The Hamlin is a fly that was named for S.S Hamlin, a fly fisherman featured in a book
called Bodines; of Camping on the Lycoming. The author, Thad S. Up De Graff, M.D.,
is widely thought to be the inventor of the fly, but it may have been Hamlin himself. Let me tell
you a little bit about Bodines.
I've been aware of this book for some time, mention of it having been made in Mary Orvis Marbury's
Favorite Flies. It finally became available to me, and it's quite a hoot. Basically,
it's a detailed account of a camping trip, or perhaps several trips blended into one narrative,
made by Thad Up De Graff and his partner in crime Hamlin, to the wilds of Pennsylvania in the 1870s.
Hamlin is the experienced expert fly fisherman, and catches fish like crazy wherever they go. De Graff is
in awe of his abilities, but over the course of the book becomes adept himself.
So what, you may ask, are the Bodines? I myself thought they were a small mountain range somewhere
in Appalachia, but no, they are not. They are a family that is settled throughout the region in which
these gentlemen fish, and a little Googling proved to me that they are still there. The book is
named for the family, who helped De Graff and Hamlin out early in their experiences.
The book begins with a chapter on equipment needed for one of these safaris, including detailed
instructions on how to make a tent. You didn't just go out and buy a tent in those days, you made
one out of dry goods. You also, if serious about the thing, made your own rod as well, and there is
a great discussion of wood preference in this chapter. Bamboo doesn't fare very well, as it takes a
set and doesn't hold up well to the rigors of camping, at least, not camping the way these guys do it.
In any case, eventually you get to the On the Stream chapter, where the beauties
of our pasttime are described in vivid detail. De Graff describes a full day camping here, and it's
a wonderful chapter. After fishing all day, the gentlemen are in their hammocks, smoking pipes and
chatting. They take to the canoe after 5pm, and this scene ensues:
Floating listlessly along in the cool shade of the great mountain, how peacefully quiet is all nature
about us! not a breath of air ruffles the fair pool or disturbs a leaf on the hillside. Even the
birds are quiet, for they, too, are taking their evening siesta. Silently the shadows are creeping
up the sides of the western mountain, the sombre hues below intensifying the brilliancy of the grand old
hemlocks lighted up with the golden rays of the setting sun. Soon they, too, fall into shadow, and then we
bestir ourselves to throw for the large trout, now upon the lookout for the multitude of flies and
moths that disport themselves upon the surface of the water as the evening shadows entice them out.
We have not long to wait, for just under a shelving rock a "bright fox" has fallen into the water
and is flapping his gauzy wings right vigorously to regain the airy regions. Immediately we see a boiling
in the smooth water, which sends out circle after circle of gentle wavelets until broken against the
sides of our canoe. I turn the bow, and, with a light sweep of the paddle, place my companion within reaching
distance of the spot. One throw of his graceful line, and, before the deceptive fly fairly light upon
the water, the old trout has left his retreat and bounded into the air, grasping the morsel within
I've done two Bright Foxes above, the first one from Mary
Orvis Marbury, the second Ray Bergman. They
were part of a group of flies representing the family Ephemeridae,
order Neuroptera, which included the Dark Fox, Poor Man's Fly,
Red Fox and Bright Fox. They appear in the middle of April and
hatch all summer, leaving me to guess that these are sulphurs in
today's verbiage. There was no real classifications regarding
specific American mayflies back then, just sort of nebulous
generalities. The descriptions I've found of some insects are from
Sarah J. McBride in the book Sportman's Gazetteer
by Charles Hallock, published in 1880.
Getting back to Bodines, much of the book
includes the humor and high jinx that always seem to be a part
of these camping trips. One chapter is called "Fly Casting for Trout,
Squirrels, Deer, and other Game". You can see where this is going.
Hamlin would cast at or for anything within the range of his line, and
as he was an expert caster, would typically hook whatever it was,
reptile, mammal, or fowl. Now if I didn't have a friend and fishing
companion, who shall remain nameless (Bruce Copeland), I
might have found Hamlin's hooking of a deer far fetched. However,
since I've seen Bruce in action for many years now, I completely
believe these stories, as crazy as they may seem. Here's an artist's
interpretation of Hamlin hooking, and not landing, a deer.
Here's the exchange between De Graff and Hamlin after the deer got off:
"...well, confound him! He didn't get my reel, anyhow!"
I must say something in defense of my friend Bruce here, and I
will stipulate that, to my knowledge, he's never hooked a deer.
But on the other hand, you put a bison in a stream with Bruce,
and he'll be casting for it.
"Why didn't you give him the butt?" I inquired.
"Gracious! I gave him all my line and leader; I thought that
enough for one time."
"If you could only have held him a little longer, I might have had
my landing-net under him."
Bodines, by today's standards, is not the epitome
of political correctness. But it was a different time, and one must
judge it by those standards, not today's. There is some out and out
racism at times, and some real condescension regarding the poor dirt
farmers of the area. But get past that and it's a marvelous look at camping,
with all the kidding around that goes on between friends, and
great homage paid to the beauty and wonder of the experience.
Thad S. Up De Graff, M.D. pays tribute to his long-time friend in
the beginning of the book with a full-page inscription:
To S.S. Hamlin, Esq., My Constant Companion in he Scenes
Herein Described, IN MEMORY OF THE MANY HAPPY DAYS
IN CAMP AND STREAM This volume is affectionately inscribed by
his friend, THE AUTHOR. Elmira, Jun, 1879.
As solitary a pursuit as fly fishing may be, the friendships made
along the way are everything.
Bright Fox One
Body: Fox dyed yellow, picked out
Wing: Slate gray duck
Bright Fox two
Tip: Gold tinsel
Tail: Brown hackle
Body: Yellow floss
Hackle: Brown hen
Credits: Bodines by Thad S. Up De Graff, M.D.;
Sportman's Gazetteer by Charles Hallock;
Flies by J. Edson Leonard; Trout by Ray Bergman;
Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury;
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.