Lady Killer

I just received my invitation to participate in the 22nd Annual International Fly Tying Symposium the other day. The dates are November 17 and 18, 2012. In the package there was also the usual fly donation request for the beautiful frame that Ted Patlen, fly tier and fly framer extraordinaire of Lodi, New Jersey, puts together each year as a raffle item to raise funds for kids fly tying programs. The deadline for fly submissions is September 10th.

Rather than procrastinate as I occasionally do, I pondered, “What to tie and send to Ted?” Not too long though actually. Initially I thought about sending Ted an already tied Parmacheene Belle, the Henry Wells version, a la 19th Century original recipe, of which I have eight or ten in sizes #2, #4, and #6 lying around. But within minutes my thoughts turned to Carrie Stevens and one of her beautiful patterns. Besides, I did announce here some time ago that I would be eventually starting a Carrie Stevens Pattern Dictionary anyway. So why not start now? To begin with I created a new blog Category – Carrie Stevens Pattern Dictionary. For the first fly I chose a pattern that I had not previously tied, wanting to add to my portfolio of experience tying her patterns. Hence the Lady Killer:

Lady Killer – Carrie Stevens Pattern. Hook is size #1 – 8x Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

Lady Killer

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Red floss

Throat: White hackle fibers

Wing: Two yellow hackles flanked on each side by one white hackle

Shoulder: A chicken breast feather dyed red

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Four equal bands in sequence – black, red, black, red.

Note: as per a photo of a Carrie Stevens original Lady Killer in the Hilyard Carrie Stevens book, 2000, the band sections are listed from the rear of the head forward to the eye.

You’ll note that I also used narrow tinsel for the tag and wider for the ribbing. If a pattern lacks a tail, then I use the same  section of tinsel for both tag and ribbing, winding both at once after the body is completed. While I was at it I tied two, one for Ted and one for me.

A pair of Lady Killer streamers, Size #1 – 8x.

I took a macro of the rear end of the body:

Lady Killer – macro of rear of body area.
A little over a year ago, I started to adopt Warren Duncan’s pull-over floss “keeper” method that he used on salmon fly floss bodies where there was no tag, tail, or ribbing to reinforce the floss body. His method forms a shell back of sorts that effectively locks in the rear of the body, which if not done, would not be stable or durable at all. This is the same method that I explained in my first DVD, Tying Classic Wet Flies, 2004, when tying in floss tags. On this Lady Killer, there is a short section of red floss tied in on top of the body with a pinch wrap after setting the tail and attaching the ribbing, and before winding to the head to tie in the body floss. When the body construction begins, two wraps of the body floss, four strands used here, are made, and then the “keeper” is pulled forward and tied in and wrapped over with the body floss. This provides greater reinforcement to the rear of the body and binds in every last strand of floss. And why do I bother to do this, you ask? Start looking real close at macros of flies with floss bodies on line. Even some of my work in Forgotten Flies, which was completed thirteen years ago. Even a tinsel ribbing does not effectively secure every last strand of floss. You can often see a few to many strands that slipped out of place at the end of the bodies. I know, it’s a detail, but “attention to detail is what separates good and other classifications of really ‘well-tied flies’ and excellently tied flies. Been saying that in my classes for over a decade. This little “body keeper” technique adds another 25% to 30% of the hook shank circumference where the floss gets locked into place beyond that provided by the ribbing alone. I also believe that as fly tiers, we should never be content with less than the best of our capability. And, this technique does increase the durability of the pattern for fishing flies.

Lady Killer – head macro. In replicating Carrie Stevens (or other tiers original patterns) I believe we should tie with attention to detail. Personally, for me when tying Carrie’s patterns, that means that I replicate her style of elongated heads. My cement used here is Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails, and nothing else. About 5 – 6 coats. I used to favor the Wapsi Gloss Coat, but discovered that when thinned with regular lacquer thinner, the heads get a malignant-looking grayish ‘blight’ on them, which developed about 8 to 10 weeks later. Not good. I thought using the Wapsi Gloss Coat Thinner would solve the problem, but no. The heads still went blotchy-gray after a couple months. Unacceptable. I do love Wapsi Gloss Coat for any head that will be finished off with Black Pro Lak, because one application of that cures the disease. Note: the jungle cock nail was repaired on the rear side with Flexament. The splits are still visible, but they are bound together.

Wing cement used is Elmer’s Rubber Cement. No bleeding. Instant bonding. Durable. Holds when soaked in water and shaken, hard – not stirred. See:

I have already explained in my other blog posts why I am replicating Carrie’s banded heads. I did it for a little while in the mid-1980’s and then stopped and did not do it for over 20 years. I started doing it on a few Gray Ghosts that I tied up for collector’s packages. Then in a conversation with another tier last summer we discussed this and at that time I decided I would once again begin using Carrie Steven’s banding method to finish her patterns that I tie. Initially I was using colored cements and nail polish. Then I developed my own method of using only the tying thread to accomplish the bands. Fly tiers do not normally make substitutions on other pattern ingredients and still consider the dressing complete to the original specifications. I believe her head bands are part of her specific pattern recipe. And as detail-oriented as we tiers often are, I do not believe this infringes on her signature. Carrie’s sister, Elizabeth Duley, duplicated the banding when tying her sister’s patterns. Wendell Folkins of Tamworth, New Hampshire, who bought Carrie’s business in December 1953, was expected by Carrie to continue using her banding method, which he did. This is something that Carrie specifically, not randomly, integrated into her patterns.

I will be developing and expanding my Carrie Stevens Pattern Dictionary as time passes. I will integrate existing Carrie Stevens streamer patterns on my blog into this Category. This will take some time, so please bear with me. For now, this is the first entry and eventually, if you use the search tab, you’ll be able to locate any post in the Category. I want to try and keep the Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern Dictionary limited to photos of flies, recipes, fishing experiences, and tutorials. Thanks for your support everyone!

20 comments on “Lady Killer

  1. John Larsen says:


    Very nice Lady Killers. I have a question about the floss tag. As I understand it you would tie in the keeper, then the body floss, Take two wraps of the body floss, then bring the keeper over the two wraps. Here is where I am a bit confused, Would you then tie down the keeper with thread and wrap the thread to the tie in point for the belly and wings, or do you have the thread already at that point and secure the keeper with the floss only? I would think it would be the first method, but it isn’t totally clear. I noticed that you don’t counter wrap the tinsel, if that is the correct term. I think Carrie did counter wrap the tinsel. Is there any advantages to either? I would think perhaps the counter wrap is easier if you are tying the fly in hand. Great ties, absolutely beautiful.


    • Hello John;
      Thanks for your compliments on the Lady Killers!
      To answer your question: The floss keeper is a short section of two strands of Danville rayon floss. The tying thread is advanced to the head, and then the body floss – about 12″ – 13″ of four-strand Danville’s Rayon floss in this case – is tied in at the rear edge of the head. use a pinch wrap, top-center of hook shank. Then the floss is held in place to the rear of the hook; slightly elevated and toward the bobbin hand about 10 – 15 degrees from the hook shank to help it track it perfectly on to the top of the hook shank as the tying thread is wound over the floss, back to the end of the body. This is accomplished by counter acting the tying thread direction by pulling the floss slightly opposite direction of wrapping.
      I use open wraps with Danville white 3/0 monocord. This secures the floss to the hook. Then the tying thread is wound forward, double-wrapping the floss back to the front end of the body. Once the floss is properly set as you elevate it and prepare to wind it – with all fibers uniformly tightened against the hook shank / under body and advanced past the leading edge of the tie-in point, two wraps of body floss are made. Then – and this is a little tricky – pull the floss keeper forward, and make one wrap of the body floss over it to lock it down. I usually pass the body floss to my left hand and hold the keeper forward with my right while making the first tight wrap over the keeper with the body floss. I like the keeper to be top-center. Tugging on it while providing tension to the body floss makes it sure.

      I advance about 1/3 to 1/2 way with the floss before cutting the keeper off. And sometimes the keeper needs to be shortened a bit. I usually have it no longer than 2/3 – 3/4 shank length. You don’t want it protruding into your head space.

      Thanks again for your comment! I appreciate your following my blog! And hopefully my explanation clears this up for you and anyone else. I sort of didn’t want to get into a tying tutorial of various stages here, as I planned to write a separate post for that. But this is good that you asked, very good, because now I have this portion of the tying tips done! Thanks again!

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi John;
      Just remembered that I forgot to discuss your question on Carrie’s ribbing. Most of her ribbing was wound counterclockwise, but there are some photos of her originals where she wound clockwise, too. I could go both ways, but I don’t know…that isn’t as significant as the rest of her pattern details, at least to me. Thanks again for your comments and interest!

  2. Wonderful looking Lady Killer Don. Nice work on the body and the floss. I’ve never tried Dunc’s method on a streamer I don’t think. How do you find it with bulk, and keeping the body even?

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Darren;
      Thanks for your comment! I could be a smart-a** and ask, “How does it look?” :mrgreen: Ha, ha! Actually, bulk is not a problem. I used to make the body keeper the entire length of the body on streamers, but it’s not necessary. You’d have to look hard and close on an actual specimen to see it, or zoom in on a photo. This short method, that I just now detailed in a descriptive reply to John Larsen’s comment, of making just two body wraps and holding your scissors at a sharp angle when the butt ends are cut, tapers them to a variety of lengths, so there’s no ‘bump’ when they are wrapped over. I am careful to keep the remaining butt end of the keeper on top of the hook shank, and not allow it to advance and spiral about the hook shank when wrapped under the body floss. This requires a little fly tying legerdemain. 😉 I mean, balanced tension, tight enough to wrap the floss, but not so tight that it forces the floss ahead of the securing wraps of body floss. Hope this helps! Cheers, my friend!

      • lol Looks pretty fine. 🙂 I’m gonna try it on the next streamer I tie. I’ve only ever used it on salmon hairwings I’ve tied. It never even crossed my mind to try it on the long irons.

      • Don Bastian says:

        Thanks Darren!
        It had never crossed my mind before until March of 2011 when I was at L. L. Bean and I looked at the small stock of Warren Duncan’s hair wing salmon flies that remained for sale. I should have bought some, they were only $4.25 each. That is where I first saw his body keeper, though I learned of using the same method on floss tags on salmon and trout wet flies almost 20 years ago. Thanks for your comment, glad you like the idea enough to try it!

      • Don, you should have bought them all. 🙂

      • Don Bastian says:

        Yeah tell me about it.

  3. Bob Vincent says:

    Hi Don,

    Great job as usual on the LADY KILLERS. Looking forward to the Carrie Stevens Dictionary.

    Currently tying up a bunch of Ghosts – Gray, Black, White, Red, and Green for some shadow box presentations, will give the “keeper” method a try. I only have wings glued up so far, so timing is perfect. Thanks again for all your great ideas and beautiful streamers.

    Bob V.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Bob;
      You are welcome! Of course I enjoy this; tying, photos, writing, researching, but it is indeed rewarding to know that my work and serendipitous timing can and often does inspire others. Perhaps there is a Higher Power at work. Or the “Ghost” of Carrie Stevens. 😉
      I am excited too, because I once saw, 6 – 7 years ago, what I thought was a Carrie Stevens streamer pattern, original, carded with her signature. This pattern name popped into my head this morning. I e-mailed the owner today and indeed, I was correct in recalling the pattern by name. At times my memory for detail is, well, pretty dang good. Other times, “What did you say your name was?” 🙂 Today it worked. Like an old Rolodex. What is even better is this pattern is very rare and unknown. It is not published in either Forgotten Flies or the Carrie Stevens – Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies,2000, Hilyard & Hilyard book, and the owner says his specimen is the only one he’s ever seen. Furthermore, and we’re trying to verify this, but it contains a material component variation not used on any of her other patterns, which if verified, is even more unique. I won’t say what it is, it’s probably on the internet somewhere, but when I did a google search nothing came up, so…??? I will tie one or more myself, and intend to present my replications and the original photo as well. I’m wild with excitement about this! I wanna tell someone, but I can’t! :mrgreen: Or won’t. Don’t wanna spill the beans! 🙂
      Thanks for your comment, and enjoy your tying time at the bench!

  4. Kelly L says:

    Don, this fly and the photos are jaw dropping gorgeous. The head work alone is noteworthy. I am afraid I am at a loss as to the keeper, I read it two-three times, but I must confess it is confusing to me. I am afraid this is something I hope I get to view a video of in the future.

    • Hi Kelly;
      I am happy you like the fly and photos and “head work,” as you put it. 🙂 Sorry the “keeper” information lacks clarity for you. Did you read through my reply to John’s questions? If that doesn’t help, I guess I will just have to take the plunge and make a video.
      You urged me the other day to post these pics when I mentioned I was tying Lady Killers.
      Hopefully you won’t have to “be afraid of” getting a video of this in the future. :mrgreen:
      Thanks for your encouragement, thanks for your comment, thanks for your interest! I appreciate it very much!

  5. Kelly L says:

    Don, you almost always bring a big smile to my face. I am so happy to see your work, and see what you are up to. You are living a blessed life. Plus you make people happy. Thank you.

  6. Dan Glover says:

    Man, a beautiful fly and photos. Love that 4 banded head.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hi Dan;
      Thanks so much for your comment! I really appreciate your kind words! The 4-banded head is what drew me to tie this one…it’s one of the few, if only patterns she finished off this way.
      Thanks again!

  7. James LeMesurier says:

    Nice of you to mention my good (departed) friend Warren Duncan. He taught me how to tie back in the early 80’s and the floss “keeper” method was one of the first things he showed me. I still have a few of his flies in my salmon boxes and use them from time to time in his memory.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Hello James;
      How very nice of you to share that information that Warren Duncan was your friend. It’s a good thing that you fish some of his flies from time to time. Not knowing Warren, I would still bet he’d want it that way. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, but I was able to examine his flies when L. L. Bean still had some in stock. I hadn’t ever planned to go salmon fishing, but I regret not buying any. Thank you again for sharing the remembrance of your friend.

  8. […] already fielded several questions from my readers on my Lady Killer post:  and have tried to explain to the best of my ability, my technique of using a mini-version of […]

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