Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

I have posted these same flies previously, but these are some new flies and new photos.

Carrie Stevens Streamer patterns; closkciws from upper left:

An assortment of Carrie Stevens Streamer patterns; clockwise from upper left: Pink Lady (2); Gray Ghost (2); Blue Devil (2); Colonel Bates (2); Larry’s Special, Larry, Rapid River, and Lakewood, center. All dressed on Gaelic Supreme Rangeley Style Carrie Stevens / Mike Martinek streamer hooks. Sizes are #1, #2, #4 all 8x long.

And a macro of the heads, shoulders, and cheeks like spokes of a wheel.

Same flies arranged in a wheel pattern. The head band colors are true to Carrie's original pattern specs.

Same flies arranged in a wheel pattern. The head band colors are true to Carrie’s original pattern specs.

And carded for sale to collectors:

Lakewood - Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, named for Lakwood Camps. Only a few of her 100-plus original patterns sported an orange head with a black band.

Lakewood – Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, named for Lakwood Camps. Only a few of her 100-plus original patterns sported an orange head with a black band.

Larry - a streamer pattern designed by Carrie Stevens and named after Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 to 1974.

Larry – a streamer pattern designed by Carrie Stevens and named after Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 to 1974.

Larry's Special - the second of two streamer patterns created by Carrie Stevens, named for Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 - 1974.

Larry’s Special – the second of two streamer patterns created by Carrie Stevens, named for Larry Parsons, owner of Lakewood Camps from 1945 – 1974.

Rapid River - the fourth streamer pattern created by Carrie G. Stevens and associated with the Rapid River, Lakewood Camps, and former camp owner Larry Parsons.

Rapid River – the fourth streamer pattern created by Carrie G. Stevens and associated with the Rapid River, Lakewood Camps, and former camp owner Larry Parsons.

These four streamers are available in a boxed set, part of my Collector’s Edition series of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. Presently priced at $80, the cost is soon going up for a few reasons – they have been rather inexpensive for one, and also to help cover the 5% fee and shipping costs associated with MyFlies.com. Here is the link to the “Lakewood” Collector’s Edition Set No. 4 on MyFlies.com:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-4-P784.aspx

Originally when I listed these sets for sale, I was winding the ribbing clockwise, but a couple years ago I changed that on Carrie Stevens patterns to wind counter clockwise as she did. I also learned how to apply the throats in her unique, original layered method, the result of my photos and study of the copies of Austin Hogan’s notes that were on display at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont. This method was first learned by contemporary fly tier, Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts. Conversations I have had with Mike have benefitted me, and his classes have taught other tiers, to name a few, Rich Connors, Peter Simonson, and Peggy Brenner how to replicate streamers in the true Carrie Stevens Rangeley method. Mike had the good fortune to be taken under the wing of Austin Hogan while a young member of the United Fly Tyers in the Boston area. Mike was privileged to participate in the deconstruction of three or four Carrie Stevens original streamer patterns in Austin’s apartment in 1967. The information Mike learned has been presented in a number of articles and videos over the years. Thanks Mike, for your help, and learning and passing on techniques that might have been lost.

I feel the need to make a few more comments: The knowledge and experience of Mike Martinek and other long-time streamer tiers should not be considered lightly. These folks who have put their time in – for years – decades – learning and honing their craft – are the fly tiers who deserve credit for their expertise, knowledge, and credibility. One does not gain “expert” status merely by tying for a few years and then suddenly coming out of the woodwork and writing a bunch of articles and even a book. I don’t care how good a fly tier may be, I realize, like musicians, some folks have talent and aptitude to excel at an early stage. A couple friends in the few years stage of very good fly tying I would make note of are Stanley Williams of West Enfield, Maine, and fellow Pennsylvanian, Eunan Hendron. Yet there is ultimately no substitute for decades of experience. Look at me, I have been tying flies for almost fifty-one years, and it was only in 2012 that I learned the correct way to authentically dress Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamers, in the fashion that she originated. For me the final learning curve was merely noticing and paying attention to details that I ought to have recognized earlier on. However, I do not, and likely never will attempt to hand-tie her patterns. Tried once and quite frankly, I don’t know how she pulled it off, to do her throat method while holding the hook, working the thread, and placing the hackle fibers. An old dog can learn new tricks, but this dog won’t likely tie streamers sans vise.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Colonel Bates streamers. Oddly enough, and I don't like to complain, but the person for whom this fly was named had two components incorrectly labeled in his own book.  Joseph D. Bates "Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing." Subsequent evidence - numerous Carrie Stevens original Colonel Bates streamers, including the Captain Bates and Major Bates, show the tail to be red hackle fibers. This makes sense, since not one  of the 100-plus streamer flies she originated have sections of duck quill for tails. And the shoulders on the Colonel Bates are and always were gray mallard, not teal.

A pair of Colonel Bates streamers. Oddly enough, and I don’t like to complain, but the person for whom this fly was named had two components incorrectly labeled in his own book. Joseph D. Bates “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing.” Subsequent evidence – numerous Carrie Stevens original Colonel Bates streamers, including the Captain Bates and Major Bates, show the tail to be red hackle fibers. This makes sense, since not one of the 100-plus streamer flies she originated have sections of duck quill for tails. And the shoulders on the Colonel Bates are and always were gray mallard, not teal.

A pair of Blue Devils.

A pair of Blue Devils. One of the three streamer patterns in Carrie Stevens “Devil” series. The other two are the Red Devil and White Devil. All three patterns sport shoulders of “partridge” or pah-tridge” – indigenous to her local area near Upper Dam at Mooselucmaguntic Lake in Maine’s famous Rangeley Lakes Region.

A pair of the Pink Lady streamer pattern, originated by Carrie Stevens. This was the final fly tied of her career, on the day in December 1953, when she sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins of New Hampshire.

A pair of the Pink Lady streamer pattern, originated by Carrie Stevens. This was the final fly tied of her career, on the day in December 1953, when she sold her business to H. Wendell Folkins of New Hampshire.

The Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Set No. 1 is available on MyFlies.com:

http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-1-P658.aspx

One tying note I’d like to point out, and I learned this from experience and just by paying attention: When replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns, it is important to note that images of her original patterns – the proportions – the components of underbelly, underwing of bucktail peacock herl, golden pheasant crest, silver pheasant crests, should always be as long as the wing. No shorties. I mean, you can tie them anyway you like to fish with, but for the sake of fly pattern historical accuracy, lets be true to her original design specs and proportions.

Cost of these four-fly Collector’s Sets is going to be increased to $90. Orders may also be place directly through me. Find me on facebook too: Don Bastian.

Speaking of Ghosts…

Due to an inquiry from a customer a couple years ago, with his desire to have me create a frame of all the streamer patterns named “Ghost” – specifically “Something Ghost” as opposed to “Ghost Something” – which was the dividing line I decided upon, I expected to maybe find about, three dozen. Nope. Sixty-four by my count, including four original Ghost patterns that I have created. Two of these have been published here; you can use the search tab at top right of my page, for “Carrie’s Ghost” and “Wheeler’s Ghost,” type that in, hit “enter” and it will take you right to those articles.

I am tying Bubgee’s Ghost and the Rangeley Ghost next week to fill an order for a collector. All four of these patterns are part of a large series of thirty-six original streamer patterns I created about two years ago, using the Rangeley Region of Maine as the source for these patterns. I also created each pattern in the authentic style of Carrie Stevens, using her fly design concepts, use of materials, placement and layering of throat hackles, and shoulder selection from her body of work.

I have not been “on the stick” to get these flies finished, but I need to get crackin’. There are several totally new streamer / Lake Fly conversions in this collection, and the four Ghosts; Carrie’s Bugbee’s Wheeler’s, and Rangeley, were inspired by Carrie’s Gray Ghost and Ghost patterns of other tiers. Other locales and places in the Rangeley region were also used in choosing names and making these streamers come to life.

I thought that would be one frame of “Ghosts” —  looks like it will need to be two… ;-)

I will have streamer materials with me at the 24th International Fly Tying Symposium this weekend, in Somerset, New Jersey. I can tie a streamer for you on custom order, do a demo, or you can place an order for me to fill later on.

Vintage Stuff

A friend of mine, and one of my blog followers, and occasional commenters, Alec Stansell, of Massachusetts, posted this picture on his facebook page. I liked it and decided to share it with my readers. It is some carded streamers and a bottle of head cement from the Percy Tackle Company, of Portland, Maine. Percy Tackle Co. was started by Gardner Percy, I believe, back in the 1920’s.

The flies are a Mickey Finn (left), unknown (center) – I have put in a message to Alec to identify it, and a Gray Ghost. The head cement is pretty cool too. Wonder how it would work?

Old collectible items from the Percy Tackle Company, of Portland, Maine.

Old collectible items from the Percy Tackle Company, of Portland, Maine. The flies are attached to the card with a staple over the hook bend. This was the most common method of attaching streamers and bucktails to cards.

Don’t forget, you can click on the picture, and it will enlarge for a bigger image. If you have a new touch-screen laptop like I do (still getting used to it), then you can also make the pic bigger just by moving your fingers…either way works.

Alec just messaged me, this pic was on eBay. He bought the items, but has not yet received them. He offered to take macro pics of the items when he gets them, and we’ll get the name for that unknown pattern. He thinks it’s called “Commando.” Which is interesting because I do not know of a fly with that name…course, sometimes I just don’t know… ;-)

Rubber Cementing Streamer Wings

OK folks, I thought I would share an update on the use of Rubber Cement, Elmer’s specifically, for use on cementing streamer wing components together as pioneered by Carrie Stevens in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. Carrie was a milliner by trade, and she began tying flies in 1920, after being gifted with some long shank hooks, bucktails, and feathers by Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler, a family friend and fishing guide client of her husband, Wallace. Shang gave Carrie the materials and encouraged her, probably saying something like, “Why don’t you give this a shot?” The rest is history. Carrie’s Gray Ghost streamer, nearly eighty years after its creation, remains as the pinnacle streamer fly above all others created before or since. It is still sold in fly shops and fishing stores across the state of Maine and New England, because it catches fish. The Gray Ghost is likely to remain where it is, in its proper place of unchallenged prominence as the most famous streamer fly ever created.

Gray Ghost Streamer, from Streamers365.com, tied by Don Bastian. Photograph by Daren MacEachern, owner of Streamers365.com.

Gray Ghost Streamer from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photographed by Darren MacEachern, site originator and owner of Streamers365.com. Interesting to note, the head on this fly was painted, as opposed to my proprietary method later developed to band the heads solely with actual thread colors. I say proprietary because I do this differently than Carrie Stevens did. The wing color on this fly is very similar to some of the bronze-colored hackle feather examples of Mrs. Stevens own Gray Ghosts that are photographed in the book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Stackpole Press, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard.

Carrie cemented her wing components together; wing hackles, shoulders of various feathers, and jungle cock cheeks, using a type of cement or thick varnish. Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, was probably the first modern streamer tier to implement cemented wing components into his replications of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. Mike was mentored by Austin S. Hogan when he was a young man. Austin was the first curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, besides being a noted fly tier and angling historian. On one occasion, Mike and Austin deconstructed four of Carrie Stevens’ flies. A complete set of Austin’s notes on Mrs. Stevens’ fly tying and assembly methods, consisting of typed text, along with pencil drawings and notations, was included as part of the museum display in Manchester, titled, “A Graceful Rise” which featured fifty women prominent in the history of fly tying and fly fishing. I noticed the notes during a visit to the museum and took photographs of them in June of 2012.

Colonel Bates, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Colonel Bates, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern. This fly also has a lacquered head. I prefer using only thread now to accomplish this.

Studying these notes has been enlightening, and has been instrumental in my personal progression of replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. My years of fly tying experience, combined with the information from the Darrel Martin / Mike Martinek Carrie Stevens 2001 article in Fly Rod and Reel, and bits of information I gleaned from Mike Martinek and a few other tiers over the years has contributed to my present state of finally being satisfied that I am no longer leaving out any details when replicating Carrie Stevens streamer patterns. I tied my very first Gray Ghost when I was in high school, about 1968 or ’69. Some tiers are not as detail-oriented as I am, or as interested in being historically accurate when replicating other fly tiers patterns, but I choose to replicate Carrie Stevens’ patterns as close to her design as I can; I wind the ribbing counter-clockwise as she did – most photos I’ve seen of Carrie Stevens originals with clockwise ribbing were reversed images, besides it makes no sense to think she was not consistent with this important component. I also replicate her elongated, banded heads; I believe the head shape and banding is a tribute to her pattern design, especially since she used a selection of thread colors for the bands, and they were clearly a color-coordinated component of her patterns. I first banded the heads on some of her patterns in the 1980’s, then after a time discontinued it. Furthermore, when Wendell Folkins bought her business in 1953, she wanted him to replicate the head bands to designate the patterns he was tying as hers. I have also gotten very careful about making sure all the components; underbelly and under wings – peacock herl, silver and golden pheasant crest, and bucktail, are all equally as long as the wing of the fly. That is an often overlooked aspect of Carrie’s tying standards.

Jungle Queen, from Streamers365.com, 2012.

Jungle Queen, from Streamers365.com, 2012. This pattern is identical to Carrie’s Yellow Witch. Note the head on this fly is not banded. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Prior to 2011, I tied all my streamer patterns in typical ‘Eastern fashion.’ I had never cemented streamer wings until the early summer of 2011. Another tier suggested it, and with some reluctance I tried it. The initial result was satisfying, particularly on the rather unruly golden pheasant tippet shoulders, since I was tying my first Big Ben streamer. Once I found out how easy it was to mount previously assembled wings, I kept right at it. I would have used Flexament for this but my bottle was thick to the point of being totally unusable. My hometown has no fly shops anymore, so at the local hardware store, I saw and decided to try Elmer’s Rubber Cement. It was only three bucks, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

Herb welch originated the Black Ghost, but Carrie tied other popular patterns originated by other tiers of her time; she added her unique method of construction ad banded heads to all her flies. I want to start replicating some of these patterns as she did, in her style.

Herb Welch originated the Black Ghost, but Carrie tied other popular patterns originated by other tiers of her time; she added her unique method of construction and banded heads to all these flies as well. I want to start replicating some of these patterns as she did, in her style, down to the last detail. Carrie and Herb were practically neighbors, he sold her flies in his shop at Haines Landing. The Black Ghost pre-dates Carrie’s Gray Ghost; according to Hilyard’s book, by about six or seven years. The first mention of the Gray Ghost is on one of Carrie’s invoices in 1933 or 1934.

To overcome concerns about durability expressed when I announced that I was going to use rubber cement for cementing streamer wings, I soaked a completed wing assembly in water for thirty-six hours, then shook it hard – three-hundred, wrist-numbing shakes. It held together. Elmer’s is great for this because:

1) It does not bleed through the feathers. I invite anyone to inspect any of my cemented-wing streamer flies and find evidence of bleed-through cement. It ain’t there!

2) It sets up fairly fast, but it can be ‘worked’ – in other words, the cement remains soft enough to position, reposition, and align, if necessary; the neck hackles, shoulders, and cheeks.

3) The fly / wings does not come apart, even when soaked in water and shook violently, as my personal test proved, to simulate casting and fishing.

4) It is inexpensive.

5) It is readily and widely available, Walmart, CVS, Jo Ann’s Fabrics, your local hardware store, etc.

6) It has no obnoxious odor.

7) If need be, components can be disassembled and reassembled without problems (like when I accidentally get the order of wing hackles wrong, oops).

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from Streamers365.com, 2012.

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from Streamers365.com, 2012. This is another popular pattern tied and sold by Carrie Stevens. Mr. Stickney was not a fly tier, but had other tiers bring his creations to life for him. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Last weekend at the Arts of the Angler Show in Danbury, Connecticut, I had the pleasure of tying beside fellow tier, Peggy Brenner, from New Hampshire. Peggy was featured in the Graceful Rise exhibition, and she has taken lessons from Mike Martinek. She’s a good fly tier, tying streamers and Atlantic salmon flies, and she also has a business of selling her flies.

This is where the point of this article, the rubber cement bombshell finally hits the target. This is great news, and validates more what I have been saying about the use of rubber cement for cementing streamer wings. Last weekend Peggy told me that her husband bought her a water tank with a pump to create current, so she could “test” flies for action, performance, etc. Peggy informed me that she inserted into her tank, on a section of leader, a Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, that had wings she cemented with Elmer’s Rubber Cement. Not over night. Not for a couple days. But for three weeks! Peggy said whenever she checked on the fly, it was just swimming and fluttering merrily along. When she finally took the fly out, it was fine and in perfect condition, the cement held. Three weeks of total immersion in a water tank; twenty-four seven, that is a total of five-hundred four hours. Do you know how many fishing hours that translates into? Given the fact that most of us fish a fly for no more than an hour or so at a time, and maybe only a few times per year, if not lost to a big fish, a submerged log or rock, or an errant back cast, and provided the hook did not rust, said rubber cemented streamer fly could be passed along from generation to generation to generation and still have fishing life left. But by then, the thread might rot, or some other component would fail. My point is that rubber cement is a great and durable cement for cementing streamer wings.

I found this especially enlightening and gratifying since the grapevine told me that another fly tying instructor was pooh-poohing my use of rubber cement for streamer wings in their classes. I tell my students what works for me, and what others use, but I’m not going to, nor can I force anyone else to do what I do. I just try to give my best and present the most accurate information I can according to my experience.

BYR Smelt, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

BYR Smelt, from Streamers365.com, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern. The BYR (pronounced by-er) in the pattern name is an acronym for Blue-Yellow-Red in the wing. This is one of my original streamer patterns, but it is totally assembled with Carrie Stevens cemented wing component methods and her style of layering the throat in a process toward the head.

When I get a new camera I’ll be busily filling in the gaps of blog posts that I’ve missed. I’ll have to think about doing a step-by-step of the cementing process, even a video.

I had a comment from a reader that prompted an explanation of my cementing techniques; I decided to add this information to the article to help folks understand my methods and personal tricks of cementing streamer wing assemblies.

For now, and my method is a little different than Leslie Hilyard’s; he cements the jungle cock nail to the shoulder feather, then cements this completed section to the cemented-together hackles. I generally start with the inside feather; some of Carrie’s patterns contain six hackles in the wing; three on a side. I put the lesser quality (if any difference) of the feathers on the inside, that is when they are the same color as on the Gray Ghost, Canary, etc. I dip my bodkin in the rubber cement about 5/8″ to 3/4″ for larger size streamers. Smaller hooks would require less. I probably cement 25% to 30% of the front of the wing, just a bit less than the total length of the shoulder, which Carrie Stevens determined to be 1/3 of the wing length.
Sometimes I swirl the bodkin tip a bit in the bottle to make sure I get enough cement on it. I apply the cement on the top side of the feather along the stem line, holding my bodkin parallel to the stem, and then slowly draw the bodkin off the butt end, while rotating it in my thumb and finger. This rolling action makes the cement slide off the bodkin to lay evenly along the stem. Then I pick up the next feather and align that evenly and press it into place, making sure the tip ends are even, and the stems are perfectly aligned at the shoulder joint. Same process is repeated for a third wing hackle, as on the Firefly, Jitterbug, General MacArthur, etc.
Carrie Stevens didn’t just put a dab on near the ends of the feathers, she cemented a significant portion of the feather length; and she also cemented the (inside of the) wings to the body at the front of the hook shank, cementing both sides together. My method cements the feathers similar to hers and creates the “tight, bulky front end” of the fly that was part of Carrie Stevens’ bait fish design. Though I don’t cement the wings together unless one or both are unruly.
I apply cement to the top of the second (or third) wing hackle as before, then press the shoulder in place. I generally use my Tweezerman non-serrated tweezers to do this, as this allows a more precise handling, positioning, and final placement of the feather. Same with the jungle cock, though I generally demonstrate multiple handling methods to my students and observers. A light touch after each feather is added secures the feathers in place. I have also laid a pair of scissors or hackle pliers on top of the just-cemented wing assembly to add a bit of weight to make it set.
Contrary again to Hilyard and some others, I prefer to trim my butt ends fairly close, not clipping them after the wings are tied to the hook. And like I have been advocating ever since I started teaching tying of classic wet flies, I trim the butt ends of the stems at a sharp angle, not a straight cross-cut. This tapers the end lengths of the individual feather stems so you can wrap over them and smoothly bind them to the hook and make a smooth thread base for the head. See also:

http://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/01/13/carrie-stevens-and-rangeley-style-streamers/

I’m happy to say I’m feeling great, healthy, and not even on any medications; a far cry from a year ago. Barring some unforeseen or unexpected circumstance, I will be at the International Fly Tying Symposium in Somerset, New Jersey on November 23 and 24. I’ll be happy to demonstrate and try to answer your questions about tying classic wet flies, historic 19th century trout, lake, and bass flies on snelled or gut-loop eye blind-eye hooks, or Carrie Stevens streamer patterns or her methods.

Thanks to Darren MacEachern for the use of his photos of my flies. I decided to use them since he does great work. And maybe you’re tired of seeing my pictures. Tight threads everyone!

White Ghost – Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern

The White Ghost is almost totally unknown compared to its famous sister pattern, the Gray Ghost. The Gray Ghost is the most well-known, most famous, and most enduring streamer pattern ever created. That sales and popularity record belonging to Carrie Stevens will quite likely never be replaced. Both patterns are identical in every way, except for the color of the wing.

I wrote a post a few months back about the curious and interesting omission of the white throat component on the Gray Ghost. Going back as far back as 1950, three books at least that I am aware of, described and discussed the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost in the text portion, but yet for some strange reason, all three books failed to include the white hackle fibers as part of the written pattern recipe. Of course, the white throat is part of the pattern for the Gray Ghost. It makes complete sense that Carrie Stevens would have duplicated all the components on both of these related patterns. Though I realize most Gray Ghosts tied over these many decades were tied without the white throat. I say better late than never to make the correction. To read my original post on this topic go to: http://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/gray-ghost-white-ghost/

The books that discuss the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost, but yet omit the component in the written recipe are: Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, by Joesph D. Bates; Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, by Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman; and Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard. Hilyard’s book even has a sequence of photographs of tying the  Gray Ghost step-by-step, with the white hackle throat, but it’s not in the written pattern recipe in the same book. I’m not busting on anyone for these oversights, and I have no explanation for why or how this happened. All I know is that it happened. I find it interesting, and also I feel obligated to get this right. I’m sort of a stickler for detail and accuracy when it comes to fly patterns.

Here is the White Ghost:

White Ghost - size #@1 - 8x long - Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hook.

White Ghost – size #1 – 8x long – Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hook. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

White Ghost

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Orange floss

Underbelly: Four to six strands of peacock herl, followed by white bucktail, both as long as the wing

Underwing: Golden pheasant crest, as long as the wing, curving downward. I prefer this order of tying in, my personal feeling is to tie in the golden pheasant crest underwing before the throat.

Throat: White hackle fibers, then a shorter golden pheasant crest curving upward

Wing: Four white hackles

Shoulders: Silver pheasant body feathers

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Black with an orange band

To view or purchase Don Bastian’s Carrie Stevens Collector’s Edition Set No. 5 featuring the White Ghost visit: http://www.myflies.com/Carrie-Stevens-Streamer-Patterns-Collectors-Edition-Set-No-5-P772.aspx

Gray Ghost – White Ghost

The Gray Ghost is unquestionably the most famous streamer fly ever created. Contrary to popular belief, according to the account presented in Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, The Stackpole Press, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, the Gray Ghost was actually not the pattern that Carrie Stevens caught her record-breaking six pound, thirteen ounce brook trout on at Upper Dam, Maine, on July 1st, 1924. The entry in Carrie’s own handwriting in the record book at the Upper Dam House records the successful fly as “Shang’s Go Get-um.” There is no modern record of a Carrie Stevens pattern called Shang’s Go Get-um. And the mounted record brook trout Carrie caught was presented to her friend, Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler. Shang Wheeler is responsible for getting Carrie started and interested in fly tying in 1920. The fly in the jaw of the mount is a Shang’s Special. Perhaps this is a courtesy to her friend, or perhaps it is the same pattern with a name change, as Hilyard suggest as a possibility. We will never know.

I tied my first Gray Ghosts while still in high school, back in the late 1960’s. Over the years I bought and acquired different books that included the Gray Ghost. I first saw the pattern at age twelve in 1964, because in 1938, the already popular pattern was included in Ray Bergman’s book Trout, written in that year. I started reading Trout on that first day after I caught bluegills on a Yellow Sally wet fly in a Pennsylvania farm pond. I bought the first Gray Ghost I ever fished for seventy-five cents at a local sporting goods shop in my home town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Like many commercially tied Gray Ghosts, it had yellow bucktail substituted for the golden pheasant crest.

Ever since that time I have tied and fished the Gray Ghost. It was successful for trout in my home state of Pennsylvania, but in more recent years I fished it primarily on my trips to Maine starting in 1986. My brother heard from other anglers and reported that gray marabou makes a great Gray Ghost variation; we tied them and caught trout and salmon on them too. even a little pearlescent Flashabou added makes it fish. ;-)

My brother Larry and I, also collaboratively originated the Gray Ghost Wooly Bugger, back in 1987. That pattern was included in Gary Soucie’s book, Wooly Wisdom, 2005, but listed as origin unknown. I can clarify its origin dating to 1987, and I plan to eventually get that pattern up on another post.

Back in the early 1990’s, after taking salmon fly tying lessons with my Canadian friend Rick Whorwood, who hosted guest instructors Rob Solo from Newfoundland, and Bob Veverka, author of Spey Flies, at his home, I learned to focus on more exacting proportions and ways to improve my fly tying. I transferred what I learned about tying salmon flies to all my flies, particularly classic wet flies that I began tying with renewed passion in 1993. These lessons, more or less caused me to become more detail-oriented in my fly tying. Another factor in this development was that I had gotten a jump start on detail orientation by commercially tying trout flies in the fall of 1989. I tied more flies in that first year that I did in the previous twenty-five years combined tying mainly for myself. I wore out the 25-year old set of jaws on my Thompson Model-A vise in the first year. Tying commercially; if you can do it, is very good discipline.

After all these years, a good number of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns have turned up among the collections of anglers, estates, and happenstance, and they continue to do so. A story I can personally relate; I met a man while demo tying at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine last fall in 2012. In 2009 he received a “bag of streamers” from an elderly man in his nineties who had lived in the Rangeley Lakes Region. The man who received the flies was new to fly fishing. He used some of these streamers, lost some in trees, lost some in fish, and lost some on rocks and logs. One day while fishing with a licensed Maine guide, the guide noticed the streamer fly on his tippet and took a closer look at it. It was a Carrie Stevens original. The guide asked, “Do you have any more of these?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “I have a streamer wallet full of ‘em.”

The guide was struck as he examined the streamers therein. “Where did you get these?” The man told him that they had been given him by an old man who said he was no longer fishing and would not need them.

“Do you know who tied these flies?” the guide asked.

“No,” the man answered.

“These are Carrie Stevens’ flies!” the guide declared.

“Who’s Carrie Stevens?” the man queried. The interesting thing is that when enlightened by research to their value and the significance of Carrie Stevens, the man donated the nearly forty remaining original Stevens streamers to the museum in Oquossoc, Maine.

In more than seventy-five years, one would think there is nothing new to discover about the Gray Ghost. However, I recently discovered this fact: The White Ghost, a Carrie Stevens companion pattern to the Gray Ghost, shares the same components and is identical to the Gray Ghost except for the wing color. At first I thought it curious that the White Ghost had an added white hackle throat, while the Gray Ghost did not. It is not noticeable on most of her originals, but it can in fact be seen on several of the Gray Ghosts on the back cover of the previously mentioned book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies. Like the White Ghost, the Gray Ghost does indeed have white hackle fibers as part of the throat. They are an integral part of the pattern. However, I and a few thousand other people never knew that until recently. Here is what I discovered: It is interesting, even amazing, to note regarding the white hackle portion of the throat on the Gray Ghost; the written recipes in these six books, in order of their publication:, Trout, 1938, Ray Bergman;  Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, 1966, Joseph D. Bates; Flies, 1950, J. Edson Leonard; Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman; Forgotten Flies, 1999, Complete Sportsman; Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Graydon and Leslie Hilyard; have this fact in common: the component of the white hackle throat on the written Gray Ghost recipes is missing!

It is included in Austin Hogan’s notes and drawings that he made in the 1960’s on Carrie Stevens’ tying methods; it is included in the written text of Bates book, it is included in the text devoted to Carrie Stevens tying methods in Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, and it is shown on the photographic step-by-step tutorial of the Gray Ghost in Hilyard’s book.

Bates writes about Carrie Stevens tying methods, detailing her construction of the Gray Ghost: “Now the throat was tied in. A small bunch of white bucktail extending beyond the barb of the hook was tied in under the rearward part of the white underbody. This surrounded the white underbody and was applied here so it would point backward, rather than backward and downward. Immediately ahead of this a small bunch of white hackle (all of approximately the same length) was tied in, in the same manner, to hold the bucktail up and to extend the whiteness of the throat forward.” P. 175.

I first noted the addition of the white hackle throat on the White Ghost in the summer of 2011 when I tied my first specimen of that pattern. It was not until I photographed Austin Hogan’s notes at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, this past June of 2012, brought them home, downloaded them to my computer and began reading and studying them at a later date.I did not remember the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost from these listed books, but comparing this new information from Hogan’s notes to the books, that I discovered this omission of decades. It is fascinating that this missing component was inadvertently perpetuated through multiple publications. I am not finding fault with any of these distinguished authors, I merely find it interesting. It’s almost as if there was a conspiracy of sorts, or perhaps a curse of secrecy. All kidding aside, here is the photo and text from Austin Hogan’s notes on Carrie Stevens tying methods from the American Museum of Fly Fishing Display:

Photo caption: No. 6 – White, lustrous, stripped saddle hackle or cape hackles are tied in next (to) the white hair. The underside of the shank may be lacquered if necessary to blend the fibers to the hair. The advantage of the white thread now becomes evident. No. 7 – More white fibers are added in the same way until the bare shank is covered to a point where the throat (a golden pheasant crest) is to be placed. It’s probable Mrs. Stevens had the underbody of a minnow in mind. The fibers are to flow backward and are proportionate in volume and width to the bucktail. Too long and too heavy helps turn the streamer on its side.”

Austin Hogan was the first Curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, and he actually deconstructed, wrap by wrap, Carrie Stevens’ streamer patterns to make his notes on her methods and techniques. Hogan’s star streamer pupil, Mike Martinek, Jr. of Massachusetts, was also involved in some of these deconstruction sessions. Austin Hogan’s notes are currently in the possession of Mike Martinek, Jr. Mike has been the standard-bearer of carrying on and teaching Carrie Stevens tying methods for decades.

Note that Mr. Hogan’s deconstruction of Carrie’s Gray Ghost revealed that she layered the white hackle in with multiple applications of small bunches of fibers. Leslie Hilyard covers this method of tying in the throat of black and orange fibers on the Hammerhead pattern in his book. However, the presence or absence of a bucktail underbelly, golden pheasant or silver pheasant crest underwing, peacock herl underbelly or underwing, all changes the process of material placement for tying streamers in authentic Carrie Stevens style. Until a few months ago, I had been tying Carrie Stevens streamers in traditional Eastern fashion, as Hilyard states, like many other people, as are the reproductions of Carrie’s patterns in Forgotten Flies, attaching everything at the head. Even H. Wendell Folkins of Tamworth, New Hampshire, who purchased Carrie’s business in December 1953, tied her patterns in normal fashion, and did not use her methods. There is a difference, and I now have dozens more representations of the same pattern that I tied before and after my recent determination to tie Mrs. Stevens patterns accurately and in her traditional style. (Except for the fact I’m not tying in hand, folks).

I personally believe if we find out that any original and historical information is discovered to be wrong or incomplete, then if possible, we need to correct it. Perhaps I’m being extremely detail oriented about this, but I also feel it’s important to get things right. I am making the same effort on my current book project on the Orvis / Marbury flies; the title is Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.

I try to write nothing other than the truth and facts to the best of my ability. I do appreciate those of you that have called out my mistakes, whether they are omissions or incorrect information.  Mike Martinek, Jr. has been aware of the white hackle throat for decades, in fact, as I noted it was published in Bate’s book as far back as 1950, though I can not say that for certain since I do not possess a first-edition copy of his book.

I believe the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost is part of the pattern, as it is on the White Ghost. Of course most commercially available Gray Ghosts don’t have the white hackle throat, and it fishes. otherwise it would not have become and remained the most popular streamer in history. Depending on your reference source, Carrie Stevens created more than one-hundred streamer patterns, and there are none of the rest of these patterns that I know of with components that are included in the dressing but intentionally not “listed” as part of that pattern. As meticulous a tier as Carrie Stevens was, the loss of the Gray Ghost white throat hackle fibers on published pattern recipes that lasted for seventy years was through no fault of her own because she never made a serious effort to publish her patterns or recipes.

It makes perfect sense that Carrie’s two Ghost patterns are identical in every way except for the wing color. I cannot explain why all these books did not include the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost recipe. Some of them had the information and yet, somehow it was overlooked in the pattern recipe. Perhaps some authors took pattern recipes from commercial fly tying houses, or just accepted popular dressings, but I know for a fact that Carrie Stevens was a personal friend and corresponded with Joseph D. Bates, Jr., and she also wrote and sent flies to J. Edson Leonard for his book.

This is interesting! My study of her tying methods regarding material placement has given me a renewed interest in tying her patterns. I shall continue. And please folks, if ever I error in my statements or presentation of facts feel free to point that out to me.

And in my edit this post I decided to and these new Gray Ghost images:

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction.

A pair of Gray Ghosts. A Carrie G. Stevens streamer pattern, first found listed on one of her invoices in 1934. No argument here; the Gray Ghost is the most famous streamer pattern ever created, and not likely to ever be surpassed in that distinction. Note the different markings on the silver pheasant shoulders. Personally I prefer the fine barring, while many of Carrie’s original Gray Ghosts sport the heavier barring of the shoulder feather.

Footer Special Fly Tying Class with David Footer as Guest of Honor

It has been advertised for about a month that I am teaching a classic streamer fly tying class at L. L. Bean in Freeport, Maine, on Friday September 21st. There is only one space left, but Bean’s is also accepting stand-by names in event of any cancellations.

L. L. Bean also conducts regular fly tying classes Friday evenings at 7:00 PM. Since I was already scheduled to be present at Bean’s that day, I offered to serve as guest instructor for the Friday evening tying class on September 21st. In March, during the weekend of the L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo, I was invited to teach the class on March 16th. My suggestion to select a pattern different than the usual packaged fly pattern kits to the store manager was acceptable, as long as the pattern used materials in Bean’s regular fly tying stock. I chose the Footer Special, primarily since it is a pattern of  Maine origin, by taxidermist – artist David Footer. I thought the class would be relatively uneventful. I was wrong.

On the Friday afternoon of the Spring Fishing Expo, one of David Footer’s friends, Nick Sibilia, member of the Saco River Salmon Club, friend came by my display area and said, “I told Dave you were teaching his pattern tonight. He’s gonna try to come.” I was thrilled. I wouldn’t have given that a thought. I had met David for the first time at the Marlborough Fly Fishing Show in January of this year. http://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/david-footer-and-the-footer-special/

David lives in the nearby Lewiston-Auburn area of Maine. It turned out that David could not be present that evening, but he was well-represented at the class by his daughter Julie, who works with him, and another daughter and her husband, and additional family members, grand-children, and I think even one of David’s great-grand-children. Julie had prepared a text on the origin and history of the Footer Special. This turned out to be a fortuitous combination of L. L. Bean’s 100th Anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Footer Special streamer fly. The Footer Special was first published in the 1982 book, Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, by Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman.

It all came together very nicely that evening. The folks at Bean’s were delighted by the turnout. There were about 18 students in the class, and more spectators than students. It was the biggest attendance ever at Bean’s tying classes. It was a privilege to be involved in this.

I decided to again select the Footer Special for the class on September 21st. Once this was in motion, Ed Gauvin of the L. L. Bean Hunt / Fish Store and I decided to extend an invitation to David Footer to attend the class. I am delighted to announce that we have received confirmation from Julie Footer and David Footer. She and her father, and David’s wife, Annette, have graciously accepted the invitation and will be coming to the class on September 21st. Considering that we have more promotion time, it is anticipated that this evening will be even better than the previous Footer Special class.

David Footer has been an artist and taxidermist for over sixty years. He will be presenting his personal account of the Footer Special streamer pattern creation along with the big fish story that goes with it.

David Footer is one of the few remaining Maine personalities with direct links to the rich history and traditions of the Rangeley Lakes Region and the Golden Age of the Maine streamer fly. Julie Footer provided this information about her father: “He took the North Western School of Taxidermy correspondence course- and was licensed by the time he was 15, which was in 1946- that was also the year he first ever saw a Herb Welch mount: which was hanging at Bald Mountain Camps in the main Lodge. My father never knew who mounted that fish until years later (but the sight of it inspired him), and never met Herb Welch- to speak with about taxidermy until October of 1952 when he was 21 years old, and already had been a licensed taxidermist for six years.”

Herb Welch was a contemporary and friend of Carrie G. Stevens. Between Carrie Stevens’ Gray Ghost and Herb’s Black Ghost, they own the distinction of being the originators of the two most famous streamer patterns ever created. Herb Welch was recognized as the best taxidermist of his day. David Footer is linked to this history through personal experience.

Julie also included this information, “Under the direction of Master Taxidermist Herb Welch, David’s mentor, he honed his skills and became a master himself in the craft.” Here is a link to David’s About the Artist web page: http://davidfooter.com/?page_id=3

This Footer Special fly tying class with pattern originator David A. Footer as guest of honor will be held on the mezzanine at L. L. Bean, 7:00 PM. The class is free, anyone is welcome to attend. Materials will be provided. Tiers should plan your arrival ten to fifteen minutes early! Spectators are welcome!

I was priviliged to tie the Footer Special for the 2000 book, Forgotten Flies. It is also one of the patterns included in my 2007 DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails.

I am very excited about this! A special thank you to Julie Footer, for your assistance in providing accurate information of your father’s early years of taxidermy. Thank you all for your interest and support!

The Footer Special – created by David Footer in 1962.

Footer Special:

Hook: Any standard streamer hook, 6x to 10x long, size #1 to #8

Body: Flat gold tinsel

Belly: Sparse dark blue bucktail followed by 4 – 6 strands peacock herl

Underwing: Sparse red bucktail over which is sparse yellow bucktail

Wing: Two yellow hackles; some tiers use four hackles in the wing

Shoulders: Guinea fowl body feathers

Head: Black

There is a large flat-screen TV to provide a detailed, close-up view of the tying instructions to the class.