Our Man In Canada
February 21st, 2000

The Gimp Revisited

Editor, Chris Marshall

By Chris Marshall

The Gimp
In a previous issue of The Canadian Fly Fisher (Fall, 1999), we featured a fly named "The Gimp", which was submitted by Jeff Smith from Canadian Forces Base, Trenton. It was a pattern he had discovered 25 years ago in a pamphlet which came with a fly tying kit. At that point we were unsure of the origin of the fly and asked that any reader who might enlighten us to do so.

The first was a letter from Paul Furminger of St. Catherines, Ontario, who drew our attention to an article by Larry Myhre in Fly Fisherman (April, 1970, Vol. 1, No. 6) entitled 'The Gimp'. Paul summarized the article, which sheds light on the originator and provides tying and fishing instructions.

A couple days later, I received a phone call from Tom Schmuecker of Wapsi Fly, Inc., which not only confirmed what I'd received from Paul, but included some fascinating additional information. Tom followed this up with a series of faxes, including a copy of a much earlier reference to The Gimp in Outdoor Life(November, 1950) by Erwin Sias, one of the two co-authors of Jeff's fly tying kit pamphlet, and a letter (1976) written by the inventor of the fly to Larry Myhre. Thanks to Paul and Tom, we've been able to cobble together the story of The Gimp.

The pattern we provided in the previous issue listed golden pheasant undercoverts for the wing. However, Gee states quite clearly that the original was tied with Lady Amherst pheasant undercoverts. We suspect that The Gimp will work quite well with either.

In his 1970 Fly Fisherman article, Myhre suggests varying the body with fur dubbing or peacock herl, and using black or brown hackle for the tail and wings. They're all worth trying.

The Gimp was created by Lacey Gee of Independence, Iowa. This must have been prior to 1950, as Erwin Sias (Outdoor Life, November, 1950) says that Gee had given him four of them to take on an exploratory expedition to Nebraska earlier that year. In the same article, Sias gives Gee's recipe for The Gimp. Here it is:
A thinly wrapped olive yarn body; short tail of a few medium grey-blue hackle barbs; a 'back' consisting of two tiny, white-tipped, dark-gray feathers from a Lady Amherst's pheasant neck placed flat, one atop the other, with the tips extending to the back of the fly; and more gray-blue hackle sparsely tied at the head.

Sias was editor of The Sioux City Journal, located at the other side of the state of Iowa from Gee in Independence, but they must have been close enough to collaborate on that fly tying kit pamphlet which they co-authored in 1966. They must also have been equally enthusiastic about The Gimp to feature it in that pamphlet.

Enter Larry Myhre. Myhre was the farm editor for the Sioux City Journal at the same time Sias was editor. As a fly fisher, it was inevitable that he would connect with Sias, also a fly fisher. His 1970 Fly Fisherman article is undoubtedly an outcome of that relationship. In fact he states, "the man who introduced me to Gimp fishing was Erwin D. Sias (who) has fished it in other areas and has had reports from other individuals across the United States as well as Alaska. Every report has been favourable."

Myhre draws attention to the features of The Gimp which make it such an effective fly. He claims that the secret of its effectiveness lies in three areas:
"First, most natural nymphs are flat-backed. Second, most nymphs are rather dark-colored with brown backs and a grayish belly. Third, most of them are small in size. The Gimp fits these categories perfectly."

We haven't yet had the chance to try the Gimp during the trout season up here in the Frozen North (except for a few informed fly fishers such as Jeff Smith), but the pattern looks so good (not to mention the glowing reports from south of the border) that we'll be tying up a bunch to try when the season opens in the new millennium.

We're intrigued that what appears to have been such an effective pattern has been ignored by the compilers of fly pattern books. Pity! Here's what the originator, Lacey Gee, has to say in a letter to Larry Myhre in 1976:
"The story of the Gimp: it was discovered more by accident than design. I happened to be packaging Amherst pheasant neck feathers and noticed the little tiny feathers at the base of the big neck feathers. It looked awful fishy and I decided that I would try to make a wet fly or a nymph out of it. The original was made from dun hen hackles. Tail was hackle fibers, body was blue dun wool, two Amherst guard feathers and the hackle wound at the head only a maximum of two turns. I tried them out on our local trout streams and man, did they ever work. So that is more or less the way the little nymph got started. Since then it has caught fish everywhere. One guy told me that if he had just one fly to take out west with him it would be the Gimp".

Unfortunately, Gee is silent on why he chose the name 'Gimp'. Even his close friend and collaborator, Erwin Sias refers to it as 'a new fly of his own pattern which he, for reasons known only to himself, had dubbed 'The Gimp'. (Outdoor Life, 1950).

Lacey Gee is no longer with us, departing this world a couple of years ago in his late eighties. However, his legacy, The Gimp, lives on. Erwin Sias, his collaborator, is also no longer with us. However, Larry Myhre is still farm editor for The Sioux City Journal and, we hope, still casts his line across the waters - no doubt attached to a Gimp.

Lacey Gee was the original owner of Wapsi Fly Company. He sold it to Tom Schmuecker in 1973. However, Gee stayed on, sequestered in an adjacent room (originally a beauty parlour), where he built rods and tied flies - mainly for his own use. Schmuecker, new to the game, spent many hours with Gee, gleaning his years of experience and expertise in the fly tying materials industry. However, in 1978, after providing Gee with a fly-tying room attached to his garage, Schmuecker moved the business to Mountain Home, Arkansas, where it flourishes today as one of North America's major fly tying material producers.

Tom still uses The Gimp. In fact, he claims that on the Norfork River, close to his home, that "it is as good or better than any other sowbug imitation there is."

Winter Issue

We believe that The Gimp could be as good or better than any other imitation not only for sowbugs, but for a whole bunch of other naturals. We're convinced that Myhre would agree with us.~ Chris Marshall

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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