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It was 1923 in Missoula, Norman Edward Means developed a new “bug” series (dry fly) for trout fishing. Means, known throughout the state by his nickname Paul Bunyan, marketed his “Bunyan Bugs” widely, providing Montana fisherman with a great imitation of the large western stoneflies.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. Some say it was one of the first dry flies made.......
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. Paul Bunyan's grandson Richard Rose has a tied a variety of Bunyan Bugs for many years.They are modeled on originals by his grandfather. They are being made today and available to the public by request, or at auction.
It is unclear who was the first white man to catch a trout in Montana, but we can be sure he did it more than 150 years ago, maybe even more. By the late 1800’s the sporting periodicals contained occasional references to the great fishing of the state, and a few eastern sportsman found their way to such rivers as the Gallatin, Yellowstone to try this new angling frontier. For all this early publicity and fun, Montana trout streams didn’t really come into their own and develop their own angling lore until after WW1. Then, in the 1920’s and 1930’s things started to happen.
It has been called the Golden Age of Trout Fishing in Montana. Even during the depression, which hit Montana harder than it hit many states, some great things were happening along the rivers. There were lots of fish, as browns and rainbows established themselves and grew fat and strong around the state. There were few people, as the state had not yet been discovered by hordes of tourists and anglers. And perhaps best of all, there were some very inventive fisherman.
It was an exciting time to be fly fishing in Montana. New flies and new ideas were everywhere as western anglers came into their own with patterns and techniques suited to the waters. No longer did they simply order flies from back east. The lesson Montana’s fly weavers have to offer us may not have anything to do with the flies they tied or the techniques they developed, as intriguing as those things are. Perhaps the real lesson is that more than we might like to admit we fly fishers are slaves to fashion; that there are lots of ways to catch a trout; and that there’s always room for fresh thinking.
Certain Content: “From Boehme to Bailey” Historically Important Montana Fly Tiers, by George Grant
Saga of the Bunyan Bug® by Paul Bunyan 1960
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.
So, in 1923, the Bunyan Bug was conceived, 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 throughout July 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 Bunyan Bugs, 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!
History of Bunyan Bugs at Langs Auction