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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Carrie’s Killer – Original Rangeley Style Streamer Pattern

Last June, I conceived the idea of creating a few Rangeley style streamer patterns. The first fly was White Nose Pete: https://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/04/04/white-nose-pete/ then that was followed up with the creation of Wheeler’s Ghost: https://donbastianwetflies.com/2013/04/04/wheelers-ghost/

Those two patterns started me on a bent of creativity; the end result is thus far, thirty-five original streamer patterns, all themed on the Rangeley Lakes Region of Maine, and tied in traditional Carrie Stevens Rangeley streamer fly tying style. Two more additions added here today are Carrie’s Killer and Carrie’s Ghost, posted separately. I confess to heavily relying on the tying style and creativity of Carrie Stevens for inspiration in the development of these patterns; I utilize some of her components, methods, and uses of materials. For example, many of these patterns have peacock herl and / or bucktail bellies, some have golden pheasant or silver pheasant crest underwings, most have shoulders of various feathers, and some have two-color throats. These were components that Carrie Stevens used, in variety, on her patterns.

Here is Carrie’s Killer:

Carrie's Killer - original Rangeley style streamer patterns - created, tied, and photographed by Don Bastian.

Carrie’s Killer – original Rangeley style streamer pattern – created, tied, and photographed by Don Bastian. The hook is a size #1 – 8x long, Gaelic Supreme Martinek / Stevens Rangeley Style Streamer.

Carrie’s Killer

Tag: Flat silver tinsel

Ribbing: Flat silver tinsel

Body: Black floss

Underbelly: White bucktail

Underwing: Four to six strands peacock herl, then a golden pheasant crest

Throat: Yellow hackle fibers, then claret hackle fibers

Wing: Two pink hackles flanked on each side by one yellow-dyed grizzly hackle, flanked on each side by one claret hackle

Shoulders: Silver pheasant body feathers

Cheeks: Jungle cock

Head: Black

These components are listed in the order in which I attach them to the hook. Tied in Rangeley style, the throat is the last component to be attached just prior to the mounting of the wings. My listing of components differs from that presented in the Hilyard’s Carrie Stevens book. As far as mounting the wings, I once did that together, but now I place one wing at a time, the far side first, then the near wing. The tapered, flattened with tweezers or pliers to tie in better without rolling or twisting, butt ends of the wing feather tips are placed on the side of the head, at a slight downward angle. I also add a good-sized pinch of schlappen fibers, of whatever color the inside of the wing is, on the top of the head just before mounting the wing. This is an abbreviation of the technique of layered schlappen on both top and bottom of the hook developed and used by streamer guru and original Rangeley style streamer expert, Mike Martinek, Jr., of Stoneham, Massachusetts.  Mike has a great video demonstrating his technique.  Here is the Amazon.com link to buy his DVD:  http://www.amazon.com/Classic-Maine-Streamers-Mike-Martinek/dp/1604900148/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369941739&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=classic+maine+sytreamers+martinek

Carrie's Killer

Carrie’s Killer – originated, tied, and photographed by Don Bastian

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.

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…

Gray Ghost – White Ghost

The Gray Ghost is unquestionably the most famous streamer fly ever created. Contrary to popular belief, according to the account presented in Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, The Stackpole Press, by Graydon and Leslie Hilyard, the Gray Ghost was actually not the pattern that Carrie Stevens caught her record-breaking six pound, thirteen ounce brook trout on at Upper Dam, Maine, on July 1st, 1924. The entry in Carrie’s own handwriting in the record book at the Upper Dam House records the successful fly as “Shang’s Go Get-um.” There is no modern record of a Carrie Stevens pattern called Shang’s Go Get-um. And the mounted record brook trout Carrie caught was presented to her friend, Charles E. “Shang” Wheeler. Shang Wheeler is responsible for getting Carrie started and interested in fly tying in 1920. The fly in the jaw of the mount is a Shang’s Special. Perhaps this is a courtesy to her friend, or perhaps it is the same pattern with a name change, as Hilyard suggest as a possibility. We will never know.

I tied my first Gray Ghosts while still in high school, back in the late 1960’s. Over the years I bought and acquired different books that included the Gray Ghost. I first saw the pattern at age twelve in 1964, because in 1938, the already popular pattern was included in Ray Bergman’s book Trout, written in that year. I started reading Trout on that first day after I caught bluegills on a Yellow Sally wet fly in a Pennsylvania farm pond. I bought the first Gray Ghost I ever fished for seventy-five cents at a local sporting goods shop in my home town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Like many commercially tied Gray Ghosts, it had yellow bucktail substituted for the golden pheasant crest.

Ever since that time I have tied and fished the Gray Ghost. It was successful for trout in my home state of Pennsylvania, but in more recent years I fished it primarily on my trips to Maine starting in 1986. My brother heard from other anglers and reported that gray marabou makes a great Gray Ghost variation; we tied them and caught trout and salmon on them too. even a little pearlescent Flashabou added makes it fish. 😉

My brother Larry and I, also collaboratively originated the Gray Ghost Wooly Bugger, back in 1987. That pattern was included in Gary Soucie’s book, Wooly Wisdom, 2005, but listed as origin unknown. I can clarify its origin dating to 1987, and I plan to eventually get that pattern up on another post.

Back in the early 1990’s, after taking salmon fly tying lessons with my Canadian friend Rick Whorwood, who hosted guest instructors Rob Solo from Newfoundland, and Bob Veverka, author of Spey Flies, at his home, I learned to focus on more exacting proportions and ways to improve my fly tying. I transferred what I learned about tying salmon flies to all my flies, particularly classic wet flies that I began tying with renewed passion in 1993. These lessons, more or less caused me to become more detail-oriented in my fly tying. Another factor in this development was that I had gotten a jump start on detail orientation by commercially tying trout flies in the fall of 1989. I tied more flies in that first year that I did in the previous twenty-five years combined tying mainly for myself. I wore out the 25-year old set of jaws on my Thompson Model-A vise in the first year. Tying commercially; if you can do it, is very good discipline.

After all these years, a good number of Carrie Stevens streamer patterns have turned up among the collections of anglers, estates, and happenstance, and they continue to do so. A story I can personally relate; I met a man while demo tying at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine last fall in 2012. In 2009 he received a “bag of streamers” from an elderly man in his nineties who had lived in the Rangeley Lakes Region. The man who received the flies was new to fly fishing. He used some of these streamers, lost some in trees, lost some in fish, and lost some on rocks and logs. One day while fishing with a licensed Maine guide, the guide noticed the streamer fly on his tippet and took a closer look at it. It was a Carrie Stevens original. The guide asked, “Do you have any more of these?”

“Yeah,” he answered. “I have a streamer wallet full of ‘em.”

The guide was struck as he examined the streamers therein. “Where did you get these?” The man told him that they had been given him by an old man who said he was no longer fishing and would not need them.

“Do you know who tied these flies?” the guide asked.

“No,” the man answered.

“These are Carrie Stevens’ flies!” the guide declared.

“Who’s Carrie Stevens?” the man queried. The interesting thing is that when enlightened by research to their value and the significance of Carrie Stevens, the man donated the nearly forty remaining original Stevens streamers to the museum in Oquossoc, Maine.

In more than seventy-five years, one would think there is nothing new to discover about the Gray Ghost. However, I recently discovered this fact: The White Ghost, a Carrie Stevens companion pattern to the Gray Ghost, shares the same components and is identical to the Gray Ghost except for the wing color. At first I thought it curious that the White Ghost had an added white hackle throat, while the Gray Ghost did not. It is not noticeable on most of her originals, but it can in fact be seen on several of the Gray Ghosts on the back cover of the previously mentioned book, Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies. Like the White Ghost, the Gray Ghost does indeed have white hackle fibers as part of the throat. They are an integral part of the pattern. However, I and a few thousand other people never knew that until recently. Here is what I discovered: It is interesting, even amazing, to note regarding the white hackle portion of the throat on the Gray Ghost; the written recipes in these six books, in order of their publication:, Trout, 1938, Ray Bergman;  Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, 1950, 1966, Joseph D. Bates; Flies, 1950, J. Edson Leonard; Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, 1982, Dick Stewart and Bob Leeman; Forgotten Flies, 1999, Complete Sportsman; Carrie Stevens: Maker of Rangeley Favorite Trout and Salmon Flies, 2000, Graydon and Leslie Hilyard; have this fact in common: the component of the white hackle throat on the written Gray Ghost recipes is missing!

It is included in Austin Hogan’s notes and drawings that he made in the 1960’s on Carrie Stevens’ tying methods; it is included in the written text of Bates book, it is included in the text devoted to Carrie Stevens tying methods in Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon, and it is shown on the photographic step-by-step tutorial of the Gray Ghost in Hilyard’s book.

Bates writes about Carrie Stevens tying methods, detailing her construction of the Gray Ghost: “Now the throat was tied in. A small bunch of white bucktail extending beyond the barb of the hook was tied in under the rearward part of the white underbody. This surrounded the white underbody and was applied here so it would point backward, rather than backward and downward. Immediately ahead of this a small bunch of white hackle (all of approximately the same length) was tied in, in the same manner, to hold the bucktail up and to extend the whiteness of the throat forward.” P. 175.

I first noted the addition of the white hackle throat on the White Ghost in the summer of 2011 when I tied my first specimen of that pattern. It was not until I photographed Austin Hogan’s notes at the American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vermont, this past June of 2012, brought them home, downloaded them to my computer and began reading and studying them at a later date.I did not remember the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost from these listed books, but comparing this new information from Hogan’s notes to the books, that I discovered this omission of decades. It is fascinating that this missing component was inadvertently perpetuated through multiple publications. I am not finding fault with any of these distinguished authors, I merely find it interesting. It’s almost as if there was a conspiracy of sorts, or perhaps a curse of secrecy. All kidding aside, here is the photo and text from Austin Hogan’s notes on Carrie Stevens tying methods from the American Museum of Fly Fishing Display:

Photo caption: No. 6 – White, lustrous, stripped saddle hackle or cape hackles are tied in next (to) the white hair. The underside of the shank may be lacquered if necessary to blend the fibers to the hair. The advantage of the white thread now becomes evident. No. 7 – More white fibers are added in the same way until the bare shank is covered to a point where the throat (a golden pheasant crest) is to be placed. It’s probable Mrs. Stevens had the underbody of a minnow in mind. The fibers are to flow backward and are proportionate in volume and width to the bucktail. Too long and too heavy helps turn the streamer on its side.”

Austin Hogan was the first Curator of the American Museum of Fly Fishing, and he actually deconstructed, wrap by wrap, Carrie Stevens’ streamer patterns to make his notes on her methods and techniques. Hogan’s star streamer pupil, Mike Martinek, Jr. of Massachusetts, was also involved in some of these deconstruction sessions. Austin Hogan’s notes are currently in the possession of Mike Martinek, Jr. Mike has been the standard-bearer of carrying on and teaching Carrie Stevens tying methods for decades.

Note that Mr. Hogan’s deconstruction of Carrie’s Gray Ghost revealed that she layered the white hackle in with multiple applications of small bunches of fibers. Leslie Hilyard covers this method of tying in the throat of black and orange fibers on the Hammerhead pattern in his book. However, the presence or absence of a bucktail underbelly, golden pheasant or silver pheasant crest underwing, peacock herl underbelly or underwing, all changes the process of material placement for tying streamers in authentic Carrie Stevens style. Until a few months ago, I had been tying Carrie Stevens streamers in traditional Eastern fashion, as Hilyard states, like many other people, as are the reproductions of Carrie’s patterns in Forgotten Flies, attaching everything at the head. Even H. Wendell Folkins of Tamworth, New Hampshire, who purchased Carrie’s business in December 1953, tied her patterns in normal fashion, and did not use her methods. There is a difference, and I now have dozens more representations of the same pattern that I tied before and after my recent determination to tie Mrs. Stevens patterns accurately and in her traditional style. (Except for the fact I’m not tying in hand, folks).

I personally believe if we find out that any original and historical information is discovered to be wrong or incomplete, then if possible, we need to correct it. Perhaps I’m being extremely detail oriented about this, but I also feel it’s important to get things right. I am making the same effort on my current book project on the Orvis / Marbury flies; the title is Favorite Fishing Flies – 1892.

I try to write nothing other than the truth and facts to the best of my ability. I do appreciate those of you that have called out my mistakes, whether they are omissions or incorrect information.  Mike Martinek, Jr. has been aware of the white hackle throat for decades, in fact, as I noted it was published in Bate’s book as far back as 1950, though I can not say that for certain since I do not possess a first-edition copy of his book.

I believe the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost is part of the pattern, as it is on the White Ghost. Of course most commercially available Gray Ghosts don’t have the white hackle throat, and it fishes. otherwise it would not have become and remained the most popular streamer in history. Depending on your reference source, Carrie Stevens created more than one-hundred streamer patterns, and there are none of the rest of these patterns that I know of with components that are included in the dressing but intentionally not “listed” as part of that pattern. As meticulous a tier as Carrie Stevens was, the loss of the Gray Ghost white throat hackle fibers on published pattern recipes that lasted for seventy years was through no fault of her own because she never made a serious effort to publish her patterns or recipes.

It makes perfect sense that Carrie’s two Ghost patterns are identical in every way except for the wing color. I cannot explain why all these books did not include the white hackle throat on the Gray Ghost recipe. Some of them had the information and yet, somehow it was overlooked in the pattern recipe. Perhaps some authors took pattern recipes from commercial fly tying houses, or just accepted popular dressings, but I know for a fact that Carrie Stevens was a personal friend and corresponded with Joseph D. Bates, Jr., and she also wrote and sent flies to J. Edson Leonard for his book.

This is interesting! My study of her tying methods regarding material placement has given me a renewed interest in tying her patterns. I shall continue. And please folks, if ever I error in my statements or presentation of facts feel free to point that out to me.

And in my edit this post I decided to and these new Gray Ghost images:

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. Note the different markings on the silver pheasant shoulders. Personally I prefer the fine barring, while many of Carrie’s original Gray Ghosts sport the heavier barring of the shoulder feather.