” Even a Bluegill deserves a nice fly” —Alec Stansell

One for the Book-The Alaska Mary Ann

I’ve always enjoyed knowing the origin of fly patterns. It’s interesting to know what inspired their originator, and the reasoning behind their choice of colors and materials. One fly whose origin I’ve always found interesting is the Alaska Mary Ann. This pattern not only appeals to my eye but also a reminds me of my Yellow Rebel streamer as both flies were tied to mimic successful lures. The use of only natural materials also adds to its appeal.

The Alaska Mary Ann was originated in 1922 by Frank Dufresne a well-known writer and member U.S. Fish&Wildlife Service. He watched native Alaskan  Kobuk River Eskimos consistently catch char, Dolly Varden, grayling, pike, trout, sheefish or anything else in the Kobuk River with a single lure called the Kobuk Lure. The Eskimos had fashioned a piece of whale bone into a minnow like shape.They then drove a copper nail into and through the top of one end then bent the nail’s shank and point into a hook-like shape. A smidgen of polar bear hair was lashed on top of the other end . The finishing touch was a tag made from a piece from the mouth of a Guillemot bird. Some of the Kobuk lures had a two small eyes, consisting of inset pieces of black whalebone. The Eskimos great success with their lure inspired Frank to fashion a fly after it.(Click on pic to enlarge)

Alaska Mary Ann        6 & 8 XL

Alaska Mary Ann
6 & 8 XL

Hook: Originally tied on a #8 long shank hook.
Thread: Black
Tail: Small Bunch of red hackle fibers or red hair
Body: Dressed full Ivory or light tan silk(Floss).
Ribbing: Med. Flat silver Tinsel
Wing: Small bunch of white polar bear hair extending to the end of the tail.
Cheeks: Jungle cock

Frank’s original fly was nameless until he went fishing with a friend in a stream in southeastern Alaska that abounded with many speices of trout and salmon. His friend was casting Franks creation and was greatly out fishing him with it. He stated”this fly “catches ’em all, the whole Mary Ann of them”, the name was born.
The size of this pattern varies depending where it’s fished and for what. The original was tied on a No. 8 long hank hook. Long shank streamer hooks are typically anywhere from 3XL -8XL. In February I was hoping to meet a friend while I was tying at the Bears Den Fishing Expo and give him an Alaska Mary Ann tied on a No.6 4Xl hook. My friend Fred, his wife Mary Anne and their Newfoundland Effie have been to Alaska on their “once and only” Ultimate Road Trip from Westport, Ma to Fairbanks, AK  in 2009 and again in 2012. He looked surprised when I handed him the fly, ” it looks small, up there(Alaska) it’s quite popular and they tie’em big, No.1 or 2s.” That would make a long shank No.8 3xl equal to No.2, just as Fred said. Regardless of size I think it would be productive everywhere for whatever it’s fished for.

Last year I did more striper fishing than I had in quite a while. I did quite well the entire season using only my Yellow Rebel pattern. This year I’m planning on using only an Alaska Mary Ann. Perhaps I’ll use only the AMA or my Yellow Rebel. After all they come from the same mold so to speak.—Ray
**** The pictured flies were tied by Alec Stansell of Wellfleet MA. You can find him at his site Favorite Flies.com . Alec, one-time owner of a Portland, Me fly shop can tie practically anything but his specialty is old-time, classic flies for Black Bass, trout, salmon and saltwater speices. His love for tying classic flies with all natural materials is only exceeded by thirst for knowing the origin of all flies he ties and most well-known patterns.  So check out his site to see some great looking patterns. If you’re thinking of doing a little tidal river and pond April striper fishing check out his Shrymph pattern. It may be just the ticket.