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.

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White Ghost – Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern

The White Ghost is almost totally unknown compared to its famous sister pattern, the Gray Ghost. The Gray Ghost is the most well-known, most famous, and most enduring streamer pattern ever created. That sales and popularity record belonging to Carrie Stevens will quite likely never be replaced. Both patterns are identical in every way, except for the color of the wing.

I wrote a post a few months back about the curious and interesting omission of the white throat component on the Gray Ghost. Going back as far back as 1950, three books at least that I am aware of, described and discussed the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost in the text portion, but yet for some strange reason, all three books failed to include the white hackle fibers as part of the written pattern recipe. Of course, the white throat is part of the pattern for the Gray Ghost. It makes complete sense that Carrie Stevens would have duplicated all the components on both of these related patterns. Though I realize most Gray Ghosts tied over these many decades were tied without the white throat. I say better late than never to make the correction. To read my original post on this topic go to: https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/gray-ghost-white-ghost/

The books that discuss the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost, but yet omit the component in the written recipe are: Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, by Joesph D. Bates; Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, by Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman; and Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard. Hilyard’s book even has a sequence of photographs of tying the  Gray Ghost step-by-step, with the white hackle throat, but it’s not in the written pattern recipe in the same book. I’m not busting on anyone for these oversights, and I have no explanation for why or how this happened. All I know is that it happened. I find it interesting, and also I feel obligated to get this right. I’m sort of a stickler for detail and accuracy when it comes to fly patterns.

Here is the White Ghost:

White Ghost - size #@1 - 8x long - Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hook.

White Ghost – size #1 – 8x long – Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

White Ghost

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Orange floss

Underbelly: Four to six strands of peacock herl, followed by white bucktail, both as long as the wing

Underwing: Golden pheasant crest, as long as the wing, curving downward. I prefer this order of tying in, my personal feeling is to tie in the golden pheasant crest underwing before the throat.

Throat: White hackle fibers, then a shorter golden pheasant crest curving upward

Wing: Four white hackles

Shoulders: Silver pheasant body feathers

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Black with an orange band

To view or purchase Don Bastian’s Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Set No. 5 featuring the White Ghost visit: http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-5-P772.aspx

87 Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

Carrie Stevens Patterns
Frame No. 1 – 32 Flies:
Column 1: Lady Killer, Artula (3), Pink Lady, Lakewood (2), Rapid River (2).
Coulmn 2: Larry, Mezger’s Special, Jungle Queen, Dr. Gray, Dr. White, Colonel Fuller (3).
Column 3: Orange Miller, Don’s Special, General MacArthur, All Orange (2), Don’s Delight.
Column 4: America (3), Chief, Carrie’s Special, P. L. B. No. 2, Judge, Larry’s Special (2).

Frame No. 2 – 30 Flies:
Column 1: Big Ben, Green Witch (2), Don’s Delight, G. Donald Bartlett (2), Kelley’s Killer (3).
Column 2: Black Cat, Dazzlar, Blue Devil (2), Gray Ghost (2), Casablanca.
Column 3: Larry (2), Jenny Lind (2), Gray Lady, Blue Dragon, Pink Lady.
Column 4: Shang’s Special, Charles E. Wheeler, Shang’s Favorite, Canary Custom, Merry Widow, Lady Miller, Mrs. Duley’s Special.

These flies as arranged on the Riker Mount batting were part of my fly display at L. L. Bean in Freeport, Maine on Friday, September 21st, 2012. That was the date I taught a classic featherwing streamer class from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. I returned before 7:00 PM that same evening to lead the regular Friday night fly tying class at Bean’s, but this event was special because of the organization between myself and Ed Gauvin, Assistant Manager at the Hunt / Fish Store, to host David Footer as the Guest of Honor in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of his classic Maine streamer pattern, the Footer Special. More on that in a subsequent post.

The tying of Carrie Stevens patterns has been a journey for me. I was tying and fishing the Colonel Bates and Gray Ghost as far back as my high school days (my 45th Class Reunion is coming up in 2015).

In the mid-1980’s I tied several additional streamer patterns of hers; the Green Beauty, Shang’s Special, Greyhound, and Don’s Delight, and included them in a slide program I first presented in 1987 on classic Maine streamers.

Then in early summer of 2011 I began tying Carrie Stevens streamer patterns again, but much more in earnest than previously. I tied them in traditional eastern style as I had always done, adding about fifty additional patterns to the list of her patterns I dressed. Then a few months ago I had a very enlightening experience. While at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, I happened to see the enlarged display featuring the notes and drawings made by Austin Hogan, of Carrie Stevens unique tying methods, Austin was a friend of Carrie Stevens – her Austie’s Special pattern is named after him – and he was also the first curator of said Museum. When I saw them, I thought, “Cool!” and took photos of them.

Not until a couple months later, at home, did I finally download these photos and begin to read the text of the notes and study the drawings. Long story short, Carrie’s tying style was not in typical ‘eastern fashion’ as other streamers were tied. She learned to tie flies on her own, never having taking lessons. She applied what she learned as a milliner – selecting, arranging, cementing and gluing feathers together. She also without doubt, incorporated bait fish design, learned from her husband and guide, Wallace Stevens, into her streamer patterns. Her methods of material placement which I had actually seen but not really paid attention to in Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, 1966, 1995, by Joseph D. Bates, are nothing short of ingenius.

Reading Hogan’s notes and studying the methods, I realized that I was tying the Stevens patterns like most other tiers had been, adding the materials to the hook, following the recipe, but not in the particular fashion that she pioneered. I’ve recently had a couple long phone conversations with Michael Martinek, Jr. of Stoneham, Massachusetts. When he was young, Mike was taken under the wing of Austin Hogan and through that relationship, was exposed to a unique opportunity to learn how Carrie Stevens tied her flies. Mike told me that one evening in the late 1960’s, with Austin, in his apartment, he and Mike deconstructed three of Carrie’s patterns; a Gray Ghost, a Big Ben, and I believe, a Blue Devil.

Michael Martinek is the sole source, besides Austin Hogan’s notes, of the information that has led to the resurrection of tying Carrie Stevens patterns in her traditional, authentic, Rangeley style. Mike has the original copy of Hogan’s notes on Carrie Stevens tying methods, hand-written, and he also has one of the first typewritten copies as well. Mike also has a number, more than a couple dozen, of sheets of paper with cellophane packages stapled onto them, with Carrie’s own wing materials and samples and pattern notes in her handwriting. All I can say on that is, wow.

Carrie sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins in 1953, which is curious to note, that the Carrie Stevens patterns in Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, Stewart / Leeman, tied by Folkins, are not tied using Carrie’s metionds, but rather, are dressed in typical “eastern” fashion with everything attached at the head. In fact, some of the recipes have  errors with missing components. The good thing is that many previously unknown Stevens patterns were published in that book.

In 1996, Folkins sold the rights to “Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies” to Leslie Hilyard of Massachusetts, who with his father Graydon Hilyard, is co-author of Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Stackpole Press. Mike has been teaching Carrie Stevens’ technique using her unique methods of applying the underbelly and underwing well behind the head of the fly for thirty years. The throat, of one or two colors, and finishing in some cases with a golden pheasant crest feather, is applied in stages, layered as one would when placing  shingles on a roof. I’ve been doing this for some months now, and I can’t imagine how she managed that while tying in-hand as she did, never using a vise. This information is presented in Mike’s Streamer DVD, Classic Maine Streamers, Bennett- Watt Entertainment, Hooked on Fly Tying Series. It’s pretty difficult for anyone to say there is another person on the planet who knows more about streamers, their history, tying, tiers, origins, than Mike Martinek. Mike has taught a number of the other good streamer tiers such as Chris Del Plato of New Jersey; Richard Connors of Massachusetts; and Peter Simonson of New Hampshire.

I’m certainly a johnny-come-lately to this party, but better late than never. I don’t really like to present information from an authoritative standpoint when I think I’m correct and turns out, I’m not. Oh, yes, some internet writers do that, unintentionally, (as I have unintentionally on occasion, by being uninformed), but some present what they know because they think they know it. It’s best to rely on fly tiers and writers with years of experience and credibility to back up their writings and knowledge.

I have gotten really interested in replicating Carrie’s patterns, using her specific methods of material placement. Some of these flies in the photos are duplicates; and some were tied using the old, traditional eastern tying style (as were the Carrie Steven streamers presented by two very talented South American fly tiers in the book Forgotten Flies,  but they were not tied as Carrie did). I’ll give you a clue – I also started winding the ribbing in reverse, as Carrie Stevens did, so if you note that difference, you can see the patterns that were done before and after my ‘conversion experience.’

One more slightly sour note – last year my new head cement of choice was Wapsi Gloss Coat. After a couple months though I had a problem with it getting milky, gray, & blotchy. I learned it may have been because I was using regular hardware store lacquer thinner to thin it, turns out the use of the proper Wapsi Gloss Coat Thinner makes no difference. I’ve sold Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Sets on MyFlies.com, and I’m going to have to contact everyone who bought the sets when I was using the Gloss Coat to return them so I can re-do the bad heads. I can’t have bad cement ruining the reputation of my work. My friend Truman had the same problem; flies we tied in February at my cabin went gray on him. He poured the Wapsi Gloss Coat onto a log beside his driveway & trashed the bottle.

A couple interesting notes to close and then I’m done. The Don’s Special and Blue Dragon are identical, except with the reversed placement of the blue and gray hackles in the wings. Also, the Don’s Special has a red-banded head; the Blue Dragon band is orange. Another little plus in my belief that her color banding was pattern specific. The Happy Garrison and Carrie’s Special are identical in every component except the throat. The Jungle Queen and Yellow Witch are identical in every detail, wonder why the two patterns were named differently? Finally Carrie was an accomplished artist with her minimal use of body variations in her one-hundred or more patterns. From just five basic bodies, she made all these flies look so different. Primarily, silver tinsel bodies, orange floss, red floss, and black floss, almost all with silver tinsel ribbing; and a very small number of gold tinsel bodies, like you can count them on one hand – Davis Special, Orange Miller, one of the P. L. B. patterns, and um, um, uh…oh the Casablanca. There may be one more. This was changed up only by the occasional addition of a tail, almost always of red, yellow, black, or orange hackle fibers.

Another interesting note; the first mention of the Gray Ghost on the Upper Dam House log book was 1934. Not in 1924, as has been perpetuated for years. She did not catch her record brook trout on a Gray Ghost, but the log book reads on a “Shang’s Go-Getum.”. The Gray Ghost would come later.

Red Trout Minnow Streamer

This fly is the Red Trout Minnow pattern from Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, by Joseph D. Bates. This fly is the image from The Complete Sportsman website, and was tied by me back in the spring of 1998.

Red Trout Minnow Streamer, tied by Don Bastian. This image is from the book, Forgotten Flies.

Red Trout Minnow

Hook: Mustad 3665A Size #4

Thread: Black Danville 6/0 Flymaster

Body: Embossed silver tinsel

Wing: Blue goose shoulder married to red goose shoulder, with gray mallard folded over top

Cheek: Jungle cock

Head: Black

This was the first and last time I ever tied this pattern; a once-and-done fly. I have been thinking lately that I want to tie some more of the Red Trout Minnow…the problem is there are too many fly patterns to tie, let alone fish!