Carrie Stevens – Silver Doctor

Not too long ago a friend sent me this picture of a streamer. At first we were not sure what it was, though we were both pretty sure it was a Carrie Stevens tied fly. My friend sent the image to Don Palmer, of the Rangeley Outdoor Heritage Museum in Oquossoc, Maine, and he identified it as a Silver Doctor, though sans a few parts.

It’s pretty well beat, missing both cheeks, and the shoulder is gone as well on one side. The significant part of this image is that you can see evidence of Carrie’s use of cement / varnish, in the interior section of the wing. In addition to pre-assembling and cementing her wing components in advance; hackles, shoulders, and cheeks, she applied cement to the inner portion of the wing to help hold the fly together, and also used it to help set the wings. Here you go:

Silver Doctor Streamer, tied by Carrie Stevens.

Silver Doctor Streamer, tied by Carrie Stevens. The jungle cock cheek is missing. The normally red head has oxidized and changed color from rusting of the hook.

And here is the revealing image that most of us never get to see:

The inside of a Carrie Stevens streamer fly - look closely, you can see residue of cement that held the shoulder in place. This also bears witness to how much cement she used, and how long of the stem portion of the feathers she applied it to.

The inside of a Carrie Stevens streamer fly – Silver Doctor, missing both the gray mallard shoulder and jungle cock cheek. Look closely, you can see residue of cement that held the shoulder in place. This also bears witness to how much cement she used, and how long of the stem portion of the feathers she applied it to. You can also see more of the throat fibers exposed, revealing a bit of her unique, self-taught, layering method of applying the throat to her flies. The copy of notes I have that were made by Austin S. Hogan, angling historian, and the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, reinforce all that I have described here.

Don’t forget, you can click on the pic, enlarge it, and be better able to view the cement residue. Remember, Carrie Stevens was a milliner by trade, so when she started tying flies in 1920 when she was already in her forties, it was only natural for her to apply what she learned in her trade to her new profession of fly tying.

The other thing that is noteworthy; you can also see the slight up-angle of the wing, the stems are not in perfect parallel alignment with the shank of the hook, as I’ve seen some tiers do, but are at a slight angle above the horizontal line of the hook shank. I mean to me, if you’re gonna tie Carrie Stevens patterns then I think they ought to be done as she did…that is, if you know the facts and have the ability to tie the fly in “true Rangeley Style.”

Thanks to my friend, Lance Allaire of Maine, for sending these pics to me.

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Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor – Classic Wet Flies

I recently added a couple new items to my product page at MyFlies.com, and I wanted to share these items with my readers. The items are Boxed Collector’s Sets of paired classic wet flies. The first to go up was the Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor, then a couple weeks later, this past weekend actually, the second set was posted – The Parmacheene Belle and the Trout Fin. All four are classic wet flies that were (or could also be) classic Lake Flies. In fact only the Trout Fin is not confirmed by my research as an authentic historic or heritage-style “Lake Fly,” but I believe that pattern, sent to Ray Bergman in the mid-1940’s by Bert Quimby of South Windham, Maine, for inclusion in Ray’s fourth book, With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, is of Maine origin and was probably fished in lakes. So there you go. Classic logical conclusion arrived at by deduction of the facts.

These wet fly sets are actually what got me started on the path to being more or less a professional fly tier. I started selling them back in the mid-nineties when I was doing shows as an exhibitor; selling tying materials, flies, fly selections, hooks, tackle accessories, and – boxed pairs, sets of classic wet flies. Back then they were not even called “classic wet flies” because the term had not yet caught on, and I was about the only tier, or one of the few fly tiers around even tying those old “forgotten” brook trout patterns. It’s like at one time, Classic Rock music was just “rock music.” So these old “classic” wet flies were at one time, just “wet flies.”

I had sent the first set of the “Doctors” to a customer in Canada. Then I got another order just last week for a customer in Australia, which could be another story in and of itself, but suffice it to say that it’s amazing to think there are classic salmon and trout fly tiers in the land Down-Under. Bob Frandsen for one that I can think of; member of http://www.classicflytyingforum.com and TheStreamerList.com. (That reminds me of Men at Work, a favorite classic rock band from Australia. I love The Essential Men at Work, it’s one of my favorite CD’s).

So back to doctors in the house – the Silver Doctor was published in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. Not once, not twice, but four times. The first Silver Doctor in Marbury’s book is among the Salmon Flies, then there are three different versions included on the Plates of Lake Flies, the Orvis version, and two more patterns of the Doctor, designed by Henry P. Wells, creator of the Parmacheene Belle, and J. G. Shearer. The Golden Doctor is not as well known as the Silver Doctor, but it is mentioned in Marbury’s book, dating it to the 19th century, certifying its probable use as a fancy Lake Fly pattern.

Here are some photos of the patterns:

Silver Doctor - Don Bastian pattern variation.

Silver Doctor – Don Bastian pattern variation. Dressed on a #4 Mustad 3906 vintage wet fly hook. I added the jungle cock cheek for extra appeal. The basic pattern – tail, tag, tip, body, hackles came from Trout, by Ray Bergman.

This pattern of the Silver Doctor is included in my second DVD, Advanced Classic Wet Flies, though that version has a slightly simpler five-strip wing. I got the idea for these original wing-quill versions of the Silver Doctor by examining commercially-tied Silver Doctor wet flies in The Maine Guide Fly Shop, in Greenville, Maine, about ten years ago. Those patterns were tied with duck wing quills, simply yellow and blue, married together. Up until then I had always tied the Silver Doctor using flank feathers of teal, barred wood duck in some cases, and mottled turkey or bustard, along with goose shoulder for the red, blue, and yellow. Seeing those simple quill-wing versions got me thinking; why not use more durable wing quill slips in place of the harder-to-use – not to mention grading and selecting – and less durable flank feathers? I used plain brown goose for turkey, and guinea fowl for a replacement for the black and white teal feathers. The rest was plain old goose and duck wing quill sections, readily available and easy to marry.

Here is the Golden Doctor:

Goldemn Doctor - dressed and photographed by Don Bastian. This pattern is the one taken from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Golden Doctor – dressed and photographed by Don Bastian. The hook is a Mustad #4 vintage 3906. This pattern recipe is the one taken from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor, card-mounted, boxed and labeled.

Collector’s Set – Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor, card-mounted, boxed and labeled.

Here is the link to this set of wet flies: http://www.myflies.com/Classic-Wet-Fly-Collection-Silver-and-Golden-Doctor-P837.aspx

When I was tying the Silver Doctor for the customer in Australia, I got the inspiration to change the mottled turkey in the wing to light and dark brown mottled peacock wing quill. The mottling of brown is bolder and more contrasting in the peacock feathers, and my reasoning was that it would look better. And I believe it does. All of these flies are tied with the wing tips curving downward, in popular 19th century fashion.

Here is the Silver Doctor, my latest variation:

Silver Doctor - dressed and photographed by Don Bastian.

Silver Doctor – dressed and photographed by Don Bastian. This pattern also differs from the one above in the lack of a tip; both the flat gold tinsel and red floss are part of the tag on this version. Sorry the photo is a little lackluster; I’m still having to shoot on “auto” which severely limits my options for lighting, focus, color, and depth-of-field. I may still decide to change the plain brown-dyed goose to mottled brown turkey for a little more variegation of color.

The Golden Doctor:

Golden Doctor - this version has a full collar hackle applied after the wing was mounted.

Golden Doctor – this version has a full collar hackle applied after the wing was mounted. These wing slips were cut from a matched pair of mallard flank feathers; that is a left and a right, so that the webbed fibers are balanced, left and right. Historically this pattern would have been tied with a pair of whole gray mallard flank feathers for the wing.

Golden Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Hook: #2 Mustad 3906, any standard wet fly hook will suffice

Tail: Red, yellow, and green goose or duck quill sections; married

Body: Flat gold tinsel

Hackle: Claret

Wing: Gray mallard with “splits” of narrow married blue and red goose shoulder

Head: Red – Wapsi lacquer was used over the red thread, and finished with a couple coats of clear Grif’s Thick

Below are both flies together on the wood:

Golden  Doctor and Silver Doctor - size #2 Mustad wet fly hooks, vintage 3906.

Golden Doctor and Silver Doctor – size #2 Mustad wet fly hooks, vintage 3906. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Here are the #2 Doctors, card-mounted, labeled, and ready to be sent off to Australia; thank you Brett!

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor - Mustad #2 vintage 3906 wet fly hooks. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Silver Doctor and Golden Doctor – Mustad #2 vintage 3906 wet fly hooks. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Silver Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Hook: Mustad 3906 wet fly hook, any standard wet fly hook will suffice

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Golden pheasant crest and short dash of blue schlappen, or kingfisher

Tip: Red floss (see footnote differentiating tip and tag)

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Blue fronted by guinea fowl

Wing: Brown turkey or mottled peacock, brown goose (or mottled turkey), guinea fowl, red, blue, yellow goose; married

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Red – this has a coat of Wapsi red lacquer, with a couple coats of clear Grif’s Thick over

The definition of tag and tip is as follows: A tag is always at the end of the body, but always behind and underneath the tail; whereas a tip is also at the end of the body but always encircles the tail. This definition is clear; taken from J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies. However, in his own excellent Fly Nomenclature drawing, he contradicts himself by, according to his written definition, labeling part of the tag as the “tip.” The pattern in his diagram, p. 37, 1988 edition, actually has no tip. I believe my readers will appreciate this clarification.

Here is a photo of the married wings before mounting; I didn’t count barbs, but figured four each was about right. The individual wings may be off a barb here and there. Two contradictory definitions can not both be correct.

Silver Doctor wings

Silver Doctor wings – married, prior to mounting on the fly.

Silver Doctor wings set in place with two or three thread wraps.

Silver Doctor wings set in place with three or four thread wraps.

Macro-image of the wing set. Notice how the quill sections have compressed perfectly, with not fluting, pleating, or folds. Something I just learned in March of 2012. Read below for that technique.

Macro-image of the wing set. Notice how the quill sections have compressed perfectly, and they are centered on top of the hook shank, with no fluting, pleating, or folds. Something I just learned how to do in March of 2012. Read below for that technique.

I shall endeavor to explain this as succinctly as possible. However, without a photographic step-by-step, or until I can make another video, this is the best I can do. If you don’t quite get it the first time, try reading it slower a second time, and go through the motions with your hands as you read. That should do it.

At the Annual L. L. Bean Spring Fly Fishing Expo in March of 2012, my friend from York, Maine, Dave Lomasney, showed me a “new” method of mounting wet fly wings. I had met Dave just one year earlier. Since he was interested, I spent some time teaching him the basics of tying wet flies and marrying wings. In a few months Dave was turning our great wet flies (see this post in my archives):  https://donbastianwetflies.com/2012/01/02/bee-1900s-orvis-wet-fly-pattern/

In 2012 Dave came up to me as I was tying at Bean’s and announced he had discovered a new way to mount wet fly wings. I did not express too much amazement, because in typical “experienced” fly tier fashion, having tied wet flies for years, I figured there wasn’t much new under the sun. I was about to be enlightened! I’ve learned more than once not to be too stubborn and set in my ways. Most anyone who has tied a few flies can probably teach you something. Dave’s method has actually been around, but to my knowledge and surveys taken since, it was not normally used on feather wing wet flies. It may have been used by salmon fly tiers, but it was primarily developed to tie in bucktail hair wings, a small bunch at a time, the idea being to get a better grip on the hair fibers by tying in smaller bunches in stages. With bucktail, the tying thread is brought completely around the butt ends of hair, then around the hook shank, so two wraps are made over the butts before they are lashed down to the hook. So it is with the feather wing slips on wet flies.

Pinch and hold the wing in the usual position, but elevate it slightly above the hook shank as you make the first wrap, then the second thread wrap is brought underneath the butt ends of the quills, but not around the hook. Two wraps are made over the butt ends of the wing quills before you make the third wrap that takes the thread around the hook shank.

The two wraps over the wing must be made directly above the rear of the head, which is where your tie-in point would and should normally be. They must also be made in place, right on top of each other. Once the two wraps are made over the butt ends of the wing, let go of your bobbin. Then the left hand holds and only holds the wing proper (do NOT make any other motions); while the right hand grasps the butt ends of the wing and makes a slight up and down motion with the exposed butt ends. This action, combined with the gravity weight of the bobbin, relaxes and collapses the thread looped around the wing. Once this is accomplished, 50 to 75% of the wings butt ends will be compressed and collapsed down.

Next stabilize the wing with your left thumb and middle finger, holding the wing vertical, and tight (but not too tight to have the thread cut the fibers of the wing), and maybe even tilted slightly toward you; grasp your bobbin, and tighten the thread slowly, gradually bringing it to up to maximum tension, before making the third wrap. Make two more wraps at max tension, then check your wing attitude.

With practice this method will improve your wing setting by 100%. It may take a few flies and wings and some effort to get it down. And I have learned that it is particularly useful for wider wings on large hook sizes. This technique excels in setting perfect wings on #2 and #4 hooks. I use it all the way down to #8’s; on #10 and smaller it is not necessary. I dare say thank you Dave! I have used this method on virtually every size #8 and larger wet fly wing I have tied in the last year-and-a-half.

One result this method accomplishes is this: It gathers the bottom of the wing quill sections completely together, pulling them in place and centering them top-dead-center on the hook shank. It eliminates any slippage or “creep” of the bottom of the wings down over the sides of the fly body. And it virtually eliminates pleating and folding of the wing. It also ties in the wing at the exact point where the thread initially makes contact on the top of the quill sections, eliminating the forward thread-slippage that almost always occurs when setting wet fly wings with the conventional finger-pinch-wrap method. I still teach the conventional method of setting wings, but in every class I have taught since Dave showed me this trick, I teach this method more than any other. My students unanimously love it better than the old method.

Oh, and yes, I use the same method on the Golden Doctor and other flank-winged wet flies in setting the two opposing sections of gray mallard flank. Works like a charm!

Old Wet Flies

These are some classic wet flies, tied with gut snells, on traditional style barbless hooks. In 2011 at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, Massachusetts, a man came to my table and told me about some old wet flies he had. He didn’t have them with him, but he did bring them to the show, they were in his car. When he brought them in and opened the container, I was pretty impressed with the flies, the quality of the tying and the array of colors. It was a real nice cache of classic brook trout flies. With his permission I took some photos:

A collection of classic barbless wet flies, probably circa the teens or the 1920's.

A collection of classic barbless wet flies, circa the early 1900’s. Note: they are snelled, but on eyed hooks. Some of the patterns include: Coachman, Silver Doctor, Parmacheene Belle, Colonel Fuller, Jock Scott, Black Gnat, and what I believe to be a couple Montreals. They are all tied with doubled-gut at the hook eyes. This was sometimes done to increase the strength of the gut at its weakest point, the hook eye, due to the strain of playing fish.

Notice how the tips of the quills have been clipped on the turkey-winged patterns. This must have been an effort by the tier to “clean up” the ends that are a result of the tips of the barbs being thin and wispy.

I was particularly imressed with this jay-winged pattern; it is unlike nay of those that I have seen previously. I have no idea what this fly is named, but it's areal beauty, in my opinion.

I was particularly impressed with this jay-winged pattern; it is unlike any of those jay wing flies that I have seen previously. I have no idea what this fly is named, but it’s a real beauty, in my opinion. All these flies were dressed on hooks that appeared to be size #6 and #8.

I have had these photos for over two years, and have wanted to post them on my blog, but like so many things, out-of-sight, out-of-mind, or some other excuse. Anyway, at long last, here they are. Enjoy!

Edit: If you check the comments, Bob Mead asked the question about what manufacturer made these hooks. I did not know, but posted these photos and asked the question at Classicflytyingforum.com, Lee Schecter of Connecticut gave this reply: ” Those barbless hooks are “Jamison” – made in the 1920s by Allcock in the UK solely for WJ Jamison company of Chicago – thus they were marketed as Jamison hooks – not Allcock.” Thanks Lee!

Golden Doctor – Classic Wet Fly

The first time I ever saw or heard of the Golden Doctor wet fly was in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. Along with the Silver Doctor it was an attractor pattern, and like the recently posted Fletcher wet fly, it has a three-color married tail. Between that fancy tail and the red and blue goose shoulder “splits” over the gray mallard wing, the Golden Doctor is another beautiful, yet little known classic wet fly. I recently discovered in doing research for my upcoming book, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, that the Golden Doctor is an older pattern than I previously realized. Reading through Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury, I found some text where Mary mentions the Golden Doctor, so that means it dates at least to the early 1890’s. My guess is that the pattern is even older than that. I have always liked the Golden Doctor, it is another very beautiful wet fly. The color combinations of materials, the claret hackle and the red head, all make for a dashing pattern. Here is a photo and recipe for the Golden Doctor:

Golden Doctor wet fly -

Golden Doctor wet fly – dressed on a Mustad #4 – 3906 standard wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Golden Doctor

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #56 Red

Tail: Red, yellow, green – married

Body: Flat gold tinsel

Hackle: Claret

Wing: Gray mallard flank, with splits of red and blue goose shoulder

Head: Red

I used two full mallard flank feathers, paired, that is, a left and a right, and cut opposing sections from each feather, then I mounted the slips with the tip down, the wing curving downward in the traditional 19th century style. The claret hackle was wound from the tip of a schlappen feather, several turns. These feathers make great collar hackles, because the stems are so fine and flexible.

This is yet another pattern I confess to having never fished, but how could you not? Just look at it, the colors and form are perfect for brook trout and land-locked salmon.

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.

Silver Doctor

Here is a size #10 Silver Doctor wet fly pattern. I realize that I have already posted other pattern variations of the Silver Doctor here, but it is a fly that seems to rate rather high on search engine fly pattern lists. This is a recent and slight variation (two weeks ago) of my initial variation from Bergman’s Trout recipe, created in 2005 that I included in my second DVD, where I used brown duck or goose and guinea fowl wing quill sections instead of brown turkey and teal flank. This pattern uses dark brown turkey while still retaining the guinea fowl. The reason for that is that it’s still easier and faster and more durable to use the turkey, guinea fowl, and duck or goose wing quill sections in red, yellow and blue, than trying to marry turkey to teal flank, and then having to use goose shoulder. Ease of marrying wings is all about maintaining uniformity of the feather slips. Goose shoulder marries well to turkey and barred wood duck and teal, but not so well to wing quill slips.

This pattern was one of 23 wet fly patterns that I tied for a recent project that I’ll soon be posting here on my blog. I have looked, and there is nothing on the internet about this, but in 1927 a man named Frederick L. Whiting wrote a whimsical poem titled, The Fly Young Knight. It was copyrighted in 1950, and also made into a 12″ x 22″ poster with medieval-looking script writing. The verses name the different wet fly patterns throughout, with spaces to mount the flies, weaving a tale of adventure of the encounter of a mythical medieval knight, the Gray Knight (which to me, was a totally unknown wet fly pattern), who meets in a field to do battle with the Grizzly King. Apparently the two had some sort of disagreement over their respective Ladies-in-waiting, Parmacheenee Belle and Jennie Lind.

The original poem, as I understand it, is framed with the flies mounted in place among the verses, and hangs in the clubhouse of the Adirondack League. There is also one in The New York Angler’s Club. Former New York City fly shop owner Jim Deren, of The Angler’s Roost, also figures in this story, a far as where the poem had its last hurrah. More on that later.

The following is excerpted from a March 24, 1985, The New York Times article: “The Angler’s Roost was first situated at 207 East 43rd Street, then in the Chrysler Building and, finally, at 141 East 44th Street near Grand Central, where Mr. Deren held forth until shortly before his death in 1983. Space was limited in each of those locations. At the last place, one felt crowded if more than two other customers were present.” To read the entire article:http://www.nytimes.com/1985/03/24/sports/outdoors-angler-s-roost-a-lure-to-the-end.html

Silver Doctor, Size #10, Mustad 3399.

Silver Doctor

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Yellow fibers and short dash of blue fibers

Butt: Red floss

Ribbing: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Guinea fowl and silver doctor blue hackle fibers

Wing: Dark brown turkey tail, guinea fowl, red, blue, and yellow duck or goose, married

Head: Red (Wapsi lacquer)

I’ll be posting the poem and inserting all the fly photos on my blog in a few days. For now this size #10 Silver Doctor will have to do. The smallest I’ve ever tied this pattern in is a size #12.

Silver Doctor Trout Wet Fly

Silver Doctor – Trout Wet Fly Pattern Variation from How to Tie Flies, 1940, by E. C. Gregg.

This Silver Doctor wet fly pattern is tied using the recipe from a book that was given to us by my father on the day he demonstrated his one and only fly tying lesson to my brother Larry, and me. I was 12 at the time. He had given us this tying lesson shortly after Larry and I caught bluegills on wet flies for the first time in a Pennsylvania farm pond near our “farm” cabin in Tioga County. We always called it the farm because it had been a family farm since the 1800’s. After that initial tying demo, which included dad tying three flies – a Royal Coachman wet and a dry, and one other pattern I can not recall, he unloaded the old roll top desk and gave us everything in it pertaining to fly tying: tools, materials, accessories, and containers. This included a copy of How to Tie Flies, 1940 by E. C. Gregg. It is a first edition too, part of the Barnes Dollar Sports Library.

The back of Gregg’s book contains standard pattern dressings for 0ver 300 trout flies, and this version of the Silver Doctor, while including my substitutions of guinea fowl for the original teal and brown quill for the original mottled brown turkey or bustard, is the recipe from that book. I was inspired to create the quill-winged version about eight years ago simply while looking at commercially tied Silver Doctor wet flies for sale in the Maine Guide Fly Shop in Greenville, Maine. These patterns had a simple duck quill wing consisting just of married blue and yellow. Seeing the duck quill married wing gave me the spark of an idea to create this version of the wing, using wing quill sections rather than the usual side feathers of teal, turkey, and goose shoulder. This wing, minus the strip of green, is the version I demonstrate in my DVD, Advanced Classic Wet Flies. I really like the four-color married strip in the tail on this version. The photo was taken with the fly pinned onto the windowsill in the classroom of Fishing Creek Angler Fly Shop and Bed & Breakfast, Benton, Pennsylvania, in 2009 during one of my weekend wet fly classes.

Silver Doctor – Trout Wet Fly

Tag: Red floss

Tail: Yellow, blue, green, red – married

Rib: Oval silver tinsel

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Hackle: Mixed guinea fowl and blue

Wing: Married sections of duck quill: brown, guinea fowl, red, green blue, & yellow

Head: Red. I prefer to use Wapsi red lacquer to finish the head, even when tied with red thread. Clear lacquer applied as a final coat smooths out the red finish, because they are both lacquer-based products. Each time a new coat is applied, it softens the previous coat, blends into it, and then as it dries, continues a process of binding all coats of head cement together as one solid layer. The variation of this is when cements of different chemical composition are used. For example, I found out you can’t paint black and yellow eyes on the heads of streamers and use a clear lacquer based cement to coat them, because the final coat softens the eye paint and makes them run. Clear nail polish works well on this because the cements are different.

The Silver Doctor wet fly was a very popular fly in the 19th century and still remains a favorite of wet fly tiers today.