The Thunder Creek series

kelly_nov_2010

The Thunder Creek streamer represents a style of tying that you should add to your arsenal. The style has been around awhile; Carrie Stevens tied some for her customers. The definitive work on this type of streamer is by Keith Fulsher, and he named his version the “Thunder Creek Series”. He teamed up with Dave Klausmeyer to publish a book a few years ago about the streamer design and he used the word “series”. This is because once you learn to tie this style; you can adapt the colors to imitate any baitfish you want. It’s a versatile streamer that is easy to tie, inexpensive and it catches fish.

Recipe for the Thunder Creek Series

Thread – White or red, 3/0 or 140 denier
Hook – Straight eye streamer, size 2-10
Flash- optional- Krystal Flash
Back –Gray bucktail
Belly-White bucktail
Gills- Red thread or paint
Eyes – Painted on

This fly is best tied with a straight-eyed hook. By this, I mean that the eye is not turned down. These hooks can be harder to find and Keith does say that you can used turned down eye hooks, but the fly seems to look better with a straight eye. If you use a standard turned down eye hook, leave a bit of a gap between the eye and the head of the fly. As for size, I use 6 through 10, depending on the size of the baitfish I’m trying to imitate. Smaller hooks for brooks and larger hooks for bigger water, your call. I use red thread for this fly but Keith recommends using white thread. Start your thread behind the eye. If you are going to use some flash, tie it in now. Go sparse here, a half dozen strands is plenty. Note here that the hook shank is left bare-there is no body material. There is a top and a belly to this fly. Dark color on top, white bucktail for a belly. This is the universal pattern on baitfish, dark over light. Select a small bunch of dark buck tail. I used gray bucktail for the fly in the photo. Pull out the short hairs and tie it in just behind the eye. This step is important-tie it in with the hair facing forward over the hook eye, you’ll be pulling it back over the shank later. Turn the hook over and similarly, tie in some white buck tail for a belly, facing forward just like the dark hairs. All of these materials should be small sparse bunches.

After the materials are tied in, I put a drop of cement on the thread windings to lock them in. Position your thread about a quarter inch to three eighth inches behind the eye. Now, lightly moisten the hairs to make them more manageable, pull back each bunch of hair back onto the shank, dark on top and white on bottom. Use your pre-positioned thread to wind around the bucktail top and belly to form a bullet shaped head. Keith recommends untying the thread and then retying it. By untying the bucktail and then re-tying it, the hairs become trained to stay in place and the head stays neater. It works but it reminds me of my mother forcing me to have a wet head to train my hair when I was young. If I resisted training my hair, my father would finally take me to the Rangeley Barber Shop to get a crew cut from Sheriff Pete the barber. But I digress. Pull back hard on the bucktail this second time and tie it off. Here’s a tip: reposition your hook in the vice so that the point is concealed in the jaws. When you pull back on the bucktail, sometimes your fingers will slip and your hand will fly back onto the hook point, barb and all. You can thank me later.

Finish tying the bucktail back with a half dozen wraps of thread and tie off. The red thread I use looks like gills, if you use white thread, you’ll have to paint on gills. Use some five-minute epoxy to cover the head and thread wraps. Don’t use much or you’ll get an uneven head that will cause the fly to not swim straight (ask me how I know). If you don’t have epoxy you can use several coats of glossy head cement. When bullet shaped head is dry, paint on some eyes.

You can also tie this fly with dark and light colored marabou or even add a feather wing under the top for a different silhouette. You can use different colors of bucktail to match a particular minnow or smelt in your area. Try a stainless steel hook and saltwater baitfish colors to use on striped bass. This is a good fly to learn.

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The Supervisor

kelly_nov_2008

This is the Supervisor streamer. This is another example of an old Maine streamer that is not only famous but continues to fish well. Originated by Maine Game Warden Supervisor Joe Stickney in 1925, this smelt imitation is colored a bit differently than other Maine streamers. And that’s the reason you should have this streamer in your wallet. The waters you fish in vary from location to location and that changes the way light is refracted and thus how the color looks to the predator. Chartreuse is a good example. I’ve never seen a chartreuse baitfish, but it works well. When this color is a few feet deep in the right colored water it comes close to the green sheen seen on some baitfish. There are times when a different color scheme seems to be what it takes to get a strike, not to mention that it pays to use a fly that the fish haven’t seen a several times already that morning.

When tying this fly notice that the tail is wool, tied short. This is a slender baitfish imitation; resist the temptation to tie in a big bunch of red fur. Use only a small bunch of white bucktail for the under wing, if you use too much it will bulk up the fly and change the action. The blue wing feather is a light blue called appropriately enough, “supervisor blue”. The green cheek feather should be about 1/3 the length of the wing. I find it is a lot easier to position this feather if I put a small drop of cement at the juncture point, just behind the thread wraps. You can maneuver it into position with your fingers and the cement will dry it into place. Five strands of peacock herl topping is a traditional way of imitating the iridescent green of a baitfish back and nothing does it better. The topping should extend to the end of the wing. The Jungle Cock eye is optional and expensive, I include it because it is traditional and I believe eyes work. You can leave it off, use a substitute or paint eyes on the head.

Recipe for The Supervisor

Thread — Black
Hook – 8X streamer, size 4-8
Tail – Red wool, short
Body—Silver Mylar
Ribbing –Silver
Throat –White hackle fibers
Wing—Blue saddle over small bunch of white bucktail
Cheek—Green saddle, 1/3 length of wing
Topping—Peacock herl
Eyes- Jungle Cock

If you are inclined, you can tie a bucktail version of this fly, it wouldn’t be the first time that has been done. Keep the color scheme in mind and remember that less is more on this fly.

That’s the Supervisor streamer. This is an old fly, very well respected and like some others I’ve written about, you don’t see a lot of them. That’s a shame because this streamer will catch fish. If Joe Stickney’s name seems familiar, it’s because he is also the originator of the Warden’s Worry. You could do a lot worse than to have both of these famous Maine streamers tucked away in your trolling box.

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The Orange Fish Hawk

fish hawk

This fly is the Orange Fish Hawk. This little jewel is an old fly that Ray Bergman wrote about and it never stopped catching fish but people stopped tying it years ago. My tactic with this fly is to tie it with a few modern improvements and put a few in my box. You’ll be surprised how this fly can pick up a fish or two when newer flies don’t seem to work.

Recipe for the Orange Fish Hawk

Thread – Black
Hook – Standard wet fly hook, size 6-16
Body –Orange floss or Uni-Stretch
Rib – Gold Mylar
Hackle- Badger

I use a standard wet fly hook. These hooks are a bit heavier and sink a little deeper. There is no tail so start your thread and tie in the Mylar rib. The recipe calls for gold tinsel; I have great luck with this fly if I use holographic Mylar. If you are a purist, by all means use the traditional material, but I’m beginning to really like holographic Mylar. After you tie in the Mylar rib, lay the material back out of the way and wind the rib later. Tie in your floss for a body. If you choose to use Uni-Stretch, you are ready for the next step. If you use orange floss, you should start this fly with a white thread underbody because when floss gets wet, the thread will show through and black thread will dull the body color.

Wind your body on and tie off behind the eye a bit. Wind a small butt with the Mylar behind the body just before the hook shank starts to turn down then wind forward several wraps to make a rib. Tie off the Mylar where you stopped the body wraps. The hackle is badger. Badger feathers have dark stripe down the middle and when you wind this type of feather around a hook shank, the dark center looks like an insect thorax. Tie on a badger hackle and wind a few turns, but don’t overdo it. Cut off the excess and use your thread to wind back over the hackle to force it to lay back. The original fly used hen badger because it is softer and has more movement. You can use whatever badger you have on hand for this particular pattern.

You can substitute a few materials if you want. I love holographic Mylar and I do use Uni-stretch (try bright green) instead of floss for a lot of flies. There are dry versions of this pattern and a different wet one with a feathered wing; this version is my favorite. Tie a few as small as you can tie them and try them in the spring, you’ll love it.

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The Grizzly King

kelly_may_2008

This fly is an old favorite that seems to surface every few years and then disappear for awhile. Part of the reason is that wet flies have fallen out of fashion and the Grizzly King is an old wet fly. I remember this seeing this fly in my father’s pattern book 40 years ago and it was considered old, then. The original dressing is attributed to a Professor John Wilson of Edinburgh University, Scotland. Colonel Bates credits the streamer version of this fly to Gardner Percy of Portland, Maine. The fly is supposed to represent a form of caddis fly and that explains why it works so well here.

I use this fly in both wet and streamer versions and I pretty much tie it in size 12. Ray Bergman’s classic Trout goes into great detail about different sizes depending on which species of trout you’re fishing over. Size 12 works best for me, although I think this fly in smaller sizes would fish well. If you’ve got the eyes for it, downsize to a 14 or 16 and let me know how it works for you.

Recipe for the Grizzly King

Thread – Black
Hook –8-12 wet (4x hook for streamer)
Tail –Red duck quill or hackle fibers
Body – Green floss
Rib – Thin gold Mylar
Throat – Grizzly hackle fibers (hen if possible)
Wing – Rolled mallard flank, for streamer use grizzly

While the old version called for red duck quill angled upward for a tail, I think red hackle fibers work fine. The Mylar should be very fine; I use size 16/18. The throat hackle is tied in beard style and will have better movement if you use soft hen grizzly hackle. It is a good technique to use white thread on the hook shank under the floss. Wet floss over dark thread can become too dark. That is especially true of yellow or gold floss but the green floss seems to do fine with dark thread under it. If you are inclined, using white thread for the first part of this fly is a good habit. The old recipes speak of “rolled” mallard flank as opposed to the highly stylistic swept and pointed wings you see on other wet flies in old color plates. I think that is a concession to the fact that after several fish chewing on those wings, they become shredded anyway so why not roll them to begin with. You have to admit, when the old writers recommend fish proofing the wings, that’s a sign of a good fly. Just cut a small bunch of mallard flank fibers, roll them between your thumb and forefinger, and then tie them in. A rolled wing can make for a lot of bulk and a huge head. Use as fine a thread as you can to avoid that. As for the streamer, keep the hook as small as you can and use grizzly hackles for your wing. Percy’s recipe calls for four hackles, two on each side. I use two hackles and I let the wings angle up a bit. I think it has better action tied that way. I’m sure it all depends on how you fish the fly, so keep in mind that you may want to stick with the tried and true recipe.

This is a venerable old pattern that deserves more use than it gets. Ask the oldest, best, fly fisherman you know about the Grizzly King. Watch his eyes when you ask. If they look away quickly and he tells you he doesn’t think much of it, check the side pocket of his fly wallet. I bet he has a few.

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The Stayner Ducktail

stayner
I first saw the Stayner Ducktail when I was stationed in Montana more than 30 years ago. It was featured in a book by Marv Taylor and suggested for pond “dredging”. Dredging is when you cast out a fly, let it sink and slowly twitch it back; if you’re not trying this technique, you’re missing out. The fly design is over 80 years old and it works very well here in Maine. You should keep a few of this easy to tie killers in your box; this pattern is not widely seen here in Maine and it takes good sized trout.

Recipe for the Stayner Ducktail

Thread – Black
Hook – Streamer hook, 4x long. Size 4-10
Tail – Red hackle fibers
Body – Olive chenille
Hackle- Red hackle fibers, beard style
Rib- Gold Mylar
Wing – Mallard flank feather, flat-wing style

Start with a 4x long streamer hook. This is shorter than the 8x long streamer hooks we traditionally use for streamers up here. Tie in the red tail, rather long. Tie in some gold Mylar for a rib, to be wrapped later. The body is olive chenille, you should also try olive variegated chenille. Use your thumbnail to strip off a quarter inch or so of the chenille fibers. You’ll see that the core of the chenille is a couple of strands of cotton thread. If you tie in your chenille by these strands of thread, you won’t have a “bump” at the rear of your fly. Wrap the chenille forward to just behind the eye and tie off; trim the excess. Now wrap the Mylar rib forward. Try wrapping it in the opposite direction that you wrapped the chenille body. This will keep it from sinking into the chenille too far and being out of sight. It’s important to remember to wrap the Mylar tight, a trout’s teeth can catch on it and cut it or pull it loose.

Tie in a red hackle fiber beard and select a mallard flank feather for a wing. Take a minute to notice that mallard flank feathers come in two shapes: long and thin or short and wide. You want the long and thin ones for this wing. The wing should lay flat on the body and extend to just past the end of the tail. Strip off the excess fibers at the base of the mallard flank until what you have left is a feather the right length and then tie it on top. Trim off the excess stem. I also get good results with dyed olive mallard flank.

I don’t know whether this fly is mistaken for a dragonfly nymph or for a small baitfish, but it is effective. Easy to find materials, easy to tie, easy on the wallet, and attractive to trout. You should tie some of these.

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The Picket Pin

kelly_sept_2008c

This fly is another old one that you don’t see much anymore, although it is fished around the world in various versions. Originating in the western U.S., this pattern is named for the ground squirrels that stand by their burrows like “picket pins”. Typically, as a pattern migrates to another part of the country, there are always a few changes to accommodate local tastes. This fly’s original recipe called for gold wire ribbing; that became brown hackle tied palmer style when the fly arrived on the East coast. Palmer style hackle is simply a hackle that is wound up the body as a rib instead of being wound at the head as a collar. Although the original wing material probably came from the ground squirrel it is named for, here we use gray squirrel. I think a red tail brings a lot more strikes, and I’ve been known to use dyed squirrel tail for the wing as well as the original gray. Notice that there is a peacock herl head tied in front of the wing. Don’t leave that off; I think it is an important feature and makes it a useful imitator for stoneflies, dragonfly nymphs etc.

Recipe for the Picket Pin

Thread – Black
Hook –4X long, size 8-14
Tail –Brown or red hackle fibers
Body – Peacock herl
Rib –Brown hackle palmered
Wing – Gray squirrel
Head – Peacock herl

Tie in the tail and then tie in a brown hackle feather by the tip. I’ve seen a recipe that called for the tail to be the tip of the hackle feather, not a bad method. Then tie in perhaps three or four peacock herls for the body. Peacock herl has been a fish getter for centuries so buy good herl and use it. After you’ve tied in the herls but before you wind your thread forward, consider twisting the herls and the thread together to make a peacock herl “rope”. Without a wire rib this technique will hold the herl together and make the fly stronger. Wind the herl rope forward but stop well short of the eye so you can leave room for the rather large head. After you tie off the herl, wind the hackle feather forward to the tie off point and trim the excess materials. Tie in a squirrel tail wing and finish the fly by tying in more herl for a large head. Be sure to make the head full and wind it back to cover the thread wraps used to secure the wing. Placing a drop of cement on the thread wraps before you wind over them will help hold the wing on when a fish takes it; gray squirrel is a slippery hair and easy to pull out. I use cement that is diluted 50% with thinner for those jobs when I want the cement to penetrate thread wraps and glue the material under the wraps.

I’ve substituted black hackle and clipped off the top when I hoped the fly would be taken for a stonefly. You can imitate both caddis and mayfly fly emergers with it. Fished dry, it could be taken for a Dobson fly or a hopper. Like all good flies, the Picket Pin can imitate several food sources and with substitutions you can soon have your own “secret fly”. If you want a head start on that, try a size 14 with woodchuck for the wing and grizzly for the hackle.

Start with the recipe I’ve shown you; it doesn’t use expensive materials, it’s easy to learn and you’ll catch fish with it. A youngster will catch fish with it too if you’ll take the time to show them.

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The Edson Tigers

kelly_Dec_2008
This set of streamers is a companion set created in 1929, coincidently the year of another stock market crash. The light and dark versions of these old bucktail streamers are found in most recipe books, better stocked fly shops and your grandfather’s fly wallet. Bill Edson originally tied these with gold metal cheeks instead of Jungle Cock eyes. His mail order catalog developed quite a following and the once optional gold cheeks were so much in demand that they became his standard. When you can find these streamers today, they are tied with a Jungle Cock cheek tied short, or with no cheek at all to save cost. If you want to try these streamers with the metal cheeks, you can get them from theriaultflies.com.

The Dark Tiger has a dark wing and a light body while the Light Tiger has a dark body and a light wing. There are old theories that you should select your fly color in accordance with the sunshine. Dark streamers for dark days-light streamers for light days. I’ve used that method and it works but to be honest, I’ve switched colors and had good results too. Bill used yellow chenille for the Dark Tiger and peacock herl for the Light Tiger. The length of the yellow chenille body is a good approximation of a mayfly nymph and I’ve lost track of the number of fish I catch on flies tied with peacock herl. This tells me that these streamers imitate multiple food sources and will fish well under varying conditions.

The Edson Dark Tiger wing is made with the brown hair off a buck tail dyed yellow. If you select the hair from the base of the tail, the wing will flare and you’ll quit in disgust. Try the yellow tinged brown hair near the tip of the tail. It isn’t as hollow and the hair around the base and lays down a great wing.

Recipe for the Edson Dark Tiger
Thread – Yellow (or yellow lacquer over black)
Tag- Several turns of gold tinsel
Hook – 4x shank
Tail –Two yellow hackle feather tips, small, tied back to back
Body – Fine yellow chenille
Throat – Two small red hackle tips (or hackle fibers)
Wing – Brown hair from yellow dyed bucktail, as long as the tail
Cheeks- Jungle Cock tied short

Recipe for the Edson Light Tiger
Thread – Black
Tag- Several turns of gold tinsel
Hook – 4x shank
Tail –Barred wood duck, showing two black bars
Body – Peacock herl, tied full
Wing – Yellow buck tail, as long as the tail
Topping- Short red neck hackles, 1/3 length of wing
Cheeks- Jungle Cock tied short

The tails on both streamers are distinctive and I recommend you tie them as the recipe describes, I think they’re important. The red feathers are something I feel free substituting fibers for hackle tips because they are small and seem to be there for color rather than movement. I use Jungle Cock for the cheeks because when my streamers have eyes or cheeks they catch more fish. Jungle Cock is getting cheaper in small bunches if you shop around.

There are a lot of flies to tie and to fish with, and almost all of them catch fish one day or another. As more and more new patterns appear on the scene, we forget the old standbys. Then, if you’re lucky, you stumble onto a recipe of an almost forgotten fly that had its hey day long ago. You tie it, cast it, and then you’re mesmerized by the intensity of the strike. It turns out that the fish never forgot the fly, we did.

Don’t forget these old flies; some of them were bringing big fish to old nets long before you and I were born.

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