Mike Schmidt is the owner of
Choice flies. He was been featured on this site tying the
Katydid, and provided two
installments of our popular Fly Box Porn
series. Mike is a great fly fisherman and a talented fly tier. We
caught up with him at a local "Tie and Lie" event at Buffalo Mountain
Coffee Shop in Cincinnati, where we filmed him tying some classic winged
wets. In this video Mike ties the challenging married wing
This history of the
Parmachene Belle is a nearly palpable thing. Nick Karas wrote a
fascinating book, Brook Trout (The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-58574-733-5),
where he explored the ties to North American history and the life story of
the most colorful of our cold water citizens. In the book Karas tells
the story of how Dr. Cook landed one of angling's most legendary record
fish; a 14½ pound brookie on the Nipigon
River caught at the end of the 19th Century. Karas cites Ray DuPuis, a
gentleman who knew the guides who actually led Cook to the giant fish
personally and interviewed them about the event years later. He says "DuPuis's
interview with Lexie [Ray Lexie, the Ojibway Indian who led the Cook
party] revealed that the doctor and his friends - another physician as
well as two dentists - were fishing with Parmachene Belle and Silver Doctor
patterns. Cook used an 8-ounce bamboo fly rod. The fish was
caught late in the evening at Rabbit Rapids, also known as McDonald Rapids.
It was tough fishing because the shore was lined with big boulders and the
water along shore was shallow- only 1 to 2 feet deep until one reached the
big circulating pool."
The Parmachene Belle,
named for Parmachene Lake, continued to be popular through the years, having
been a top pattern in the late 1800's. Again from Karas; "Fly
fishermen seek their own Holy Grail: the Perfect Fly, one tha will catch
fish on every cast and under every condition. to this end, thousands
upon thousands of fly patterns evolved over the last centruy, yet the quest
remains unsatisfied. One man did come close, at least for awhile. He was
Henry P. Wells... Wells's favorite fly, and that of many of his
contemporaries, was the Parmachene Belle."
More than half a
century later, Ray Bergman wrote in his 1964 opus Trout (Alfred A.
Knopf), "In my opinion it is the popular fly substituting for the
colorful paired fins of the brook trout, which have always been a killing
bit of bait...Often I have used it with good effect when the water has been
high and slightly discolored."
proportions and pleasant, contrasting colors of the Parmachene Belle have
kept the pattern alive well past its 100th birthday, and it seems as though
this fly will be with us for decades to come. The traditional wet flies have
enjoyed a series of renaissance moments, most recently with the work of Dave
Hughes and Don Bastian. The lovely and classic Parmachene Belle nearly
always makes the lists, and why shouldn't it? The married quill wings
are the very essence of tradition, reaching back to the salmon and sea trout
roots of the British Isles. The red and white color pattern is a still
a standard fish killer found on everything from the Daredevel spoon to the
MirroLure plug. The sparse life of the fly is delivered by its smart
use of materials that sparkle, glow and breathe. This is a fly that
catches as many fish today as it did in the days of the Westward Expansion.
Tie a few and put them into your fly book, you'll be happy you did!
Hook: Daichi 1530 Wet Fly Hook, sizes 6
Butt: Peacock herl
Thread: Black 70 denier, 8/0
Body: Yellow floss
Rib: Small, flat silver tinsel.
Married white over red duck quill
Hackle: Mixed red and white hackle
Wing: Married white over red over white
Head: Black thread coated with a
high-gloss finish consisting of three coats of black Pro-Lak head cement