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, tied by Don Bastian. Photograph by Daren MacEachern, owner of

Gray Ghost Streamer from, 2012. Photographed by Darren MacEachern, site originator and owner of 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, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

Colonel Bates, from, 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, 2012.

Jungle Queen, from, 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, 2012.

The Supervisor, originated by Warden Joseph Stickney, from, 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, 2012. Photo by Darren MacEachern.

BYR Smelt, from, 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:

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!

A Note From the Marlborough Show

I wanted to share one thing with my devoted readers, a real highlight for me, that happened at the Marlborough Fly Fishing Show this past weekend, and that was a visit to my table from Graydon Hilyard, author of Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies. About four in the afternoon on Friday, I was tying and looked up to see him standing at my table. I recognized him and said, “Hello Graydon.” His reaction was one of slight surprise I suppose since he may not have thought I knew who he was. He had actually bought a number of my classic wet fly sets some years ago, back in the early years of his book’s release.

He ended up spending a good twenty-five minutes there; we talked about streamers, wet flies, various things. He also noted my Footer Special 50th Anniversary Special streamer flies, and commented that he knew David Footer, but expressed some surprise in the age of Dave’s streamer pattern.

I also got the lowdown on Graydon’s book on Herb Welch. I know he’s been working on it since almost immediately after the Carrie Stevens book was finished. No details but he indicated it’s about two years until publication. We discussed the fact that Carrie Stevens and Herb Welch both had no children, so trying to do research on people with no direct descendents presents its problems. Graydon also was interested in the fact that I described how I was trying to locate a Carrie Stevens fly that is known to exist, but for which no specimens are known to exist. The name of the pattern shall remain nameless as I continue my research. He encouraged me to keep trying and not give up.

Finally, I was very honored when Graydon stopped by about an hour later and bought one of my Footer Special Anniversary Streamers. David Footer and his wife, Annette, stopped by Saturday, and I told him Graydon had bought one of the flies. David was delighted by that news!

Carrie Stevens and Rangeley Style Streamers

Those of us who tie streamers, and that’s probably most fly tiers unless one is a dry fly purist – I know at least one of those, and he casts only to rising trout, have heard the phrase Rangeley Style streamers. Just what does that mean? I believe Carrie Stevens of Upper Dam, Maine, with her unique, self-taught method of tying streamers, is the originator of this style, and she alone is to be credited with creating the Rangeley style streamer. I have recently come under the conviction that to tie Rangeley style streamers means to tie streamers employing Carrie Stevens’s methods. I’m not referring to merely tying her patterns and cementing the wings, which I began doing a year-and-a-half ago. Learning more about her material placement this summer was for me, the last part of the journey toward my ultimate arrival at fully utilizing her methods of material placement and wing assembly. And it is still a work in progress.

Famed taxidermist, artist, and fly tier, Herb Welch, of Haines Landing on Mooselucmaguntic Lake, created streamers too, in particular the well-known Black Ghost. He resided in the heart of Maine’s Rangeley region, but his patterns were tied as any other fly tier would tie them, in what Graydon and Leslie Hilyard in their book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, refer to as Eastern style. The same goes for Fred Fowler of Oquossoc, Maine, creator of the Bolshevik streamer. I would not classify the Bolshevik or Black Ghost as Rangeley Style streamers. They are standard streamer patterns that just happened to be created in the Rangeley Region of Maine. Not to take anything away from either of these men or their patterns, these are both great streamers, especially the Black Ghost.

The unique fly tying methods that Carrie created – she never saw anyone tie a fly, she was self-taught – was largely in the way she set her body well back behind the head of the fly, and what she then did to complete her patterns. Many fly tiers, seeing her originals, would not actually be able to determine this difference when viewing any other streamers. She utilized what is actually a limited range of materials for the underbelly and underwing, when present, on her patterns. Carrie Stevens is credited with the creation of somewhere around one-hundred patterns. Yet she used mostly white bucktail when she did incorporate an underbelly into the pattern, and a couple other colors of bucktail on only a scant handful of patterns. Peacock herl was a favored material for underbellies and underwings; in addition she used primarily golden pheasant crest as an underwing, and on a handful of patterns, silver pheasant crest. The rest of her pattern variation was created by selecting a wide range of color combinations for hackle throats and wings, and adding a variety of plumage for shoulders when incorporated into a pattern.

The palette of materials and colors for her bodies consisted of only six different materials and / or colors: Flat silver tinsel, orange floss, black floss, red floss, gold tinsel, and pink floss on only one pattern, the Pink Lady. I listed them in descending order of usage.

Mike Martinek Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts, learned Carrie Stevens’s methods in the 1960’s with Austin Hogan, a contemporary of Mrs. Stevens. He and Mike deconstructed some of her patterns, and Austin took extensive notes and made diagrams detailing her methods. Mike is in possession of these notes. I discovered copies of Austin’s notes on Carrie’s tying methods on display while visiting the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, this past June. I took photographs of the notes, and when I finally got around to studying these, it was then I learned that much of this information was right under my nose for years. Typical for me. I used to struggle with tinsel bodies when I tied flies as a teenager, trying to not have gaps between the wraps. Years later I learned to start winding tinsel at the head of the fly, and double-wind it back-to-front. Then I discovered that this same method was presented in Trout, by Ray Bergman, in the Chapter On Tying Flies. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble had I read and studied that a little more a lot earlier in my life. Carrie Stevens’ fly tying material placement and assembly methods are detailed in line drawings in Joseph D. Bates book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1966, 1995; and also in Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, by Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman.

Mike has been teaching Carrie’s tying methods for many years, and there is a small cadre of his pupils that have been tying her patterns in the authentic style. The streamer community can be thankful for Mike’s unwavering devotion to the tradition of Carrie Stevens. There seems to be a lot of awareness more recently in learning Carrie Stevens’ actual methods, and I almost feel there may be a small resurgence of interest to this end on the way. I say it’s about time. Part of my effort here will be to work toward that end from time to time.

Somehow I’ve been bitten to “get it right” and tie her patterns in the correct way, the Rangeley way, using her techniques to replicate her patterns in the authentic style. I’ve even begun a process of going back over her patterns previously tied in Eastern style, and “retrofitting” them. I’ve had to do that on some of my streamers anyway, cutting off heads and redoing them, because of the fact that my use of Wapsi Gloss Coat as finishing head cement has resulted in huge disappointment. It goes on smooth, clear, bubble-free, and looks great! But then after a couple months, it gets diseased. The heads turn blotchy gray and look like heck. Using Wapsi thinner made no difference in performance.

I then started using Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails, but then my old bottle of that expired, and I’ve found out the newer formula is also less than desirable. For now, I’m using Grif’s Thick, about 4 – 5 coats. Besides, retrofitting a completed streamer takes much less time than tying a new fly.

Below is a tutorial on the completion of a Demon, starting with the fly already having the hackle attached, in her unique method of applying it in stages or layers. Mike Martinek calls this “shingling” since it is similar to method roofers use when applying shingles.

Deomn - wing assemblies, and the body ready for wing mounting.

Demon – wing assemblies, with the completed body ready for wing mounting. Note the grizzly hackle – this was placed in probably five sections or layers. I can’t recall because I made this body in October. If five, there is one center bunch, mounted on the bottom of the hook shank, and then two additional bunches of fibers each on each side, placing them so they cover the thread wraps. This is done by holding the top edge of the hackle fibers near the top middle of the hook shank.

Close-up of the throat hackle.

Close-up of the throat hackle. It can be seen how the hackle fibers almost “grow”out of the hook shank. The space of the fibers along the shank occupies between 1/4″ to 3/16” behind the head. Note the bucktail belly and peacock herl underwing are both positioned behind the throat. To apply the throat, I use the method detailed by Leslie Hilyard in the Carrie Stevens book. A rotary vise is a plus. I use a Regal Stainless Steel C-Clamp rotary.

prior to setting the wing,nbother bunch of hackle fibers is placed on top of the hook shank at the head.

Prior to setting the wing, another bunch of hackle fibers is placed on top of the hook shank at the head. This is not one of Carrie’s methods, but I believe Mike Martinek employs this technique. This bunch of fibers is filler; it acts as a spacer for the positioning of the wings. It keeps the butt end stems of the wings from pressing together on top of the hook shank, and allows the butt of the wings to remain on the sides of the head of the fly.

Side bview of wing assembly; note howeach stem of the butt ends is clipped, tapered to a different length.

Side view of wing assembly; note how each stem of the butt ends is clipped and tapered to a different length. This helps to avoid bulk at the tie-in point. Tapering the butt ends of whatever material I tie in – quill wings, bucktail, peacock herl, nymph wing cases, multiple hackles on drys, and various combinations of materials, has been part of my regular tying regimen for decades. I clip the butt ends of these streamer wing materials at a very sharp angle, so that the ends are not only staggered in length, but also tapered as well. Lots of fly tiers have been doing this for many years, so it’s nothing new. However, if one is not aware of this technique, then it can serve well to improve the finishing of streamer heads.    

Opposite wing assembly attached.

Opposite wing assembly attached. Note the slight upward angle of the stems. They are not tied or placed straight along the side parallel to the hook shank.

Both wings attached, nd since the Demon ha a blak head ith an ornge band,I'm using the Danville #7 Orange Flymater thread to begin the finishing process for the head.

Both wings are attached, and since the Demon has a black head with an orange band, I’m using the Danville #7 Orange Flymaster thread to begin the finishing process for the head. Note that I have already flattened the thread in the middle for the band. Next, the black portion of the head will be added.

Black DanvilelFlymater 6/0 wound into position fore and ft of the center orange band. No cement yet...

Black Danville Flymaster 6/0 wound into position fore and aft of the center orange band. No cement yet…the thread was flattened prior to whip finishing.

Finished head with several coats of cement.

Finished head with several coats of cement.

Forgotten Flies classed the Demon as a variation of the Golden Witch. Both patterns are identical except for the shoulder. Hilyard’s book considers the Golden Witch and Demon as two distinct patterns, and I know the authors used strict criteria to ascertain authenticity of a Carrie Stevens original pattern. Carrie had other pattens that were nearly identical, but named differently. The Happy Garrison and Carrie’s Special differ only in the shoulder. The Don’s Special and Blue Dragon differ only in the location of the inner wing hackles and the thread band on the head, plus the Don’s Special has the outer grizzly hackle slightly shorter.Completed Demon.


Listed in order of tie-in – differs from Hilyard’s listing slightly in that I created a separate listing for the underwing and list the throat as the final stage before setting the wing.

Tag:                    Flat silver tinsel

Body:                Orange floss

Ribbing:          Flat silver tinsel

Underbelly:  White bucktail

Underwing:   5 -6 strands peacock herl (I always use 6 for an even number, since I position the herl top side facing out on both sides of the fly

Throat:           Grizzly hackle fibers

Wing:                Four natural grizzly hackles

Shoulders:       Amherst pheasant tippet

Cheeks:          Jungle cock

Head:               Black with an orange band

It must be noted that Carrie’s method of mounting everything except the wing behind the head is a stroke of genius for the fly tier. It eliminates the bulk created by attaching a large number of materials in one space, and allows the tier to keep the heads smaller. I personally prefer to replicate the elongated heads on her patterns.

One of my subscribers asked a few questions in his comment, and as I answered I decided to add the information into this post. It involves the use of cement and the final stage of fly completion. Hope this helps…

I do not use adhesive or head cement at every step. I have started cementing the herl to the top (or bottom) of the hook shank for about 1/4″ to 3/8″ behind the body. For this I use Flexament. If I go to set the second wing, on the near side, on my side of the hook, and it does not want to lie properly against the other wing, in other words, if it cups outward, or doesn’t lay flat against the other wing, or is cantankerous in any way, kicking off at an angle, then I force it into submission. I do this by placing a line (or bead) of Elmer’s Rubber Cement – what I use for cementing the wing assemblies, along the inside stem of the second wing to be mounted. This is about 5/8″ long. Keep it shorter than your cheek and or shoulder. The Elmer’s stays tacky, so after capping the bottle, I place the wing in position, using no thread at this stage. I merely position the wing perfectly matched to the opposite side for length and vertical alignment, and press and hold it for 10 – 15 seconds. Then I wind thread over the butt ends. This makes both wings set nice and tight, and flat, together. No one can tell when it’s done, and it’s a perfect solution for the problem of wings that won’t behave whether tying presentation or fishing flies.
The butts of the stems are attached to the side of the head, at a slight down angle…viewing any originals tied by Carrie Stevens reveals her method of wing setting. I used to tie my wing stems together on top…no longer. That bit of schlappen on top of the hook shank, the color of which I use for whatever color the inner hackle of the wing is, makes the wings sit slightly apart. It prevents them from their tendency to want to slide into the top center of the head. I only started using this method last fall. I’m not sure but Martinek might be using white schlappen for this step on his flies…

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.

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:

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.


This Carrie Stevens pattern was originally included in another post I wrote last August;

This Victory is more recently tied, and I am experimenting with a different type of set up for the photos, placing the fly upright rather than flat against a background. This allows me to play with depth-of-field, which can place more emphasis on the fly. This fly is another addition to my Carrie Stevens Pattern Dictionary. Below is the Victory:

Victory – Carrie Stevens pattern, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

The Victory

Thread: White Danville 3/0 monocord for the body.

Carrie Stevens used white buttonhole thread for her body work. I discovered that while visiting the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont on June 13, 2012. Part of the present display, A Graceful Rise, a tribute to women in fly tying and fishing, included photos of Austin Hogan’s notes and drawings that he painstakingly made in the early 1960’s of Carrie’s fly tying methods. I also recently learned from Mike Martinek that Austin actually deconstructed some of Carrie’s streamers to validate his work. Later on Mike became friends with Austin, and together the two of them also deconstructed some of Carrie’s patterns. He told me they had a few with hook points broken off, or were missing a cheek, etc. The use of the buttonhole thread is just one of the discoveries I made there. I know I am going to keep everyone in suspense, but I’m will reveal this information at a later date, after I’ve had time to study it more thoroughly.

Hook: This pattern is dressed on a Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer Hook. Any long shank streamer hook may be used.

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Tail: Red hackle fibers, about equal to hook gape

Rib: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Red floss

Belly: White bucktail

Throat: Red

Wing: Two light blue hackles flanked on each side by one gray hackle

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Red, white, and blue, in that order back to front. I use Danville Flymaster 6/0 #47 red, #1 White, and Blue 3/0 monocord, which since it is not listed on the Danville Chenille Company web site, I assume is discontinued. I also have a couple spools of Danville Blue Flymaster 6/0 that is not their #507 flourescent blue. That must also be a discontinued color.

Victory – mounted, carded. I have loved this traditional style streamer and bucktail carded packaging ever since I saw it the first time thirty years ago. Nowadays we use plastic sleeves. Before that there was cellophane, and before that, in the days when Carrie Stevens, Herb Welch, Gardiner Percy of Percy Tackle Company, Bill Edson, Chief Needabah, and other Maine and New England fly tiers sold their streamers, the favored material in use was a wax paper-like substance called glassine.

There is just something classic about the look of carded streamers and bucktails.


Today, January 1, 2012 is the day that fellow tier and friend from Canada, Darren MacEachern, officially started his pet project titled: Streamers365. This is an online gallery of streamers that will continue for a full year, featuring feather wing patterns. New patterns will be posted each day for the entire year. Notes on pattern origin, history, and recipes will be included. Today began the project with famous Maine resident Herb Welch’s Black Ghost, featuring four versions of the fly tied by Jim Warner, Bob Petti, Bob Frandsen, and Don Bastian. I have added a link to Streamers365 under “Links” at the top right of my blog page. Please visit this site for more information on this project. Or click this link:

I also want to note that this wool body version of the Black Ghost is one of six patterns on my DVD, Traditional Streamers and Bucktails. The DVD is available to order on Here is s direct link to the product page for this DVD:

Happy New Year to every one! I wish you all health, success, peace, and good fishing!

Below is the photo Darren took of my Black Ghost, he just sent it to me to post here.

Black Ghost, Size #1 8x long, wool body version