The inscription on the Leisenring Memorial, Springhouse Pool, Little Lehigh Creek, Allentown, PA

JAMES E LEISENRING

1878-1951

BIG JIM WAS A SIMPLE PENNSYLVANIA TOOLMAKER WHOSE FISHING AND FLYMAKING SKILLS ARE LEGENDARY AMONG KNOWLEDGABLE ANGLERS THROUGHOUT AMERICA .HIS FISHING PARTNERS WERE CALLED THE TWELVE APOSTLES AND HIS PORTRAIT ONCE HUNG IN THE OLD HOTEL RAPIDS AT ANALOMINK. BIG JIM LIVED NEAR ALLENTOWN, FISHED THESE PASTORAL WATERS AND SPENT YEARS ON THE LITTLE LEHIGH.

ERNEST SCHWIEBERT

Little Lehigh Fly Shop, Leisenring Day, September 21, 1996

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Big Jim, as he was known to his friends, was an authentic Pennsylvania Dutchman, native-born in Seidersville, Pennsylvania,near Allentown, on November 27, 1878.

He stood well over six feet, had a commanding presence, and never married.

With little formal education, he taught himself what he needed to know and grew highly sophisticated in his own special way. He was highly regarded in the United States, and perhaps even more so in England, where GEM Skues touted Jim's achievements and his flies at the legendary Fly Fisher's Club of London. #1

Leisenring was the acknowledged master of the wet fly and the forerunner of the modern nymph, doing for the sunken fly what Theodore Gordon had done for the floater. The venerable Pennsylvanian’s sparse, delicately shaded; soft-hackle flies set the style of modern wet-fly development and sunken-fly techniques

Jim believed “The art of tying the wet fly rests upon a knowledge of trout-stream insect life, a knowledge of materials used for imitating the insect life, and an ability to select, prepare, blend, and use the proper materials to create neat, durable, and lifelike imitations of the natural insects”.#2
 

For Leisenring …the success of these flies was to be found in the bodies vitality and undercolor. Leisenring developed a system for making these bodies by holding a section of waxed silk on his pants leg, laying out the dubbing and then folding the remainder of the section of silk over the first before twisting these together, creating the spun body and storing it on a card.


Many of Jims flies were tied and tried on the Analomink section of the Brodhead where he developed a class of flies versus a particular fly and contributed to the fly tier’s arsenal of tying techniques.

The evolution of his work can arguably be traced back to the 1425 English writings of Dame Juliana Berners.

In his piece Big Jim Leisenring: The Grand Old Man VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3 2003 Art of Angling Journal , Gordon Wickstrom points out…no discussion about Jim Leisenring would be complete without at least mentioning the angling techniques he introduced as well. In particular, the Leisenring lift…

 

In his article Leisenring Lift, Nymphing's Deadliest Technique Jason Borger says, Using The Leisenring Lift, , a neophyte fly fisher can be transformed into a fish-catching machine in minutes.

 

Big Jim made…three major contributions to fly tying and fly fishing…the creation of the flymph, the origin of the dubbing loop, and the introduction of the Leisenring Lift. Very significant chapters in the pages of fly tying and fly fishing history…

 

Jim’s The Art of Tying The Wet Fly & Fishng The Flymph is a MUST read!

On September 21, 1996 the Little Lehigh Fly Shop and Little Lehigh Fly Fishers honored Big Jim by dedicating the Leisenring

Memorial. The father of this project was bamboo rod builder Dale Schoch.

Dr Ernest Schweibert honored Jim by thoughtfully composing the text for the memorial and speaking at the dedication.

Little Lehigh Fly Fisher Gordon Hyndford was a travelling stage hand with the Rolling Stones. He provided tickets for our raffle.

 

Memorial Day leaders were handed out…

Attendees enjoyed a Pig Roast and a temporary museum of artifacts.

My favorite part of the affair was the preparation. I accompanied Dale when he interviewed Leisenring disciples Jack Reichelderfer and Ray Brodt.

They painted a picture of a crusty, kindly man who enjoyed his Old Grand Dad whiskey and Prince Albert pipe tobacco. A guy who never saw the inside of an Orvis shop, and was looked down on by Ovis wardrobed neophytes.

A guy who resisted publicity and spoke of his literary suitors as disturbing my tranquility.

They passed on stories of Jim’s western trips, hitching rides on freight trains and paying the engineer with fish.

The story of Jim, alone in the Rockies breaking his beloved Leonard and fixing it with a ferrule from a spare rod.

Jim was a condiment in the meal of life.

He deserves to be in the
Hall of Fame.

 

References

Big Jim Leisenring: The Grand Old Man, Gordon Wickstrom

VOLUME 1, ISSUE 3 2003 Art of Angling Journal

williamsfavorite.com/jim-leisenring-1941.html

http://www.flyfishingmaryland.com/index.php?topic=234.0

http://donaldnicolson.webplus.net/page262.html

Treatyse on Fyshynge Wyth an Angle, 1425, Dame Juliana Berners

http://www.flymph.com/html/articles.html

http://www.williamsfavorite.com/index.html

http://globalflyfisher.com/patterns/flymphs/

Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies: A Survey of the Literature Complete with Original Patterns,

1747 – Present, Sylvester Nemes

The Art of Tying the Wet Fly, V. Hidy with J. Leisenring, 1941, r

 

Footnotes

#1 Angling scholar Gordon Wickstrom presents an enlightening look at Leisenring and his contributions to American fly-fishing.

http://www.artofangling.com/leisenring.html

#2(The Art of Tying The Wet Fly & Fishing The Flymph by James E. Leisenring and Vernon S. Hidy, 1971, page 34)

thelimpcobra.com/2016/09/24/fly-tying-like-jim-said