Sara Jane McBride(born c. 1844)

From the collection of the American Museum of Fly Fishing.

McBride’s business card from her New York City location in 1878.

“About one-half of insect life feed, breathe and sport in the water.” So starts the first entomology article written by an American based on observations and studies of insects in native waters. “Beside the Singing Stream: A Story of the Insect Fauna of Caledonia Creek” was written by Sara McBride and published in 1876 by the Rochester Evening Express (“Beside the Singing Stream: A Story of the Insect Fauna of Caledonia Creek” [15 February 1876]).

McBride was born in Caledonia, New York, around 1844. Her father, John McBride, was a well-known angler and highly regarded fly tier, so McBride grew up in a household where fly fishing played a key role in their lives. McBride spent many hours studying the water insects near her home creek and used her observations to incorporate exacting features in her flies. She is credited with becoming the first professional woman fly tier in America, and her reputation as a skilled fly tier seemed on par with her famous father.

The year 1876 was pivotal for McBride. She published her article about the insects in Caledonia Creek as they related to fly fishing; she won a bronze medal for fly tying at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; and she traveled to England, Scotland, and Ireland to enhance her tying skills. Upon her return to the United States in 1878, McBride opened a fly shop in New York City. This shop sold McBride’s flies as well as other angling equipment, but stayed open for less than a year; by October 1878, McBride had returned to Mumford, New York.

The last mention of Sara McBride was in Mary Orvis Marbury’s 1892 book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories. A McBride pattern, the Tomah Jo, is referenced as a favorite lake fly that she created for a Boston client. The date of her death is unknown.