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.

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The Scarlet Ibis

Scarlet Ibis – photo credit Sandy Cole, Wikipedia. Used by Permission. Note the black-tipped feathers are only a few of the outer primaries, so you have a verifiable position of where the quills I used for these flies came from on the bird.

Back in the 1800’s nothing restricted the types of bird plumage that could be used for fly tying. The scarlet ibis was just one of the many exotic birds whose feathers were used for fly tying. Scarlet ibis plumage was used to create the wet fly of the same name. A good number of other patterns also used the wing or body plumage of this beautiful scarlet colored bird. The color scarlet, by definition, is a red tending more toward orange. Crimson on the other hand, is a deep red, tending more to the color of fresh blood. I thought the photo of this bird would be of great aid in making this post. Thanks to Sandy Cole, who also requested me to post this link along with the use of her photo: http://carolinabirds.org/

More information on the scarlet ibis bird may be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlet_Ibis

At the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum Heritage Day Event in Boiling Springs last June, a man inquired of me if I were interested in tying some Scarlet Ibis trout flies from authentic scarlet ibis feathers. Of course, I replied in the affirmative, having never seen real scarlet ibis feathers before, and I was quite excited about the prospect. We made an agreement for him to send me the feathers and that was that. It was not until the Somerset, New Jersey, Fly Fishing Show in January of this year that he stopped by my table with the feathers; two pairs of scarlet ibis wing quills as shown in the next photo. The deal was I tie two flies for him, one snelled wet on a blind-eye hook, and one 20th century version, and in return for me tying these two flies I would keep the second pair of quills. A sweet deal for sure. I tied and included the Bass Fly version as a special surprise for my customer.

Authentic scarlet ibis primary wing quills, before the barb slips were cut for these flies…

So I tied a blind-eye version, using Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, and the second pattern was sourced from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Scarlet Ibis – trout fly version from Mary Orvis Marbury’s book. The hook is a size No. 7, Mustad 3370 japanned, blind-eye. The gut snell is post-war Japanese. The oval tinsel tag and ribbing were wound all in one shot after I wrapped the floss body. The wing is tied tip-down as was customary during the 1800’s.

Scarlet Ibis – the version in Ray Bergman’s Trout. The hook is a size No. 6 Mustad 3399. Both the tail and wing were cut from the scarlet ibis wing quills, and the wing was tied tip-up as Dr. Burke’s paintings in Trout were accurately depicted painted from actual samples.

Scarlet Ibis – antique Orvis Lake Fly version on original 1800’s card packaging. The hook was about a size #2. Note the elaborate, ornate logo design on the packaging. The Tomah Jo is visible at left. Note all three flies have bite guards on the snells.

The above photo of the antique Scarlet Ibis fly was made possible through the courtesy of my friend and fellow tier from Sydney, Maine, Ed Muzzerol. Ed is also one of the contributing tiers for my current book project, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, The Whitefish Press. Hopefully the book will be released sometime in 2013. Ed and I had coffee Friday evening between my obligations at the L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo in Freeport, Maine, March 16 – 18, where I was one of the Featured Fly Tyers. Besides delivering his finished flies for my book, Ed had brought along some antique flies to show me because he knew I’d be interested. As I ogled the flies, I suddenly remembered I had my camera in my pocket. “Can I take pictures of these?” I asked Ed.

“Sure,” he replied.

The photos above and below are the results.

Scarlet Ibis – Orvis original Bass Fly version 1800’s. This photo was taken by me on a table in the 1912 Cafe at L. L. Bean in Freeport, Maine; hand-held, no flash.

Note the extra components beyond those of the trout fly version. This Bass Fly version has a two-part tag of tinsel and floss, a married tail, a peacock herl butt, and an oval tinsel rib (tarnished on the antique fly). The name label was on a piece of paper barely 3/16″ wide, impaled onto the hook point to designate the pattern since often different flies were mounted on these cards. The fly above the Scarlet Ibis is unknown, the other side had a Tomah Jo on it. Both the red section in the tail and the wing are authentic scarlet ibis feathers. I am not sure about the hackle.

Scarlet Ibis – Bass Fly

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and yellow floss

Tail: Scarlet ibis and white goose, married

Butt: Peacock herl

Rib: Oval gold tinsel

Body: Scarlet floss

Hackle: Scarlet

Wing: Paired scarlet ibis body feathers, back-to-back

Head: I used red wool over red thread. The antique appears to have black thread, though it looks like dark red (I zoomed it in to check, inconclusive).

Scarlet Ibis Bass Fly version – tied by Don Bastian. I placed the white strip on top of the scarlet ibis quill section in the tail; I think it looks better there than having the red strip right below the wing. The hook is a Mustad 3366 Size No. 2; a modern fly version of this historic pattern on an eyed hook for conventional fishing use. The wing is made from two paired feathers of Whiting American Hen Cape dyed red – a pretty good scarlet color for this fly. The hackle also came from the Whiting hen cape and was wound as a collar. Two strands of peacock herl (wound simultaneously) taken from near the eye were used to get long barbs of herl for the butt. A red wool head gives the fly a vintage appearance. I can’t wait to try this fly on some lake, pond, and river in Maine this spring and fall.

Group shot of Scarlet Ibis flies tied by Don Bastian – Orvis patterns, both trout and Fancy Bass Fly versions, and the version listed in Trout by Ray Bergman (bottom center).

Scarlet Ibis flies and wing quills. Note the exact perpendicular cuts of the slips relative to the barbs taken for the wings – always cut perpendicular to the run of the barbs, never parallel to the stem. This provides for better accuracy in the visual measurement of your scissors tips when cutting straight across the barbs.

Scarlet Ibis – Orvis Version

Tag: Oval gold tinsel

Rib: Oval gold tinsel

Body: Scarlet floss

Hackle: Scarlet

Wing: Scarlet

Head: Scarlet wool if desired

Scarlet Ibis – Bergman Trout Version *

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet duck quill section(s). It was customary to use just a single quill section on tails; somewhere along the line in the 20th century tail slips from matched pairs became popular; and that is my preference so perhaps that has also influenced fly tiers in their wet fly tying.

Rib: Flat gold tinsel

Body: Scarlet floss

Hackle: Scarlet

Wing: Scarlet duck quill sections

Head: Black thread, or scarlet wool of desired.

* I wish to clarify that the “Bergman” version of the Scarlet Ibis in Trout is not Ray Bergman’s personal pattern of this fly. Like all of the more than 400 wet flies in his books, Ray merely published popular and standard pattern recipes of his day as they were commercially produced and most commonly available. Ray originated only one wet fly, the Quebec, published in his last book, With Fly Plug, and Bait, 1947. I have several Bass Fly Scarlet Ibis patterns tied up.

Orange Ibis Wet Fly, Patterned After the Famous Scarlet Ibis.

Orange Ibis Wet Fly, size #6 Dressed on Mustad vintage 3399 #6 wet fly hook. (By vintage I mean before the new Signature Series Mustad Hooks.

The Orange Ibis was inspired after the famous wet fly of the 1800’s, the Scarlet Ibis. I tied this one in June of 2010. It is an all orange wet fly, with gold tag & rib. The recipe is as follows:

Orange Ibis

Hook: Standard wet fly hook

Thread: Danville white 6/0 for body, black for head

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Orange Duck quill sections, matched

Rib: Flat gold tinsel

Body: Danville #12 burnt orange floss

Hackle: Orange schlappen or other soft hackle fibers

Wing: Orange duck quill sections

Head: Black

Custom-framed Don Bastian Wet Flies

Custom-framed Don Bastian wet fly and wild Adirondack brook trout photo. Barry Mill, owner of Sawdust and Stitches, did the custom framing.

This photo is of a framed combination of an Adirondack brook trout with a selection of traditional wet fly patterns selected by my customer. The framing was done by Barry Mill, owner of Sawdust and Stitches, a custom framing business  in south-central Pennsylvania. Barry is a fly tier and fisherman, and also does a very nice job of custom framing.

Left to right the patterns are:

Parmacheene Belle, Cahill, Cowdung, Colonel Fuller, Scarlet Ibis, Pink Wickhams, and Fontinalis Fin. They are tied on vintage Mustad 3399 size #6 Sproat Bend wet fly hooks.