Here's a little snippet from a letter by C.B. Burnham
written to Mary Orvis Marbury for the Canada and New
Brunswick section of Favorite Flies:
"On one occasion, while fishing with a companion from a
oat, my chum struck a three-pound trout, a fine fellow,
which gave fine sport. We had broken the staff of our
landing-net, and the problem was how to land the fish.
A shotgun, which was a component of our outfit, was
loaded and in the boat; at the proper moment, while my
companion handled the fish, I saluted the trout by
discharging a load of shot at his head, and by that
means saved the fish."
I'm not sure "saved" is a word I might have used. A
surer method of landing a fish has yet to be developed
to this day. The term "shooting fish in a barrel" leaps
to mind. It is important to remember here that catch and
release is a relatively new concept, and this incident
happened in the mid 1800s. It was a different day, to
So how does this week's fly fit into all this? Well, it
doesn't really, other than the Raven was quite a popular
fly in Canada back in this era, and was used primarily
for black bass. C. W. Bunn writes to Mary the following:
"One more word in regard to flies for black bass fishing,
which may be of interest. I have no hesitation in placing
the Raven at the head of the list, and the Blue Bottle next.
Without exception, where I have seen these flies used they
have taken two to one as many fish as any others, and I have
frequently found black bass rising freely to these flies when
it was almost impossible to allure them with anything else."
And what of the fish dispatched with the shotgun by C. B. Burnham?
I think Edgar Allen Poe said it best: "Quoth the raven, Nevermore."
Here's the recipe:
Credits: Flies by J. Edson Leonard;
Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury.
Wing: Black crow
Body: Black chenille, silver tip.
Tail: Black crow and yellow fiber.
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA