‘Lady Miller’    An unfinished fly by legendary tyer, Carrie Stevens completed by modern tyer Selene of Maine, many decades later.  It is a one of a kind fly that will never be able to be replicated.  Here is the story of its creation.

1924 is a significant year in the history of fly fishing, particularly to Maine.  The Storied Gray Ghost was created by famed fly tyer Carrie Stevens of Upper Dam in the Rangeley Region in Maine. There is a wonderful story to how she got her start in tying flies and that has already been told and worth listening to while sipping coffee in a fly shop.  For now, let’s stick to this story that needs to be told about hooks and boxes and just stuff.  Stuff that needs a place.  

Back in time, Carrie tied flies in hands without a vise.  Some tyers did it out of convenience streamside to match a hatch color or fly size, but no one tied streamers using this method.  No one but Carrie glued the feathers together with varnish at the stems near where the fly head would be, then set them aside in a box. Maybe someone else tied the bodies of flies and set them aside to later tie on the feather wings.  But no one else tied them on one wing set first on one side, then attached the opposite side to the fly bodies. Let alone do it while holding it in their hands.  

These are just some of the techniques that make Carries Stevens’ style unique, durable and made her legendary.  

She tied in this manner from the 1920’s until 1954 when it is reported that Wendell Folkins witnessed Carrie tie the only fly, a Pink Lady, ever tied from start to finish.  She did this to teach him the ways of her craft when she sold him her fly tying company, “The Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies.”  It was at this time that all her materials were loaded into14 paper bags and turned them over to Wendell.  Carrie passed away on August 15, 1970.  

In the 1990’s Leslie Hilyard bought the company from Wendell Folkins and owns the company to this day.  I would be remiss in not mentioning the resource available for many to know this story and the Rangeley area are due to the efforts of Leslie and his father Graydon. They  wrote a wonderful book in 2000 and now republished, Carrie G. Stevens Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies. Published by Stackpole books. 

You would think I buddied up to Leslie and got some of the goods for this? Lady Miller century collab, but no.  Before Leslie bought the company, Wendell was generous with both his knowledge, time and possessions.  For instance, in the early 2000’s I gave a tying lesson to a gentleman that said he had taken a lesson in the early 1980’s from Wendell.  While I found it interesting, I didn’t expect a large spool of Carrie’s orange acetate floss to appear as a gift for me.  It was reported to have been from one of those storied shopping bags that was sold to Wendell from Carrie when he bought the company.  I couldn’t believe that I owned a spool of floss that Carrie used to tie gray ghosts with!!!  I used it sparingly over the years for two reasons.  One is that it was Carrie’s and I only tied reproduction Gray Ghosts with it, and secondly, it was AWFUL floss that would fray easily.  It was no wonder she sold it to Wendell and it was given away!! When I tied at an event with Leslie I gave him some to tie with and he agreed it was as terrible as I thought it was.  

I got a call not long after that event from a reporter from NH to do a story about me as a fly tyer and keeping history alive.  I’ve done a few of these over the years.  He came to my house to sit in the tying room and I could walk him through some of my memorabilia I had in my “cabinet of wonders.”  Bill Thompson of the Daily Sun, arrived with a bag in hand bearing gifts.  Unusual, but ok.  He explains that he was a good friend of Wendell Folkins.  Oh My.  He gave me a Gray Ghost that he tied while he was in his nineties.  A far cry from Carrie’s perfection and I love it for that reason.  It was *immediately placed in the “cabinet of wonders”. Next was a large oblong box with a graphic of Eve and labeled for a hip size; average.  I now possess the girdle box that my idol kept her dyed goose quills in.  We are insanely human.  It is on display at my fly shop in Gardiner.  I ask Bill why he is giving me these things, and he says that he is getting older and these things while individually are not ”worth” anything, in the right hands they are.  

Then he hands me the smallest box.  Written in her own hand on the outside it says, “C. Stevens….Hooks  #4-#6  Tied by Carrie”   



I conclude that she put this box together to show Wendell Folkins examples of how she the bodies of her flies in those sizes. 

I have had the unfinished flies in my possession for approximately 5 years and decided to use one hook to tie a most unique collaboration.  In going through the box, I found one in a good condition and then searched the patterns in the Hilyard book for a compatible pattern with a black floss body and silver tinsel.  I settled on the “Lady Miller,” and set to work to create the wing assembly.  

I glued the wings together using the same methods as Mrs. Stevens and used only my hands.  I had two witnesses.  A Vietnam vet that came into my shop for the first time and was curious about what I was doing, and my dog Happy, named after Carrie’s favorite dog from nearly a hundred years ago.  

The wood for the backdrop is Yew that has been in my basement for who knows how long waiting for just the right project. I walked into a stained glass hobby shop for the first time trying not to be tempted into a new hobby, to find the right glass for the backdrop, and a glass cutter.  My finest presentation fly was born with Carrie Stevens unfinished fly.  It is a synergistic fly creation with energy to be shared with many. 

The fly presentation will be up for auction on March 16, 2024 at the Merrymeeting Bay Trout Unlimited Banquet.  Meal tickets are sold until March 14 if you would like to be present for the live auction and are available at March Brown Madness Banquet. Until 5:00 on the March 16th, go to email- jbush@tumaine.org.  During the live auction, which will start at 7:30pm on the 16th, Bids can be called in to 856-448-1925.