The Companion To Alfred Ronalds Fly Fishers Entomology

I just placed this item for sale on eBay:

Top-half view if the front cover

Top-half view of the inside front cover to, The Companion to Alfred Ronalds Fly Fishers Entomology, 1862.

It is an original, circa 1862, edition of The Companion, which accompanied the sixth printing of Ronalds’ work. I have owned this item for a number of years, and decided to put it up for sale. Before it is no longer in my possession, I will take photos of each page, listing the 47 fly patterns named herein, and maybe if I can find recipes for them, it would be nice to replicate the patterns and post each fly with the matching name and description from this classic work. I thought the historical nature and posting of this memorabilia would be interesting. Here are a couple more photos:

Flies for March.

Flies for March.

Flies for March, with opposite vellum folds for fly storage.

Flies for March, with opposite vellum folds for fly storage. This page is the worst in terms of condition.

Flies for April.

Flies for April.

Many of these fly names are right out of Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Those of you familiar with her book, may not have realized that many of the patterns in her book were already more than seventy-five years old, some of these pattern listed in Ronalds book are much older than that, having been written about by Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton.

Flies for May.

Flies for May.

Antique snelled wet flies, on the interior bound-in felt page.

Antique snelled wet flies, on the interior bound-in felt page. There are three modern eyed hooks among the thirteen antique flies; hook sizes are all small, probably no larger than a #14. Ravages of bugs are evident. The hooks are still good, and the gut as well, could probably be used to replicate antique wet flies. (Soak well in water before attempting this). How about the Hare’s Ear in the lower center, still in very good condition; looks like the wing could possibly be whimbrel or curlew; a material no longer readily available, if even legal, yet it was once popular in some old patterns.

Macro image os small wet fly, approximately a #16 hook.

Macro image of small, quill-bodied wet fly, approximately a #16 hook.

Flies for August.

Flies for August.

Thus concludes another bit of fly fishing history .Thank you for reading.





More on the Book

As I continue my rather diligent work on my book, – all day yesterday, Columbus Day, and starting at 5:30 AM this morning until about 12:30 PM, I’m still having fun! Though since I decided to number all the flies, starting at No. 292 after the last pattern in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, besides numbers, I’m also listing them in alphabetical order. The painstaking part is that as I glean the text of Favorite Flies and Their Histories, I keep finding new unnamed patterns, and then that means I have to start wherever the aplha listing was and re-number every fly from that point all the way to the end. I’ve had to do that now a dozen or more times. Right now the count stands at 494; which means I have more than 200 additional patterns beyond the 291 originally listed in Marbury’s book. That’s exciting! I’m finding out about the origins of wet flies that I had previously associated with 20th century pattern books, which for the most part, don’t tell you anything about fly pattern origins. But don’t look for every last fly to be detailed with the history and origin, because in some cases it just isn’t there.

Going through the text, looking for something I saw previously and then didn’t record it right that second, and then going back and trying to find it, has actually yielded the additional benefit of finding more more flies, more details, and other interesting tidbits of information. Thanks for your support folks!

The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury

This is the title for my new book. I mentioned in my Returning Home post that I started working on it pretty diligently the evening of my return to Pennsylvania. I’ve been bitten by the bug of gettin’ ‘r’ done. After my post Friday, I spent Friday evening, all day Saturday, like thirteen hours, and most of today working on the book. It’s been somewhat painstaking and slow, but it’s also been fun. So far I have 484 patterns total. These include all 291 originally published in Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories, plus nearly 200 more. The original flies from her book are being reproduced by twenty-four different tiers. About fifty of these patterns have never been previously published. Gleaning the pages of her book, I have added eleven additional unnamed patterns beyond those presented in Forgotten Flies. These dressing are found tucked away in the text from the contributing writers and also in the notes that Mary presented as well. It is also interesting to read the history and origins of the various patterns. Most of the unpublished patterns are from the 1893 Orvis display plates that is at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

I am pretty excited about this project as this hardest part, the writing, detailing the recipes and pattern notes, begins to fall behind me with the photos still ahead. My feeling is that this is the most difficult and time-consuming part.

I’m most excited about working with the actual plate fly photos, ascertaining and certifying the correct dressings (as there are numerous errors), and presenting the new unpublished patterns. I love the history and human-interest aspects of these flies. I hope to finish it up in the next several months. I plan to make more of a presentation on these 19th century flies at the shows this year.Thanks everyone for your following my my work.


I tied a Professor wet fly for a customer this week; he wanted to add it to his fly collection. I took a couple photos of the fly before mailing it. Back in 2006, I wrote an article in Eastern Fly Fishing Magazine on the Professor, including information on the pattern history. The Professor was created in Scotland in 1820, and according to Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, was named for Professor John Wilson, who was also known as Christopher North. Perhaps that was a pen-name. John’s brother, the naturalist, James Wilson, and John are also credited with the creation of the Queen of the Waters.

The Professor went on to secure a place in American fly fishing history, became more popular in America than its country of origin, and is one of a few patterns that was made into just about every other style of fishing fly except for a nymph. Though it would probably be a good fly if the Professor was “nymphed.” A Professor nymph would be similar to the Tellico, though perhaps with the wing case like a Zug-Bug. I can vouch for the effectiveness of both the Tellico Nymph and Zug Bug.

The Professor was traditionally made as a trout wet fly, but it also because popular as a large lake fly, a dry fly, fan-wing dry fly, streamer, and hairwing steelhead pattern.

Professor wet fly, size #6. This wing was tied on in the older style of the 1800’s, at least with regard to the tip and shape of the barb sections. By the 1900’s the popular style among most commercial fly companies was to elevate the tip of the wing quill or flank feather sections to the top side, with the tip pointing up. Dr. Edgar Burke’s wet fly paintings in Ray Bergman’s Trout, Just Fishing, 1932,and With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, are all representative of tip-up wet fly winging. My research over the last eight months on the 1800’s Orvis flies has shown the turned-down tip to be the popular winging style of that time period. In fact the original flies from Marbury’s book, and the flies in the 1893 Orvis display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, all exhibit the tip down wing. I’m getting more interested in this because of its historical significance, and maybe I’m even liking it more. It’s not always completely true that people are set in their ways, or that they can’t learn to appreciate different things. This style of winging makes the flies look more “retro,” to use a modern term. Classic, traditional, or historic representations of our heritage wet fly patterns would be a more fitting description.


Hook: Standard wet fly hook, size #1 to #12

Thread: Danville #1 White Flymaster for body; #100 Black for head.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet quill section(s); scarlet ibis was traditionally used for tailing

Ribbing: Flat (oval on 1800’s Orvis patterns) gold tinsel

Body: Yellow floss

Hackle: Brown

Wing: Gray mallard

Head: Black

Fishing With the Fly, 1883, coauthored by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney, lists the Professor as pattern No. 11 on one of the color plates as a Lake Fly Pattern. Lake Flies were traditionally dressed on larger hooks, for brook trout and land locked salmon, that is why I listed hook size above as large as size #1. The Professor Lake Fly dressing is identical to this recipe but also has white slips married into the tail, underneath the scarlet ibis.

Pennsylvania author James “Jim” Bashline, indicates the Professor is a good fly in sizes #2, #4, and #6 in his book, Night Fishing forTrout. I can also vouch for the effectiveness of the Professor as a large night fly. And it just hit me, there really isn’t that much difference between “night flies” and the old “lake flies.” With the exception that night flies were dressed with a focus on brown trout, which according to scientific research on their optic system, have better night vision that other species of the trout family. Brown trout were still living in Europe and the British Isles when American Lake Flies were originated.

My research for the last nine months on the 1800’s Orvis flies, including actual visual inspection of Marbury’s book flies and her 1893 display, (lucky me), indicates most all of the tags on those flies were flat tinsel, and the ribbing was most often oval.

On this wing I used two large, select gray mallard flank feathers, a matched pair forming a left and a right wing using the same method as when cutting equal-width slips when using a matched pair of wing quills. The historic patterns, and all that I have seen size #6 and larger, used tips of whole feathers to make the wings. These were placed bottom, concave sides facing together. Whole feather wings would be especially true on the Lake Flies. The Professor’s companion pattern, the Grizzly King, was also made as a Lake Fly.

The hackle was tied in at the clipped butt section, wound three times, then the barbs were folded down, divided, and wrapped over a few times with tying thread to secure it.

Professor wet fly, mounted and labeled, to be packaged in clear plastic, business card size box, with a separate signature card included. This year I upgraded my packaging of Collector’s Flies. It takes a little more work, but the flies look better. Enhanced appearance makes almost everything look better. I used to insert the hook point into a small square of foam. Now I carefully wire the hook at the eye and bend, and I am also using another section of card stock in back. My display flies are now all double-sided with card stock backing, using acid-free cement.

My plan for the Arts of the Angler Show at the Ethan Allen Inn, Danbury, Connecticut, on November 10 and 11; and The International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey, November 17  and 18 is to have a big inventory of a wide range of Collector’s Edition wet fly styles in stock. More than usual. At least that’s my plan.

Along with 20th century wet flies, representative of the dressings and patterns in Ray Bergman’s books, I also hope to include new (for me) patterns from Helen Shaw’s book, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989; J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book, Flies, and H. J. Noll’s Guide to Trout Flies and How to Tie Them, 1965. I have been using these resources for some years already, but there are new patterns that I want to include. There is a wealth of additional wet fly patterns in these sources that I have not previously tapped. I also will be presenting many more of the 18th century Lake and Bass Fly patterns, including some previously unpublished patterns I have discovered that are presently unknown. I’ll be including at least thirty previously unpublished 19th century trout and lake flies to my current book, The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury.

The flies I recently posted in The Fly Young Knight were dressed in the tip-down style of wings.

Great Blue Heron Rookery

While in Vermont in mid-June, visiting the Wantastiquet Lake Trout Club near Weston, and the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester for work and research on my current book The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury, I passed this great blue heron rookery along Rt. 20 between Bennington and Manchester. On June 11th on my way there, I saw it but did not stop. On my return on the evening of June 13th I did stop and took some photos.

Great Blue Heron Rookery. These heron nests all have young in them.

There were eight nests, and I counted 13 adults that I could see, though I think some may have been out fishing. I did note one adult wading about 100 yards from the rookery. I stopped my car, crossed the highway, rested my camera on the guardrails, set the telephoto at 2x, zoomed out to 24x, and took these images.

Another nest, one adult is on limb at lower left of tree trunk.

Two great blue herons just hanging out in their ‘hood.

I have always enjoyed seeing great blue herons. Even though they are hell on fish, which sometimes includes trout. I once found a nineteen-inch brown on Pennsylvania’s Letort Spring Run, foundering on its side in two inches of water on a mud flat. I inspected it, seeing no damage or injury at first and thought perhaps it was dying of old age. Then I flipped it over and saw a deep gash on its right gill plate. Then the fact that three great blue herons had flushed from that area when I rounded the bend 100 yards downstream fifteen minutes earlier revealed the truth of what had happened. The trout was surely dead already, doomed by the infliction of having been mortally speared, yet still quivering as its life ebbed away. I thought briefly about keeping that trout; I mean I didn’t want it to go to waste and at that time I couldn’t think of a better use for that trout. I can only imagine how good a wild brown from the Letort would have tasted, stream-bred, cress-bug and scud-fed, but it’s strictly a no-kill area. So I left him there; eventually the herons or a mink or raccoon surely found it. That was over 25 years ago.

I read a bit on Wikipedia on herons; typically they nest in rookeries, more specifically called a heronry, and commonly there can be over one-hundred nests in a heronry. I have only ever seen a handful of heron nest sites; the largest may have had twenty or so nests. They swallow their food whole, and one of them could have gulped that nineteen-inch trout without difficulty, but it is noted that occasionally great blue herons choke on food too large to swallow.

I learned of a local name for herons – “swamp chicken” while in Canada back in the 1990’s. This phrase usually included an expletive or two. The trout clubs in southern Ontario don’t like great blue herons. Some of their feathers were historically used for fly tying, most notably on spey flies. But I also discovered from personal inspection that there is occasional use of great blue heron wing quill slips for wings on some of the flies from the 1800’s in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, and also on the actual fly plates from Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. One pattern in particular, judging by the color plate painting, appears to have a two-color wing. This is The Hart Lake Fly on Plate G. In J. Edson Leonard’s 1950 book Flies, he lists the wing recipe for the Hart Fly as “black, teal green over.” This is incorrect, and by a long-shot miss. I doubt that it was a pattern variation either. The wing of The Hart Fly is actually great blue heron, taken from sections of paired wing quills. And I know this without doubt because I had the privilege of holding the 120-year old Plate G (with white gloves) in my hands on June 13th, visually inspected the flies, and also photographed it, along with the 32 original Marbury fly plates, will be published in my book. I have also held heron feathers in my hands; I found a shed once along a stream while fishing. It has a lighter dun-gray color than the darker slate of a Canada goose, and possesses a unique shade of steely-blue-gray, sort of a battleship gray color. The closest thing I have ever seen to the (heron) wing on the Hart Fly was the medium blue-dun dyed wing quills that used to be sold by E. Hille in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Favorite Flies and Their Histories records this information on the Hart:

“No. 48. The Hart is a combination of colors almost unknown among artificial flies, but one that is very beautiful in this fly, which was sent to us by Mr. George Hart of Waterbury, Conn, after whom it was named. In his letter inclosing this fly he wrote us that it had proved one of their best flies in their late expedition to the Maine woods, where he and a party of friends have recorded some phenomenal catches.”

At home, I have recently downloaded all the Orvis fly plate images I photographed from Marbury’s book. Twenty-four out of the thirty-two original plates were out on loan, so I will be returning to the museum to finish photographing the eight remaining plates. Besides filing the original plate images, I have edited and cropped each plate, making macro images of each individual fly. I also photographed The Hart Fly on the 1893 Orvis Display in the museum that Mary Orvis Marbury created for the Chicago World’s Fair. The wing material on both Orvis patterns of the Hart Fly is the same. I love Leonard’s book, but the more research and study I do comparing my visual inspection notes and photos of the actual Orvis patterns in Marbury’s book to the dressings listed in Leonard’s book, I can only conclude with all due respect that he probably made his best guess as to what the materials were on the flies in Marbury’s book by studying the color plate paintings of the patterns. There were no written recipes for the patterns in Marbury’s book. I can understand how this would happen. For example, the Fiery Brown on Plate F in Marbury’s book, according to the painting appears to have a three-color married wing, of a light brown, cinnamon, and slate. Turns out this is “shading” recorded by the artist who painted the original fly. The actual wing on the Fiery Brown is one solid color, a dark-cinnamon, fiery-brown as you might expect. Leonard recorded “brown hen” for the wing on the Fiery Brown, which is also a bit misleading. Of course heron feathers can not legally be used for fly tying.

My friend Truman recently bought a gift for me at a used book store; four copies of The American Fly Fisher, the quarterly publication of the American Museum of Fly Fishing. One of them was the Winter 1998 issue, and he bought it specifically because it contained an article by John Betts of Colorado, noted angling historian, and features the Fancy Lake and Bass Flies in Marbury’s book. About ten of the original plates were photographed and appear in that article. Mr. Betts had some very interesting things to say about the r3verse-winging methods used at the time. I plan to write a review of this article and post some of the photos.

After this slight digression, which is sometimes important to tell the complete story of the subject at hand, or at least makes it more interesting, I conclude with one more heron photo.

Great blue heron eating snapping turtle. Photo by John Harrison from Wikimedia, used by permission. I have been told that the stomach acids of herons are very potent; that would allow for the digestion of the shell and other elements of their diet such as bones, and crab and crayfish shells. In addition to fish, herons will eat frogs, young birds, salamanders, and rodents. And young snapping turtles. The little snapper was probably thinking, “Oh, crap. I’m toast.”

The View From Fish in a Barrel Pond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“About 20 miles,” Paul replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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