The Flies of Ann Schweigert by Tom Deschaine

Articles, featured, Fly Patterns, History — By on October 29, 2010 7:09 am

Jack and Ann Schweigert opened the first of several Michigan fly shops in 1939, in Luzerne, Michigan. They remained in business until Jack’s death in 1985.

Jack originally taught Ann to tie with the idea that she would be the shop’s tier and he would be a river guide. Within a short period of time her expertise as a tier grew. She tied durable, quality flies and had a customer base as far away as Germany and Japan. It has been claimed that during her career as a tier for some 39 years, she tied upwards of one million flies. She retired from fly tying in 1978 due to poor eye sight.

During her tenure as a tier, it would be logical to assume that she would have created several fly patterns. Over the years the sports magazines, newspapers and other publications did credit Ann with several patterns– most of which have been challenged by other tiers and historians. Her Grandson, John “Bear” Little who began his tying lessons with Ann, about the age of seven, and Mr. Dan Rivard a professional tier who took tying lessons from Ann, and actually tied in the shop for a short period of time after Ann retired; are willing to share with us what they know of Ann’s original patterns.

The Au Sable King has been attributed in the fly tying books to both Frank Cupp, a tier from Redford, Michigan and Ann Schweigert. Mr. Cupp denied being the creator and stated, “This is one of my favorite flies… it was introduced by Ann Schwiegert many years ago. I wouldn’t be caught on the river without it.” Both, Ann’s grandson John “Bear” Little and Dan Rivard state that Ann was the creator of this pattern which originated sometime in the 1950’s. The pattern represents a generalized caddis pattern. Over the years I’ve found this fly to be a great producer of fish and I agree with Mr. Cupp… I wouldn’t be caught on the river without it.

Au Sable King

Hook: Mustad #94840 Sizes: 10-16
Thread: Black, 3/0
Tail: Dark Ginger Hackle Fibers
Body: Peacock Herl
Wing: Grizzly Hackle Tips, tied tent style, over the body.
Hackle: Dark Ginger

The Au Sable Queen is one of Ann’s lesser known patterns from the 1950’s. It never received as much publicity as some of her other patterns. It’s an off shoot of her Au Sable King. The only difference is the green egg sac and the white deer hair wing. Dan has confirmed this pattern and added that it was designed to be used during the Grannom hatch from May through the 1st week of July. This is a very simple and effective pattern

Au Sable Queen

Hook: Mustad #94840 Size: 10-16
Thread: Black, 6/0
Egg Sac: Green Yarn
Body: Peacock Herl
Wing: Natural White Deer Body Hair, tied caddis style.
Hackle: Ginger

Hansen’s Drake is another of Ann’s creations most probably developed in the late 1940’s. The fly was named after Esbern “Dad” Hansen, a descendant of an early lumbering magnet in the Grayling area. Hansen was a fisherman and fly tier who had a cabin on the Au Sable River. There has always been a lot of controversy surrounding this fly because of its close resemblance to the Borcher’s Special that was created by Ernie Borcher, canoe livery owner and river guide. The accepted story goes on to say that Ernie Borcher added a grizzly hackle to the brown collar, the pattern then became know as Borcher’s Special. Others claim that the reverse is true; that Ann removed the grizzly hackle creating the Hansen’s Drake. In either case, the adding or removing of a hackle represents a significant change to a pattern and is a legitimate reason to rename the pattern. Both, Ann’s grandson and Mr. Rivard claim that Ann’s, Hansen’s Drake came first. This sentiment is strongly supported in an article entitled, “The Schweigerts of Roscommon,” by Leland Day and also by Eric Leiser, in “The Book of Fly Patterns.” In the words of the late Dick Pomeroy, who wrote the ‘Michigan Fly Box’ for many years; “the trout have popularized both of these older patterns and do not seem to care who first tied it.” The fly is an excellent all around pattern that can be used throughout much of the season. Tied in sizes 12-8 on a 3X Long hook it can even be used for the Hex hatch. Although this fly pattern disappeared from the shops a few years ago, it still has a following of a few old timers like myself.

Hansen’s Drake

Hook:
Mustad #98440 Size: 10-16
Thread: Black, 6/0
Tail: 2-3 Pheasant Tail Fibers
Body: Mottled-brown Turkey Wing Fibers
Wing: Blue Dun Hackle Tips
Hackle: Brown, tied medium to heavy

The Herring Drake is a unique fly pattern. It was not created for trout but rather for lake whitefish, which Michigan sportsmen erroneously call ‘herring’ (hence the name Herring Drake). These fish live in deep inland lakes. The fish is widely distributed throughout the Midwestern States and Canada. In the early mornings and evenings when mayflies are on the waters, the lake whitefish will rise to dry flies on the surface. This pattern of Ann’s was also from the 1950’s according to Bear and Dan. The fly is tied typical drake style, however, please note that it is tied on an inverted hook. This is a common practice with some bonefish, streamer, nymph and salt water patterns, but this is the only time I’ve seen this technique used on a dry fly pattern. Although it was designed for lake whitefish, I strongly suspect it might be effective on trout as well.

Herring Drake

Hook: Mustad #94831, tied inverse. Size: 6-10 3X Long
Thread: Yellow, 6/0
Tail: 3-4 Pheasant Tail Fibers
Body: Natural Deer Body Hair, tied parallel to the shank of the hook, flared at the tail.
Rib: Yellow thread, crisscrossed the full length of the body.
Wing: Butts of the body hair pulled up and tied post style. Trim off the post to form a flat pad after the hackle is tied in.
Hackle: Grizzly or brown

When Jack Schweigert died, in 1985, Ann finally closed the store and auctioned off the contents. Her fly tying bench sold for $17.50. Soon after, Ann moved in with her daughter, Dottie Little in Las Vegas. Ann passed away on May 26, 2005, at the age of 95. She is sadly missed by family, friends and the fly fishing community.


John “Bear” Little was born in 1968 in Las Vegas. As a young boy, he spent his summers living with his grandparents, Jack and Ann Schweigert in Roscommon, Michigan. Ann started him tying a few simple patterns about the age of seven. Bear was about 15 when Ann retired and moved to Las Vegas. That’s when she took Bear under her wing and shared most of her knowledge with him. For several years Bear tied commercially and supplied several shops in Illinois and Missouri with his patterns. He is now employed as a retail store manager in Queen Creek, Arizona where he lives with his wife Tonya and his four children. He loves woodworking and still ties flies. John shared with me that he is now teaching his two oldest boys the art of fly tying as he learned it from Ann.


Dan Rivard was born in Gross Point, Michigan. His family eventually moved to Roscommon. He started tying flies at about the age of seventeen. He was originally self taught but later became a student of Ann Schweigert. Dan has been both a professional and commercial tier, tying flies for shops in the Grayling, Gaylord and Roscommon areas. After Ann Schweigert retired he did some tying in their shop and eventually opened his own; ‘Dan’s Fly Shop’ in Roscommon. Having suffered a stroke around 1985, he found the shop too strenuous. He closed the shop, but to this day, continues to tie flies for a few old friends and clients.


Tom Deschaine is a retired biology teacher from Michigan with over 25 years experience on the water and at the bench. He owns the website, www.michigandryflies.net, where he is preserving fly patterns and recipes created by Michigan tiers as well as patterns designed to be used on Michigan waters. He is also compiling biographical and historical information on the classic fly tiers of Michigan.


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The Flies of Ann Schweigert by Tom Deschaine, 7.4 out of 10 based on 5 ratings

7 Comments

  1. duane dunham says:

    Good article about a real fly tying icon! The Michigan town referred to is Grosse Pointe, not Gross Point, however.

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  2. Greg Schweigert says:

    Nice article, Tom. Thanks for your good work.

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  3. Michelle says:

    Great article about my grandma. I don’t know how I found it but it brightened my day:)

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  4. Joel Stansbury says:
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    Superb Article! I am 70 yrs old and just got back from a trip to the ‘old spots’. I fished the area from the early 1970’s on. Visited their shop many times. Wish I still had one or two of their flies.
    Great memories! Thanks for the article!
    We need more of this type of journalism.

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  5. Leza says:
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    Michelle, who commented good article about her Grandma. Ann Schweigert was my Grandma. I don’t know who you are. Email me.
    lezam7777@yahoo.com :)

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  6. Cam Jones says:

    Great article!

    I remember Anne and Jack so well, even though I was just a kid when I knew them. Jack’s was always a nightly stop on the way to river, and Anne was so helpful to a budding fly tier like me.

    Cam Jones

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  7. Duke says:

    Grew up right around the corner and drank lots of milk and ate lot’s of Mrs S cookies in the shop. Jack scared the heck out of us, but gave me my first reel as well as fly rod. Just took my kids to Big Sky for fly fishing this summer and started remembering my Pops and Jack arguing about the “secret” spots on the Robinson Creek which had better fishing than the tourist plagued AuSable.

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