Elizabeth Benjamin (dates unknown)

Little is known about the mid-nineteenth-century woman who created some of the most popular fishing flies ever seen in Ralston, Pennsylvania. Researcher Austin S. Hogan (the first curator at the American Museum of Fly Fishing, 1970–1978) found a letter written by her son Joseph Benjamin in the 1930s.

Benjamin describes how his mother watched a successful Ralston angler and conducted her own informal studies to create a fly for the local waters:

My mother got so interested in Mr. Conley’s success she waded out in the creek unnoticed by Conley, and observed that the largest trout would always jump for certain kinds of flys . . . believing she could imitate the kind of flys the trout were taking, she mentioned it to my father, and they worked nights making nets; and would wade out in the creek and catch the flys . . . 

In order to make the imitation flys to resemble the genuine ones, it was my job to procure certain kinds of feathers obtained from roosters, chickens, ducks, pigeons and bird nests, the feathers were shaped by my mother; fastened by hand to fishhooks with different colored silk thread; . . . when they learned of the success of others who had purchased my mothers hand made flys, they paid her fabulous prices for all she could make.

Benjamin tied these flies in 1853 to reflect the insects she observed around her home waters. From the collection of the American Museum of Fly Fishing.