Widgeon Smelt

This streamer pattern is an original one I created in the 1990’s, patterned after the popular and effective flat-wing streamers, Joe’s Smelt and Jerry’s Smelt – Jerry’s being one of my favorite Maine streamer patterns, one I’ve had lots of success with. There will be much more written about this fly to expand this pattern and information about it into a more complete article, but not before next week. I apologize for that, but my goal today is to get something new for you folks out there to look at, and perhaps give inspiration to tie and try. If you ever fish minnow patterns for trout, salmon, and steelhead, you may want to test this fly. I’ll be writing more on the fishing tactics on the Widgeon Smelt, as there is a very unique situation of my stream-side befuddlement that took place with this fly back about 1996. So you may want to make a note to revisit this topic, say around April 4th.

Today, I am home only two days before heading to Hamilton, Ontario, on Friday this week to present and demonstrate fly tying as part of the Showcase of Fly Tyers at the 37th Annual Izaak Walton League Canadian Fly Fishing Forum. I am spending the weekend with my very good friend, Rick Whorwood, of Stoney Creek, minutes from the show venue. Check Rick’s website – his link is on the right – for some of his upcoming events. I have not seen Rick since the last time I attended the Forum in 2003. He and I have both been very busy and have not managed to get our schedules together. Rick tied the Jock Scott salmon fly for Canada Post several years ago when they issued the second series of fishing fly postage stamps, and he is replicating the 19th version of the Jock Scott from Mary Orvis Marbury’s Favorite Flies and Their Histories for my book – in progress – The Favorite Flies of Mary Orvis Marbury.

Anyway, the Widgeon Smelt was one of the patterns I presented in a fly tying class I taught as guest tier at the Gray Ghost Fly Tyers in Yarmouth, Maine, on March 13th, prior to my weekend demonstrations at the L. L. Bean Spring Fishing Expo.

A small school of Widgeon Smelt - size #6 and #8, a packaged gift to my friend from Portland, Maine, Rod McGarry.

Here is the pattern recipe:

Widgeon Smelt

Hook: Mustad 94720, or 3665A, or any long-shank streamer hook, sizes #2 to #12. Yup, small sizes, too; that information will be part of some of the additional writing that I’ll be adding next week.

Thread: Red Danville Flymaster 6/0, black for head.

Tail: Olive schlappen fibers. Part of the tail is also formed from the frayed fibers of the pearlescent mylar tubing used on the body.

Body: Pearlescent mylar tubing, secured fore and aft on the hook shank. Leave enough room for the elongated head.

Wing: Sparse gray marabou, over which is a single Widgeon flank feather. I bought a 1 oz. bag of European Widgeon feathers around 1992, from a fly tying shop no longer in business – Classic and Custom Fly Shop, Connecticut.

Gills: Red thread, but I prefer to further enhance and paint the gills with Wapsi red lacquer.

Head: Black with painted-on eyes, yellow with black pupil. After a couple coats of Wapsi Gloss Coat, I added a coat of Black Pro Lak head cement. The eyes are painted on with the tip of a large size straightened paper clip. Then I use Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails, but gently, making only one brush stroke over each eye. Don’t worry about coating the whole head the first time. If you try to put too much on with the first coat, the Hard as Nails will react with the Wapsi lacquer eyes and smudge them. These heads have about 5 – 6 coats of Sally’s to protect them. I suppose you could use epoxy as well, a thin coat.

A closer image of the Widgeon Smelt heads.

You can see the feathers are very similar to teal, gray mallard, and there may actually be some of them mixed in with the widgeon feathers. I select the wing feathers to be long and somewhat narrow. The wing presents flat when fished, and gives some naturally imitative, scaly-looking barring to this pattern. I tied these flies for my friend Rod McGarry because he has promoted my visits to Maine, placing me in contact with several venues that successfully resulted in bookings for classes, etc. Thank you Rod! Rod commented when we tied this pattern during the class that he really liked it. We had breakfast together at The Village Store in New Gloucester, Maine, on Friday March 23rd. So I tied this half-dozen and gave this set to Rod. He guides for Jeff MacEvoy at Weatherby’s Sporting Camps in Grand Lake Stream, Maine. I am certain considering my success fishing the Widgeon Smelt in the Moosehead Lake area of Maine that Rod will do well with it in Grand Lake Stream.

Widgeon Smelt - head macro image. Note the smooth, shiny finish. That's how I like to finish this pattern, and also on my Jerry's Smelt heads. It takes a bit more time, but I think the results are well worth it. You can also see the vivid red gills.

Please stay tuned next week for the fish stories to go with the fly. Thanks for reading!

8 comments on “Widgeon Smelt

  1. Kelly L says:

    Don, this is a magnificent fly. I have done some similar to these. I love this style of streamer. You did a wonderful job on creating this beauty! Thanks for sharing it with the world. It deserves to be widely tied, and fished!!

  2. Don that is a beauty!! Looks like a killer – I’ll tie some up for sure. I remember Dave G’s Classic & Custom Fly shop when it was in Holyoke, MA, in the early 80’s. It was always a real treat going to his shop. Those are nice feathers! God bless – Alec

  3. Bruce says:

    That’s a nice looking fly. Maybe you can do a step by step tutorial some day.

    • Hi Bruce; Nice to hear from you, thanks for your comment. I have been thinking of actually doing just that, maybe in the form of videos actually. It may take me a few months or until next fall to start it, but I have ideas to greatly expand what I post on my blog…a few things have to fall in place before I do…even a step-by-step would help. Thanks again!

  4. Dave Lomasney says:

    Those are Killer flies Don…I caught my first landlock salmon on a fly very similar to the Widgeon Smelt.
    It was called the Silver Minnow..it used gray mallard for the wing and white and lt.blue bucktail underwing, with a silver tinsel body and rib, and red calftail throat.
    I love the markings on that plumage. It looks like a cross between mallard and teal. The eyes make it pop like 3D…definitely worth the extra time to do!

    • Hi Dave;
      Thanks to a Mainer who appreciates these type of patterns! I wish I had the time to write my fish story on this fly…I’m excited about it, but I just have so many flies to tie and not enough time to tie them in. Thanks for your comments and for sharing your fish story…the first landlocked salmon is a memory….my first ones were dinks caught in the Crooked River in the summer of about 1980.

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