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.

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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:

https://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!

Giant Golden Witch Streamer

I had a special request late last winter to dress a Golden Witch on a large hook a customer provided for me.

For size reference, this Golden Witch is shown above a Colonel Bates that is dressed on a Gaelic Supreme size #1 – 10x long hook. I should have also placed a penny in the image. The gape on the big hook is a full one-inch. The shank length I don’t believe is longer than about 4 or 5xl compared to the gook gape, but my customer wanted a Golden Witch on this hook to go alongside a #1 – 8x long same pattern that I tied for him. He thought it was a Partridge hook, I could not tell.

Giant Golden Witch Streamer. The Colonel Bates below it is dressed on a Gaelic Supreme Streamer hook, size #1 – 10x, 3x stout.

The actual length of this Golden Witch is five-and-a-half inches. Big ‘un!

I used three sections of Danville 4-strand rayon floss, about sixteen inches long to make the body.That’s twelve strands. The peacock herl and bucktail is a little shorter than normal Carrie Stevens streamer specifications, but that was as long as I had. Actually I had peacock herl plenty long enough, but I opted not to make the underwing longer than the belly.

Just for fun, I’m adding: Size does matter. Sometimes. I bet this fly would cast on a tarpon rod, and hook one, too. I also bet that if trolled behind a Rangeley boat, one of those historic eight pound Mooselucmaguntic Lake brook trout would have eaten this fly.

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 Streamers365.com, Darren MacEachern’s photo of my rendition of the Colonel Bates streamer:

Colonel Bates – Streamers365.com, Number 203 for July 21, 2012. photo by Darren MacEachern.

http://streamers365.com/

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.

Carrie Stevens Streamer Patterns

An assortment of Carrie Steven’s streamer patterns tied by Don Bastian including the Gray Ghost, Charles E. Wheeler, General MacArthur, Judge, Don’s Delight, Colonel Bates, Blue Devil, etc. Most of them are tied on the fine English-made Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style size #1 8x long hooks.

Let me say right off the top – I am far from an expert on this. Nevertheless I’d like to share my experience and what I have learned during a recent fly tying tour de force of these streamers.

Please refer to my post of last week titled; Streamer Four-Packs where I discussed my experience of tying Carrie Seven’s patterns … as I have off and on since the late 1960’s. For example, the Gray Ghost was in my streamer wallet, bracketed in sizes #4 through #12, tied by me on the old Mustad 3665A 6xl hooks when I was still in high school.
I finally did a few sets of streamer wings in June 2011 by cementing them for the very first time…and I decided to do this when my usual technique – tie in the wing, then the shoulder, then the cheek, using no glue, which has worked real well for me 98% of the time, did not work to my satisfaction. I was working on my first-ever Big Ben, and it was those golden pheasant tippet shoulder feathers that were giving me fits. They just didn’t want to lay down, not to mention stay straight.

After cementing my first set of streamer wings with Angler’s Corner cement provided by another tier, (I would have used Flexament but had none at the time), I settled on the use of Elmer’s Rubber Cement. It was the only option available to me, since my Flexament had thickened, I had no thinner, and the nearest fly shop is 22 miles one-way from my home. Ever since that first cemented wing, I have cemented the components on every streamer wing I have made ever since. I conducted tests in June of 2011, soaking cemented wings in water for up to 36 hours, and violent physical shaking to try to make the wings fall apart, which were unsuccessful. For test results on the Elmer’s Rubber cement, see: https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/carrie-stevens-streamers-cementing-wings/

Prior to my use of cement on streamer wings I always tied the wings in first, then the shoulders and cheeks, all one at a time. In the video segment of the Gray Ghost wing and other streamers in my DVD – Traditional Streamers and Bucktails –  there was no editing or second attempts there, as I set the wings on the Black Ghost, Barnes Special, and Gray Ghost in that order, I was even a little surprised during filming that my first attempt setting all these wings went off without a hitch. Without cement, the best method is to leave hackle barbs on the butt ends of your trimmed wing hackles, group them together, and tie them in with tight wraps, tying in both stems and some of the fibers at the base of the barbs. The attached barbs prevent twisting of the stems. To confirm this procedure and its success, watch the DVD.
So the wing assembly – gluing ahead of time, when I did finally do it; was a last resort to “keep it together” in a situation where setting the entire wing in stages of construction wasn’t going off without a hitch.
Guess what? I liked it. So I started doing it, all the time. One after another. Perhaps it takes more time collectively to tie the Carrie Stevens patterns this way than sans gluing, because of the time you spend selecting, pairing, matching, etc…but the tie-in of the preassembled wings is for me, takes ten seconds or less. I do it just like my wet fly wings, no soft wraps; pinch tight, make all tight wraps from the start, stems placed slightly above the center line of the sides of the head, the inside stems of each wing assembly are actually placed together; a slight tilt toward you to oppose the thread torque, and they’re good to go…only a few times so far have I needed to reset them and try again…

The fact that I (or another experience fly tier) am suddenly doing things differently isn’t surprising – I was forty years old before I learned to like bananas. Previously I hated ’em. I used to think like this: “How do you ruin a good fruit salad? Add bananas!” I’ve been eating bananas since 1992.

So to follow up on this: I have been converted.  I know, shocking…truth is, I’ll probably never again tie a Carrie Stevens pattern, or perhaps other New England style streamers that are similar in design, without cementing the wing components together. This change in my mindset all happened in a matter of a few days, as I began this process, using the Stevens method, building wings one-by-one. This change came about as a result of a fellow tier’s suggestion, but I learned twenty years ago that even novice and intermediate tiers are capable of providing good advice or a better method of a certain procedure to tiers with more years of experience.

Doing this, I have found that even patterns such as the Victory, Jungle Queen, Merry Widow, and Firefly that lack shoulders but still have jungle cock cheeks are made to better advantage for tying, and the construction of the integrated cement lends added stability to the front portion of the wing. There is less flip-flopping of the individual feathers in the wing when the front portion, say 25% of the stem length is bound to the adjacent feather(s) with cement. The cement should be kept shorter than the length of the shoulder, lacking a shoulder, then no longer than shy of the tip of the jungle cock nail cheek.  I’ve been using Elmer’s Rubber Cement; basically because I had no other alternative adhesive available at the time, and I like it. It does not bleed through much at all. When properly applied any bleed-through of the cement is concealed underneath the enamel portion of the jungle cock cheek. Some of the Stevens and other New England style patterns use six hackles in the wings. I use the cement only along the stem, I don’t suggest spreading it out across the sections into the barbs of the feather away from the stem.
My recent reading and study of the Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard has also influenced me on this. I confess – I bought it new when it came out, but all I ever did was read through the photo captions and look at the pictures. I missed a lot by not reading it sooner.

Speaking from the position of my experience of being stubborn about my previous method; I’ve said this before: as a fly tier, never assume you know everything, or don’t close your mind to another method. We can always learn from others. I like Poul Jorgenson’s quote, “Fly tying is a school from which no one ever graduates.” I was exposed to something new to me, and rather than face it closed-minded, I learned from the experience. Learning new methods is sometimes hard for me to do. Fly tiers can be like that occasionally, dare I say a little stubborn? Set in our ways? Whatever, it makes us what we are.

In the last four days I have tied over 24 different Stevens patterns, and made wings for more than 30 more streamers, some are repeat patterns already tied, and others are for patterns that I have never previously dressed. Last night I made six sets of Gray Ghost wings for #2 & #4 Mustad 3665A’s; these were ordered by my customer Rich, who bought that $15 Gray Ghost tied on the antique Edgar Sealey 1797J Hook and allowed his wofe to fish it in the Adirondacks! Ha! See the post on my blog of their Adirondack fishing success. https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/wet-fly-fishing-testimonial/

Consider the General MacArthur and Green Beauty, for example – the last time I tied these particular patterns was in 1987. I remember that because it was October of that year when, for the Pennsylvania State Council of Trout Unlimited Annual Banquet & Seminars that was held in my hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, I presented my first-ever slide program. It was a presentation (albeit abbreviated) on New England Style streamer flies. I had tied flies from Joseph Bates book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, such as the Green Beauty, Nine-Three, Bolshevik, Black Ghost, Ballou Special, and Colonel Bates, and included them in my program.

Completed wing assemblies by Don Bastian for Carrie Steven’s streamer patterns; some are: Gray Ghost, Jitterbug, Merry Widow, Davis Special, General MacArthur, Don’s Special, Embden Fancy, Colonel Fuller, Larry, Shang’s Special, Golden Witch, Green Beauty, Governor…I typed it from memory, so the list is incomplete as to what I actually here. Most were sized for Gaelic Supreme size #1 8x long Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hooks., though some of them, are smaller. There’s a couple General MacArthur and America wings here that are matched for 6x long Mustad 3665A hooks. I literally tied ’em and tossed ’em, well, rather gently, laid them here. They are right under the jaws of my Regal Stainless Steel C-clamp vise. This was not a set up shot.

Many of these patterns are new to me – the Jitterbug, Davis Special, White Ghost, Governor, Allie’s Special, Allie’s Favorite, Charles E. Wheeler, Don’s Special, Embden Fancy…they are beautiful, more so in real life when you tie one yourself than in photos. This is a renewal of this aspect of fly tying interest for me.
It’s a good thing I have a bunch of the necessary materials previously accumulated in my cache of tying stuff. The reality is that many Carrie Stevens patterns were new to everyone. Prior to the release of Hilyard’s book in 2000 and Forgotten Flies in 1999, few people were aware of the extentsive number of patterns Carrie Stevens actually created.
I took these photos quick, the one of the assemblies was hand-held, and I only took a few shots. I present them here exactly as the flies & wings lie on my tying table. (Which is extremely cluttered). And by the way, none of the heads are finished yet with the matched banding of colors, which I will do before I consider them complete. My explanation on that is in the Streamer Four-Packs topic. https://donbastianwetflies.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/streamer-four-packs/

Some new photos added below on August 4, 2011:

Assembled wings for the Jenny Lind; note the slight variation of the shade of blue. Many of the Carrie Stevens original flies reveal differences of colors. Like fly tiers of today she was limited on occasion to availability of feathers and different dye lots. It is not always possible to obtain the same color of feathers. These wings were selected from two different capes, both labeled as Silver Doctor Blue; one set from a neck, the other from a saddle. I think either shade is acceptable; Carrie’s original Jenny Lind streamers tend toward a light, pale blue. The hooks are Mustad 3665A (traditional) the big one is a size #2. These wings were made for Nos. 6 and 8.

Canary at top, dressed on a Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hook – size #1 8x long. Below are three Jungle Queen Streamers dressed on the same hook, a smaller size #6 – 8x long. Tied by Don Bastian.

Pink Lady (top) and Don’s Delight, both dressed on Gaelic Supreme Mike Martinek / Carrie Stevens Rangeley Style streamer hooks, size #1 – 8x long. Tied by Don Bastian.

Canary and Davis Special, dressed on Gaelic Supreme Hooks – size #1 – 8x long. The shoulder is a little short on the Davis Special; this example is my first dressing of this particular pattern. Tied by Don Bastian.

Victory – size #2 – 8x long, tied by Don Bastian.

I tied this Carrie Stevens Streamer Pattern up last night – the Victory. After a final (third) coat of head cement this morning it’s done. I’m getting it in today’s mail to Ted Patlen of New Jersey; Ted always does the framing of the flies every year for the raffle plate of flies for the International Fly Tying Symposium this November in Somerset, New Jersey. This year the Symposium is on November 19th and 20th. This is my donation fly for this year’s Celebrity Tier’s Fly Plate:

The Victory:

Thread: Red #56 or white #1 Danville Flymaster 6/0.

Hook: Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hook

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers

Rib: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Red floss

Belly: White bucktail

Hackle: Red

Wing: Two light blue hackles flanked by two gray hackles

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Red, white, and blue, Danville 6/0 Flymaster thread (note: Danville no longer makes a blue thread in Flymaster 6/0)

The wing was cemented in my “new” fashion, (new for me anyway).  This was one of the four patriotic-themed streamer patterns that Carrie created in the 1940’s.

The Pirate Streamer, another Carrie Stevens creation, tied by Don Bastian on Size #1 Gaelic Supreme Streamer Hook.