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 today's 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?

Bemis Stream

Bemis Stream
By Eric Austin, Ohio

When discussing the Rangeley Region of Maine, it's necessary to point out that we are talking about much more than just a series of lakes here. There are a number of ponds in the area as well, many of which have been stocked over the years, and various tributaries and feeders to the lakes, the Magalloway and Kennebago to name just a couple of the more famous ones. One little stream meanders down a mountain and feeds into Mooselookmeguntic, across from Toothaker Island at the South end of the lake, the cool mountain spring water creating interesting fly fishing there all summer long. It's called Bemis Stream, also known as Beamis Stream and in the 1800s, Bema Stream. The fly above, found in Bergman's Trout is called Beamis Stream, named for the tributary. In the 1800s Camp Bema was built at the mouth of the stream, and it and all the land around was owned by a company of well-to-do men who used the buildings as a staging area for their fishing exploits. Here's a description of the camp found in an article in Outing Magazine, written by Ripley Hitchcock:

Camp Bema, or Bemis, is more characteristic than any of the other camps. That at the Upper Dam makes many pretensions to elegance, but the pretense and elegance of the hackneyed summer resorts are out of place in the woods. Camp Bema is in keeping with its surroundings. Half-a-dozen rough log-cabins, with nearly as many more framed and boarded, crown a knoll rising from the water's edge. A pathway from the show leads through a great gray boulder cleft in two.

A sketch of Cleft Rock:

Cleft Rock

In the immediate vicinity are Long Pond and Bemis Ponds, just a few of the many found throughout the region. There are so many ponds that they appear to have actually run out of names for them, substituting letters of the alphabet ultimately. One of the more well known of those is "B" Pond, connected by a tributary to Lake Umbagog. It used to be accessible only via a "swing bridge" over the raging Rapid River, and affair where the angler sits in a chair and pulls himself across via a pulley system. There is a fly named for "B" Pond:

"B" Pond. I've done the version from Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies.

B Pond

There seemed to be something in the air around Bema Stream, maybe its seclusion from the more traveled areas of Upper Dam, but after a few weeks in the woods at Camp Bema, some crazy adventures invariably took place. The Rangeley Lakes could become very dangerous in a hurry, with storms and high winds blowing up at a moment's notice. Fishermen had figured out that the fishing was pretty good when these storms were about, and Edward Seymour tells of his boat capsizing in the middle of one of them:

Confident in my own swimming powers, I called to my guide, as soon as I came to the surface and grasped hold of the boat, that I could take care of myself, and not to be alarmed on my account. But a desperate series of flounderings on his part indicated to me what I had never before supspected, that, notwithstanding the fact that he had been a guide upon these waters for thirty years, HE COULD NOT SWIM A STROKE.

Ultimately the guide hauled himself up on the bow of the now inverted boat, while Mr. Seymour, in heavy clothing (it was September), clung to the side and was towed ashore by another boat in the vicinity. The gear that had gone to the bottom was retrieved the next day, and all ended well.

In another incident, Mr. Seymour was fishing with Mr. Page and Mr. Crounse, who were part of the group that owned the land in the vicinity, each in their own boat with a guide. Mr. Page, a New York gentlemen, was hosting the get together, and had limited his own fishing so that others could have the fun. Late in the day a rise was spotted and Page, who hadn't caught a fish, exclaimed "That's my trout!" and had his guide take him over to the spot. Within a cast or two he had a large fish on, and an epic battle began. The fish appeared to be towing the boat at one point, and neither it nor Page would yield. It eventually began to get dark, and the two other boats reeled in and the occupants decided to go over to Page's boat, now a half mile away, and get in on the fun. Page was winning the war, and when they got over there they found the trout sulking:

Settling again to the bottom, he had apparently made up his mind to stay there; but the gentle, steady persuasion of the faithful seven-ounce Murphy split bamboo fly rod again proved too much for him, and straining his tackle to the utmost, Mr. Page brought his victim gradually toward the surface. The three boats had now come so close together that the fish was shut in on all sides. But it had become so dark that it was difficult to discern objects with any distinctness, and to shed all the light we could upon the puzzling problem which was at last approaching solution, we got together all the matches we had with us, and made in each boat a miniature bonfire. Soon a commotion upon the surface of the water showed that the crtitical moment had arrived. There, with his back fin as erect as ever, was a magnificent trout, which was soon in the landing net, and in a moment after in the boat, after precisely and hour and a half of its steady and persistent a fight as ever made for life. But his capture was a full reward for all the time and trouble it had cost, since he weighted by the scales full seven pounds.

Matching for Trout

There was much fun to be had in those days, as there is now. I've had a look at the area via aerial maps on-line, and it still looks pretty wild, though there are some roads in the vicinity now. And we can always have a good time tying the flies from the hayday of the brook trout. Here are the recipes for Beamis Stream and "B" Pond:

Beamis Stream from J. Edson Leonard's Flies

    Tail: Brown mallard and golden pheasant tippet

    Ribbing: Gold tinsel

    Body: Claret dubbing

    Hackle: Brown tied palmer

    Wing: Brown turkey, brown mallard splits

"B" Pond from J. Edson Leonard's Flies

    Tip: Gold tinsel

    Tail: Gray mallard

    Ribbing: Gold tinsel

    Body: Scarlet 1/2 fore, yellow 1/2 aft

    Hackle: Scarlet, yellow over

    Wing: Gray mallard

    Note: The tip is not mentioned in Leonard's book, but is clearly shown in Mary Orvis Marbury's Favorite Flies.

Credits: Trout-Fishing in the Rangeley Lakes by Edward Seymour, article from Scribner's Monthly Vol. XIII. February, 1877 No. 4; Richardson and Rangeley Lakes Illustrated by Charles A. J. Farrar; Flies by J. Edson Leonard; Trout by Ray Bergman; Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury; Outing Volume Vlll Issue 3 June 1886 "Trout Fishing In Maine" by Ripley Hitchcock; ~ EA

About Eric:

Eric Eric lives in Delaware, Ohio and fishes for brown trout in the Mad River, a beautiful spring creek. More of his flies are on display here: Traditionalflies.com -- Classic salmon and trout flies of Europe and the Americas.

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