OQUOSSOC — The Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in Oquossoc paid tribute Saturday to fishing legends and visionaries, especially one of the Rangeley region’s most notable fishermen.

Born in Vienna, Carrie (Wills) Stevens never traveled outside the state, but she sold her colorful streamer flies to fishermen as far away as New Zealand and Patagonia. Five years before she tied her first fly, she and her husband, Wallace Stevens, moved in 1919 to the Upper Dam, at the outlet of Mooselookmeguntic Lake, where he became a well-known fishing guide.

According to local lore, the couple’s close friend, Charles “Shang” Wheeler, gave Stevens a fly, known as the Go-Getum, along with materials. He suggested she should learn to tie her own flies. She created a version of the fly and decided to try it at the Upper Dam Pool on July 1, 1924. She was modest in her description of the history-making event.

“When I had finished the fly, it looked pretty good to me, and I thought I would try it out on the Upper Dam pool, which is restricted to fly fishing,” she later recalled.

She hooked a six-pound, 13-ounce prize brook trout that she fought to land for over an hour. Record books noted it as the largest fish taken from the pool in 35 years. She entered her trout in Field & Stream magazine’s fishing contest and took second place among entries from both the United States and Canada.

The first prize went to a fish which weighed only one ounce more, according to Stevens’ biographers, Graydon and Leslie Hilyard. The father-and-son team joined the Saturday celebration, signing copies of their comprehensive history and study of the famed fly-tier.


During his address to the crowd prior to the unveiling of the famed catch, Graydon Hilyard corrected the myth that Carrie Stevens caught her prize-winning fish on her famous Gray Ghost streamer.

“That’s a sore subject with me,” he said. “In the Upper Dam fish log, in her own handwriting, it says she caught it with a Shang’s Go-Getum.”

As a younger woman, Stevens had learned the millinery trade, so creating the tiny colorful streamers and other patterns made from peacock feathers and other exotic materials was enjoyable and natural for her. Hilyard said Stevens didn’t invent that history-making fly until several years later.

Stevens had her trophy fish mounted by Herb Welch, one of the best taxidermist of his day. Stevens’ sister, Elizabeth, had married Fred Duley, and Hilyard said the fish has been cared for by Elizabeth Duley’s descendants until today. Ninety-three years after Stevens made fly-fishing history, it gained a permanent home in the museum.

“This is a special, special day,”said Pierce, pointing to the spectacular mount on the wall behind him. “If this was the Smithsonian, this would be the Hope Diamond.”

As part of the celebration, museum patron Stephanie Palmer asked Shirley Duley, seated with her son, Craig, to join her for a special tribute. Palmer’s husband, Don, had energized the volunteers and fundraisers to start the museum, and Duley’s husband, Fred, had preserved the mounted trout over the years. Coincidentally, both women’s spouses died in the summer of 2016, and Palmer presented Duley with a replica of the last fly Stevens tied — the Pink Lady.


Selene Dumaine presented Palmer with “Don’s Legacy,” a custom fly that commemorated her late husband’s efforts to preserve this unique part of the Rangeley region’s heritage. His passion and love for Rangeley inspired him to create the Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum in Oquossoc in 2010. According to Yankee Magazine, the museum is the “best sporting museum in New England.”

Dumaine, who ties her custom flies in her Readfield home, said she got her first fly-tying kit as a Christmas gift. Since then, she tirelessly studies techniques and styles of the world’s greatest fly-tiers. Steven’s flies are her favorite, and she meticulously reproduces some of those famous streamers using the original method.

“I actually tie in my hands and don’t use a vise when I do a Stevens fly,” she said.

Dumaine said she was determined to learn the beautiful patterns and even purchased floss that Stevens once owned before she sold her company. More than 20 years later, she remains in awe of Stevens work. Dumaine also noted that the Rangeley area has a passion for it fishing heritage like no other place she has ever visited or lived.

“(That passion) continues to grow, and we continue to preserve it,” she said.

Selene Dumaine of Readfield Saturday presents Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum supporter Stephanie Palmer with a custom-tied fly dedicated to her late husband, Don. The presentation of the “Don’s Legacy” fly was part of the Saturday celebration of the legendary Carrie Stevens, who made the region famous for her six-pound, 13-ounce brook trout that won second place among the 1924 entries from around the United States and Canada. That famous fish, mounted by noted taxidermist Herbie Welch, is hanging on the wall behind them.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: