Colonel Bates

The Colonel Bates streamer is a Carrie Stevens pattern that she created in the early 1940’s to honor Joseph D. Bates, Jr., a friend and customer of both her and her husband Wallace, a Maine fishing guide. The Stevens’ lived and worked in Upper Dam, Maine, in the Rangeley Lakes Region between Mooselucmaguntic and Upper Richardson Lakes, for almost thirty years.

Joseph Bates wrote the landmark book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, in 1950. The Colonel Bates started out as the Captain Bates, but as Bates’ Army rank advanced during World War II, likewise the rank of the fly was elevated as well. Packaged examples of the Captain Bates, Major Bates, and Colonel Bates exist.

Here is, Darren MacEachern’s photo of my rendition of the Colonel Bates streamer:

Colonel Bates –, Number 203 for July 21, 2012. photo by Darren MacEachern.

The Colonel Bates recipe as listed in Bates’ book has a shoulder of teal flank, and a tail of a section of red feather. The Hilyard Carrie Stevens book, lists the tail as red hackle fibers, with many examples of the fly tied by Carrie illustrating the red hackle fiber tail and gray mallard flank shoulders. It is possible Carrie dressed the pattern both ways. This one was tied by me about a year ago. The head on this specimen is red lacquer, with a black band also painted on. Since then, actually not long after a renewal of my personal tying of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns (a renewed fly tying genera and addition to tying wet flies), and beginning to band the heads again as I once did in the 1980’s for a short time, I have progressed to a method of using thread only, lacquered with Sally Hansen clear Hard-As-Nails to achieve a smooth finish on the banded heads that I believe are integral to Carrie’s pattern designs. That’s my preferred technique at the present time.

Wapsi Gloss Coat which I started using in June 2011 and until March of 2012, and initially loved, unfortunately turned out to provide great smooth coverage in three coats, but after two or three months, gets blotchy, milky-looking, cloudy, and gets a diseased appearance. I discovered this fact through trial-and-error, possibly caused because I used regular lacquer thinner to think the Gloss Coat. However even after the use of only Wapsi Gloss Coat Thinner in my Gloss Coat Cement, the problem remained. So that brand of head cement has fallen from my grace. Like things in life sometimes do; they look good initially and then turn out not so good. Live and learn. I love the smooth finish it produces, but Wapsi Gloss Coat for me is relegated only to fly heads that I will finish with black ProLak or another color of lacquer that hides the problem it apparently causes. Sorry Wapsi, but as a finishing head cement, your product is not so hot. I’m not going to devote serious time and effort to my fly tying only to have the heads ruined with a lousy finish. Onward…

Colonel Bates

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Body: Flat silver tinsel

Throat: Brown hackle fibers

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

Shoulder: Gray mallard flank

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Red with a black band.

The Colonel Bates was the first Carrie Stevens pattern that I tied after the Gray Ghost. I first used it right out of high school, and caught trout on it in my area streams here in Pennsylvania. I also fished it on my trips to Maine that started in 1986, sometimes as small as a size #12 – 6x long. I’d add the Colonel Bates or a Black Ghost ina #10 or #12 behind a larger size streamer or Wooly Bugger in a tandem streamer rig. Effective! I can’t say why, but it generally seems a high percentage of fish taken like this hit the rear fly.

Carrie Stevens indicated that the Colonel Bates was her most popular pattern, second only to the Gray Ghost.

8 comments on “Colonel Bates

  1. Great post Don. I know that you’ve changed things on how you finish your heads, but I really do love the finish on this one. It really pops. I started using Prolac and SH HaN as my finishes as well. 1 coat of prolac to saturate the threads, then 3-4 coats of the HaN to finish it. I have to be carefull though, as I have several consistancies of HaN for different applications. thick snotty stuff for the wings, fresh for the heads and thin for the JC nails.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thanks Darren!
      The final finish on this was also the Sally Hansen’s. If you keep after it, like brushing too much it will soften the previously dry coat, but if you put it on quickly, one coat seals it and if necessary, another coat(s) can be added. The red lacquer is Wapsi Red Lacquer; I’ve used it for years. It does need thinning with regular lacquer thinner from time to time.
      Just using thread and a clear finish makes the head finishing work much simpler; as you can imagine, trying to paint on the band could be problematic.
      Thanks for the great work on, and thanks for your comment!

  2. Kelly L says:

    Beautiful work Don! I am glad to know about that head cement. Oh I would be ticked if that happened to me. Some flies are a lot of work, and that deal would of sent me right over the top. Maybe you just got a bad batch. My favorite clear was Griff’s Thick. Now of course they quit making it. I still use Griff’s Thin on just about every fly I make. That black Pro-Lak is GOOD STUFF. I love it too.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Thank you Kelly!
      Yeah I hear you on the cement. I actually had to cut the heads off a dozen or so flies so far, and re-do them. That sucks. And I still have more, maybe another 20 or so. That really sucks. So I know that I don’t want to risk the issue again. Bad batch? Maybe, but do I want to experiment more? Not likely.
      Didn’t I get you some Grif’s Thick? I know where you can still get some. 🙂
      Thanks for your compliments on the Colonel! Glad you liked it!

      • Kelly L says:

        I know I know. I wouldn’t want to experiment either. I’ve never had a bad batch, but it is possible. I would not feel confident about using a cement that let me down once. You found me some of the Griff’s Thin. You also found me some Pro-Lak…. but no Griff’s Thick.

  3. Bill says:

    Another beautiful rendition of a well-known pattern, Donnie, but I am equally impressed with your accompanying historical information and tying tips. It’s this kind of thing that puts you well above the crowd of tiers posting their efforts on the internet these days.

    • Don Bastian says:

      Geez, Bill, thank you very much for your comment!
      Thanks especially your observation and appreciation of the extra info I present. It’s part of the package with me, and when it comes to tying and my talent, I don’t want to be “just like someone or everyone else.”
      I try to maintain some degree of originality in a field where there are lots of players.
      Some tiers of fairly recent start – a year, two, three, five, have a natural talent and have developed their ability accordingly. In no way do I mean to diminish the accomplishments of any fly tier with talent, but no matter how you look at it, there is no substitute for the whole package of experience and knowledge that only comes with decades and decades of experience. I’m certainly not the only one in that category, I’m just sayin’…
      Thanks very much for your kind words!

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