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The Grand Lady of the Rangeley streamer flies By Larry Myhre


As a student of fishing my entire life, it has not escaped me that so many of the pivotal aspects of this sport can be credited to women.

For instance, the first-ever published work on fly fishing was included in a 1496 edition of the “Book of St. Albans.” It is entitled Treatise of Fishing with an Angle and was written by Dame Juliana Berners, a noblewoman and prioress of the Sopwell Nunnery near St. Albans, England.

She preceded by 150 years what may just be the most popular of all fishing books, “The Complete Angler” by Izaak Walton.

          Her writings were detailed and visionary. Perhaps I will delve into that in a future column, but for now my attention is captivated by another woman.

That would be Carrie G. Stevens, originator of the Rangeley Favorite trout and salmon flies. Her fly tying career spanned more than 30 years beginning in the 1920s. Her most famous streamer pattern is the Gray Ghost, an imitation of the smelt that swims in the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine.

I first tied the Gray Ghost back in the early 1970s. I included it in a framed set of my flies, which included wets, nymphs, dries and streamers. It hangs on the wall of my fly tying den to this day.

        Although I tied many versions of the early Maine streamers in those days, the unique methods that Carrie used to construct her flies escaped me. Yet,        the beauty of her streamers, most tied on 8x- and 10x-long hooks, has haunted me over the years.

For the past several months, I have researched, through books and online sources, the story of Carrie Stevens and her special streamers. It has been an interesting and educational trip fueled by the desire to tie many of those patterns myself, not for fishing but for personal challenge, display and photography.

        That desire is realistically tempered by my fly tying skill. I have tied a lot of these patterns lately, in the hopes I could attain at least a modicum of success. Fly tying is something you never really master, but you attain success by degrees.

In this day of Google and the internet, one might be tempted to think that books are relics of the past with little to enlighten us sophisticates today.

        Wrong.

        It wasn’t until I read a book written by Graydon R. Hilyard and his son Leslie K. Hilyard entitled “Carrie G. Stevens Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies” that I felt I had really begun to know the story of these famous streamers. Although first published in 2000 by Stackpole Books, it is still available through Amazon.com and other sources. [Read more…]

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More Anglers should embrace ‘Do It Yourself’ By Larry Myhre

Reprinted from the Sioux City Journal.

I got an outdoors catalog in the mail the other day. Right at the top of the front cover in bold letters were the words, “DO IT YOURSELF.”

That kind of took me aback for a little bit. You see, I don’t think many outdoorsmen make much of anything anymore. They much prefer to buy it.

When I looked a little closer, I saw the words “Rod Building 101.” Now I understood. It was from Mud Hole, a company which caters to amateur and professional fishing rod makers. I do a fair amount of business with them in my own rod making.

But here’s the thing. I know a heck of a lot of fishermen throughout the upper Midwest, and very few of them have ever made a fishing rod.

Even fewer have ever poured lead heads, and tied their own bass, walleye or panfish jigs. It seems nobody makes their own spinnerbaits anymore. A few walleye fishermen will build their own spinners to pull behind bottom bouncers, but hardly anybody makes their own bottom bouncers.

Flash back about 50 years. Every sporting goods store with a fishing department carried all the supplies you would need for building a rod, tying flies or jigs or making just about any kind of tackle. Today, its mostly mail order because there are not enough anglers making their own stuff.

I feel sorry for them. Why? Because catching a fish on tackle you have made yourself is something special. Because learning how make this stuff builds your fishing education. Because it makes you a better fisherman. Because it is a great way to spend those winter weekends. Because it is fun.

I suppose I started making my own stuff to save money. Early on, there wasn’t much of that around our house.

Notice, however, that I did not include saving money as one of the benefits of making your own stuff.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I have invested in just fly-tying materials. No, if you really get into this stuff, you won’t be saving any money.

I began tying flies about 1966. It’s a hobby that I continue today. I’ve tied more flies and classic jigs than I could ever fish with, even if I fished every day of the week. I’ve tied exhibition streamers and classic salmon flies just for fun. I’ll never be noted as a great fly tyer because I’m just not that good, and I have too many other interests. But, I love to do it. [Read more…]