Humble Hiram and the No Name Fly
In the 1920’s, a humble man by the name of Hiram Brobst of Palmerton, PA, found himself walking the streets of Philadelphia. Maybe he was
there on business, or maybe he was there to a break the monotony of the daily grind. Whatever the reason, the hand of fate nudged him into a used
bookstore. Perhaps he had a love of books, or maybe of antique things, or maybe it was simply a means to escape a passing rain storm, who knows. What we do know is that Hiram was an avid angler. Perhaps that drew him to the sporting section of the store, or perhaps it was merely coincidence that his eye caught hold of an unknown English angling book from the 18th century. I imagine him picking up the book and thumbing through the pages, each one full of antiquated fly patterns, each pattern stirring within him the curious excitement that all anglers feel when the believe they’ve happened upon something that might connect a trout to the end of their line. Reaching into his pocket, Hiram found he had enough spare change. He tucked the book under his arm, paid the cashier, and returned to the streets of Philly, perhaps just as the rainstorm was letting up. Or so I imagine it may have occurred.
I think it’s safe to say that many of the pivotal moments of our lives happen by such inconspicuous means, slipping silently by without our knowledge of the significance of the event until it is realized at a much later date. I wonder if Hiram, as he made his purchase, realized the significance his purchase would play in shaping the history of fly fishing.
Within the pages of that book Hiram found an unnamed English sedge pattern that he felt would be effective on the fast pocket water of the Brodhead Creek near Henryville, PA, one of Hiram’s favorite fisheries. He developed a pattern based on this sedge specifically for the Brodhead. The fly was tied with a red floss body, grizzly palmer hackle, a wing of lemon wood duck and grey mallard, and dark ginger head hackle. Hiram simply called his fly the “No Name,” and it met with great success on all Pennsylvania waters in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
It wasn’t long before the No Name was noticed by Al Ziegler, then proprietor of the legendary Henryville Lodge. In response to the great success of the No Name on the waters fished by the prestigious guests of the Lodge, Al received permission from Hiram to rename the fly to the title by which we know it today, the Henryville Special. As time passed, local anglers, observing that the Brodhead caddis that this fly seemed to imitate had olive green bodies, began to tie the fly with an olive dubbed body, thus evolving the pattern to the contemporary version we know today. When the fly was actually renamed the Henryville special is not known, nor is it known when the evolution of the fly to the olive dubbed version occurred. Al Zeigler was proprietor of the Henryville House after World War II until his death in 1967, which would place the renaming of the fly between 1945 and 1967, according to the sources I have gathered. These sources also suggest that the olive version of the Henryville came into being sometime after the 1950’s. And so Hiram landed himself a seat of honor in the annals of American fly fishing history.
Hiram went on tie several versions of the Henryville Special to satisfy the various water conditions and seasonal caddis variations he found on Pocono streams. He developed the Black Caddis for early season, cold water ventures and the Buttonwood, a simpler, lighter version of the Henryville as a smaller option to match the midge caddis hatches that occurred in the evening on slower moving water. It’s hard to refute the success and the significance of the Henryville Special and it’s variants. They have become a common topic among the conversations that follow a successful day of angling on many waters that stretch far beyond the boundaries of the Brodhead and its tributaries.
“The Forgotten Fly” by Bill Fink, Pennsylvania Angler, Nov. 1970, pp 8 - 10
“To Tie the Forgotten Fly” by Bill Fink, Pennsylvania Angler, 1971, pp 22 – 23
Unnamed article source, pp 14 -15
“The Henryville Special – A Caddis Imitation for all Seasons” by Ray Morris, Fly Tiers
Bench article in unknown publication, pp 101 – 103
Photograph from http://www.sportingspirit.com/pages/srchdisplay.html?sku=86&startat=
(Please note that Flyanglers Online credits their sources for the above passage from
the following: The Beaverkill by Ed Van Put; American Trout Fishing by Theodore Gordon & a Company of Anglers;
Homage to Henryville by Ernest Schwiebert; Universal Fly Tying Guide by Dick Stuart)