The Seth Green was an incredibly versatile fly, serving
as a first rate bass fly, a lake fly, and in smaller sizes
with a slightly different wing, it was good for trout. To
give you and idea how large bass flies could get, Seth Green
himself said of the fly he used for trolling "the body of the
fly is one fourth of an inch in diameter in the largest place
in the body." That's one fat fly. Seth Green was a fish culturist,
along with his brother Monroe, and knew better than most what
From Mary Orvis Marbury's book Favorite Flies and Their
Histories we have the following letter from Seth Green,
written to the New York Express in which he gives his
favorite cast of flies along with fishing tips:
"There are two kinds of fish, both kinds called black bass,
in different localites. I designate them as black and Oswego
bass. They look very much alike to amateurs. The Oswego bass
has the larger mouth, and lies in still waters where there are
weeds, flags, and pond-lilies. He takes a spoon, a frog, or a
minnow. They are the poorer table fish of the two kinds, and
lack the game qualities of the black bass, which live only in
pure lake or river water with a rocky bottom, and are taken
with fly, or dobsons, or crawfish, or grasshoppers, which are
their favorite food, but will take minnow or a spoon sometimes.
Trolling with flies in large waters, I use a twelve-foot leader
made of single gut, and four flies, and two BB shots and two
small brass swivels on the leader; one swivel at the upper end
and one in the center, and two shot about equal distance from
each end of the leader; put the flies an equal distance apart.
I have used hundreds of different kinds of flies, and have kept
sifting them out until they have got down to four kinds. They
are the killers. My upper fly is red body, white wing, and white
hackle, with gold tinsel stripe. My second is a fly called Grizzly
King. It has a green body and mottled wing of a mallard or red-head.
It is called by fly-makers the 'Under-Wind.' The hackle is grizzly,
and it has a red ibis tail. My third fly is called the Governor
Alvord, in honor of our worthy statesman. The wing is made of two
colored feathers, cinnamon and drab; the cinnamon is used for the
under wing. The body is made of peacock herl, and has a red ibis
tail, and a red hackle from a red rooster. The fourth fly I call
the Seth Green. The body is green, with a large yellow stripe; the
hackle, chicken red; the wing, either gray or light cinnamon brown.
I do not cover the body of my flies with the hackle; the hackle of
all my flies is put on at the head of the fly. The flies are tied
on a 'two-aught' (00) hook; the body of the fly is one fourth of an
inch in diameter in the largest place in the body. When trolling
with flies for bass, your boat should be rowed one third slower
than for any other kind of fish. The flies should be allowed to
sink within three or four feet of the bottom, and when you have a
strike take plenty of time to reel him in, as there are ten fish
lost by reeling them too fast where one is lost by reeling him too
slow, and you are likely to take some more on the lower flies.
If the fish is on the lower fly you will not take any more, but
if he is on one of the upper flies you will be sure to take more
if there are any in sight."
It's been many years since I trolled for fish while rowing a boat.
Fortunately for me, if I ever again have the opportunity, I can row
a third slower, which at this point in my life would be a necessity.
The Seth Green appears to have been a very popular smallmouth bass
fly, used by fly fishermen from Massachussets to Ohio to Michigan,
Minnesota, Wisconsin, to Maryland, and out West. It does not appear
that it was used much down south for largemouth however, from what
I can tell from the Marbury letters. I was a real favorite among
many fine fisherman years ago. Here are some recipes for the Seth
Green from J. Edson Leonard's Flies:
Photos from Favorite Flies and Their
Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury, Flies
by J. Edson Leonard. ~ Eric Austin