Welcome to Just Old Flies

Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than todays modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps?

Part One hundred ninty-one

Parmacheene Belle

Parmacheene Belle

Compiled by Deanna Lee Birkholm


Quoting Fly Patterns and Their Origins by Harold Hinsdill Smedley, "This fly of Henry P. Wells, 1842-1904, by his admission, is "his own child." This fly, "born" about 1878, was named after Parmacheene Lake, in the Pine Tree State, Maine, favorite fishing locale of Mr. Wells when fishing for ouananiche [land-locked salmon]. The lake was name after Parmacheene, son of the Indian chief Metalluk.

Henry P. Wells, born in Providence, R.I., served in the Army 1863-65, 13th N.Y. Artillery; and was admitted to the New York Bar in 1869.

He wrote Fly Rods and Fly Tackle, the most authoritative book of its kind up to that time, 1885, and still good. He also wrote American Salmon Fishing, 1886. Wells was president of the National Rod and Reel Association in 1887-1889.

He was one of the first to advocate steel for rods, an idea carried out by Everett Horton, who patented a steel rod on March 8, 1887.

The Parmacheene was supposed to imitate the fin [belly] of a trout.

There is no practical difference between this fly and the Gold Ibis. [The Gold Ibis has no rib.]

In 1940 Phil Armstrong of Detroit made a freak fly to imitate exactly the fin of a brook trout. He started with a fly that had an actual trout fin for a wing and from that copied it with dyed goose quill feathers.

It was just a stunt until he found out it took fish. Armstrong name it the "Sweeney Fontinalis," after his friend, John Sweeney, of Detroit."

According to Mary Orvis Marbury, from her correspondence with Mr. Wells, he recommended the fly for sea trout as well. She comments "we have astonishing reports of its success in all waters."

Like so many of the old and traditional flies there are many variations proported to be 'original.' The late Dick Surette and Harold Hinsdill Smedley both give this dressing:

Traditional Parmacheene Belle

    Hook:  Mustad #3906, sizes 6-14.

    Thread:  Black-silk, monocord or nylon.

    Tail:  Red and white hackle barbules, mixed.

    Body:  Yellow silk floss.

    Rib:  Gold tinsel, flat.

    Throat:  Red and white hackle barbules, mixed.

    Wings:  Married, red on tip, one quarter. White on bottom, three quarters.

Other variations include a butt, body of yellow or red wool, tail of swan married in red and white, cheek of jungle cock, head of red or black. The fly is also tied on tandem hooks.

Variation (shown) Parmachene Belle
Tied by Greg Nault

    Tail:  Red and white swan married together with the red at the top. Omit if this fly is tied as a tandem streamer.

    Butt:  Three or four turns peacock herl (optional).

    Body:  Dark yellow wool.

    Rib:  Narrow oval silver tinsel (both Bates and Leiser use flat gold tinsel).

    Throat:  One red and one white neck hackle wound on mixed as a collar and gathered downward.

    Wings:  Three married sections equally wide, white, red and white, extending just beyond the tail (Blades variation uses scarlet and white hackles, with scarlet on top; for tandem trolling fly, Leiser uses bucktail).

    Shoulder:  (For tandem streamers only) White over red saddle hackle.

    Cheeks:  Jungle cock.

You may have noticed the second 'variation' above, has also changed the spelling of the name slightly too. There is yet another version called the Parmachene Beau! ~ DLB

Credits: Quoted text from Fly Patterns and Their Origins. Fly photo and dressing from Forgotten Flies, published by Complete Sportsman.

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