Another entry in the continuing series of features highlighting the flies of the founders of the art of streamer tying. Bert Quimby is not as well known as many, but his flies are just as beautiful and original.
Although their popularity may have waned since their heyday in the 1940's and 50's, the Green Ghost, Lady Ghost and York's Kennebago are flies that are firmly cemented in streamer fly history. While his streamers are often wallet-mates of quintessential patterns by famed creators such as Carrie Stevens and Herb Welch, the aforementioned patterns' originator, Bert Quimby, does not share the same legendary status as those two streamer luminaries. As is commonly the case with fly pattern history, the longevity and wide acceptance of a pattern or patterns does not ensure that its creator will be as easily remembered as his creations - especially as time advances. Such seems to be the case with Mr. Quimby. Yet, looking back, it is plainly obvious that Bert Quimby had his finger on the pulse of northeastern streamer development and influenced it to a degree that few today may realize.
Bert Quimby worked as a guide, camp manager and newspaper reporter, a vocation shared by some fellow streamer notables such as Gene Letourneau. It was while working as a reporter that Quimby first met Ai Wellington Ballou - generally acknowledged as the father of the marabou streamer. Why exactly Bert was at the mouth of the Songo River on Sebago Lake is unclear, but this meeting may have had a profound impact on not only Quimby's life, but also Maine streamer history in general. For Ballou not only went on to coach Bert Quimby on the finer points of fishing, but more importantly, also gave him his indoctrination into the craft of fly tying. A rather fortunate set of circumstances for other Maine anglers to come, both prominent and otherwise, as well as for us today.
From South Windham, Maine, where he resided, Bert Quimby would not only generate his own streamer designs, but would also have a hand in many other soon-to-be-well-known patterns. As for his own flies, he is perhaps best known for the Green Ghost and Lady Ghost. The Green Ghost is thought to have evolved from a melding of Carrie Stevens' Gray Ghost and the interest in green-winged streamers of the day, attributed to the popularity of the Dr. Sanborn's Nine-Three. Both the Green and Lady Ghosts were chiefly known and used as trolling flies during that time. It has been said that in Maine during the 1940's and 1950's, the Lady Ghost was considered by many to be an indispensable pattern.
Quimby also cast forth some other intriguing streamer 'apparitions' - his Galloping Ghost, which sports a wing of Bali duck, and a Silver Ghost (shown in the accompanying photo), which is attributed to Quimby by Harold Smedley in his book "Fly Patterns and Their Origins." (Smedley, however, also makes mention of a Red Ghost and Kennebago Special by Mr. Quimby, but this is likely erroneous as those patterns are generally accepted to be originated by Ray Salminen and Bill Edson, respectively.) There were, of course, his less 'ghostly' streamers as well. The York's Kennebago, perhaps Quimby's third most recognized pattern, was named for T. Lewis York of York's Camps. This handsome, badger-winged streamer was developed to imitate a baitfish of Kennebago Lake - perhaps dace or possibly a Lake Chub, which possesses similar dace-like characteristics. Bert himself particularly favored the Lady Ghost and York's Kennebago over his other patterns. Most of his flies were tied on looped-eye Allcock 2811 hooks, a common favorite among streamer tyers of that time.
Additionally, Quimby created his Dusty Streamer (first tested on Moosehead Lake), the Governor Brann (for which he tied and presented the pattern to the former Maine Governor at the Sportsmen's Show in Boston), tied the first Nimrod Bucktail for its pattern originator Henry Beverage (then fishing editor of the Portland Press Herald) and perhaps originated the Ross McKenney (named for the popular Maine guide). Quimby is also credited with assisting Chief Needahbeh in the development of his namesake bi-plane streamer. Bert was the Chief's main source for this pattern, though Needahbeh stated that Quimby eventually tied and preferred his own Chief Needabeh variation, using only yellow hackles as opposed to the original combination of red and yellow.
Given the extent of Mr. Quimby's involvement and contributions discussed above, we might now view his patterns with renewed interest. Members of the Streamers@ email discussion group have recreated these streamers here, serving as either an introduction or a call to revisit, in the hopes that you might be stirred to tie and fish them. A reference list for Bert Quimby's patterns is also given below.