Favorite Flies and Their Histories

Favorite Flies and Their Histories
Author Mary Orvis Mabury
Country United States
Language English
Subject Fly fishing
Publisher Houghton, Mifflin and Co. Boston and New York
Publication date
Pages 522

Favorite Flies and Their Histories - With many replies from practical anglers to inquiries concerning how, when and where to use them-Illustrated by Thirty-two colored plates of flies, six engravings of natural insects and eight reproductions of photographs is a fly fishing book written by Mary Orvis Marbury published in Boston in April 1892 by Houghton Mifflin. It was considered by most fly fishers as the standard reference on flies in its era.[1]


Favorite Flies is a unique volume that compiles the stories and images of popular American artificial flies of the late 19th century. It is one of the earliest works to use chromolithography color plates.[2] Today, the original flies used to create the color plates are preserved in the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. The stories for each fly described in the volume were obtained through correspondence with fly fisherman and fly tiers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The following is a typical story about the Professor, a popular wet-fly of time:

No. 192 - Professor from Plate T - Trout Flies

No. 192. The Professor was named after the much-loved Professor John Wilson (Christopher North), and the story of the fly is, that one time, when this famous angler Was fishing, he ran short of flies, and, to create something of a flylike appearance, he fastened the petals of buttercups on his hook, adding bits of leaves or grass to imitate the wings of a fly. This arrangement was so successful that it led to the making of the fly with a yellow silk body, since then was widely known as the Professor[3]

Professor. - A prime favorite; use it on almost all casts when I see more than one fly. When using a black tail fly, I use a brown fly and a Professor for droppers; find it a good fly under general conditions, when using a Miller for tail fly; then use Professor for droppers. From a letter from W. David Tomlin ("Norman") Duluth, Minn as favorite flies for trout in Michigan streams.[4]

Favorite Flies contains plates and stories for Bass Flies, Trout Flies, Hackles, Salmon Flies, and Lake Flies


The legacy of Mary Marbury, through her book and her leadership in Orvis's commercial fly-tying operation, is the standardization of American fly patterns. Her book Favorite Flies and Their Histories, remains one of the most significant landmarks in American fly tying literature.[5]

Mary Orvis Marbury, daughter of Charles F. Orvis, produced Favorite Flies and their Histories in 1892. While it may not complete favorably with later works on entomology, it certainly is unique for its time. It included a practical treatise on fly classification[6]

WHEN Mary Orvis Marbury died in 1914, the English Fishing Gazette acclaimed her as the most famous but one female angling author. (The other was Dame Juliana Berners, an Englishwoman who wrote A Treatyse of Fysshying Wyth an Angle in 1496.) Marbury's Favorite Flies and Their Histories, which became a best seller among anglers after it appeared in 1892 and went through nine printings by 1896, has recently been reprinted by the Wellfleet Press.[7]

Mary Orvis Marbury produced one of American fishing literature's milestone volumes, Favorite Flies and Their Histories (1892), which not only served generations as the bible of fly patterns but further strengthened the company's reputation for expertise and reliability[8]

...the book which captured the American wet-fly tradition at its peak was Charles' [Orvis] daughter's Favorite Flies. Mary ran the Orvis company's fly tying department and she was inspired to set pen to paper when she realised how little standardization there was among fly patterns... The answers were compiled and key to colour plates in a book which was still in print sixty years later, such was its popularity[2]


Plate A - Hackles
Plate B - Salmon Flies
Plate P - Trout Flies

Other Editions

From Antiquarian Book Exchange

Additional reading

See also

Bibliography of fly fishing

External links


  1. Valla, Mike (2013). "Mary Orvis Marbury (1856-1914)". The Founding Flies-43 American Masters Their Patterns and Influences. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books. pp. 1–5. ISBN 9780811708333.
  2. 1 2 Herd, Andrew Dr (2001). The Fly. Ellesmere, Shropshire: Medlar Press. p. 258. ISBN 1-899600-19-1.
  3. Marbury, Mary Orvis (1892). Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company. p. 350.
  4. Marbury, Mary Orvis (1892). Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin and Company. p. 369.
  5. "The Mary Orvis Marbury Fly Plates". The American Fly Fisher. 6 (3): 15. Summer 1979.
  6. Waterman, Charles F. (1981). A History of Angling. Tulsa, OK: Winchester Press. p. 108. ISBN 0-87691-343-5.
  7. Barry, Ann (October 30, 1988). "Outdoors: An Angling Classic Returns to Print print.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  8. Schullery, Paul. Royal Coachman-The Lore and Legends of Fly Fishing. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 86. ISBN 0-684-84246-7.
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