Tomah Joseph, an Algonquin Indian from the Grand Lake Stream area in Maine was a fly fishing and hunting guide in the 1800’s as well as an elder of the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe.

Tomah

He was written of in Charles Stevens book Fly Fishing in Maine Lakes- Camp Life in the Wilderness ‘1881. Stevens wrote that Tomah would accompany him on fishing trips and noted that in casting a fly, I have never seen him excelled and scarcely equaled. In mending rods he is adept. Tomah Jo would always say, “When you come to Maine, bring plenty wood-duck wing fly, yellow body”. Thus the origin of the Tomah Jo Wet Fly, soon to be tied by Sara McBride, the first female commercial fly tyer in America, also illustrated in Charles F. Orvis, Fishing with The Fly ‘1883.

fly

Tomah Joseph was also an accomplished birch bark canoe builder, paddle maker and Algonquin Indian wood art carver.

paddle

A young Franklin D. Roosevelt in his birchbark canoe built by Tomah Joseph Tomah Joseph was a canoeing and fishing companion in the Maine wilderness to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his younger years. Teaching him the traditions and culture of the North Woods Indians and having a major impact on how the future government would treat Native Americans. After becoming President of the United States in 1933, he engaged an act to restore millions of acres of land back to Americas original people.

chuchurchill

Franklin D Roosevelt fishing with Winston Churchill during the onset of WWII

The Tomah Jo wet fly is a beautiful attractor pattern that I have fished with success for brook trout as well as wild brown trout particularly on hook sizes 10-14 in the spring and summer, with larger sizes up to 8-6 working well in late summer and fall. The barred wood duck wing with yellow, red hackle and tail along with the shiny silver body is enticing for even a reluctant trout to let pass by. I have had success in a dead drift as well as on the swing. In late summer I have used this fly while fishing stream banks and below overhanging trees for trout feeding on insects falling into the current.

tohma 2

Tomah Joseph in his birchbark canoe

I hope that you give this beautiful fly a drift downstream and perhaps you will be surprised at how an old Indian guide pattern will bring trout to your net today! Fred Klein

 

Tomah jo fly

Tomah Jo Fly Dressing~ from Ray Bergman’sTrout 1938
Tomah Jo Fly Dressing~ from Ray Bergman’sTrout 1938

Hook: Partridge of Redditch Sproat Wet size 6-4 for brook trout and

salmon, 14-12 for brown trout (up to size 6 in late summer and fall)

Tag: gold tinsel

Tail: two slips of yellow goose shoulder

Butt: peacock herl

Body: silver tinsel

Hackle: yellow and scarlet rooster hackle

Wing: barred wood duck extending past the hook shank

Head: black thread with three coats of brushed lacquer

 

Tying The Tomah Joe wet fly
Tying The Tomah Joe wet fly

Set your hook in the vise, size six is a good size to start with.

Start thread

Start thread wraps with 6/0 thread at the rear of the head and continue to just above the barb of the hook.

Using a pinch grip

Using a pinch grip, tie in yellow goose or turkey fibers about the length of the hook shank. Once the tail is fastened, continue wrapping the rest of the feather to the head and trim off the excess. This helps to build a consistent body.

Continue making thread

Continue making thread wraps to build the thickness of the body. It should be an oval shape when completed

 Return your thread to the rear of the

Return your thread to the rear of the body

 Tie in one to three peacock herl  feathers

Tie in one to three peacock herl feathers

 Wrap the peacock herl forward

Wrap the peacock herl forward about five or six wraps to make the butt of the fly.

Make thread wraps

Make thread wraps to fasten the herl then return the thread to the head.

Tie in 8/0 black thread at the rear

Tie in 8/0 black thread at the rear of where you want the head to terminate

Tie in medium tinsel with the gold side facing the hook

Tie in medium tinsel with the gold side facing the hook

Begin wrapping the tinsel clockwise

Begin wrapping the tinsel clockwise to the peacock herl butt, making your last wrap at the peacock butt

Return the tinsel making even wraps

Return the tinsel making even wraps back to the head. Two layers makes a consistent body,

Tie in yellow and scarlet rooster

Tie in yellow and scarlet rooster hackle extending to the barb of the hook

Fasten the hackle and trim excess.

Fasten the hackle and trim excess.

Clip two matching slips of barred wood duck feathers

Clip two matching slips of barred wood duck feathers and strip excess from the stems. For smaller flies tie in thin strips of wood duck

Hold the wood duck slips on top of the hook shank

Hold the wood duck slips on top of the hook shank with a pinch grip then make two thread wraps to fasten them. Let the bobbin hang, then adjust the feathers until you are satisfied. Continue wrapping toward the eye of the hook to secure.

Trim the stems then begin building the head

Trim the stems then begin building the head with thread wraps from the eye of the hook rearward. Do not make additional thread wraps on the wings to avoid twisting the original placement.

Brush on two to three coats of lacquer

Brush on two to three coats of lacquer with ten minutes of drying time between coats. Give the head adequate drying time before heading to the stream. You are finished!

Fred Klein

My journey in pursuit of trout with the fly began over 42 years ago with an old fly rod and a home made wooden fly vice. What a gift that was. The woods and waters of Pennsylvania, the Appalachian Mountains and beyond have brought a life of admiration for the wilderness, forests, wildlife, and a thirst for “what lies beyond the next bend in the stream and over the mountain".

Fly fishing and the woods life is a lifestyle in which everyday I am involved in tying flies, fly fishing, trapping and hunting.

My primary focus on the art and history of fly tying, which is a n'ch and romantic culmination of woodsmen, artists and literature that lies at the heart of early Amen’can history. The flies from the 1800’s and early 1900’s tell a story of their originators. The men and women in pursuit of wild trout and salmon; their names are in the annals of history with their flies, and their stories.

I tie framed fly plates for display as well as flies for the waters, from oil paintings in classic books by Charles F. Orvis, Mary Orvis Marbury, Carrie Stevens, Herb Welch, and Ray Bergman as well as many patterns that l have developed in the old tradition. With a website on fly tying history, grizzlykingfly.com as well as an active presence on social media, I hope to carry on the tradition of fly tying and fishing with wet flies, streamers and dry flies from this golden era of fly fishing. I have and continue to write articles involving a number of top contemporary fly tyers that are passionate about continuing the traditional fly casting methods.

There is a lively and interested new generation diving into this great woodland sport, and they are excited to learn and continue in the traditional methods. I, along with my associates, are excited to pass this on and maybe they will also find the thrill of swinging an old wet fly or streamer downstream.

grizzlykingfly.com