Wes's Comments On these Patterns
As fly fishermen and fly tiers,
we continually search for the best fly for the particular situation.
If someone tells me that fly X is just the one for the Y River in the month
of Z, I search out its pattern, tie it, and give it a try. Sometimes
it works, and sometimes it does not (probably more often the latter).
For me, interest in these flies wax and wane, but I guess that this is
the nature of the sport. It certainly adds to the enjoyment, both
in tying and fishing. The flies, however, that I never lose interest
in are the classics, the ones that have been used widely for many years
and seem to really work, at least some of the time. Moreover, many
of them are beautiful. The Parmacheene Belle is one of these flies.
I don’t care whether or not it catches fish, I simply like it. Having
been born and brought up in Maine, I have a particular interest in those
flies tied for brook trout in Maine. The Parmacheene Belle was first
tied by Henry Wells of Providence, Rhode Island in 1878 (the same year
that the Royal Coachman was first tied) for fishing in the Rangely Region
of western Maine. As Mr. Wells describes it, he and his regular guide,
John Danforth, spent many hours tying and fishing various flies.
Often the fly-tying box is
produced, and the word is, “Well, John, what shall we tease them with this
afternoon?” Thus, on joint suggestion, very many different combinations
have been tried, and so some seven years ago (written in 1885) was the
“Parmacheene Belle” born.
It was supposed by Mr. Wells
that the Parmacheene Belle mimicked a brook trout fin, a popular cut bait
of the time, hence its inclusion in this collection of brook trout patterns.
Its name came from Lake Parmachenee, in northern Oxford County in western
Maine. (I have retained Mr. Wells’ spelling, which varies from the
modern spelling of Parmachenee.) Mr. Wells
liked the Parmacheene Belle
very much and used it most of the time for fishing the area within which
it was derived.
Place the whole catalogue
of known flies on one hand, and this single fly on the other, and force
me to choose and confine myself to the choice, and for fishing in those
waters I would choose the “Parmacheene Belle” every time.
Mr. Wells describes the
fly in his writings, but the first color representation of the Parmacheene
Belle appeared in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories.
Various forms of the fly have been tied over the years, including those
depicted in Bates’ Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing, in H. Clepper’s and
R. Talleur’s magazine articles (listed in the bibliography), and in a number
of books of trout fly patterns. However, I am unsure of what the original
version looked like. Wells’ description does not accurately match
the rendering in Marbury’s book, even though Wells must have shared flies
with C. F. Orvis, who tied the ones illustrated in the book. The
flies tied for this article include one that resembles the C. F. Orvis
version and a “best-guess” original version that combines Wells’ written
description, the Orvis version, and some details mentioned in sections
of Marbury’s book discussing other flies. The “modern” version of
the Parmacheene Belle depicted here is tied after the one in Bates’ book.
Additionally, Bates mentions the tying of a bucktail version. Although
I found no pattern for the bucktail version, I assume that it was tied
much like the one included here. The origin of the Parmacheene Beau
is unclear to me. Bates attributes it to Mr. Wells, and Marbury states
emphatically that it could not have been created by Mr. Wells. To
further complicate the issue, Marbury describes the Beau as a Belle with
jungle-cock-eye cheeks (eyes being clearly ridiculous on fly intended to
imitate a fin), and Bates describes it as a Belle with a silver tinsel
rather than yellow wool body. Regardless, it was derived from the
Parmacheene Belle and very soon after the Belle’s inception.
The Parmacheene Beau represented here is similar to Bates’ version.
- "Modern" Parmacheene Belle
1. Wrap a good
base of thread (8/0) from the eye back to the bend of the hook.
2. Select a matched
pair of red and of white goose shoulder feathers. The two individuals
of each pair will have stems that curve in opposite directions. The
best sections will be those that have long fibers with even ends.
Select 1/16"-wide sections of fibers from the left side on one of the individuals
and from the right side of the other in each pair. You should end
up with two pieces of red and two pieces of white, all similar in size,
except one piece of red and one of white curve one way and the
others curve the opposite
3. When the feather
pieces are tied onto the fly, the ends should curve upward. I will
refer to the orientation of sections as they would appear on the fly.
Of the four pieces of goose feathers, place the red and white pieces with
similar curves together, with the red piece on top. The tips of the
fibers should be even. Stroke these two pieces until the fibers join
(marry) as if they were part of the same feather. You should end
up with two sections, similar in width and each half red and half white.
4. Place these
two sections “back to back,” that is with the tips of both pieces curving
inward and upward and with the tips aligned.
5. Carefully hold
this tail section on top of the hook (the tail length should be about 2/3
of the length of the hook shank). Make a loose wrap of thread.
Pinch the wrap, and hold the feather section very tightly while pulling
upward to tighten it in place. Before letting go, make a few more
similar wraps in front of the first one. Generally, I like to wrap
thread around the but ends of the tail fibers to about 3/16" from the eye.
Doing this makes it easier for me to create an even body.
6. Tie the oval
tinsel and wool yarn on the underside of the hook 3/16" from the eye.
Keeping both underneath, wrap the thread to the point at which the tail
is tied in, being careful not to go behind the first tail wrap. Wrap
the thread back to 3/16" from the eye. Wrap the wool from the tail
to 3/16" from the eye, tie it off, and then rib the body with the oval
tinsel. Tie this material off at 3/16" from the eye.
7. Select red
and white hackle feathers that have fibers about 1.5 times the hook gape.
Tie these in at about 3/16" from the eye, by the tips and with the white
feather on top. Wrap the hackle as you would on a dry fly, first
the white and then the red. Tie these off and stroke the feathers
downward. Wrap thread back over some of the front hackle to make
sure that it angles to the back of the fly. Sometimes, to make this
process easier, I strip the barbules off one side of the feathers.
8. For the wing,
repeat the process described above for the tail, except that the wing will
have a white section on top. Also, each section should be about 1/8"
wide. The tip of the wing should be approximately even with the tip
of the tail. Before tying this in, I switch to 6/0 thread.
I have a difficult time making this stay upright without holding the wing
very tightly, and pulling the tying thread very hard, thus requiring the
stronger thread. After tying the wing in place, make sure to wrap
enough of the ends so that trimming the but ends of the fibers does not
move the wing.
9. If a smaller
head is desired, switch back to 8/0 thread at this point and finish the
head. Apply a penetrating head cement, and finish with a glossy cement,
like black Cellire.
Tying the Alternatives
The Orvis version of the Parmacheene
Belle was tied much the same as the “modern” version described above.
I tied it on a Mustad 36890 (#6) salmon hook, because I did not have any
blind eye hooks. Of what I had available, the salmon hook best matched
the hooks used in the late 1800's. This version included a peacock
herl butt tied in before the body was wrapped.
Yellow mohair was used to
wrap the body, rather than wool. The mohair was clipped a bit after
wrapping. The body was ribbed with flat silver tinsel. Each
side of the wing has only two sections (red over white), rather than three.
Red thread (Uni-Thread 8/0) was used, and the head was lacquered with clear
The “original” version is much
like the Orvis version. I did not include the peacock herl butt,
and the wing was not made of married sections. It was tied on as
two matched, wide, white sections and a thin red section held on each side.
After tying the wing on, it was split. Marbury suggests that Wells preferred
the wing to be split. I used black thread (Uni-thread 8/0) and black
Cellire to finish the head.
The bucktail version was tied
on a Tiemco TMC 300 (#6) hook. The body was constructed of yellow
wool wrapped with oval silver tinsel, and the throat was mixed red and
white hackle fibers. The wing has three equal portions of bucktail,
white over red over white. The head was finished with black thread
(Uni-thread 8/0) and black Cellire.
The Parmacheene Beau was tied
in a similar manner to that described above for the Belle. The only
variation is in the body. Rather than wool, the body was wrapped
with flat silver tinsel ribbed with oval silver tinsel. Otherwise the fly
is the same.
Bates, J. D., Jr. 1995.
Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA.
Clepper, H. 1973. Homage
to a Trout Fly. Trout 14(1):10-11, 34, 36.
Marbury, M. O. 1892.
Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
Schullery, P. 1999.
Royal Coachman, The Lore and Legends of Fly Fishing. Simon & Schuster,
Talleur, R. 1995. The
Belle of Lake Parmachenee. American Angler 18(6):60-63.
Wells, H. P. 1885. Fly-rods
and Fly-tackle, Suggestions as to Their Manufacture and Use. Harper
& Brothers, New York.
Wells, H. P. 1889. Fly
Fishing for Trout in the Rangely Region. p. 87-99. In: C. F.
Orvis and A. N. Cheney. Fishing with the Fly. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.