Here's another big bass fly from the Mary Orvis Marbury book
Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Yes, this
is a big one. I've tied it on a 3/0 salmon fly iron, and
as crazy as that might sound, I've seen some antique flies
that were used for bass back then, and they were just huge,
with big thick bodies and large wings. If anything, the
body on the one I've done is probably not thick enough.
When you think about it, these flies rather imitate minnows,
and are closer to streamers than they are wet flies, so it
makes some sense. This one is quite streamer-like, in any
As opposed to the Henshall flies which were created for large
mouth bass down south, this big guy was created by Frank Gray
of Janesville, Wisconsin for wall-eyes up north. Here's what
C.L. Valentine has to say in a letter to Mary Orvis Marbury
in the late 1800s:
"Inclosed(sic) I send a fly made by Mr. Frank Gray, of
this city, the oldest fly-fisherman of this locality,
and the one most successful.
There are so many times, I think, when we make it all
too hard for ourselves. The old guys know how easy it
is. You go out when the fish are biting first of all,
the rest of the time it's just a question of beating
water anyway. Once they're biting, you throw a strip
of cloth on your fly to give it some real action. Then
you let the natural territorial nature of these fish
kick in and BINGO! I wonder if the Bass Professor knows
about this one. Here's the recipe for the Frank Gray:
Mr. Gray makes what flies he uses. That inclosed is
the best I have ever seen for wall-eyed pike. Mr.
Gray attaches to the hook, at times, a small strip
of either white or red cloth, about half an inch long,
and prefers the fly on a heavy single snell. For
forty years past he has taken fish here, black bass
and pike, with this fly, never using any other bait
in fishing; it is good for early-morning fishing,
but best from five to eight o'clock in the evening,
from August to November.
The fly should be called after its maker, Frank Gray."
The Frank Gray:
Wing: Green teal.
Body: Orange Floss, blue thread rib.
Tip: Blue floss.
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA