Hairwing Flies

Silver Down East
Created and tied by Phil Foster*


    Hook: Partridge CS10/1.

    Thread: Black.

    Tag: Flat gold tinsel.

    Tail: GP.

    Butt: Black Ostrich.

    Body: Silver flat tinsel.

    Rib: Silver oval tinsel.

    Collar: Orange hackle pulled back.

    Wing: Russian Red Squirrel tail. The color is reddish brown and was originally reddish Fitch tail but is nearly impossible to find today.

    Head: Black.

And the Rest of the Story

"On one of my Salmon fishing excursions in Down East Maine, I saw a chap named Henry Dowling take a nice fish at the dam at Whitneyville on the Machias River. Taking the opportunity to talk with him later, he showed me the fly that took that fish. Simplicity personified and, with no name. Just some Red Squirrel tail hair for a wing with a gray body, that's all! Later on, after I had moved to Aroostook County, I came up with a pattern based on Henry's creation. I dressed the fly with an oval silver tag, Golden Pheasant crest tail, black Ostrich herl butt and, flat silver tinsel body ribbed with oval silver. The wing was of reddish Fitch tail with an orange hackle tied collar style pulled back and, black head.

I used the fly extensively on the St. John and, took a lot of fish with it. I named it the Silver Down Easter. I subsequently did a variation with a gray floss body ribbed with fine silver oval tinsel and called it the Down East Special. In retrospect, I suppose I should have called them Dowling Specials 1 and 2. Years later, after I had returned to Farmington, Colonel Joe Bates, the retired army officer turned writer, called me to inquire if I was interested in tying some flies for him that would be featured in a forthcoming book he was working on. The book, Atlantic Salmon Flies and Fishing, is now out of print and, is a valuable collector's item.

The Colonel came to my home and over a period of three days, I tied some 36 different Salmon flies with the promise that there would be a full page of color photos of some of the flies featured in his book. After the book was published, he sent me an autographed copy of the limited edition. Included was a bill for $13.00! There were photos of just five of my flies in the book but, it did get me some business. But, the Colonel had 31 of my ties that went into his personal fly book. What really galled me about the whole affair was the fact that he gave credit for the Silver Down East Special to some Tyer on the Mirimachi. I inquired about it later and the Colonel's reply to me was, "As Mae West said, 'I'm not here to argue'".

Colonel Bates' daughter called me in early 1993 and informed me that she was in the process of updating her father's book and would I be interested in helping. I informed her of the problems encountered when her father did the original and would only be interested if the inaccuracies regarding the two flies mentioned were corrected. They weren't!"

*About Phil Foster

Phil was born in 1927 in Maine. His dad, Herb Foster introduced Phil to the resources to be found in the area, hunting, fishing, trapping and guiding at an early age. Phil started tying flies at the age of 9. Over the years, Phil has led a life that has been close to the outdoors and, all that it offers. He has guided for fishing and hunting. He has also tied flies commercially for Abercrombie and Fitch, William Mills and Sons, Orvis, LL Bean and other lesser known tackle houses.

In 1997, Phil self published a little book called Grouse Dogs and Salmon Rods, A Master Maine Guide Remembers in which he recalls his life adventures.

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