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Legendary Fly Fishing
Norman Means or Paul Bunyan! In the 20th Century not many people in Montana or elsewhere who know this man by his true name, but there are many fine anglers world wide who now have heard of Paul Bunyan and his famous Bunyan Bugs. There are only a few who are aware that the series consists of a wide variety of insects. At one time there were about thirty-five distinct artificial flies.
The construction of the BB is unique and has no parallel among other Montana or western trout flies. It is a reflection of the ingenuity of it's originator. There were once 32 varieties of Bunyan Bugs. Paul Bunyan is certainly a true pioneer in the art of fly-tying and also a skilled maker of split bamboo fly rods, and must be recognized and honored as a individual who contributed substantially to the sport of fly-fishing in the West.
This fly certainly occupies a unique position in the past and present heritage of fly fishing. It's a fly that has truly survived the test of time. Bunyan Bugs have caught mammoth trout and bass on the western rivers of the Rocky Mountains. The Bunyan Bugs have been tied over the years by Norman Means, Ruth Means (wife), Norman Means Jr, and Richard Rose grandson.
Saga of the Bunyan Bug
I caught my first trout at the age of five, and by twelve i was using dry flies. in 1921 i came to western montana and found dry fly fishing for trout, the joy unsurpassed. i also found that here, the biggest trout were in rough, boiling white water, where the little dry fly didn’t have a chance. with many combinations of cork, hair and feathers, i finally found that cork was the answer to this rough water.
The bunyan bug was conceived in 1923, made and used for the first time. the first bunyan bug was a far cry from the cork body aquatic insects that are used in many parts of the united states and canada, today.
The know-how to make a fly that would ride the white water being achieved, my next desire was to make these flies represent the various insects trout feed on. this has been a never ending observation.To make a long story short, i will list the most common insects for each month of fly insects for trout. now, relative to this “each month,” please bear in mind that this is for elevations around 3,000 feet. at lower elevations the “hatch” will be earlier and at higher elevations later; about one month difference for each one thousand feet.
During the month of may at 3,000 feet, there will be hatches of a yellow and black bodied stone-fly. the females are about one inch long; males, (as in all species of stone flies) are smaller and their wings are dark, translucent gray. in the latter part of may the big orange stone flies are starting to hatch. in some states they are known as “willow flies,” locally, “salmon flies” with male bodies being bright orange - female bodies orange to brownish orange. the wings are a light sand color and and translucent when the insects first crawl out of their shell, becoming darker with age. they live about 15 days on most given stretches of water. also in may, a large slate-gray colored drake will begin to appear in some streams.
June is the big month with many, many, hatches of stone flies and drakes. the most prominent is the big orange, the yellow belly, the rusty, and the little yellow and black, hatching in the order listed. In june, the drakes, also called may flies or canadian sailors, are many, and varied in size and color. most prominent are the olive drake, aqua-green drake, light tan drake and the rust drake. Also in june, you will find great numbers of big, flying black ants. trout feed heavily on them in both lakes and streams.
July brings the morning, and late evening (after sundown) fly fishing. some of the flies listed for june are are still on the wing in the first part of july. the new ones to appear are the great myriads of small tan and gray caddis flies, which are unseen throughout the day, but just as soon as there is a shadow on the water after sundown, they are darting and dancing in all directions over the water.Many pesky horseflies and bees are along our waters throughoutJuly and August
The last few days of July, a very important stone fly hatches. the “big gray” stone fly (perla capatotta), is found in stoney rivers in all parts of the northern united states. they reach their peak in hatching around aug. 20 and some can still be found as late as mid-September.
August is a great month for grasshoppers and bunyan’s red legged hopper has no equal. use small size (no. 8) for small creeks and up to a size 4 in big rivers, providing an early snowstorm doesn’t set in, september is the ideal time for trout, and these trout are hungry trout. now they start to gorge themselves for the long winter months ahead. insects are dying off, and many fall to the water where they are soon gobbled up.
The important aquatic insect for september is the light and dark caddis, also called case worms, rock worms or periwinkles. a large tan or brown-bodied, gray-winged drake also hatches in September.Throughout the fly fishing season there isn’t a lure that will take trout just before dark, and on the surface, like Bunyan’s white moths.
Now, in using BunyanBugs, never pull them across the water - let them float with the current. with the stone flies and moths, one should shake the tip of the rod back and forth, left to right, which causes the bug to dance and flutter in a lifelike manner. with drakes, never move them. grasshoppers should be pulled slowly with little intermittent jerks to simulate the kicking of their legs as the live ones do when they fall on the water.
Watch your back casts so you don’t snap the points off your hooks and most important - the way to catch fish is to keep on fishing.
Norman Lee Means
aka "Paul Bunyan
Below-Thank You letter from President Dwight Eisenhower (1953). The Richard Marcus Tackle Co. was Paul Bunyans Import business for bamboo products from Vietnam before WW2. Richard Marcus Rose is Norman's grandson, who is still making Bunyan Bugs today in the 21st Century.
Below - Fly Rod letter of Appreciation 1930
13" x 9 3/4" advertising poster from the Paul Bunyan Fishing Tackle Co., dated 1956. This store placard would have held Bunyan Bugs on individual cards (stapled), but was never used, and remains in excellent condition with only light age discoloration. A few are still available. Smaller card below with Salmon Flies 1966. Found in a attic in Butte Montana.
If you don't have a Bunyan Bug in your collection, you're missing a very important fly.