Spruce Fly history


John Shewey (editor of NW, SW and Eastern Fly Fishing magazines) is researching the history of the Spruce Fly. Les Johnson made mention of some background info in one of his books (and misquoted me, BTW... I never talked with Les about the history of the pattern) but beyond that, any history of the fly is hard to find.

Do you guys have any knowledge of the lineage of the pattern?
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Speyrod GB

Active Member
Did a quick Google search.

Apparently Mr. Godfrey was from Seaside, OR.

Back in 1918 the Spruce was originally called the Godfrey Badger Hackle or Godfrey Special after a Mr. Godfrey to whom the pattern is now credited. The most original dressing of the Spruce is tied on a regular streamer hook with red wool (1/4) and peacock (3/4) body with splayed wings (E.H. Rosborough).Mar 11, 2017
New and Old: Spruce Fly - Flytying

flytyingnewandold.blogspot.com › 2017/03 › spruce-fly

That's all I have. Great fly by the way.


You can see the problem (which is common with the history of fly patterns). Was the pattern originated by Mooch Abrams or a Mr Godfrey? ...or someone else?

zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? In my mind it's not a Spruce fly until it's called a Spruce fly. One thing further. Abrams real last name was Abrahams. We'll see Shewey's story, and the history of the fly when his article comes out.

Chris Scoones

Active Member
WFF Admin
A good discussion that I'd like to move to the fly tying forum. I'll leave a redirect up on the fly fishing forum so it's easy to find.

Speyrod GB

Active Member
A little more info I found. Unfortunately I do not have this book to reference. Maybe someone else does.

Small Stream Reflections: The "Spruce"

smallstreamreflections.blogspot.com › 2018/03 › the-spruce

The history of the "Spruce" is long. And the reference of it's tying and history comes from the pages of Joe Bates book "Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing" which is considered the bible of streamer patterns.

Have to admit, I'm a little curious about this fly now. Haven't tied or fished one in years. Another source to check might be one of two Steelhead books by Trey Combs. If I remember correctly, he usually had some fly history in there along with a lot of photos.
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Guy Gregory

Active Member
Here's a FOTM I wrote for the Inland Empire club in September, 2018. In it, I cite the 6th edition of Flies of the Northwest which claimed the original pattern was tied by Mr. Godfrey, though I've no notion of proving it. This variation was one tied here in Spokane by Everett Caryl, I fish it quite often, very productive., kicked ass trolling New England ponds out of a canoe, and I find out of a tube you need that pulsing retrieve. Spruce fly.JPG

zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
More on Mooch Abrams as I try to figure out why Roy Patrick name him as the inventor in his 1970 reprint fly tying manual. Abrams real last name was Abrahams.

Maurice Abraham was the third of four children born to Solomon Abraham and Julia Hinkle. He grew up in Douglas County, Oregon, but had moved to Portland in 1888, and by 1897 he was employed by J. G. Mack & Company, an up-scale carpet and furniture company. (J. G. Mack married Maurice's sister Miriam in 1892.)

Maurice married Madge Y. Carlon on 13 February 1908 in Washington County, Oregon. He and Madge had one child, Julia, who was born in 1908 in Jacksonville, Oregon.
Maurice was a noted hunter and fisherman and operated the Abraham Fly Tying Company, which he and his wife, Madge, continued to run after the furniture business failed. He tied specialty flies for many sporting goods stores in his later years.

In 1926, he received one of the first pioneer fishing licenses issued in Oregon, for which a person had to be a 60-year resident in order to qualify. He was associated with the Portland Casting Club when it was reorganized in 1931 and was principal coach for the club. He was the first honorary life member of the club.

Maurice was buried in the Johnson family plot of the family of his wife's sister, Bertha (Carlon) Johnson (Mrs. Gustaf A. Johnson), together with his wife Madge.

zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
More: This is from a Phil Foster.

Some notes on the Spruce Fly. Although Joseph Bates description and written history of the Spruce Fly seems very concise and complete it is not without controversy, both in the history and the pattern recipe itself. Roy Patrick, longtime proprietor of Patrick’s Flies in Seattle, Washington lists three variations of the Spruce in his book Northwest Fly Patterns (1964 and 1970, I have both editions) with #2 being listed as the original. The body proportions are listed as 1/3 red wool, 2/3 peacock herl. #1 lists the red wool only as a butt with the body being peacock herl. In his notes on the fly he emphatically states, “For the record, Spruce Fly first designed by Mooch Abrams, Oregon.” Indeed, Mooch Abrams (Abrahams) name is often found in association with Godfrey. In Trey Combs “Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies” (1976) he seems to avoid discussing any controversy and mentions The Godfrey Special as an early example of this fly named “presumably after its originator.” He lists the body construction as “rear quarter red floss or wool, balance peacock herl”. My own experience with the Spruce goes back to 1964 as a ten year old boy trying to learn fly fishing and fly tying in the complete vacuum of a small western Oregon logging and mill town. My family’s trips to the city, Salem, were few and far between but I always was able to go to the Meier and Frank department store where my mother liked to shop for clothes. This store had a nice Sporting Goods department with one of the few selections of flies available anywhere in the area. The flies were tied in the Portland store by a famous tyer named Audrey Joy. She tied beautiful flies and customers would stack up around her to watch. With a lot of patterns that I had only heard of and never saw going to M&F meant taking my notebook and sketching the flies and making a list of the materials so I could duplicate them later. One thing I’ve always done is stay true to patterns and although my early notebook has long ago disappeared I’m pretty sure that the Spruce I tie today is the same as the Audrey Joy pattern that I saw as a ten year old. This fly has a nearly balanced body of 1/2 red floss, and 1/2 peacock herl.
Although I have enjoyed Joseph Bates book for decades as with most things there is another side to the story. I am a firm believer that the fly a person ties and has confidence in is the one they should use. I hope you find this both interesting and useful.
Regards, Phil Foster
Jacksonville, Oregon
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zen leecher aka bill w

born to work, forced to fish
Looks like Shewey will have his work cut out for him untangling the history.

Again from Phil Foster:

Yes, you are correct. Almost all sources trace it to Seaside, Oregon during the mid 1930’s. Only my opinion here, but since it was originally tied to catch searun cutthroats I believe it has always been an attractor pattern as are almost all of these patterns. It varied from the dictate for searun cutthroat though, “they will take any color fly as long as that color is yellow.” As far as it imitating a specific insect, there may be some confusion with another Pacific Northwest pattern that came out of Montana in the 1950’s or 1960’s called the Spruce Moth. This pattern is a dry fly tied to imitate the adult when they appear in their mating swarms, size 10-12 dry fly hook, deer hair tail, cream wool body, divided deer hair wing, and ginger hackle. This destructive insect appears for a few weeks in huge swarms.
Phil Foster
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