The Global FlyFisher
Simply the Best Place to go for Online Fly Fishing and Fly Tyinghttp://globalflyfisher.com/tie-better-writings/buying-some-schwiebert-flies
Buying some Schwiebert flies
A story about a group buying some of the Ernie Schwiebert fly collection.
I am not really sure what the best definition of a collector is. Maybe somebody who owns more stuff than somebody else, or perhaps somebody who owns valuable stuff. Or in my case it is usually owning something that nobody else really wants. A serious collector, now there's a loaded question. Serious means - I guess - you want somebody else to really like the stuff you keep.
So I never
started out wanting to be a serious collector. I never much cared about the "wow" value, the "I have this and you don't" thing. Over the years friends have given me flies or I go to a show and see something that grabs my eye so I get it. More often than not I feel compelled to support some of those around me. I often think if I buy something, well it encourages those that make nice things to make some more.
Buying old stuff
is sort of a disease. You get something because well they can't make anymore and there is a limited amount of this stuff available. I guess that's the logic I've used.
What trips my trigger?
I'm not really sure.
I don't much care about cane rods. These things generally feel really clunky, slow and heavy to me. Sure, some of them look nice, but to me they are mostly just old, boring pieces of wood that don't have much appeal to me. Old fishing reels? Ewww! 99% of the ones I see are these fossilized old things that were beat to crap and are now called vintage.
Now that is an entirely different matter!
Owning flies doesn't take up much space. Once in awhile you also get to hold a really famous guy's handiwork in your hand. You can see how something was made, enjoy the fly itself and in some insane fits of stupidity you can actually take it fishing. I suppose some place in this world is a person that actually fished that set of Dette or Darbee dry flies, tossed a few Dave Whitlock hoppers, used a Megan Boyd salmon fly and even trolled with a real Carrie Stephens streamer.
I once heard
a story of about a lady that bought some very expensive salmon flies. She called a very famous salmon tyer and asked her to tie some flies. When she asked how much they were, she was told $150 each, she said while that sounded a little high, please send her three. About a week later the lady called back and asked for another one of those pretty blue ones because her husband caught a very large bass with that one and wanted another since it worked so well. The tyer didn't have the heart to tell her that these were collectable flies, not really fishing flies.
Every once in a while
something comes along that you just can't say no to. Like crack to a dope addict, some things are just too cool not to have. I have passed on some things that I am still kicking myself that I didn't buy. A few rods, some interesting vises and even some tying materials. Yep, even a couple of really great flies. Somebody once put 4 Steenrod Light Cahills in my hand but wanted $500 for the lot, so I turned it down.
The 2014 Arts of the Angler Show
is a collectable show that is all about bamboo rods, old books, fly tying and various other angler arts. The Arts show is held in early November at the Ethan Allen Inn in Danbury, CT and is put on by the Catskill Fy Fishing Center. As part of the show several interesting things are included. There is a member book sale in which member books are brought in and put up for sale. You can rummage through these and find the few treasures you didn't know you needed. The show has fly tying demonstrations, talks and programs. There is a meet the author time to visit with a few fly fishing authors.
The Museum also has a collectables voice auction in which items are sold on consignment along with donated items. Some times these are from estates and sometimes they are from folks that want to downsize. The auction can be pretty entertaining and many unusual, interesting and unique items are sold. Over the years I have seen everything from Elise Darbee's cigarette case to Lee Wulff's duffle sold. Also things like flies, rods, paintings, prints vises, rare books, reels, letters and memorabilia are sold. Some fetch big prices, some items are hardly looked at.
This year's 2014 auction
was just as unique as many others in prior years. In this auction, something captured my attention that was quite special, a set of Ernie Schwiebert flies. Several years ago Ernie passed away. Shortly after his death, his family sold of many of Ernie's things through Lang's Auction House.
I couldn't believe how beautiful they were
Lang's is a famous
angling auctioneer and its annual sales are legendary. The auction is held in early November and all sorts of things have been sold by Lang's over the years. Usually, they are angling artifacts that are quite rare, unusual and interesting. During the summer before the fall auction, Lang's representatives were at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center's Summerfest. At this small show they had several boxes of flies, that belonged to Ernie Schwiebert. I got to look at them and I couldn't believe how beautiful they were.
When I saw
the set of Schwiebert flies at this year's Center's auction I knew it was something I had to have. This was a set of 45 dry flies that came directly out of one of Ernie's boxes. These were fishing flies and some of them were obviously used. There was an estimated value which was more than I wanted to spend. Before the bidding started I thought these were going to go pretty high, so I went over to one of my friends and asked him about forming a syndicate to buy the flies. He thought that was a great idea so I approached two others and they said they would be in. Everyone agreed to buy the flies and we had a group. We set a price and agreed that I would bid for the group.
The auction began
and they started bidding on several items. As we went down the list of items sold, I bid on some things with the idea that perhaps I would resell them. I had a maximum value I thought I wanted to pay and as things bid, I mostly didn't get the prices I wanted to pay so I passed. Bidding usually works like that. Often you get what you want, sometimes you don't. In my book it is important not to exceed the value you think is important for the items you are bidding on. I've sometimes overpaid what I thought the item was worth and I also go some real deals I was able to sell later.
They finally got down
to the Schwiebert flies. They started bidding and I bid a number below our maximum and auctioneer Jim Krul said well, that wasn't enough, there was a minimum. I bid up to our maximum and it fell short of the floor established by the owner. The flies were pulled but not sold. I later talked it over with our group and nobody wanted to pay the base value for the flies. I found out who the owner was and it was Bernie Miller, a very avid collector from the Catskills, who owns some very nice things. Well, I thought that was about the end of the auction and buying the flies.
I got home
from the show and a few days later, a member of our group, Dave Brandt, called me and told me if I wanted into the group, we could buy the flies at a price higher than what we originally wanted to pay but he found a 5th member and the price would be around $15 a fly. So I thought about and said, yep I'm in.
One of the keys
to buying any collectable is the provenance. The best is a signed business card or signed card by the maker, owner or the fly tyers. Lots of times this is a bit weak since the person has passed away or there isn't an actual card. With this set of flies there was no actual card from Ernie. Nothing signed and no note of any kind.
We had the catalog that the flies were listed under along with a statement from the buyer indicating that he bought from the estate at the auction. Also 3 members of our group were members of Catskill Fly Tyer's Guild and a few were former trustees and current trustees of the Catskill Fly Fishing Center. The other members of the group were certain that the majority of these flies were indeed tied by Ernie, although a few of the flies were a bit suspect. This was about as much of an authority group as I think you could ever have. The majority of the members were fairly certain that these flies were Ernie's. We also had a letter indicated that these came from Lang's and the estate. The picture and caption in the original Lang's catalog, indicated they were from the estate. The owner also indicated that the entire box was just as it was when he bought it, that nothing had been changed or altered.
We set a date
to sort out the flies which was the following week during the International Fly Tying Symposium when all of us would be at the show. Everyone was to bring their share of the money. Dividing up the flies and choosing who gets what fly was quite entertaining. We all meet in my hotel room at the Double Tree Inn after the show closed on Saturday. We set some limits and had to decide a picking order. Dave Brandt came up with the idea of match sticks of various lengths. We each choose a match and based on the match's length was the order you would pick with the shortest going first and the longest going last. Dave would also pick for the 5th person not attending.
We also decided
to pull the least desirable flies from the box first. Those would be the ones that had damaged hackle , were sort of smashed or clearly fished with and ones that perhaps the dubbing was coming apart. We set those aside and left those flies for the final pick. Choosing flies was a bit like watching one of the scenes from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In one of ending scenes Indy has to choose a goblet that is the actual Holy Grail that Jesus drank from at Passover before he passed away.
"Choose wisely", were the instructions from the Knight to Indy. So it was with the people in our group selecting flies.
"No you touched that one, you keep it!"
"Pick that one " (so I can have another).
"No don't pick that one, I wanted it."
"Or well Bamboo Mike isn't here so I guess he gets that one."
We each were like giddy school boys, on Christmas opening up our gifts.
Well, we had 8 rounds
of picking and a final round of the flies that were the lest desirable. Each member looked at the flies closely, with one person using a magnifier to examine the flies. Still another looked at each very closely. Some specifically wanted only flies tied on up eye hooks since Ernie was well known to have a love of up eyed dry hooks. I tried to choose flies that were unique, different and unlike all the others. Two of my flies still had small bits of monofilament in the eyes, even though they had down eyes I thought they made them more real and honest knowing that these had been fished with.
Finally, we got to the last round. I asked for a fly that wasn't very nice looking but it was one of a kind in this box. It was a very large Haystack or Comparadun fly that had been fished with. The hair was bent, the tails were offset and it was in bad shape for a collectable fly. I wanted that one since it was the only hair wing fly in the box. I also got some Hendricksons and some of other dries I thought were pretty cool.
All in all,
it could not have been a more fun evening. Choosing flies, telling stories, guessing and dreaming where Ernie used these or when he fished these. With a few you wondered what size fish he caught on them or if these were ones that landed some big trout in Patagonia or the Catskills. While these were very expensive flies, I have paid much for only one or 2 flies. Each is a prize and special. Glad I have my small collection and I am not sure if I'll mount them just yet. Eventually, I'll put them in a box. The others in our group were quite pleased and we also decided to sell the wood collector box the flies came in to Dave Brandt for his efforts. Dave paid each of us for the box as he wanted it to use for some old reels he had.
Thanks to Dave Brandt, John Shaner, Dave Catizone, Catskill Mike. I now own my own set of Ernie Schweibert flies. I had a great time. I hope you enjoy your flies. Next time if you want to buy a set of flies, think about creating a group to buy them.