Black Prince

The Black Prince wet fly is an old pattern. It is shown on the Lake Flies in Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, by Mary Orvis Marbury. It is also in Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a popular pattern and has appeared in other publications as well. The Orvis version has a body made entirely of flat gold tinsel, while the later version in Trout sports a black floss body with a gold tinsel ribbing. Both have red tails, the version in Marbury’s book also has a jungle cock cheek. Hackle and wings on both versions are black, with natural black hackle being used on the original plate fly. I have a photo of that and recognized it as natural black; more of a dark charcoal color.

The reason I am inspired to post this article is that I recently completed an order of four dozen Black Prince wet flies, for a customer for fishing. She wanted them in sizes #12, #14, #16, and #18. The surprising part, not to me, but likely to many of you, is that my customer recently fished Pennsylvania’s famed and reportedly difficult to fish, at times anyway, Penn’s Creek. This is a stream where no stocking is done in a large section of Special Regulation water. The fish are almost all wild, stream-bred brown trout. I received her e-mail message today, as follows:

“ALL HAIL THE BLACK PRINCE!!! A short time ago I had a great afternoon on Penn’s Creek above Coburn with the Black Prince.  I would lay odds that is a fly that has not been seen around here in 50 years!!  And neither have the trout.”
My customer did not specify the size(s) she used, nor did she indicate how they were fished, but it’s a sure bet the flies were simply swung down-and-across. The hooks I used to supply her fishing fly order were modern hooks; I used Tiemco wet fly hooks – #3769. I prefer vintage and antique hooks for display and collector flies; and contemporary, high-carbon steel, mini-barb, chemically sharpened points to get the job done if the flies will be getting wet. Modern hooks are unquestionably better for fishing.
Here is a photo of the version of the Black Prince from Trout:
Black Prince - classic wet fly. The hook size is #6,Mustad vintage style No. 3399.

Black Prince – classic wet fly. The hook size is #6, Mustad vintage style No. 3399. The hackle on this fly was applied after setting the wing, using an old-fashioned technique. This method combines the winged wet with the effectiveness of a soft-hackle.

Black Prince

Thread: Danville Black Flymaster 6/0

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #18 – large hooks, full hackle to replicate Lake Fly style.

Tag: Flat gold tinsel

Tail: Scarlet hackle fibers of a section of red duck quill – may be two matching slips paired, or a single slip of duck or goose wing quill, as was done almost exclusively in the 1800’s

Ribbing: Narrow gold tinsel

Body: Black floss

Wing: Black duck or goose wing quill, matched and paired; may also be natural crow

Hackle: Black

It is the tiers discretion to apply the hackle as a false or beard style hackle, or as a soft-hackle collar, which may be wound either before or after placing the wing.

If one desired to replicate the Orvis version of the Black Prince, use fine flat gold tinsel for the tag, make the body from medium flat gold tinsel, use a scarlet dyed quill section for the tail – traditionally in the 1800’s, scarlet ibis feathers were used for this – and add a jungle cock cheek.

Like so many classic wet flies, trout do not see them, and one ace-in-the-hole trick you can tuck up your sleeve is to hit the water with something different than what everyone else is fishing. How about the Black Prince?

Next on my customers custom order – the Grackle, another old classic pattern.

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Classic Wet Fly Display – 483 Flies

Last Saturday I returned to Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge Restaurant in Rockville, Maryland, with my girlfriend, Mary Fortin. I wanted to show her the ten-frame set of classic wet flies that the owners purchased from me at the Fly Fishing Show in College Park, Maryland, in January of 2002. Tower Oaks opened in the fall of that year. We also coordinated our trip to visit a dear friend who is having health problems.

Since it has been twelve years since this collection of framed flies was placed on display, and considering that the last time I was there was in 2005, I was curious to see how they are holding up. From time to time I have friends and customers tell me they have seen the display, and they always have complimentary remarks. The wet fly collection from Ray Bergman’s book, Trout, was something I vowed I was one day going to do. This was back in 1974, and resulted when I tied my first-ever Parmacheene Belle, and mounted it in a frame for my dad’s birthday. I made this commitment to myself: “Someday I’m going to tie and frame all those flies.” That goal was a dream come true; first in replicating the entire collection of color plate wet flies for the book, Forgotten Flies, 2000, and then for Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Subsequently I have replicated this entire set two additional times for private collectors. The display at Tower Oaks is, as far as I know, the only location in the entire United States where the wet fly color plates from Ray Bergman’s 1938 book, Trout, have been reproduced and are on permanent display. Trout is the only fishing book ever written to remain continuously in print for more than fifty years, and is the most-published in that genre as well, having sold more than 250,000 copies in all its volumes and editions.

There are ten frames in the set; all flies are reproduced exactly in the order and number of the artist’s rendition, and according to the pattern recipes listed in the back of the book. The paintings were done by Dr. Edgar Burke, a close friend of Ray Bergman.

An accurate and historically correct reproduction of Henry P. Wells famous Parmacheene Belle. He originated the fly in 1876, naming it after Lake Parmacheene in Maine's Rangeley Lakes Region. This dressing is given by Wells in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney.

An accurate and historically correct reproduction of Henry P. Wells famous Parmacheene Belle. He originated the fly in 1876, naming it after Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. This dressing is given by Wells in the 1883 book, Fishing With the Fly by Charles F. Orvis and A. Nelson Cheney.

The Parmacheene Belle above was tied in traditional blind eye style, with a snelled double leader; a “bite-guard,” doubled at the head, as they were sometimes called. The wings are also tied in traditional reversed style. You can see the but ends of the wings which were tied in facing forward, then pulled back over. This makes for a garish-looking and large head, but it served its purpose in the durability department. The original body is yellow mohair, the original tag is peacock herl. This fly is dressed exactly to the originators specifications. It is curious that the Orvis / Marbury version of this fly was changed to a wing of half red and white, using ostrich herl for the butt. Various pattern component alterations have transpired over the decades, but this dressing is the correct one as put forth by the creator of the pattern. I digressed a bit to add some background on the interest of classic wet flies and their history.

In examining the frames, I noticed that as a result of routine cleaning, the finish is beginning to wear on the frames, especially along the top edge. The corners of the frames and the edges are showing a nice aura of natural aging, taking on an antique appearance, giving them a natural patina that matches more appropriately compared to the age of the flies contained within. Neither Mary nor I had a camera along, so there will be no actual photos. Not this time. But we plan to go back.

Below are a series of wet flies that are framed, using my original method of wire-mounting the flies to the mat board. It is virtually invisible in the display and my frames, making the flies appear suspended and uncluttered by pins, wire, cork pegs, and certainly no cement of any kind is used.

Hopatcong - #6. This pattern was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury's book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, so it is well over one-hundred years old. She indicated that she would like to have included it among the Lake Flies.

Hopatcong – #6. This pattern was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, 1892, so it is well over one-hundred years old. She indicated that she would like to have included it among the Lake Flies.

Pope - #6.

Pope – #6.

Logan - #6; another old pattern.

Logan – #6; another old pattern.

Romeyn - #6. Illustrated in Marbury's book, and also included as a Lake Fly in the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Romeyn – #6. Illustrated in Marbury’s book, and also included as a Lake Fly in the 1893 Orvis Display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont.

Victoria - #6; the green variation. There is also a Victoria with a dark blue body.

Victoria – #6; the green variation. There is also a Victoria with a dark blue body.

The wire I use to mount the flies...

The wire I use to mount the flies…

...and the view of a Red Hackle Peacock showing the wire mounted to the hook shank. The short 5/8" to 3/4" long section is bent 90 degrees and lashed - tightly - to the shank. It is inserted after the tag, ribbing and floss is attached, while winding forward to the head. It can be bent down to place wings and throats for inch wraps, then stood out to mount. A bobbin is used to make the hole in the mat, then the wire is inserted, the fly positioned just off the surface of the mat board, and then taped down in the back with acid-free archival cloth tape.

…and the view of a Red Hackle Peacock showing the wire mounted to the hook shank. The short 5/8″ to 3/4″ long section is bent 90 degrees and lashed – tightly – to the shank. It is inserted after the tag, ribbing and floss is attached, while winding forward to the head. It can be bent down to place wings and throats for inch wraps, then stood out to mount. A bobbin is used to make the hole in the mat, then the wire is inserted, the fly positioned just off the surface of the mat board, and then taped down in the back with acid-free archival cloth tape.

Mounting area of Plate No. 3 from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman.

Display area of frame; Plate No. 3, Wet Flies, from Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. This photo is from the third set of these flies that I completed. These are available for purchase on MyFlies.com, or by contacting me personally. Available as a complete set or as individual Color Plate reproductions, and also, custom selected patterns are available.

Here is the MyFlies.com link where images of all ten frames can be viewed.

http://www.myflies.com/Ray-Bergmans-emTroutem-Wet-Fly-Series–P592.aspx

Here is the link to Tower Oaks Lodge: http://www.clydes.com/tower

If you are ever in the metro Washington, DC, area or traveling in central Maryland, this place is worth a visit. The website presents information on the decor, which is exclusive. It is like a museum – the Adirondack Lodge area with the fishing displays,art, and artifacts; the Chesapeake Bay duck hunting section with antique decoys, boats, boats, and more boats, decoy baskets, full of original duck and goose decoys, and at least ten double-barrel shotguns; and the “Horses and Hounds” section, devoted to the racing and fox hunting traditions of estates in Hunt Valley Maryland. And the food, service, and ambiance is excellent. Five Stars!

Fly Order (SPAM)

Perhaps I’m getting a little creative in an odd sort of way, by throwing the word SPAM into the title of this article. I have actually gotten quite a few laughs over the last couple years by reading the ever increasing volume of some of the SPAM that comes into donbastianwetflies.com. Not that I spend a lot of time reading it, I don’t. It comes from everybody and their brother and their mother and their aunt and uncle and their in-laws and cousins and their lawyer and the pool boy and the plumber and brothers and sisters and where to buy shoes and drug companies and your credit score and porn sites and new windows and easy loans and online dating and Viagara and Cialis and Levitra and loan me money and best new food recipes and a host robotic cyber morons pretending to be a real person…ugh…it is actually pretty ridiculous.

This morning, after not checking here for several days, I had a new record-high for SPAM; 574 items. Course I don’t read these, I just fly through them ASAP and hit “delete, delete, delete, delete…” until they are gone into the trash bins of cyberspace. Or where ever it is that they end up…

So, getting back on topic, here are a couple pictures of a recent fly order that I shipped out, one of many that I have recently received through the site, www.MyFlies.com.

Flies...

Flies…a mixed-bag order that went out to a single customer. Extended Body (my design) of closed-cell foam; Slate Drake duns and spinners in multiple styles, Green Drake Spinners, a few of my Floating Caddis-Mayfly Emergers, the RSP, my Low-water Inchworm, and also my own design of the Floating Inchworm. The gray wings on the Slate Drakes might look like CDC, but it’s actually plain, old poly yarn.

Macro of previous photo.

Macro of previous photo. Note the olive body on the Floating Caddis-Mayfly Emergers.

And a macro of the BXB (Bastian Extended Body) Green Drake Fan Wing pattern:

Fan Wing Coffin Fly

Fan Wing Coffin Fly. The Hook is a Tiemco 2488 light-wire, wide-gape, up-eye scud.

BXB Green Drake Coffin Fly, inspired by the Dette Coffin Fly

BXB Green Drake Coffin Fly, my original design; inspired by the Dette Coffin Fly and the Coffin Fly from Trout (1938) by Ray Bergman. Since these flies were tied, I figured out how to put three tails on these patterns, just like the real Ephemera guttulata mayflies have. I clip the hackle on the bottom so the fly floats lower in the surface film, and this also helps it ride right-side up.

An authentic original Dette Coffin fly, tied by the Dette's Fly Shop, Roscoe, New York. It is not known whether Mary Dette tied this fly or not.

An authentic original Dette Coffin fly, tied by the Dette’s Fly Shop, Roscoe, New York. It is not known whether Mary Dette tied this fly or not. This pattern is tied on a 1x long dry fly hook. This fly was a gift from a friend, fellow Pennsylvanian, Bill Havrilla. Thanks Bill!

As I slowly gain ground on my fishing fly orders, I am catching up a little bit. I shipped five orders so far this week, but I also received three new orders. Right now I still have twelve orders from MyFlies.com stacked up, plus some other custom orders waiting to hit the vise. That’s the main reason why I have not been out fishing yet. In fact on Saturday April 12th, I was out late the night before, got awake at 3:15 AM, started thinking about stuff, never got back to sleep and got out of bed at 4:30, and by five AM I was already tying. It wasn’t until I went to the post office and drove past the Quiggleville Community Hall at 10:30 AM and noticed that I had missed the Annual Fishermen’s Breakfast. Dang. See:  https://donbastianwetflies.com/2012/04/15/opening-day-on-spring-creek-pennsylvania-part-ii/

It wasn’t until that moment when I drove by and realized I missed the Annual Fishermen’s Breakfast that I even remembered it was the Opening Day of Trout Season in this part of Pennsylvania. I missed out…more so on the breakfast than on the fishing. The water was high and kinda muddy, but I bet that locally grown, home-made sausage, farm-fresh eggs, and pancakes was real tasty!

Parmacheene Belle – Antique Replica

Some of my readers have heard me say that I don’t have a “favorite” classic wet pattern, which is true; it’s so hard to pick only one from the hundreds of possibilities. But considering I first tied the Parmacheene Belle forty years ago in 1974, and the fact that it was also my first-ever married wing wet fly, it has remained at the top of a list of my favorite wet flies. I enjoy tying them; I’ve probably tied more than five hundred of them over the years,  and I also love looking at any well-tied Parmacheene Belle. The fly has a great combination of color – selection, arrangement, and balance, as well as material choice, and the best part: It catches fish! It was a successful fly back in 1876 when Henry P. Wells first created the pattern and named it for Lake Parmacheene in Maine’s Rangeley Lakes Region. Back then it was still possible to catch brook trout in the Rangeley Lakes that exceeded eight pounds in weight. The “Belle” also proved an effective fly for landlocked salmon as well. Well over one-hundred thirty years later, my fly fishing relatives, my friends, a number of my customers, and me, have all caught trout on this fly in waters scattered across the country. I have customers every year who order some to fish with. Successful catches of fish on the Parmacheene Belle also includes the unexpected bonus of brown and rainbow trout. I’ve even heard tell of anglers out west catching cutthroat trout on them as well. Hairwing versions of this fly were among some early 20th century steelhead patterns; in fact Plate No. 11 in Bergman’s Trout presents a hairwing version of the Parmacheene Belle.

I have written a number of posts on this fly during the last four years since I started my blog, and if you care to research them, simply use the search tab, type in “Parmacheene Belle,” hit the enter key and off you go! It will bring up every article that is titled or even mentions this fly. I did a married-wing streamer version of this about three years ago.

My introduction to this pattern came through Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman. It was a favorite pattern of his for catching large brook trout. In fact, in With Fly, Plug and Bait, 1947, Ray describes an occasion when he caught a large brook trout in Canada using a tandem wet fly rig consisting of two Parmacheene Belle wet flies, I believe they were both size #4. These flies were close together, much like a miniature tandem streamer.

The research for my ongoing book project, Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892, led me to the American Fly Fishing Museum in Manchester, Vermont, where the actual fly plates used in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, are stored and occasionally placed on display. I had the privilege of gaining access to and viewing, studying, and photographing these historic fly plates. My work with them allowed me to ascertain many previously misidentified components of these patterns. This includes the tying recipes listed in every known publication that has claimed to represent these old wet fly patterns that were at one time cataloged by the Orvis Company. The problem was that Mary did not include the fly dressings for the patterns in her book. My research also led to to the 1883 book written by Charles F. Orvis and Albert Nelson Cheney, called Fishing With the Fly. In that book, there is a chapter called Fly Fishing in the Rangeley Region by Henry P. Wells, the originator of the Parmacheene Belle. In his chapter he presents the complete (almost- see below) original dressing for his pattern. I found it odd that the Orvis version did not feature the original white-with-red-stripe married wing that he specified, but rather, a simpler wing of married red and white in equal parts. Subsequent variations of this pattern developed over time, some no doubt modified to make them easier to tie commercially, and others as a result of unknown reasons.

A friend provided actual, custom-dyed mohair dubbing that I could use for the body, as specified by the originator. This mohair dubbing is available on John McClain’s website: www.feathersmc.com

I also started tying and teaching the reverse-wing method that was widely used in the 19th century for mounting wings on practically all fishing flies. My reasoning for this is that the threads in use for fly tying at the time were made of either cotton or silk and lacked the tensile strength of modern threads. Therefore, to prevent wings pulling out of the flies, someone developed the method of mounting the wings to be tied in, backwards, with the butt ends facing to the rear, wrapped in place, then the forward portion of the feathers were folded over to make the wing of the fly, and a band of thread, resembling a collar, was wound in place over the folded butt end of the wings to provide the final stage of secure the feathers to the hook. This caused the heads of the fly to be large, bulky, and rather unattractive, but nonetheless, completely functional. This method also calls for longer sections of wing quills to complete the process; goose wings quills are my preference, and one must be careful regarding the proportions so that the finished, folded-back wing is properly sized to the hook.

This method also gave the flies of the day their characteristic high wing angle. My personal feeling is that too many tiers today attempt to replicate these historic flies, and they too often use the widely available goose shoulders for the wings. This material looks fine, depending on your point of view, but goose shoulder was used mostly to make “splits” or side-sections on wings to add extra colors to a pattern, and was not used on wings, according to the hundreds of antique flies that I have seen and studied. Goose shoulder was used to make wings and sometimes tails on the old lake, bass, and trout flies. Flies made like this today are perfectly acceptable in that they look fine, they display well, especially to an untrained eye, and they will catch fish, but with the inherent low, sleek-looking wing that goose shoulder renders, they are not historically accurate. I’m talking about the original patterns, not just following or substituting ingredients and then lashing them willy-nilly to the hook. I believe the accurate reproduction of these historic flies is important, and is something that should not be forgotten. Like our society and culture in general, even in fly tying, at times it seems like there is too much of an “anything goes” attitude.

Following that slight but pertinent digression, I present a historically accurate reproduction of the famous the Parmacheene Belle:

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0.

Parmacheene Belle, 2/0. The authentic silk gut leader is doubled at the head of the fly, creating what was known as a “helper” or bite guard. This was either whipped with thread and varnished, or knotted an inch or so ahead of the head of the fly, and then another loop was made on the leader to provide a snelled loop-to-loop connection. The bite guard was thought to strengthen the leader and prevent the fish from breaking off the fly at this critical joint in the connection. This specimen also features the traditional closed-wing, tip-down mounting of the quills that was most popular at the time. Red was often used as a finishing thread on old flies.

Here is Henry Wells’ written narration of his recipe description for the Parmacheene Belle, taken from the text of his chapter in Fishing With the Fly:

“This fly somewhat resembles the No Name figured as No. 15 of Lake Flies in this book. As I tie it, the tail is two strands of white and two of scarlet; the body of yellow mohair, with silver tinsel; the hackle double; first white, with scarlet hackle wound over this – capping the former, so to speak; the wing white, striped with scarlet. By scarlet, the color of the scarlet ibis is to be understood.”

Wells does not mention the tag or butt components, but these ingredients, determined by my visible inspection of the 1893 Orvis Fly Display in the American Museum of Fly Fishing, are silver tinsel and peacock herl. Cosmetically speaking, especially considering the head, this is not representative of my “cleanest, most tidy” work. But that is not the intent with this article. My desire was to accurately replicate an actual 19th century Parmacheene Belle Lake Fly, as if you went back in time. I believe this is right on to what you would find in 19th century fishing fly store bins. The 2/0 hook was not outlandishly large for a brook trout upwards of five pounds.

My friend, Roger Plourde, has vintage silk gut for sale in various sizes, the price is $15.00. His e-mail is:  rplourde01@comcast.net

I decided to include and re-post the photo of my Parmacheene Belle Streamer as well:

Parmacheene Belle Streamer

Parmacheene Belle Streamer, dressed on a 4x long hook. This older version features a yellow-dubbed body, rabbit fur. This fly illustrates is a little more “polished” representation of my fly tying.

Some of you might have noted a recent reduction in my posts here over the last few months. The reason for that is that I have been extremely busy since mid-November. I’ve added a couple new and significant and fun things to my life, one of which is drumming. I resurrected my musical ability and involvement after years  of inactivity. My rock band disbanded in 1979, and other than an occasional performance in church or at a theater musical, I haven’t played in years. My late wife, Lou Anne, and I sang in a gospel quartet for twenty-seven years, and I have not sung anywhere since our last performance in August of 2006. She passed seven years ago this month.

I started off as a substitute drummer in a local classic rock band for a New Year’s Eve gig. Considering my schedule of two November fly tying shows, Thanksgiving, deer season, and Christmas, I ended up having to learn over sixty songs in two weeks. In early February, my drumming with the Pepper Street Band suddenly became a full-time position due to the fact their regular drummer has developed a serious health issue that has side-lined him for a while.

Right after New Year’s Day I also committed to joining the contemporary praise and worship band, Firstborn, at Pine Street United Methodist Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where I have the added musical experience and fun of playing an electronic drum set. I also started singing again, mostly regular visits with friends to karaoke bars where I sing anything from George Thorogood to Toby Keith to Trace Adkins, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Georgia Satellites, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, even Frank Sinatra. I’m also the newest member of Cornerstone, the contemporary choir at Pine Street church as well. Firstborn performs every Sunday at the 8:30 service, and Cornerstone sings at the same service twice a month. Plus, I sing the lead vocals on a half-dozen of the songs on the Pepper Street playlist. Here’s a link to their song list: http://www.pepperstreetband.com/song_list%20II.html

Don’t worry folks, I’m not giving up my fly tying career! Just suddenly having a lot more fun! I thank God for my renewed good health! I also found out the best thing to do with negative, toxic, trash-talking people who try to mess with or mess up your life is to forget them and not address them in any way. That’s healthy too! Besides, it is impossible to reason with people who habitually spread rumors and prevaricate the truth about someone else for their own, selfish interests and perceived personal gain. You know what they say:”What goes around comes around.”

I’ve gotten more active on facebook; my band gigs and schedule is generally posted there, along with a link from my blog as well. Anyone interested in following my more personal and / or musical activity, just let me know, besides a friend request, please include a PM.

Thank you all for your many years of support! I am personally grateful to each of you for your belief in me and what I do. Me? I’m having too much fun, doing what I’ve always done, and going back to my musical roots. I was singing and playing drums before I ever started tying flies. Adding the music and meeting so many new people who are nice, decent folk, has already brought new friends into my life. I have a feeling this is only going to get better!

Pink Lady Fan Wing Dry Fly

Considering my fly tying and fly fishing roots, in that I was exposed to Trout, 1938, by Ray Bergman at age 12, and also How To Tie Flies, 1940, by E. C. Gregg; these two books had a profound influence on my early interest and education in tying flies. Other than seeing my dad tie three flies, I never saw anyone else tie a fly for ten years, except my brother, Larry, since we shared dad’s tying tools and materials until he went away to college in 1972. Primarily because of those two books you could say I am a classically-trained fly tier. Similar to a musician who was classically-trained, but I have stayed closer to my traditional roots than a classically-trained musician who becomes a performer of rock or jazz. My traditional fly tying roots include stories of how the Fan Wing Royal Coachman was a favorite dry fly pattern of my father, Donald R. Bastian.

Ray Bergman wrote about the Fan Wing Royal Coachman in his books, but it was not until later in my tying career that I obtained a copy of Ray’s first book, Just Fishing, 1932. Bergman’s account in Just Fishing describes his initial revulsion at the mere appearance of the Fan Wing Royal Coachman, and then continues in the text of that book as to how and why the pattern quickly became one of his favorite dry fly patterns.

From the single color plate of dry flies in Just Fishing, painted by artist Dr. Edgar Burke, there is a Fan Wing Pink Lady. I always thought that was a beautiful fly. Over a decade ago, bowing to my classically-trained fly tying roots, I put together a boxed selection of five different Fan Wing dry fly patterns, containing, of course the Royal Coachman, plus a Light Cahill, March Brown, Green Drake, and the Pink Lady. Last season during the shows I sold the last boxed set I had, but I have had a few dozen fan wing flies completed, ready to make up a few more sets, save for tying a couple more of the patterns to complete the selections.

The Pink Lady became a well-known dry fly pattern, thanks to George M. L. LaBranche, who in 1914, authored The Dry Fly and Fast Water. LaBranche is credited for originating the Pink Lady. In the 1920’s when Fan Wing patterns became popular, it was only natural that someone would take the Pink Lady and convert it to a Fan Wing pattern.

Here is a Fan Wing Pink Lady that I tied a couple years ago:

Fan Wing Pink Lady - the hook is a size #10 standard fine wire dry fly hook.

Fan Wing Pink Lady – the hook is a size #10 standard fine wire dry fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Fan Wing Pink Lady

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size #8 to #12

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #2 Cream

Wings: White duck breast feathers, see footnote below *

Tag: Narrow flat gold tinsel

Tail: Golden pheasant tippet

Ribbing: Narrow flat gold tinsel

Body: Pink floss, pale in color

Hackle: Light ginger

Head: Cream

* Male wood duck breast feathers can be used for the white wings, though during the Golden Age of Fan Wing Drys in the 1920’s and ’30’s, wood ducks were under the protection of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Nearly driven to the brink of extinction by loss of habitat due to intense logging and unrestricted market hunting, the extirpation of the wood duck was a definite possibility, considering the fate of the passenger pigeon. Mandarin duck feathers were used, as were also the breast feathers from small breeds of white domestic ducks. Wood ducks were fully protected starting in 1918, but some states allowed limited hunting of wood ducks to resume in the late 1940’s. ‘Woodies’ were not hunted again nationwide until 1959. Thankfully wood duck populations are presently healthy, the result of intensive duck box nesting programs and sensible hunting practices.

I apologize that I do not have a front view of the fan wings, but you can check my recent post on the Fan Wing Royal Coachman. The wings look the same. Wing sizing should be equal to the length of the entire hook. A heavier tippet, 4x, is best when fishing fan wing drys, and minimizing your false casting also works to your advantage.

I listed the wings as the first ingredient, because when tying these flies, it is advisable to mount the wings first. I believe there is feather mounting information in my Fan Wing Green Drake post. Don’t forget you can use the search key tab at the to right of my home page; just type in a topic you are looking for, and hit ‘enter.’

The Fan Wing Pink Lady is a classic dry fly pattern.

Bergman Fontinalis – Classic Wet Fly

The Bergman Fontinalis and the Fontinalis Fin were the first two brook trout fin wet fly patterns that I ever saw. I’ve written about this before, but at age twelve, my brother, Larry, and I fished with flies for the first time at a farm pond near our cabin in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. We caught lots of bluegills that day. I don’t recall what Larry used, but I fished a Yellow Sally. We became hooked on fly fishing, and when we returned to the farm house that served as our cabin, my dad showed me his copy of Trout. It’s a first edition, 9th printing of the 1938 classic. I still have it with his signature in ink inside the front cover, penciled notations in the margins with the pattern recipes in the back, like “sizes 8-10-12, good for brookies,” and I treasure it. I remember him saying it was a Christmas gift from my aunt and uncle.

Recently I tied up six classic wet flies as part of an order for a customer in Alberta, Canada. The Bergman Fontinalis posted here is the fourth pattern in that series, following the Parmacheene Belle, Fletcher, and Golden Doctor. I have five more classic wet flies, mostly Lake Fly patterns, that were tied last Wednesday, July 10th, during a private fly tying lesson with a student from south-eastern Pennsylvania. I have already photographed all those patterns and plan to post them here as well.

One highlight of Dave’s visit was that he wanted to learn how to fish wet flies. Since my area had received more rainfall and storms than normal, I informed him a week or so in advance that we’d have to play any fishing by ear. On Thursday morning July 11th, I took him over the hill to nearby Lycoming Creek. The water level was falling from recent thundershowers, and it was up quite a bit and off color, but you could see bottom in three feet of water. I gave Dave a crash-course in wet fly fishing, demonstrating casting, mending of line, tending of the drift, rod-tip position, and the hand-twist retrieve. I had rigged him up with two flies from his personal box; a #14 Partridge and Yellow in hand position, and a #12 Royal Coachman on the point, both tied on 3x tippet. He got a couple hits, and then after about a half hour, he hooked a trout. It turned out to be a decent brown, and the fish aggressively had taken the Royal Coachman. That made our day.

Getting back to the brook fin wet flies, there are six historic trout fin wet fly patterns that I am aware of; The Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, Brook Fin, Trout Fin, Brookie Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis. I listed them in the order in which I personally learned of each pattern. Somewhere here in my blog archives there is an article dealing with those patterns. Three of these flies, the Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, and Armstrong Fontinalis were all created by Michigan angler and fly tier, Phil Armstrong. The Brook Fin was published in H. J. Noll’s Guide to Trout Flies; the Brookie Fin debuted in Helen Shaw’s, Flies for Fish and Fishermen: The Wet Flies, 1989; and the Trout Fin was presented in Ray Bergman’s final book, With Fly, Plug, and Bait, 1947, sent to him by fly tier Bert Quimby, of South Windham, Maine, as being a favored brook trout wet fly pattern for fishing in Maine. It does not list who created that fly, but there is a strong possibility it was originated by Quimby. The Armstrong Fontinalis was the last of these patterns that I learned about, a rather johnny-come-lately fly for me, around 2006. It was published in the book by William Blades, Fishing Flies and Fly Tying, 1951.

I have fished several of these patterns and caught trout and land-locked salmon on them in Maine, and also in a lake right here in Pennsylvania. As an aside, the Parmacheene Belle, according to originator Henry P. Wells’ writings, the brook trout fin was the concept for his fly design. I have always disagreed with that a bit, because there is no orange in his pattern, and that fly has a yellow body, there’s no yellow in a brook trout fin. Nevertheless, that pattern, the Kineo, and perhaps the King of the Woods could be considered as possible brook trout fin wet flies. Here is a photo of the Bergman Fontinalis:

Bergman Fontinalis -

Bergman Fontinalis – #4 Mustad 3399 wet fly hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Bergman Fontinalis

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black

Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes #2 to #10

Tail: White, natural dark gray, married to and topping slightly wider section of orange, duck or goose quill may be used, in two sections (left and right side)

Body: Alternate ribs of dark gray and orange wool

Hackle: Dark gray

Wing: White, dark gray, married to and topping wider section of orange

Head: Black

I used goose wing quill sections to make the tail and wing on this fly. Two barbs each of the white and gray for the tail; three barbs of orange. In the wing, I used three barbs each of white and gray. The natural dark gray quill sections are best obtained from Canada goose feathers. The hackle was tied as a throat, wound collar style, from the tip end of a gray schlappen feather. The ends of schlappen feathers make great wet fly hackles in larger hook sizes; the stems are very soft, supple, and very small in diameter, so they wrap nicely, and build no bulk at the tie-in point of the wing. The barb density is low so I generally make five to six wraps when using schlappen in this fashion.

The Bergman Fontinalis was obviously created to honor Ray Bergman. At the time Trout was published in 1938, Bergman was the preeminent angling author in the country, having served as angling editor of Outdoor Life magazine since 1934. It was a position he held for thirty-four years.

If you are looking for some enjoyable tying with a bit of a challenge, or want to experiment fishing with some new fly patterns, give the Bergman Fontinalis a try.

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.