here “before too long.” As part of that collection, I have also tied my original patterns – Carrie’s Ghost and Carrie’s Killer. They have been sitting here for weeks, patiently waiting for their photo shoot.

On to the Don’s Delight:

Don's Delight - hook is a Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style sttreamer. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Don’s Delight – hook is a size #1 – 8x long, Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style streamer. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Two card-mounted Don's Delight streamers. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Two card-mounted Don’s Delight streamers. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

 

Don's Delight - tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Don’s Delight – size #1 – 8x long, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Don’s Delight

Thread: Black or white Danville 3/0 Monocord or Uni-Thread 3/0, for under body build up on larger hook sizes, 6/0 can be used on smaller hooks

Hook: Any standard long-shank streamer hook, sizes #1 to #8, 6x to 10x long.

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Throat: White hackle fibers

Wing: Four white hackles

Shoulder: Golden pheasant tippet

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Black with a red band, finished with Danville #100 Black and #56 Red Flymaster 6/0

The Don’s Delight, as a predominantly white streamer pattern, is an effective baitfish imitating fishing fly.

YThese are the three patterns Carrie Stevens created for Donald Bartlett: Top to bottom: G. Donald Bartlett, Don's Delight, and Don's Special

This photo presents the trio of patterns Carrie Stevens created for Donald Bartlett: Top to bottom: G. Donald Bartlett – #2 – 8x, Don’s Delight – #1 8x, and Don’s Special – #2 – 8x. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

 

Gray Ghost – White Ghost

The Gray Ghost is unquestionably the most famous streamer fly ever created. Contrary to popular belief, according to the account presented in Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, The Stackpole Press, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, the Gray Ghost was actually not the pattern that Carrie Stevens caught her record-breaking six pound, thirteen ounce brook trout on at Upper Dam, Maine, on July 1st, 1924. The entry in Carrie’s own handwriting in the record book at the Upper Dam House records the successful fly as “Shang’s Go Get-um.” There is no modern record of a Carrie Stevens pattern called Shang’s Go Get-um. And the mounted record brook trout Carrie caught was presented to her friend, Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler. Shang Wheeler is responsible for getting Carrie started and interested in fly tying in 1920. The fly in the jaw of the mount is a Shang’s Special. Perhaps this is a courtesy to her friend, or perhaps it is the same pattern with a name change, as Hilyard suggest as a possibility. We will never know.

I tied my first Gray Ghosts while still in high school, back in the late 1960’s. Over the years I bought and acquired different books that included the Gray Ghost. I first saw the pattern at age twelve in 1964, because in 1938, the already popular pattern was included in Ray Bergman’s book Trout, written in that year. I started reading Trout on that first day after I caught bluegills on a Yellow Sally wet fly in a Pennsylvania farm pond. I bought the first Gray Ghost I ever fished for seventy-five cents at a local sporting goods shop in my home town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Like many commercially tied Gray Ghosts, it had yellow bucktail substituted for the golden pheasant crest.

Ever since that time I have tied and fished the Gray Ghost. It was successful for trout in my home state of Pennsylvania, but in more recent years I fished it primarily on my trips to Maine starting in 1986. My brother heard from other anglers and reported that gray marabou makes a great Gray Ghost variation; we tied them and caught trout and salmon on them too. even a little pearlescent Flashabou added makes it fish. 😉

My brother Larry and I, also collaboratively originated the Gray Ghost Wooly Bugger, back in 1987. That pattern was included in Gary Soucie’s book, Wooly Wisdom, 2005, but listed as origin unknown. I can clarify its origin dating to 1987, and I plan to eventually get that pattern up on another post.

Back in the early 1990’s, after taking salmon fly tying lessons with my Canadian friend Rick Whorwood, who hosted guest instructors Rob Solo from Newfoundland, and Bob Veverka, author of Spey Flies, at his home, I learned to focus on more exacting proportions and ways to improve my fly tying. I transferred what I learned about tying salmon flies to all my flies, particularly classic wet flies that I began tying with renewed passion in 1993. These lessons, more or less caused me to become more detail-oriented in my fly tying. Another factor in this development was that I had gotten a jump start on detail orientation by commercially tying trout flies in the fall of 1989. I tied more flies in that first year that I did in the previous twenty-five years combined tying mainly for myself. I wore out the 25-year old set of jaws on my Thompson Model-A vise in the first year. Tying commercially; if you can do it, is very good discipline.

After all these years, a good number of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns have turned up among the collections of anglers, estates, and happenstance, and they continue to do so. A story I can personally relate; I met a man while demo tying at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine last fall in 2012. In 2009 he received a “bag of streamers” from an elderly man in his nineties who had lived in the Rangeley Lakes Region. The man who received the flies was new to fly fishing. He used some of these streamers, lost some in trees, lost some in fish, and lost some on rocks and logs. One day while fishing with a licensed Maine guide, the guide noticed the streamer fly on his tippet and took a closer look at it. It was a Carrie Stevens original. The guide asked, “Do you have any more of these?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “I have a streamer wallet full of ‘em.”

The guide was struck as he examined the streamers therein. “Where did you get these?” The man told him that they had been given him by an old man who said he was no longer fishing and would not need them.

“Do you know who tied these flies?” the guide asked.

“No,” the man answered.

“These are Carrie Stevens’ flies!” the guide declared.

“Who’s Carrie Stevens?” the man queried. The interesting thing is that when enlightened by research to their value and the significance of Carrie Stevens, the man donated the nearly forty remaining original Stevens streamers to the museum in Oquossoc, Maine.

In more than seventy-five years, one would think there is nothing new to discover about the Gray Ghost. However, I recently discovered this fact: The White Ghost, a Carrie Stevens companion pattern to the Gray Ghost, shares the same components and is identical to the Gray Ghost except for the wing color. At first I thought it curious that the White Ghost had an added white hackle throat, while the Gray Ghost did not. It is not noticeable on most of her originals, but it can in fact be seen on several of the Gray Ghosts on the back cover of the previously mentioned book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies. Like the White Ghost, the Gray Ghost does indeed have white hackle fibers as part of the throat. They are an integral part of the pattern. However, I and a few thousand other people never knew that until recently. Here is what I discovered: It is interesting, even amazing, to note regarding the white hackle portion of the throat on the Gray Ghost; the written recipes in these six books, in order of their publication:, Trout, 1938, Ray Bergman;  Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, 1966, Joseph D. Bates; Flies, 1950, J. Edson Leonard; Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman; Forgotten Flies, 1999, Complete Sportsman; Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Graydon and Leslie Hilyard; have this fact in common: the component of the white hackle throat on the written Gray Ghost recipes is missing!

It is included in Austin Hogan’s notes and drawings that he made in the 1960’s on Carrie Stevens’ tying methods; it is included in the written text of Bates book, it is included in the text devoted to Carrie Stevens tying methods in Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, and it is shown on the photographic step-by-step tutorial of the Gray Ghost in Hilyard’s book.

Bates writes about Carrie Stevens tying methods, detailing her construction of the Gray Ghost: “Now the throat was tied in. A small bunch of white bucktail extending beyond the barb of the hook was tied in under the rearward part of the white underbody. This surrounded the white underbody and was applied here so it would point backward, rather than backward and downward. Immediately ahead of this a small bunch of white hackle (all of approximately the same length) was tied in, in the same manner, to hold the bucktail up and to extend the whiteness of the throat forward.” P. 175.

I first noted the addition of the white hackle throat on the White Ghost in the summer of 2011 when I tied my first specimen of that pattern. It was not until I photographed Austin Hogan’s notes at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, this past June of 2012, brought them home, downloaded them to my computer and began reading and studying them at a later date.I did not remember the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost from these listed books, but comparing this new information from Hogan’s notes to the books, that I discovered this omission of decades. It is fascinating that this missing component was inadvertently perpetuated through multiple publications. I am not finding fault with any of these distinguished authors, I merely find it interesting. It’s almost as if there was a conspiracy of sorts, or perhaps a curse of secrecy. All kidding aside, here is the photo and text from Austin Hogan’s notes on Carrie Stevens tying methods from the American Museum of Fly Fishing Display:

Photo caption: No. 6 – White, lustrous, stripped saddle hackle or cape hackles are tied in next (to) the white hair. The underside of the shank may be lacquered if necessary to blend the fibers to the hair. The advantage of the white thread now becomes evident. No. 7 – More white fibers are added in the same way until the bare shank is covered to a point where the throat (a golden pheasant crest) is to be placed. It’s probable Mrs. Stevens had the underbody of a minnow in mind. The fibers are to flow backward and are proportionate in volume and width to the bucktail. Too long and too heavy helps turn the streamer on its side.”

Austin Hogan was the first Curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, and he actually deconstructed, wrap by wrap, Carrie Stevens’ streamer patterns to make his notes on her methods and techniques. Hogan’s star streamer pupil, Mike Martinek, Jr. of Massachusetts, was also involved in some of these deconstruction sessions. Austin Hogan’s notes are currently in the possession of Mike Martinek, Jr. Mike has been the standard-bearer of carrying on and teaching Carrie Stevens tying methods for decades.

Note that Mr. Hogan’s deconstruction of Carrie’s Gray Ghost revealed that she layered the white hackle in with multiple applications of small bunches of fibers. Leslie Hilyard covers this method of tying in the throat of black and orange fibers on the Hammerhead pattern in his book. However, the presence or absence of a bucktail underbelly, golden pheasant or silver pheasant crest underwing, peacock herl underbelly or underwing, all changes the process of material placement for tying streamers in authentic Carrie Stevens style. Until a few months ago, I had been tying Carrie Stevens streamers in traditional Eastern fashion, as Hilyard states, like many other people, as are the reproductions of Carrie’s patterns in Forgotten Flies, attaching everything at the head. Even H. Wendell Folkins of Tamworth, New Hampshire, who purchased Carrie’s business in December 1953, tied her patterns in normal fashion, and did not use her methods. There is a difference, and I now have dozens more representations of the same pattern that I tied before and after my recent determination to tie Mrs. Stevens patterns accurately and in her traditional style. (Except for the fact I’m not tying in hand, folks).

I personally believe if we find out that any original and historical information is discovered to be wrong or incomplete, then if possible, we need to correct it. Perhaps I’m being extremely detail oriented about this, but I also feel it’s important to get things right. I am making the same effort on my current book project on the Orvis / Marbury flies; the title is Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.

I try to write nothing other than the truth and facts to the best of my ability. I do appreciate those of you that have called out my mistakes, whether they are omissions or incorrect information.  Mike Martinek, Jr. has been aware of the white hackle throat for decades, in fact, as I noted it was published in Bate’s book as far back as 1950, though I can not say that for certain since I do not possess a first-edition copy of his book.

I believe the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost is part of the pattern, as it is on the White Ghost. Of course most commercially available Gray Ghosts don’t have the white hackle throat, and it fishes. otherwise it would not have become and remained the most popular streamer in history. Depending on your reference source, Carrie Stevens created more than one-hundred streamer patterns, and there are none of the rest of these patterns that I know of with components that are included in the dressing but intentionally not “listed” as part of that pattern. As meticulous a tier as Carrie Stevens was, the loss of the Gray Ghost white throat hackle fibers on published pattern recipes that lasted for seventy years was through no fault of her own because she never made a serious effort to publish her patterns or recipes.

It makes perfect sense that Carrie’s two Ghost patterns are identical in every way except for the wing color. I cannot explain why all these books did not include the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost recipe. Some of them had the information and yet, somehow it was overlooked in the pattern recipe. Perhaps some authors took pattern recipes from commercial fly tying houses, or just accepted popular dressings, but I know for a fact that Carrie Stevens was a personal friend and corresponded with Joseph D. Bates, Jr., and she also wrote and sent flies to J. Edson Leonard for his book.

This is interesting! My study of her tying methods regarding material placement has given me a renewed interest in tying her patterns. I shall continue. And please folks, if ever I error in my statements or presentation of facts feel free to point that out to me.

And in my edit this post I decided to and these new Gray Ghost images:

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction. Note the different markings on the silver pheasant shoulders. Personally I prefer the fine barring, while many of Carrie’s original Gray Ghosts sport the heavier barring of the shoulder feather.