Polly Rosborough and The Casual Dress

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Polly Rosborough and The Casual Dress

Number 2 in the Fishing Personalities Series

A Life Well Lived: Polly Rosborough and The Casual Dress

Wherein we come to know the man, himself


In the annals of fly fishing lore, many personalities loom both large, and notable.
On the other hand, there are untold names only dimly remembered, as we click and paste our way to knowledge.
Among this latter group is possibly one of the greatest, mostly unknown, luminaries in the field, Ernest Herbert, "Polly," Rosborough. 

Ernest "Polly" Rosborough

While a common man of modest means, appearance and demeanor, Polly Rosborough accomplished much and set the sport on a path that still runs firm today.

Leaving Home for The West

Ernest "Polly" Rosborough was born in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, in 1902. He grew up, like most people in that area, fishing for warm-water species like bass and catfish.
But he left his Arkansas home in 1919 and made his way West, working his way around the harvests and logging camps of the American and Canadian West.

One of his trips through northern California in the early 1920's found Rosborough fishing in the mountain streams, and this started his lifelong interest in cold rivers and trout.

In 1928, at age 24, he moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon, in the southwestern part of the state. Shortly thereafter he settled into his lifelong home in nearby Chiloquin, on the banks of the Williamson River.
Here he went to work as a lumber mill operator, and traveled throughout the region at this occupation. As happens to most and many men, this line of work  would provide a livelihood for most of his working life.

Ernest acquired his nickname, "Polly," from coworkers, early on, while working at a box factory in Northern California. It seems he was a garrulous sort, and talked an awful lot -- "Polly the Parrot," became his sobriquet, and it stuck.

He said he came to like it, as it was a good name, and was good for business.

The War and The River Man

But it was that one river that he was to become forever tied to - Oregon's Williamson River.
It joins the Sprague River just south of the town and winds its way to Upper Klamath Lake. He was often heard to say that the Williamson was as good as any trout water anywhere, and he came to know it like no other man. It was there that began to study the fish and habitat of the river.

When World War II burst on the scene, Polly enlisted and served with honor as a gunnery instructor in the Army; at around 40, one supposes he was a bit too old to fight in the active combat theaters.

Upon his discharge from military service, he returned to Oregon and went back to his practical work in lumber mills around the region.

Meanwhile he occupied his spare time by fishing, and more importantly, he kept studying the trout and its environment. Rosborough didn't have a formal scientific education; he never finished high school and was a working man.
However, that didn't hinder him.

He became a well-schooled student of the aquatic insects that form the bulk of any trout's diet. Like the prominent Eastern anglers, Art Flick, and the Catskills' Harry Darbee, Rosborough developed into a bona-fide entomologist.

He knew all the insects in his home range, particularly the aquatic species, and could rattle off their scientific names on command.

His Writings

Eventually, Rosborough left the lumber mills to devote himself exclusively to angling, and fly-tying. In time, he became a frequent contributor on flies and fly-tying for magazines such as "Trout," "Fly Fisherman," and, "Salmon, Trout and Steelhead."

At one point in his rather storied life, Polly earned money by both tying flies and fur trapping marten in the winter. At age 80 he published a how-to book on trapping, called "Marten I have Known."

But it was another book that forever became synonymous with his name.

The Book

In 1965, Rosborough wrote and self-published his first book, ''Tying and Fishing the Fuzzy Nymph.'' It was his seminal work, and is now regarded as a modern angling classic.
If longevity at the printing press is any indication of a book's worth, then ''Tying and Fishing the Fuzzy Nymph'' is a pot of gold - it is now in its fifth printing.

The book culminated his entire life-study of the aquatic insects fish feed upon. 

It also introduced the fishing and tying of nymphs like mayfly, caddis, and dragonfly to a generation of anglers, and debuted Rosborough's own versions, called, "Fuzzy Nymphs."

These flies were a contrast to previous patterns, in that they were relatively simple, and tied from common materials. These were not "artsy" flies like many of the well-known wet patterns, nor were they exacting imitations of real insects. 

Rather, they were what we today call, "impressionistic patterns."

These "fuzzy nymphs" were tied primarily from animal hair and fur, a crucial element in their design.

The Fly - The Casual Dress

Original Pattern Casual Dress
Courtesy of Fly Fish Ohio

The "Casual Dress" is probably Polly's best known pattern. It symbolizes Polly's belief that the SIMULATION of life is the ultimate goal of any fly, since flies themselves are inherently lifeless things. 
It is basically a hook, some small wads of muskrat or other fur, a little ostrich feather… and a lot of life. Rosborough said it was thrown together casually, one day, thus the name, "Casual Dress." 
This is one of those flies that doesn't look like much; most would not call the fly "fishy" looking. It’s just a fuzzy, scruffy bunch of fur in a vaguely cylindrical shape. But its intent was not to look like anything in particular, but like many edible insect creatures in the water. 
Polly achieved this aim of simulation by using simple materials with inherent movement, instead of creating lifeless, but precisely fashioned duplicates of aquatic insects.
Rosborough himself is quoted as saying his intent for these was not to copy anything in particular, but to simulate something that a fish would want to eat.

The book, ''Tying and Fishing the Fuzzy Nymphs," also put many of the area rivers around his home on the map, so to speak. It was the first to enter the modern, mainstream fly-fishing literature by a Western author, too. 

Other Patterns 

While the "fuzzy nymph" collection highlights his nymph patterns, Polly was also a prolific tyer and innovator of salmon, steelhead and other flies.

One of these, “The Silver Garland,” was lauded in 1953 by no less than A.J. McClane in his keystone work, “The Practical Fly Fisherman.”

Silver Garland
Courtesy of Fly Anglers Online

This fly, like most of Rosborough's patterns, used common materials in a unique way. True to its name, the 'Silver Garland' employed Christmas tinsel garland to form the body!

You can read more about it here: The Bass Flies of A.J. McClane, part 2

Another of Polly's books, ''Reminiscences of 50 Years of Flyrodding,'' was printed in only 600 copies, in three cover versions. 

This was a truly limited series, with each copy numbered and signed by Polly himself. 
It was a personal memoir that harkened back to an era of fishing not to be seen again. 
As you might imagine, it is now pretty rare and costly. 
Anyone who has one can call himself lucky.

In 1975, at the age of 73, Rosborough was bestowed the Buz Buszek Memorial Award for making "significant contributions to the art of fly tying."

Personal Life

Polly was married once for 13 years; the records I can find indicate her name was Goldie. 
But a lot of water had passed under that particular bridge, as he would say, and he spoke little of her.
Rather, Polly's eventual love was a young woman named, Carol, who worked for him tying flies.
But, alas, it was a May-December relationship; he was 47 years her senior.
He thought it would be unfair for her to waste her life on an old man, as he put it, so they ended the relationship.
He never remarried, and he had no children.

Rosborough however was not a bitter man; he loved living, and he took advantage of it. 

He built a tidy nest egg from his books and fly tying, and he was grateful for that. 
"I don't have to hunt orders anymore... it's nice to be famous in your own time. Seeing us early guys being appreciated is the most valuable thing I have," he once told an interviewer. Gratitude was a quality of his personality, and his many friends and acquaintances were proof of that. The entire town of Chiloquin considered him their own.

Polly was also a hard worker. "I left home when I was 16," he said, "and made my own way ever since." 
He worked every day of his life, and was a renowned night owl. His usual routine was to sleep quite late, and work from noon until well into the night, except when he was fishing or prospecting.
"I never give myself a day off, just to goof off," he said.

A willing teacher, he would sit and help anyone at the vise. He also corresponded with many people through the years, famous and not famous. He didn't look down his nose at folks, and was a man who liked to talk, after all. He enjoyed sharing his vast knowledge.

He had another passion, as an amateur mineralogist. He knew the geology of the land around him, and he always harbored hopes for another big silver find in the Oregon Cascade.

Ernest, "Polly," Rosborough passed away in December of 1997, at a nursing home near Klamath Falls, Oregon.
He was 95.


1. http://castingaround.anthonynaples.com/2010/02/casual-dress-some-variations-on-a-theme

2. Rosborough Casual Dress Nymph, http://www.johnkreft.com/rosborough-casual-dress-nymph/

3. Fly Fish Ohio, http://www.flyfishohio.com/Casual_Dress_Nymph.htm

4. http://articles.latimes.com/1989-07-12/sports/sp-3583_1_polly-rosborough

5. https://www.nytimes.com/1997/12/28/sports/ernest-rosborough-95-pioneer-of-modern-fly-fishing-is-dead.html

6. You Tube Video: Hans Weilenmann https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRhmqHOaaZI

7. YouTube video Tim Flagler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58st39qvH-M

8. YouTube Joe Cornwall FFO Dubbing loophttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niVlJD8glVA

9.  http://www.spencerewert.com/WesternTroutFlies/PollyRosborough.html

11. https://natgreeneflyfishers.com/biographics.htm#pollyrosborough

Friday, January 31, 2020


The Cooper Bug In this installment, we look at a classic fly, The Cooper Bug. This fly is an excellent surface pattern, but it has a very mixed up name. It will require a run down the rabbit hole of fly history to get it straight.
At the end of our trip, I'll include a link to a proper Cooper Bug tutorial, offered by one of the best tyers today, Barry Ord Clarke.
But first, lets notch up the confusion and sort through the various Cooper Bugs that have appeared over the years.

The Cooper Bug 
courtesy of Joe Cornwall and Fly Fish Ohio

There have been at least four flies referred to as a, "Cooper Bug."

It may be the single, most-used name for different flies, ever!
However, it is the one shown above that we are going to call the "proper" Cooper Bug. Even so, this particular fly goes by several names - "the Goofus Bug," "The Devil Bug," and "Cooper Bug,"... but it seems that the latter one is most correct. Here's why I say that.
Will The REAL Cooper Bug Please Stand?
The fly being considered here, originally sprang from the vise of a professional tyer named Jack Cooper. Mr. Cooper said he wanted to make a fly that was akin to a bass bug, but which was smaller, simpler and designed to fit better into the world of a trout. He called it the "Cooper Bug," and he could tie them one per minute when in production mode.

But, somehow, the name got jumbled up with several other, rather different patterns, as we'll see.
The Goofus Bug, aka, The Humpy First to seemingly get the mix-up is the Goofus Bug. It is sized much like the Cooper Bug, and is intended for trout. It's rear half is pretty much the same, but it is a different fly, after that. And, even the origin seems to be mixed up...

"The best genesis in print of this fly (the Goofus Bug) is in the American Angler (Spring, 1990). In his article "Goofus Bug Evolution," Pat Barnes credits this pattern to Keith Kenyon, a Montana guide and tier. He secretly created it in 1944 for the Firehole River. 
It's effectiveness leaked out, and requests for that "goofy deer hair fly" bombarded Pat and Sig in their West Yellowstone shop. Thus the name "Goofus Bug" was adopted." 
- Fly Anglers Online

Also from Pat Barnes....
"The original fly came from California with Jack Horner. Jack was a talker. He claimed it caught fish everywhere. The fly he showed me was tied with one bunch of deer hair and one gray hackle. 
In 1972, an Orvis representative asked if I knew of any new or unique dry fly patterns. I showed him the Goofus Bug. In 1973, the Orvis catalog premiered this new fly, now called the “Humpy.”

The name "Humpy," came from Wyoming's
 Jack Dennis, author, fly tier and tackler dealer. He really popularized the name Humpy, starting in the early 1970's.

- Frankenfly

The Humpy/Goofus - sorry, not even close
Courtesy of Frankenfly.com

+ the Fly Anglers Online "Old Flies" archive: Goofus Bug

+ Frankenfly: Goofus Bug- Humpy

VERDICT: The Goofus isn't even sure where it came from, and is NOT a Cooper Bug


The Devil Bug Next, The Cooper Bug is also misnamed, "Devil Bug."

Now, there was actually a fly called the Devil Bug, but it was something altogether different, with just a superficial kinship to Jack Cooper's creation.

From an article in the May 1968 issue of Pennsylvania Angler, one, A.i. Alexander offers this...

"The Cooper Bug does bear some resemblance to an old time bass bug, the O. C. Tuttle, 'Devil Bug,' which was tied by Orley Tuttle in New York State in the early 1900's. 
The latter, however, had batlike wings and was tied in large sizes and used around the Adirondacks for bass. 
Other professional tiers today in imitating Jack Cooper's Cooper Bug often mislabel it the Devil Bug..."

The true Tuttle 'Devil Bug' actually predates the Cooper Bug by a long shot, and may have set the stage for it and these other deer hair bugs to appear.

There were Tuttle Devil Bugs without wings...

And there were those that did indeed have wings... 

But in all cases these were large flies, 2 inches long. They were gaudy, in bright colors and intended to be noisome so as to attract bass. They were made with an outer "skin" of deer hair, but it was pulled over a bulbous core of wrapped cotton cord.  One might be inclined to call them lures, more than flies.

VERDICT: Devil Bug is NOT a Cooper Bug


Ken Cooper Bug
The third Cooper Bug is nowhere near our "proper" version. But it bears the name, as it was created by a man named Ken Cooper. According to Ken, himself...

"This fly just happened. 
Bass fishing and bass flies do not intrigue me very greatly, but when I cannot fish for trout I do not scorn the bass or bluegill.

In 1936, while preparing for a bass fishing trip, I put a hook in my fly-tying vise and tried to figure out what to tie on it.

A red tail seemed to be a good start so I put on a red deer hair tail, then a red wool body with a gold rib, next a bunch of deer hair. 
I divided it to make wings at right angles to the hook.

This gave me a fly that would look reasonably large, but be light in weight and also lift and handle nicely with a bass rod.

The butt of the deer hair blossomed out into quite a topknot... but instead of cutting it off, it was tied to stand upright and was cut flat across the top leaving a V-shaped topknot about five-eighths of an inch high.

The finished fly was tossed into the air a few times to see how it would land and much to my surprise it always landed right side up, the V top acting as a parachute.

The bass seemed to like this bug and so did I, as the topknot gave it good visibility.

"In 1938 Ray Bergman came out with a book called, "Trout." On color plate number 15 in Bergman's book there is a picture of this fly, and it is called a Cooper Bug."

From Trout

Credits: Quotes and drawing from Fly Pattern and Their Origins (1950), by Harold Hinsdill Smedley, published by Westshore Publications, Muskegon, Michigan. 

- from the Fly Anglers Online "Old Flies" archive: Ken Cooper Bug
VERDICT: Ken Cooper Bug is cool, and is a Cooper Bug, but is NOT THE Cooper Bug


There was a fourth Cooper Bug, too, tied by one Charlie Cooper, but I've only found reference to it. No other information has surfaced, other than it was a large bass bug of completely different design. I'm disappointed I can't add it to the confusion. The Two Coopers

So the many people named "Cooper," and a couple generations of unaware fly tyers have all unwittingly conspired to confound the holy crap out of us.
Clear as mud, now.

However, if we are to take the misnaming out of the picture, there are really only two Cooper Bugs - one is the flat-top monstrosity from Ken Cooper, and the other is Jack Cooper's well known version. It is to the latter I turn, and hereafter christen the actual Cooper Bug. With that executive decision out of the way, you can know watch a genuine virtuoso fly tyer show you how to whip up a mess of Cooper Bugs for the upcoming season. "The Cooper Bug," from Barry Ord Clarke, aka, the featherbender
Thanks, and Tight Lines David Don't forget to subscribe, comment and come visit us at Palmetto Fly n Fish on Facebook: Palmetto Fly N Fish

Palmetto Fly n Fish, ©2020

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Tackle OVERHAUL - It's About Time


I live in the South and I can fish all year round.
Well, in theory I can.
And a lot of people here think they must.
But I don't.

For at least a few months during the colder portion of the Winter, I spend time doing home projects, certain yard work chores, car, boat, and truck fix-ups... generally a lot of the things I don't want to make time for during the warm fishing months.
Something else I do at this time is go through my fishing tackle.

There are several good reasons for spending an evening with your tackle box, boat locker, or whatever you use that passes for a tackle box.

Get Organized
The first reason to make this effort is to get everything in shape.
If I were to fish all the time, without any break, my gear would stay a mess. 
I would misplace things. 
I would run out of stuff at the worst possible moment.
My gear would get cluttered and tangled....

However, taking a little break from the action gives me opportunity to examine lures and flies, to check for hooks that need sharpening, straightening or replaced.
If their paint needs touching up, or the feathers and fur need retying, I can do that.

Scales, steel tapes, pliers, scissors, the various tools and knives, all can be inspected, sharpened and oiled. 

Spoons, spinners and other metallic lures will need polishing and a touch of lacquer, of course. 

And, I can clean the box itself, washing out whatever funk and dirt inevitably gets in the thing.

A little soap, fresh water, and baking soda will do wonders for a grungy tackle box.

Get Ready
The second reason to take this time is to do an inventory — to see what 
you'll need for the fishing to come. 
Make a list of lures that have been lost, leaders and lines that have been consumed or become ragged, and equipment that has broken or worn out.

And don't forget to add to the list those items you needed or wished you'd had, but didn't.

Santa Claus Needs You
Such a list will not only help you remember to replace or buy what you can, but did you ever think what a great Christmas list it will make?
If you do this before the Yuletide rolls around, anyone who wonders what to put under the Christmas tree for you... well, you can make it easy for them.

The Joy of Gathering 
And seriously, there is a sublime, even warming joy in getting organized and making a good ready. 

Today you hear people talking about, “getting their ducks in a row," meaning to have themselves and their lives in order.
Well, most of the time, my ducks are nowhere near a row.
In fact, they're more like squirrels,... and they're mostly drunk. 

But, I can take a wholesome satisfaction in that little bit of control provided by a well planned gear stash.

The List
With that in mind, here's a check list of items you might consider for your tackle box. 
“Everyone likes lists”
Look it over and see if there isn't some ideas here you can use.

Tackle Box Checklist
  • Lures of every kind, for all purposes and occasions
  • Wire leaders (preferably nylon coated)
  • A variety of nylon/fluorocarbon leader material on small spools
  • A variety of swivels
  • Sinkers of all kinds
  • A variety of bait hooks, fly hooks, and treble hooks for lures.
  • Beads
  • A variety of Various floats
  • Float stops
  • Small fly tying kit and hand vise

  • Hook hone
  • A variety of knives – I have three
  • Tapered pliers with side cutters that can cut a hook
  • Multitool
  • Scissors
  • Line clipper (to save teeth when cutting mono.)
  • Unhooker, forceps or disgorger
  • Vinyl electrical tape or duct tape (useful for repairing rod windings, etc.)
  • Super glue
  • Fish stringer
  • Tape ruler and fish scale

  • Waterproof bags for fish, licenses, wallet, personal electronics, etc.
  • Trash bags
  • Sunglasses, preferably polarized
  • Plastic rain poncho
  • Insect repellent
  • Suntan lotion
  • Reel oil
  • Reel repair tools (small wrench/screwdrivers/needle nose pliers)

  • Small flashlight
  • Matches
  • Toilet Paper
  • Bottle opener

  • And lastly, a bigger tackle box or bag to hold all this stuff.

    Of course, you probably won't want all of these things... or you might.
    And you will surely come up with things on your own to add.
    But take the time to do an overhaul. You'll be glad you did.
(Updated from November 1965 PA Angler)

Thanks and Tight Lines,


Don't forget to subscribe, comment and come visit us at:
Palmetto Fly N Fish

Palmetto Fly N Fish © 2020 All rights reserved

Monday, December 23, 2019

How To: Making Memorable Outdoors Photos

NOTE: This was taken from an old, paper back-issue
 of some outdoor magazine I found in a waste bin. I forgot which one, but I copied it down, shorthand, and it's been in a my files ever since. I couldn't think of a better way to start the New Year than with something useful, so here goes.

By the way, this isn't intended to be a photography course - don't send me hate mail if something is left out.
It's also not about making good outdoors videos - we'll leave that for another time.

However, I think you'll learn some beneficial things from

6 Tips To Memorable Hunting and Fishing Photos

Are you an outdoors enthusiast, and a camera junkie, too?
Maybe you carry a snapshot pocket camera when you go fishing or hunting?
Or, maybe, you’re just carrying a smartphone, like so many of us these days.
Regardless of how you capture your moments afield, there are a few things you can do to end up with compelling, quality pictures of your outdoor adventures.

Here’s a half dozen you should know about.

1. Lighting 
First, use a flash, even on sunny or overcast days. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is one of those “secrets” that most overlook.
Using flash accentuates colors, and makes the subject “pop out” from background and shadows.

Next, if it’s super bright out, try for some shade, as this softens the harshness of direct sunlight. If shade is not possible, put the sun behind you to illuminate the subject.

Pro Tip
If you have a strong flash or the foil sun reflector from your truck, use it fill the face of the subject for dramatic into-the-sun shots. But no squinting!

2. Composition
The fish or game animal is the star of the shot.
Fill the frame with this subject; the outdoorsman or -woman fits in next.

Also, don’t clutter the frame with a lot of branches or shrubbery, your dirty truck bed or boat, power lines, or other background distractions.
The key here is to eliminate extraneous items within the foto, and be aware of things sticking up behind the subject.

Pro Tip
Make en extra effort to avoid standing over the subject and shooting down on it, too. A low angle shot is nearly always preferable, and more natural... especially against a sky background. 
So get yourself down low if you need to.

3. Clean It Up
Wipe up any blood, including that which may be on you or your hands.
Dip fish in water just before the shot. This removes grass, dirt, leaves, etc., and makes the fish glisten and look fresh. 

Pro Tip
You might think that blood and mud are part of the adventure. But blood, gore and dirt distract from the majestic wild creature and the person who harvested it.

4. Posing
Present the trophy with respect and make it prominent. 
Don’t ride it like a Harley, swing it around your head, or make yourself out to be a reckless, wasteful nitwit.
Anglers and hunters catch enough flak these days; don’t add fuel to the fire 

For deer, tuck the hooves beneath the animal to prop it up for a nice presentation, and put the tongue back in its closed mouth. Again, clean away any blood.
Then, kneel behind and try to fit in behind and/or beneath the antlers.

Anglers, hold fish horizontally with two hands.
The head should be in one hand, slightly higher than the tail, which is held in your other. 
Angle the dorsal fin slightly towards the camera.
Nothing ruins a good fish pic like belly shots, fish in the dirt, or seeing them lifted vertically, high and dry.

Pro Tip
The staged, mass kill pic is also out.
Grandad mugged with limit catches of dead fish, or birds... that’s how they made a “hero shot,” back then.
But today, dumping all your fish, birds or other game on the ground, dock, or tailgate, or laying out rows of stiff, lifeless critters... well, it makes a lousy statement.
Instead, display an obvious pride in stewardship and conservation, by highlighting one or two of the nicest, and leave it at that.

5. Focus
You want to focus your camera on the eyes of the trophy. They are most important. 
If this causes the background to go out of focus that’s good; it gives depth to the image and places attention on the subject.
A wide aperture, and shallow depth of field is great for this.

Pro Tip
With a smartphone, or point and shoot digital-cams, you’ll probably have limited options with aperture and depth of field.
So, fill the frame with your subjects, first.
Then, keep pesky background distractions to a minimum, so they won’t be in sharp focus.

6. Perspective
Extremes are best, and telephoto or wide angles lenses are your friend.
A bass held out to a wide angle lens is more prominent and looks bigger, for example.
On the other hand, a telephoto lens will compress the image into a tight frame and blur the background nicely.
Either can turn a good shot into a great one.

Pro Tip 
If you’re not a camera geek (I'm not), and only have a smart phone or snapshot digi-cam, don’t worry.

Just follow the other suggestions here and you’ll be miles ahead.

Thanks for reading and Tight Lines,


Dont forget to comment, subscribe for updates, and visit us on Facebook at Palmetto Fly N Fish
All Rights Reserved, Palmetto Fly N Fish, © 2019