The Gimp Revisited
By Chris Marshall
In a previous issue of The Canadian Fly Fisher (Fall, 1999), we featured
a fly named "The Gimp", which was submitted by Jeff Smith from Canadian Forces
Base, Trenton. It was a pattern he had discovered 25 years ago in a pamphlet
which came with a fly tying kit. At that point we were unsure of the origin of the fly
and asked that any reader who might enlighten us to do so.
The first was a letter from Paul Furminger of St. Catherines, Ontario, who drew our
attention to an article by Larry Myhre in Fly Fisherman (April, 1970, Vol. 1, No. 6)
entitled 'The Gimp'. Paul summarized the article, which sheds light on the originator and
provides tying and fishing instructions.
A couple days later, I received a phone call from Tom Schmuecker of Wapsi Fly, Inc.,
which not only confirmed what I'd received from Paul, but included some fascinating
additional information. Tom followed this up with a series of faxes, including a copy
of a much earlier reference to The Gimp in Outdoor Life(November, 1950)
by Erwin Sias, one of the two co-authors of Jeff's fly tying kit pamphlet, and a letter (1976)
written by the inventor of the fly to Larry Myhre. Thanks to Paul and Tom, we've been
able to cobble together the story of The Gimp.
In his 1970 Fly Fisherman article, Myhre suggests varying the body
with fur dubbing or peacock herl, and using black or brown hackle for the tail and wings.
They're all worth trying.
The pattern we provided in the previous issue listed golden pheasant undercoverts for
the wing. However, Gee states quite clearly that the original was tied with Lady Amherst
pheasant undercoverts. We suspect that The Gimp will work quite well with either.
The Gimp was created by Lacey Gee of Independence, Iowa. This must have been
prior to 1950, as Erwin Sias (Outdoor Life, November, 1950) says
that Gee had given him four of them to take on an exploratory expedition to Nebraska
earlier that year. In the same article, Sias gives Gee's recipe for The Gimp. Here it is:
A thinly wrapped olive yarn body; short tail of a few medium grey-blue hackle barbs; a
'back' consisting of two tiny, white-tipped, dark-gray feathers from a Lady Amherst's
pheasant neck placed flat, one atop the other, with the tips extending to the back of the
fly; and more gray-blue hackle sparsely tied at the head.
Sias was editor of The Sioux City Journal, located at the other side of
the state of Iowa from Gee in Independence, but they must have been close enough to
collaborate on that fly tying kit pamphlet which they co-authored in 1966. They must
also have been equally enthusiastic about The Gimp to feature it in that pamphlet.
Enter Larry Myhre. Myhre was the farm editor for the Sioux City Journal
at the same time Sias was editor. As a fly fisher, it was inevitable that he would connect
with Sias, also a fly fisher. His 1970 Fly Fisherman article is undoubtedly
an outcome of that relationship. In fact he states, "the man who introduced me to Gimp
fishing was Erwin D. Sias (who) has fished it in other areas and has had reports from other
individuals across the United States as well as Alaska. Every report has been favourable."
Myhre draws attention to the features of The Gimp which make it such an effective fly. He
claims that the secret of its effectiveness lies in three areas:
"First, most natural nymphs are flat-backed. Second, most nymphs are rather
dark-colored with brown backs and a grayish belly. Third, most of them are small in size.
The Gimp fits these categories perfectly."
We haven't yet had the chance to try the Gimp during the trout season up here in the Frozen
North (except for a few informed fly fishers such as Jeff Smith), but the pattern looks so good
(not to mention the glowing reports from south of the border) that we'll be tying up a bunch
to try when the season opens in the new millennium.
We're intrigued that what appears to have been such an effective pattern has been ignored by
the compilers of fly pattern books. Pity! Here's what the originator, Lacey Gee, has to say in
a letter to Larry Myhre in 1976:
"The story of the Gimp: it was discovered more by accident than design. I happened
to be packaging Amherst pheasant neck feathers and noticed the little tiny feathers at the base
of the big neck feathers. It looked awful fishy and I decided that I would try to make a wet fly
or a nymph out of it. The original was made from dun hen hackles. Tail was hackle fibers,
body was blue dun wool, two Amherst guard feathers and the hackle wound at the head only
a maximum of two turns. I tried them out on our local trout streams and man, did they ever
work. So that is more or less the way the little nymph got started. Since then it has caught
fish everywhere. One guy told me that if he had just one fly to take out west with him it would
be the Gimp".
Unfortunately, Gee is silent on why he chose the name 'Gimp'. Even his close friend and
collaborator, Erwin Sias refers to it as 'a new fly of his own pattern which he, for reasons
known only to himself, had dubbed 'The Gimp'. (Outdoor Life, 1950).
Lacey Gee is no longer with us, departing this world a couple of years ago in his late eighties.
However, his legacy, The Gimp, lives on. Erwin Sias, his collaborator, is also no longer
with us. However, Larry Myhre is still farm editor for The Sioux City Journal
and, we hope, still casts his line across the waters - no doubt attached to a Gimp.
Lacey Gee was the original owner of Wapsi Fly Company. He sold it to Tom Schmuecker
in 1973. However, Gee stayed on, sequestered in an adjacent room (originally a beauty
parlour), where he built rods and tied flies - mainly for his own use. Schmuecker, new
to the game, spent many hours with Gee, gleaning his years of experience and expertise
in the fly tying materials industry. However, in 1978, after providing Gee with a fly-tying
room attached to his garage, Schmuecker moved the business to Mountain Home, Arkansas,
where it flourishes today as one of North America's major fly tying material producers.
Tom still uses The Gimp. In fact, he claims that on the Norfork River, close to his home,
that "it is as good or better than any other sowbug imitation there is."
We believe that The Gimp could be as good or better than any other imitation not only
for sowbugs, but for a whole bunch of other naturals. We're convinced that Myhre
would agree with us.~ Chris Marshall