trout fin kineoGuest Blogger: Eunan Hendron, Eunan blogs @ Addicted to Vise
Trout Fin Flies accurately represent the pectoral (and other) fins of, in my opinion, the most beautiful of the trout species, Salvelinus fontinalis, the veritable Brook Trout. In times of told, fishermen used to clip the fins off brook trout and impale them on hooks as bait. I suppose as time went on, the ingenuity of the fly fisherman took over and he developed wet flies to imitate the brook trout fin using dyed feathers. When I first saw these flies, I was immediately enamored with them, and since then I’ve tied them many times over, for myself and for other collectors.
I know of the trout fin series mainly from online forums and from a set tied by Don Bastian. Traditionally they’re tied on smaller hooks as pictured, but it is the larger set I recently tied that I like somewhat better than the smaller flies for display purposes. I tied these larger flies on vintage Mustad hooks size 1, the smaller on vintage Mustad Limericks size 7. The wings are slightly different, and the discerning eye will notice they are not flared as is the case with the wings on the smaller flies. This is due to the curvature difference between duck quills and the goose shoulder used on the larger flies. Furthermore, I tied the larger flies in a reverse wing ‘style’ common on so many earlier vintage flies. They are not tied in true reverse wing fashion, but rather to have the same appearance as a reverse wing fly. Reverse wing method is perhaps a topic for another post!Trout fins J Stockard2In all there are 6 trout fin flies: Bergman Fontinalis, Fontinalis Fin, Brook Fin, Brookie Fin, Trout Fin and Olive Trout Fin. I know only of the origin of the last. It was designed by Don Bastian, and you could probably guess that the Bergman Fontinalis was designed by (or perhaps, for) Ray Bergman. But, regardless the origin of the flies, I think they are one of the most visually striking sets of flies one could tie. Not only that, they are very effective fishing flies too!! Interestingly, the Kineo wet fly can also be considered a family member of this series, and I tied a larger version to go with the others.
Beyond the traditional wet fly, there is also a set of streamers in Joseph D Bates book, Streamer Flies and Fishing, that are modeled on trout fins, and are aptly named – Red Trout Fin (for fishing in Canada), Orange Trout Fin, Orange Trout Fin Variant, and Harlequin. The last is quite interesting, in that it includes neither orange nor red in the pattern, but instead has a wing of blue, white and black. Furthermore, the Harlequin wet fly from Bergman’s book, Trout, has no similarity to the streamer at all, nor indeed the Trout Fin wet flies, and so I have not included the Harlequin wet fly with the Trout Fin set. While I have tied these in the past, I think it’s time they were retied again, perhaps for a follow up post to this one!
My primary reason for posting these flies is to display their beauty, and I’ll admit I’ve not done extensive research in to the origin of each pattern. My passion is purely in the tying and visual representation of the flies rather than the historical provenance of each fly, though I do try to remember and share any information I come across on my travels through the internet.
Throughout my upcoming regular contributions to the J Stockard blog series, I’ll mostly be presenting classic style flies: Atlantic Salmon Flies, Winged wet flies, Rangeley style streamer, perhaps some dry flies, and finally some creative flies from my own imagination, as well as some information on technical aspect of fly tying, including the use of wax, dyeing of materials and simple techniques to maximizing your time at the vise.
I hope you will enjoy the ride…
Eunan

2 Comments

  1. The “Fin Fly” simulating a trout fin was mentioned in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book Favorite Flies and Their Histories (1892).
    “Albert Walker, of Bennington, Vt., is a brisk, cheerful old gentleman, delighting in ‘all outdoors,’ and who ‘goes a-fishing’ once or twice a year, when the season first opens, with all the enthusiasm of a boy running away from school with a bent pin and piece of twine. One day, in the year 1882, when the apple-trees were growing pink, forgetting their years and gnarled joints, he came hurrying into the fly-room, in his hand his ‘pole,’ as he had called it for over seventy years, and ‘now didn’t propose to change its name,’ saying: ‘I want you to make me a fly to catch fish. I don’t want any of your fancy notions ; when I go a-fishing, I go to bring home something besides stories, and if you will make a fly just as I tell you I ‘ll show you some fish worth seeing. I have always used a Coachman, and fastened to it a bit of the fin of the fish, and I want a fly to take the place of that. Make it just like the Coachman ; only make the body of a soft red shade, as near the color of a fish’s fin as you can get it. ’The ‘fish-fin bait’ was an old idea, but a fly made to represent it and the Coachman together was a new one. The flies were made on No.6 and 7 hooks, and the old gentleman went off exulting to the river-side to prove his theories. His prophecy of a good catch came true, and he yet relies upon the Fin fly, which he declares ought to do away with all other patterns.” Mary Orvis Marbury, 1892
    There is a color drawing of the fly on Plate P

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