Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Voices from the Past: Favorite Flies of Famous Fishermen (1943)

The following article was published in the April 1943 Outdoors Magazine. I believe it was written by the magazine's angling editor Breems Forrest, but I will have to double check on that as it had no by-line. I thought that people might like to see what flies some of the most important anglers and writers of the 20th century felt were the best patterns.


WHAT'S your favorite trout fly? That's always an intriguing question. Seldom do fishermen agree—even the experts themselves who, one should think, ought to know by this time what appeals most to a fish. But instead of narrowing down to a small list of "killers," the number of different fly patterns grows with the passing of each season. As a result, there are literally thousands of fly patterns from which Joe Angler can make his choice when he stocks his fly book for the coming season, and great is his confusion when the time comes to make his selection.

In an honest effort to help Joe in his coming hour of trial, Outdoors asked several famous trout fishermen to list their own favorite trout flies—wet, dries, and streamers. We thought to boil down their choices to a list of about three sure-fire wet flies, three more deadly dries, and three streamers that will take trout under any and all conditions of weather, wind, or water.

But when the famous fishermen cast their ballots, we found that they couldn't agree any more than a lot of beginners could. As a group, the famous fishermen were a camp divided. Twenty of the country's best-known trout fishermen named 11 different wet flies as their favorites, 10 dries, and 11 streamers. Some of the patterns got only one vote; a few polled as high as three. So to be on the safe side, maybe Joe Angler should stock up with all of them—32 different patterns, possibly in two or three different sizes. Or to narrow the list down a bit, let's see which patterns were named most often. By doing that, we can name three wet flies, four dries, and three streamers.

The wets, with three votes each, were: Coachman, Brown Hackle, Dark Montreal. The dries were: Bivisible (brown and gray; take your choice), Fanwing Royal Coachman, Cahill, and Quill Gordon. In the streamer class, the Black Ghost was named by three famous fishermen as their favorite, the Light (or Yellow) Tiger twice, and a brown bucktail twice.

So there's a list of favorites—but remember, with 20 famous fishermen voting, only one pattern received as many as four votes—and that was a bi-visible dry fly, with a difference of opinion as to the color! Here's how the famous fishermen voted, with their favorite trout water and some with interesting comments:

Lee Wulff, writer, photographer, artist, lecturer, N.Y.: Wet, Silver Gray; dry, Gray Wulff; streamer, Owl Feather. Favorite water, Serpentine R., Newfoundland.

Kenneth A. Reid, Executive Secretary, Izaak Walton League of America, Chicago: Wet, Royal Coachman; dry, Quill Gordon; streamer, Brown Feather. Favorite trout water, Madison and Big Hole Rivers of Western Montana.

Senator Frederic C. Walcott, Conn.:, Wet, Royal Coachman; dry, any bi-visible; streamer, Shang Spec. Favorite trout water is any stream on the east side of Admiralty Island, Alaska.

Edward R. Hewitt, writer, New York: Wet, Stone Fly; dry, Brown Bivisible; streamer, "any old thing." Likes large, clear streams.

Corey Ford, writer, New York: Dry, Corey Ford; wet. Parme Belle (for steelheads in Alaska); streamer, "any old bucktail I can borrow." Favorite water, "a little grayling stream in Alaska—but if you think I'll tell you where it is, you're crazy; when this war is over I'm going back there again."

Roderick L. Haig-Brown, writer, British Columbia: Wet, Gammarus; dry, Brown Bivisible; streamer, Silver Lady. Favorite water, Campbell R., Vancouver I., B.C. (Mr. Haig-Brown sent along the dressing for his favorites. Gammarus: Tail. small topping; body, olive seal's fur, veiled by brown hackle wound over; ribs, oval gold tinsel; hackle, blue jay; wings, hen pheasant center tail. Silver Lady: Tail, tippet-small whole feather; body, flat silver tinsel; hackle, badger; wings, peacock herl, teal strips, badger hackle, topping; cheeks, pale blue chatterer.)

Lt.-Col. Charles E. Cox, Jr., writer, Calif.: Wet, Coachman; dry, Adams; streamer, Optic bucktail. Favorite water, Pere Marquette R., Mich.

Chief Henry Red Eagle, guide, Maine: Wet, Parme Belle; dry, Black Gnat; streamer, no choice. Favorite water, Moosehead Lake and Kennabago Stream, Maine. "Did you know," writes the Chief in flawless English, "that years ago the Indians in this country used to cut a strip from the tail of a deer, run a long-shank hook through it, and use it for taking trout from our Maine lakes? Maybe that is why we call 'em 'bucktails' today."

Gifford Pinchot, writer, former Governor, Penna.: Wet, Brown Hackle; dry, Fanwing Royal Coachman; streamer, own make. Favorite water, streams of Pike County, Penna.

Burton L. Spiller, writer, N. H.: Wet, Dark Montreal; dry, Brown Bi-visible; streamer, Black Ghost. Favorite water, Sesketch Stream, Nova Scotia. Says, "I believe the Dark Montreal will take more squaretail trout than any other fly I have ever used."

Edmund Ware Smith, writer, Mass.: Wet, Yellow Montreal; dry, Cahill; streamer, Black Ghost. Favorite water, Nipisiguit R., N. B.

Ben C. Robinson, writer, Ohio: Wet, Queen of Waters; dry, McGinty; streamer, Soo Rapids Spec. Favorite water, Jordan R., Mich.

J. Hammond Brown, Pres., Outdoor Writers Ass'n. of America, Md.: Wet Coachman; dry, Black Gnat; streamer: Brownie Spec. Favorite water, Little Hunting Creek, Md. (Dressing for Brownie Spec.: wings, white and blue polar bear; body, black chenille; tag, red.)

Ted Janes, fishing editor, Mass.: Wet, Brown Hackle; dry, Quill Gordon; streamer, Lt. Tiger. Favorite water, Upper Kennebago Stream, Me.

Fred Everett, writer and artist, N..Y.: Wet, Coachman; dry, Fanwing Royal Coachman; streamer, Brown Optic Bucktail. Favorite water, Bea-
verkill, N. Y.

Earle Bradbury, chief warden, Maine: Wet, Dark Montreal; dry, Brown Wulff; streamer, Brown Bucktail. Favorite water, Kennebago Stream, Me.

Arthur R. Macdougall, Jr., writer, Maine: Wet, Dark Montreal; dry, Fanwing Royal Coachman; streamer, Black Ghost. Favorite water, Upper Kennebec R., Me.

Breems Forrest, writer, N. Y.: Wet, Brown Hackle; dry, Lt. Cahill; streamer, Yellow Tiger. Favorite waters, Pere Marquette, Mich.; Nipigon, Canada.

Eugene Connett, writer, N. J.: Wet, Quill Gordon; dry, Quill Gordon; streamer, no choice. Favorite water, Brodheads Creek, Penna. (Mr. Connett's favorite nymph, incidentally, is Connett's Indefensible-beaver fur with gold wire ribbing.)

John Alden Knight, writer, N. Y.: Wet, Quill Gordon; dry, Cahill Quill; streamer, Mickey Finn. Favorite water, Brodheads Creek, Penna.

So there they are, the favorite flies of 20 famous fishermen. Now what patterns will you show to the trout when the season opens this spring?

-- Dr. Todd


CD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CD said...

Great stuff. Always enjoy reading this kind of listing. Reminds of the Mary O book and the back section of J. Edson Leonard's "Flies". From the horses' mouths.