Monday, March 30, 2015

Atlantic Salmon Flies from Maine

Tales from a bygone era
Last fall, I bought several used books to help me get through the long, cold winter months. I added every reasonably priced Atlantic salmon fishing book I could find to my Amazon cart. I got an awful lot of books for my money. Despite the common subject, it was a diverse selection of books. Given the number of salmon fishing books I already own, a few were redundant. They were given to friends. Of the eight or so books I bought, my favorite was the simplest book of the bunch. It's not necessarily better written than the rest, but the subject appealed to me the most. 

Published in 1996, Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Maine, by Paul C. Rzasa (1939-2010), is a collection of stories and information about the subsequently closed Atlantic salmon fishery in Maine. A couple of years ago, I posted a brief interview with Topher Browne on this blog. When asked if there was one destination he'd like to fish for Atlantic salmon more than anywhere else, he answered "Maine." I was slightly taken aback by his reply. Had I been asked the question, it would not have been my first choice. 

At least in post-colonial times, I can't imagine Maine's salmon rivers ever equaling the Miramichi or the Restigouche (in terms of run size and fish size, respectively). Even in its heyday, Maine's most prolific river, the Penobscot, was probably no match for the Restigouche, which is one of the world's great big-salmon rivers. The draw is that Maine is the only state in America with a run of wild Atlantic salmon. Their genetic integrity is still intact. It has been that way for about two hundred years. 

Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Maine definitely didn't make the state sound like salmon fishing utopia. Nevertheless, Rzasa caught plenty of salmon in his home state. I have a couple of older friends who have both told me they used to "knock 'em dead" on the Penobscot decades ago. Rzasa wrote about catching salmon in the Downeast rivers, too. It wasn't just the Penobscot. A salmon fisherman had options back then. 

Now I understand why Topher Browne answered my question the way he did. There was a brief period of time in my salmon fishing history when I could have fished the Penobscot in autumn. I drove past it on my way to Canada. I wish I had at least stopped for a day or two. Who knows when I'll have that chance again, if ever? I still want to visit Iceland and fish more Russian rivers but, after reading Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Maine, I agree with Topher. If I could fish for Atlantic salmon anywhere in the world, it would be in New England. 


Atlantic Salmon Flies of Maine

Here are a few patterns that were devised specifically for fishing in Maine. The vast majority of the flies I found were designed for the Penobscot fishery. From what I gather, the Penobscot River had the earliest run of salmon, so it's no surprise that many of the Penobscot flies I found were big and brightly colored. I found a fair number of fall colored patterns, as well. 

One distinct trait I found in Maine's salmon flies is the use of the color pink as an accent color. There is no shortage of flies with pink components. Given how infrequently pink is seen in Atlantic salmon flies from the rest of the world, the high percentage of partially pink flies from Maine definitely stood out to me. 

Sidewinder (sz. 2) - Colburn Special (sz. 4)
Ruhlin's Riot (sz. 2/0)

Sidewinder (Gayland Hatchey & Gary Dinkins - Veazie, Maine)

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and fluorescent yellow floss
Tail: Fluorescent orange hackle over golden pheasant crest
Butt: Fluorescent yellow ostrich herl
Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Body: Peacock herl
Wing: Fluorescent yellow calf tail 
Collar Hackle: Fluorescent yellow
Cheeks: Fluorescent orange hackle tips
Head: Black

Colburn Special (Walter O. Colburn - Bangor, Maine)

Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Black monga tail over green monga tail (sparse)*
Body: Fluorescent green floss, butted in the middle with black ostrich herl
Wing: Black monga tail over green monga tail (sparse)*
Collar Hackle: Yellow (sparse)
Head: Black

*Often substituted with grey squirrel tail dyed green

Ruhlin's Riot (Dick Ruhlin - Brewer, Maine)

Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Tail: Red hackle fibers
Body: Fluorescent green wool
Wing: Yellow bucktail, fine
Collar Hackle: Yellow
Head: Black

Down East Special (sz. 2) - Pinkent (sz. 8)
Verdict (sz. 4)

Downeast Special (Phil Foster - Farmnington, Maine)

Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Butt: Black ostrich herl
Body: Gray chenille or wool
Wing: Fitch tail or red squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Bright orange
Head: Black

Pinkent (Robert Ent - Bangor, Maine)

Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Rear half - fluorescent pink wool; Front half - bronze peacock herl
Wing: Grey squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Orange and yellow
Head: Black

Verdict (Jerry Clapp - Bangor, Maine)

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and fluorescent pink yarn
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Rib: Flat gold tinsel
Body: Black floss
Wing: Black squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Hot orange
Head: Black

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Post #150 & Giveaway: Atwells Avenue Cosseboom

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe

Happy St. Joseph's day to all my Italian and Italian-descended friends!

This is post #150. If you would like to win this fly and a few others, leave a comment or send me an email. The comment doesn't have to be about anything specific. I'll pick a random winner at the end of the month. Thanks for reading! 

Atwells Avenue Cosseboom

Hook: Dai-eech 2441
Tip: Flat tinsel - Italian white gold
Tail: Pesto green floss
Rib: Flat tinsel - Italian white gold
Body: Pesto green floss
Wing: White veal tail 
Collar Hackle: Sangiovese Red
Head: Dark black

Monday, March 16, 2015

Atomic Dog

One from the Mothership

The Atomic Dog is the next step in the evolution of the Samurai Dog, a fly that made last spring for my friend John and me. John really killed it with the Samurai Dog, catching a pile of striped bass, smallmouth bass, and trout (including a 5lb. brown trout from the upper Farmington River). According to John, he tied the fly on in spring and didn't take it off until summer. I didn't fish the Samurai Dog nearly as much as John did, but I managed to do pretty well despite my busy schedule. I caught several stripers and lost a good sized sea run brown (a leader length away...gah!!).

I wanted to retain the basic characteristics of the Samurai Dog, which is essentially a Temple Dog x Samurai hybrid, but add a few enhancements. The new pattern has a base layer of bucktail to keep the wing propped up more, a grizzly hackle tied flatwing style, an underwing to fatten up the profile of the fly, and a fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber throat.

I recently heard someone extol the virtues of fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber, especially in flies for striped bass. John mentioned how the local spin fishermen do well on pink Sluggos. I figured a little pink couldn't hurt. 

This fly is fished when alewives and herring are present. I wanted to bulk up the fly to give it a better herring/alewife-like shape. It's still small for an alewife imitation, but the fish in this river seem to like smaller flies and baits. Maybe its relatively small size makes it especially vulnerable? 

The only sea run brown I hooked last year took a Samurai Dog on the dangle while I pumped my rod up and downstream. The most difficult aspect of where I hooked the trout is that fish have to be hauled in directly upstream, so the angler fights both the fish and the strong current. A weak take or poor hookset is the kiss of death. It would have been better if the big trout took the fly on the swing or strip, but beggars can't be choosers. I decided to add the flatwing hackle to give the fly a more snake-like movement when held stationary in the current. I'd rather a fish take on the dangle than not take at all. 

I have high hopes for this fly. I'm counting down the days until the ice clears, the flow in the river drops, temperatures warm up, and the anadromous fish begin to run. May can't get here soon enough! 

Below is the dressing for the Atomic Dog and a link to the George Clinton song of the same name. 


Atomic Dog

Thread: White
Tube: 1" 3 mm plastic tube; 1.8 mm plastic tube,  nested inside
Rear Body: Pearl flat braid
Weight (optional): Lead tape, wire, or non-lead alternative
Base Wing: White bucktail tied on top of the front portion of the body
Front Body: UV Pearl Ice Dub (heavy & loose) over bucktail butts, picked out
Wing 1: White marble fox tail and light blue Flashabou
Wing 2: White marble fox tail and polar ice Angel Hair
Wing 3: White snow runner topped with micro mirage Lateral Scale
Wing 4: White snow runner topped with several strands of peacock herl
Underwing: White marble fox or skunk tied to the under side of the tube
Topping: Natural grizzly hackle tied flatwing style
Sides: Jungle cock
Head: Large ball of Pearl UV Ice Dub, tied loosely over wing butts and picked out
Throat: Fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber
Collar Hackle: White schlappen
Cone: Silver turbo cone (small)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Snaelda & Red Frances Var. (Tied on SRFS Shrimp Tubes)

German Snaelda & Red Frances Var.

I pride myself on being able to tie a durable and reasonably good looking Snaelda on a basic metal tube. Before I tied my first, I figured how hard could it be? It's a simple enough fly. My first attempts were so poorly tied, the tinsel rib slipped and the body self destructed, and that was just from casting. I went back to the drawing board and tied a few Snaeldas that held up to casting, but were not durable enough to stand up to the teeth of a salmon. It took a while and a lot of experimentation, but I found a way to tie a very durable Snaelda, one that could stand up to casting and sharp teeth. I hate tying them, but I know they're built to last.

I became aware of Sean Stanton's "Fran N Snaelda" a year or two ago. Sean's specially designed brass signature tubes were catching on like wildfire in Europe. Due to their tapered shape and flanged end, they supposedly made tying a Snaelda or a Frances easier and faster. I could tie a strong Snaelda or Frances on cheap hobby store tubing. Why would I spend a good deal more money for Sean's tubes? I thought I should try them before I knocked them, but the only place to get them was in the UK and I didn't want to bother with the exchange rate or the shipping. 

At the end of this past January, I decided to buy some Snow Runner from Skeena River Fly Supply. I noticed that they were selling what are essentially Sean Stanton signature tubes under the name of "shrimp tubes." They had shrimp tubes with or without a flange, plus shrimp tubes with an integrated conehead. I don't use cones on my Snaelda or Frances, but I was curious about the flanged shrimp tubes. Since I had the exchange rate going in my favor, I added a variety of sizes to my cart. 

I was a skeptic, but I have to say, I don't hate tying the Snaelda or the Frances nearly as much on the shrimp tubes as on conventional metal tubing. Most of the minor annoyances are taken out of the equation. They're definitely a quicker tie. I imagine the flange helps to protect the hackle, which seems to be the most delicate part of even a well-tied Snaelda. 

Top to bottom: Shrimp Tube Heavy (19 mm) - 1.3 g
Thick Walled Copper Tube (19 mm) - 1 g
Shrimp Tube (19 mm) - 0.9 g
Thin Walled Copper Tube (19 mm) - 0.4 g

I was curious about what the shrimp tubes weighed in relation to the cut-to-length copper tubes I normally use. Most of my Snaeldas tied on .5" and .75" copper tubes, both thick and thin walled. The shrimp tubes are measured in millimeters, but come in sizes comparable to what I have already been using. A 19 mm tube is essentially .75" long. As you can see in the picture above, the thick walled copper tube and the regular shrimp tube weigh about the same amount. The thin walled copper tube is much lighter than I expected it to be compared to the others. The heavy shrimp tube weighs a fair amount, but its shape is conducive to tying a good Snaelda or Frances body. Except in certain scenarios, I prefer a lighter fly. I wish someone made a shrimp tube in the shape and size of the SRFS heavy shrimp tube, but out of a lighter metal (like aluminum). Regardless, I'm excited to see how the flanged shrimp tubes hold up.


German Snaelda - 19 mm SRFS Heavy Shrimp Tube (w/flange)

German Snaelda

Tube: Shrimp tube w/flange (lined with 1.8 mm plastic tubing)
Tail: Yellow, orange and black bucktail; pearl Krystal Flash and Krinkle Flash
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Black Uni-Yarn
Hackle: Black hen
Head: Black

Red Frances Var. - 19 mm SRFS Heavy Shrimp Tube (w/flange)

Red Frances (Variation)

Tube: Shrimp tube w/flange (lined with 1.8 mm plastic tubing)
Feelers: 20# Maxima Chameleon and Ultragreen
Tail: Pine squirrel tail 
Body: Chinese red Uni-Yarn
Hackle: Brown
Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Head: Red

Monday, March 2, 2015

Manny's Salmon

Congrats, Manny! 

My friend and fly customer, Bill, keeps me well updated on how the salmon fishing is going on eastern Connecticut's Shetucket River. Between Bill and his sons, it seems like someone is always hooked up to a salmon. A few months ago, Bill sent me a picture of his son Manny's first Atlantic salmon. It is a really nice picture. So nice, it was recently chosen as the cover of the 2015 Connecticut's Angler's Guide! Here is Bill's account of Manny's salmon:

"After seeing what appeared to be a rolling salmon downstream of the riffle, my son Immanuel, better known as Manny, focused and determined, made what seemed like a thousand casts as he methodically swung a Mickey Finn through the run. At last the he felt the solid pull at the end of his line. The fight was on! Like a seasoned veteran, Manny finessed the fish and brought his first Atlantic Salmon to hand. Manny released this fish back into the Shetucket River unharmed."

Way to go, Manny! Especially the catch and release part.

In the words of the friend who introduced me to Atlantic salmon fishing, "Another life ruined!" Bill was last seen booking a family salmon fishing trip to Iceland.

Here are some pics of some of the family's catches...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Native New England Salmon Flies - Part II: Southern New England

Upper Wood River (Arcadia, RI)

When I was thirteen years old, I hooked my first trout on a fly. I was fishing western Rhode Island's Wood River. Though the Wood is still home to native brook trout, it hasn't held a wild Atlantic salmon in well over a century. I probably don't have any ancestors who lived in the United States when the Wood's last wild salmon ran the river. I would have loved to fish for salmon in the Wood, though it doesn't strike me as much of a salmon river. I now call Connecticut home. In contrast to the Wood, there are some rivers and streams here that scream "Salmon!" to me. Most are tributaries of the Connecticut River, reputed to have once been the most prolific Atlantic salmon river in all of North America.

Though southern New Englanders never had a recreational Atlantic salmon fishery to call our own, it didn't stop many of us from pursuing the "King of Sport Fish" elsewhere. When it was possible, some of us pursued salmon in Maine, though most anglers were bound for Canada. Despite a deficit of salmon locally, some heavyweight flies have sprung from the minds of tyers in southern New England.


Atlantic Salmon Flies From Southern New England 

Massachusetts: "Golden Pheasant Spey" (Bob Warren)

The "Golden Pheasant Spey" comes from the fertile mind and eminently talented hands of Bob Warren of Princeton, Massachusetts. Bob's flies can be seen in books such as Tying the Classic Salmon Fly, by Michael Radencich, Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen's Flies for Atlantic Salmon, and my personal favorite, Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns, by Joseph Bates and Pamela Bates Richards. Created for New Brunswick's Miramichi River, the Golden Pheasant Spey is a fly designed for autumn fishing. Gary Tanner, author of the River's Course blog, is the most vocal advocate I know when it comes to the Golden Pheasant spey. Gary and the boys seem to knock them dead with it.

The Golden Pheasant Spey has a regal silhouette and natural glow. It's a fairly bright fly but not in a flashy or gaudy way. The golden pheasant might be the most versatile bird in all of salmon fly tying and its feathers are put to good use in this fly. The dressing listed below was taken from Spey Flies and How to Tie Them by Bob Veverka. 

Golden Pheasant Spey

Hook: Daiichi 2139 (sz. 2)
Tag: Oval copper tinsel*
Tail: Golden pheasant crest over orange polar bear or bucktail, tail as long as body of fly
Body: Half hot orange silk, ribbed with oval copper tinsel* and veiled with yellow rump feathers from a golden pheasant, black ostrich herl butt at middle, and half oval copper tinsel*
Hackle: Claret hackle followed by two red golden pheasant feathers

*copper tinsel subbed with gold tinsel in the fly pictured above

Connecticut: "Mitchell" (Archibald Mitchell)
Plate B from M.O. Marbury's "Favorite Flies and Their Histories" (1892)
The Mitchell is fly #21 (middle right)

In the world of Atlantic salmon flies, some real gems have come from the state of Connecticut. The first one that comes to mind is Don Leyden's "Shady Lady," a fly that evolved into one of the deadliest salmon-catchers in Canada's Maritime Provinces. A far more obscure fly is the "Mitchell," created by Archibald Mitchell. Though born in Scotland, Mitchell spent most of his adult life in Norwich, Connecticut. Like the Shady Lady, the Mitchell has also undergone some pretty dramatic changes over the years.

As mentioned in Part I of this series, only two Atlantic salmon flies in Mary Orvis Marbury's book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, were created in America. The Notion was one of them, though it was originally intended for landlocked salmon. The other was the Mitchell, which was a dedicated Atlantic salmon fly from the beginning. Mr. Mitchell submitted the fly to Ms. Marbury and had this to say about it:

I take pleasure in sending you the Mitchell salmon fly, as requested. Its story is short and easily told. I conceived the idea that a very dark fly would be a success on the Penobscot River, for salmon, and tied a few of them for the first time during the winter of 1887-88. It is my own invention, and was not copied from any other fly. It was first tried on the Penobscot during the following spring. (Marbury, 53)

The Mitchell might not have been "copied from any other fly," but it there was nothing unusual about its construction. The Mitchell wasn't gaudy by Victorian era standards but, in terms of architecture, it used a the same basic template as most winged salmon flies of the period.

"Mitchell" as dressed by Farrow Allen (1991)

Somewhere down the line, the Mitchell was reinterpreted. That is not unusual. Fly patterns tend to change over time. Complex Atlantic salmon flies have a history of being simplified to make tying quicker, easier, more cost effective, and/or more durable. The bizarre thing about the Mitchell is that it went the other direction. It actually "evolved" into a more unusual and complex pattern the original. The newer Mitchell lost the double rib (in favor of just one type of ribbing tinsel), but added a new floss section, kingfisher cheeks, and two-tone head. I do not know when these changes occurred, nor do I know who changed the dressing. I have at least three books with dressings for the Mitchell. There are slight differences between all three, but they all resemble the fly in the picture above. The dressing I tied comes from Flies for Atlantic Salmon by Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen.


Hook: Daiichi 2139 (sz. 2)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel and yellow floss
Tail: Golden pheasant crest and kingfisher blue hackle fibers**
Butt: Black ostrich herl
Body: Yellow floss followed by a red butt (wool)
Rib: Fine oval silver tinsel over the black floss only
Throat: Sparse bunch of yellow hackle, ahead of which are three turns of black hackle 
Wing: Black crow quill feathers or a dyed substitute 
Topping: Golden pheasant crest
Cheeks: Jungle cock, veiled by kingfisher
Head: Black, with red band at rear

**Actual kingfisher is substituted for the kingfisher blue hackle fibers in the fly pictured above

Rhode Island: "Cosseboom Special" (John Cosseboom)

Though it is the last fly in this series, the "Cosseboom Special," or "Cosseboom" as it is more often called, is the most influential fly of the six featured here. Paul Marriner refers to the Cosseboom as the "third of the super-flies'" (Marriner, 40). The term "super-flies" refers to patterns that serve as templates for numerous salmon fly variations (the other two "super-flies" being the Rat and the Black Bear/Butt series of salmon flies). There are sixteen different Cosseboom variations in Chris Mann's book The Complete Illustrated Directory of Salmon & Steelhead Flies. Aside from the sixteen Cossebooms listed in Mann's book, there are a plethora of other salmon and steelhead flies tied in the style of the Cosseboom. 

The creator of the Cosseboom Special was John C. Cosseboom, a poet, newspaper writer, and insurance agent from Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Mr. Cosseboom was champion fly caster and an all-around talented fellow. His signature fly, which has more than stood the test of time, was created on a whim.

In July 1935, John Cosseboom and Ai Ballou, originator of the Ballou Special, were aboard the S.S. Fleuris making the twenty-four-hour passage from Quebec to Anticosti Island. To pass the time, fly-tying gear was brought out, and Ai's wife, Annie, challenged Cosseboom to create a fly using a spool of olive green silk floss she had selected. He met the challenge, incorporating the floss for both the body and the tail, and hooked it to Mrs. Ballou's lapel. Later, Ai Ballou attached a note to the fly, "This is the original Cosseboom dressed by John Cosseboom on the S.S. Fleuris, July, 1935, and given to Annie Ballou." The fly is still in existence and exhibits a throat hackle rather than the collar that is usual on the pattern today (Bates, 93-94). 

Aside from the switch from a throat hackle to a collar hackle, the Cosseboom underwent a couple of other changes since the original was tied in 1935. The original Cosseboom used embossed silver tinsel for both the tag and the rib. Nowadays, oval silver tinsel is most often used for both. Also, there is a great degree of variation used in the olive green floss used for the body and tail. The original Cosseboom was a fairly dark shade of olive. The fly is often seen tied in a lighter shade of olive or olive-yellow now. A dark olive Cosseboom variation, known as the "Miramichi Cosseboom," exists and is a very effective fly, though the head is black rather than the signature red of the standard Cosseboom.

The fly pictured above is a composite dressing, not culled from any particular source.


Hook: Daiichi 2441 (sz. 4)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Light olive floss
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Light olive floss
Wing: Grey squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Bright yellow
Head: Red

This concludes this two-part series on native New England salmon flies. I have more New England salmon fly patterns coming in a future post. I hope you enjoyed this series!

New England Salmon Flies from all six states


Bates, Joseph D. and Bates Richards, Pamela. Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1996. Print.

Mann, Chris. The Complete Illustrated Directory of Salmon & Steelhead Flies. Portland: Frank Amato Publications, Inc., 2008. Print.

Marriner, Paul. Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies. Mahone Bay: Gales End Press, 2011. Print. 

Orvis Marbury, Mary. Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1892. Print.

Stewart, Dick and Allen, Farrow. Flies for Atlantic Salmon. Intervale: Northland Press, Inc., 1991. Print. 

Veverka, Bob. Spey Flies and How to Tie Them. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004. Print.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Native New England Salmon Flies - Part I: Northern New England

Historic Atlantic Salmon Rivers of New England
(courtesy of NOAA)

At one time, all six New England states had runs of Atlantic salmon. The northernmost U.S. salmon river is Maine's Little Madawaska River, a small tributary of the Aroostook River. The Aroostook is a tributary of the once ultra-prolific St. John River. The southernmost river with a (long extinct) salmon run is Connecticut's Housatonic River. As far as I know, a recreational Atlantic salmon fishery never existed in any New England state other than Maine. Most stocks of New England salmon were either heavily depleted or extirpated before sport fishing became a popular pastime in North America. As such, sport fishers had to travel to Maine or Canada to pursue Atlantic salmon. However, the lack of New England salmon did not stop fly tyers from experimenting with flies or developing new patterns. In this series, I will feature one Atlantic salmon fly created in each of the six New England states.

Despite a lack, or absence, of Atlantic salmon in rivers with historic runs, there are viable landlocked salmon fisheries in all but two New England states (Connecticut and Rhode Island do not have runs of landlocked salmon). While investigating native New England salmon flies and fly tyers, I noticed a common theme. Many flies were designed for trout or landlocked salmon, but have been repurposed for Atlantic salmon fishing. Ultimately, several flies became more popular with Atlantic salmon anglers than with trout or landlocked salmon anglers. Of the six flies featured in this series, two fit this description, both northern New England patterns.


Atlantic Salmon Flies From Northern New England 

Maine: "The Chief" (Chief Needabeh)

The fly we now know as "The Chief" is a reduction of a Rangley-style streamer created by Chief Roland Nelson, also known as Chief Needabeh. Chief Needabeh, a member of the Native American Penobscot Tribe, was the proprietor of Needabeh's Shack, at tackle shop at Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine (Bates, 372). The original fly was called the "Chief Needabeh Streamer." This streamer fly was originally intended for brook trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass. Atlantic salmon anglers discovered its value when fishing for autumn salmon. It is particularly deadly on territorial male salmon, who likely consider the fly a potential intruder. Though its still effective when used for its original quarry, the fly is more commonly seen on Atlantic salmon rivers nowadays. In recent years, the fly's dressing has been simplified and its name shortened. Like many Atlantic salmon flies, the dressing constantly changes and evolves. Below is a composite dressing for "The Chief."

The Chief

Hook: Daiichi 2271 (sz. 2)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Chinese Red Uni-Stretch
Wing: A pair of yellow saddle hackles inside a pair of red saddle hackles
Sides: Jungle cock (optional)
Collar Hackles: Red over yellow
Head: Black

New Hampshire: "Dragon" (Fran Stuart)

Like many other salmon flies conceived in New England, the "Dragon" was tied for the Atlantic salmon of Maine's Penobscot River. In terms of a sport fishery, the Penobscot has always been America's top Atlantic salmon river. Fran Stuart, creator of the Dragon, is from Peterborough, New Hampshire. The fly was first tied in summer of 1988 during a long, hot, dry spell on the Penobscot. Stuart first tied the fly "In a tent, by the light of a Coleman lantern." (Stewart and Allen, 42). It is a very simple, minimal fly that is most effective in low water. The Dragon is more of template than a rigid fly pattern. Though black, green and silver is the most common combination, floss and wire colors can be easily changed to suit the whim of the tyer. Unfortunately, the Penobscot is now closed to Atlantic salmon fishing. Hopefully, the Dragon will once again have the opportunity to swim in its native river. 


Hook: Sprite Low Water Double (sz. 10)
Tag: Fine silver wire
Underbody: Flat silver tinsel
Overbody: Fluorescent green floss
Rib: Black ostrich herl, counter wrapped with fine silver wire
Hackle: Webby black hen saddle

Vermont, via Massachusetts: "The Notion" (Shields & Marbury)

A very unique fly concludes Part I of this series. The "Notion" was created by John Shields of Brookline, Massachusetts. However, if not for Manchester, Vermont's Mary Orvis Marbury, the Notion would have been lost in time. Marbury's greatest contribution to fly fishing was her book Favorite Flies and Their Histories (1892). The book was written based on submissions by North American anglers of the era. Each angler submitted a list and description of his favorite flies for the fish species found in his respective region. Marbury showed no preference for flies tied for a certain species, as flies for salmonids and non-salmonids get equal representation. 

There are no formal fly recipes in Marbury's book, however there are 32 color plates which show 291 different fly patterns. There are three plates of salmon fly illustrations. All but two salmon flies shown in the plates were created in Europe. Most were the standard salmon flies of the era (i.e. Jock Scott, Silver Doctor, etc.). The Notion was one of the two American flies included in plates of salmon flies. Like the Chief, the Notion was a repurposed fly which happened to be quite versatile.

The Notion was first made and named by John Shields, the veteran fly-maker of Brookline, Mass. It was intended for land-locked salmon, but we hear of it as also successful for salmon, trout, and black bass. Dressed on a large hook it is very beautiful, the gilt and golden brown harmonizing perfectly; it can also be adapted to a small hook. It is a fly that many anglers "take a notion to," and value for the good it does as well as for its beauty. (Marbury, 63)

Technically, the Notion is a Massachusetts creation, however, I've never seen the Notion mentioned anywhere Marbury wasn't also mentioned. Since the fly has been so closely associated with Mary Orvis Marbury all these years, I've decided to use it for the Vermont fly in this piece. Marbury is the certainly the most iconic fly tyer to come from Vermont as well as one of the most iconic of all American fly tyers. The dressing below is approximate, as no complete salmon fly dressings are listed in Marbury's book.

The Notion

Hook: Mustad 3370 (sz. 2/0)
Tag: Oval gold tinsel
Tail: Golden pheasant crest (long) and blue/yellow macaw
Body: Rear half-embossed gold tinsel; Front half-fiery brown seal fur
Hackle and Throat: fiery brown
Wing: Pair of golden pheasant tippets, back to back; veiled with strips of yellow and blue swan, dark turkey, and teal
Cheeks: Kingfisher
Head: Black ostrich herl


Bates, Joseph D. and Bates Richards, Pamela. Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1996. Print.

Orvis Marbury, Mary. Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1892. Print.

Stewart, Dick and Allen, Farrow. Flies for Atlantic Salmon. Intervale: Northland Press, Inc. 1991. Print.