One of the many joys of Troutfest was the opportunity to talk, at some length, with Walter Babb. A fair amount of our exchange revolved around traditional mountain trout patterns, and I thought those on the Forum with an interest in angling history or in knowing more about some traditional patterns might find an outgrowth of that conversation, along with a subsequent one I had with Marty Maxwell, a skilled fisherman and virtuoso of the vise from Robbinsville, might be of interest. Here, in no particular order, are some tidbits.
1. The wet fly commonly known as a "Speck" on the Tennessee side closely resembles a once immensely popular early season N. C. pattern which was called a Deerhair. The basic difference is that the latter features plenty of hackle at the top.
2. In my book, on page 61, you will find mention of a pattern once known as a Herby-Werby. Turns out that this was an early name for a Tennessee Wulff. I had never made the connection but Walter did and even had an explanation for the name.
3. The Fred Hall pattern known as an Adams Variant on the N. C. side is usually called an Adams Irresistible in Tennessee. Speaking of Hall, whom I knew fairly well when I was a youngster, he is generally credited with developing the Thunderhead and aforementioned Adams and possibly deserves much wider recogntion. Yet were the truth known, it seems likely that his wife, Allene, may have been the real innovator as a fly tier. Some index to this is given by a question I asked her after Fred had died and when she was only a year or two from her death. "Allene," I inquired as she completed an Adams Variant while I took photos, "who really developed this pattern, you or Fred?" She answered me without really giving an answer. "Jim," she replied, "some questions are best let unanswered."
4. Legendary Mark Cathey relied exclusively on one fly, a Grey Hackle Yellow.
5. There are a number of contemporary fly tiers--Roger Lowe, Kevin Howell, Marty Maxwell, and Bill Rolen are among those I know--who learned their craft from past generations and are gold mines of knowledge.
6. A great project someone needs to undertake would involve listing traditional mountain patterns, and there are scores if not hundreds of them, and trying to trace their history.
7. The various Wulff patterns were being tied in the Smokies well before Lee Wulff's name was attached to them. The Royal Wulff was just known as a Hairwing Coachman and the Tennessee Wulff, as has been noted, was a Herby-Werby.
That's enough for now, and I just hope others are as fascinated by this aspect of angling history as yours truly (and I don't even tie flies!).