Hardy Fin & Fly

Old Classic Streamers by Stevie Munn

This month I thought I would give you three old streamer / bucktail style fly patterns that have worked for me on many occasions. My first contact with this type of fly was when I was a youth in the late 1970's and I well recall staring at the beautiful colour plates of these flies in a book which my father owned called ‘Fly Dressers Guide' by John Veniard. That was first published in 1952 in the days I remember as my ‘dry fly angler stage' when we fished our local rivers for Trout - under normal circumstances I never fished a streamer unless there was a Dollaghan or two in the river perhaps because I thought it tantamount to spinning.

Looking back which writing this feature often makes me do by its very nature perhaps dry fly fishing made me pompous in my youth just for a little while but over the years I have realised that these flies and many others deserve a place in my fly box and I don't mind what style of fly I or others fish with. All the same I must admit I still have a massive fondness for dry fly fishing on rivers and it's strange that the more you learn about fly fishing the more you start to realise that even if you live to 200 you will still never be able to learn it all. Fly fishing is such a vast subject and in some areas of our sport there is no right or wrong way - that is one of many the things I love about my passion and something that many so-called experts should take on board.

Streamer-style flies are possibly one of the oldest styles of fishing lures and may have been around in one form or another since the time of the ancient Egyptians and very likely before. Most modern streamer style flies come from the USA where they have a huge following - I use the term modern but in this case I mean in and around the last 100 or so years. There are many fabulous and deadly patterns dressed in this style but today's fly angler especially those from the UK and Ireland seem to have forgotten about these great patterns and in recent times it has been rare to see them in a local anglers fly box especially the river anglers or for that matter the lough anglers. You will still come across a few in the stillwater fly fisher's armory but even that is starting to become a rarity so uncommon have they become. Now I know that most of us like to try and match the hatch when we can (I am no exception as a rule) which perhaps is why these flies are not as common as they should be here on these isles. There are however times when our quarry is taking small baitfish or feeding on something so minute we have trouble imitating it and that is when we can take advantage of the fish's aggression that is the time when the thinking angler might try a streamer or a bucktail pattern. If you haven't fished this method before I urge you to try it because they so often save the day while fished though a stillwater or swinging across the current of a river. (Swing in the current See - I told you tantamount to bloody spinning oops dry fly purists relapse only kidding!) Tight Lines.

Black Ghost

Hook: 8 long shank Partridge
Thread: 3/0 or 6/0 black
Tail: Yellow Hackle Fibers
Body: Black Floss
Rib: Flat Silver Tinsel I also run a fine silver wire along this rib just makes a more durable fly.
Wing: White saddle hackle or marabou (optional Jungle cock cheeks though a good option)
Hackle: A Beard of Yellow Hackle Fibers

This is one that I first saw in that old John Veniard book. The Black Ghost dates back in around 1927 and went on to become one of the classic American Streamer patterns in the 1930's. American artist and sculptor Herbie L. Welsh is credited with the original. Welsh is at times also credited as the first person to help develop the modern day long shank fly hook as the original Black Ghost streamer flies were originally dressed on reshaped bait hooks as Welsh needed a longer hook that would be better for making smelt imitations. Faced with no commercial offerings he started to make his own and this venture may have given rise to today's long shank lure and streamer hooks. The original Black Ghost had a feather wing but there are also white bucktail and white marabou winged versions which work very well. This fly works best when Trout are taking fry or baitfish and it also works well for migratory lough Trout such as Dollaghan. Like most Dollaghan flies it can be deadly for Sea Trout and of course it is a popular big Trout and Steelhead fly in its native land.

Black Nose Dace

Hook: 8 long shank Partridge
Thread: 3/0 or 6/0 black
Tail: a tag or butt of red wool or Antron
Body: silver Mylar tinsel
Rib: fine or medium oval silver tinsel or silver wire
Wing: from bottom to top): equal bunches of white hair black hair and natural brown bucktail (optional Jungle cock cheeks though a good option)

The Black Nose Dace was first dressed by American fly tyer Art Flick of New York. Flick listed it in his book ‘Art Flick's Streamside guide' that was first published in 1947. He had seen that small fish were being taken by large Trout and having learned that the locals called the tiddlers black nose dace Flick tried to imitate them with bucktail coupled with a silvery body and a red wool tag. The result was a streamer that is perhaps one of the most successful baitfish patterns in the world. The Black Nose Dace is not only useful for fry feeding Trout but in many countries it is used for Salmon and Steelhead and I know a few anglers who use it to imitate perch fry on the loughs for Brown Trout and on stillwaters for Rainbow Trout that are fry bashing. I have had quite a few nice river trout on it and like most good streamers it works well for Dollaghan and Sea Trout. When fishing this fly on a river cast it to likely looking spots such as under-cut banks over-hanging trees and behind and in front of rocks where big fish may be lying. Just make sure you retrieve with a fast figure of eight and wait for solid takes.

Whiskey Fly

Hook: 8 to 12 long shank Partridge
Thread: Red or black
Tag: Red Silk
Body: Gold or Silver Flat Mylar
Rib: Red or orange silk I sometimes use gold wire
Wing: 2-4 Cock hackles dyed hot orange or hot orange calf tail I also use Orange Marabou at times. (optional Jungle cock cheeks though a good option)
Hackle: Cock hackles dyed hot orange

I have added this fly because it has worked for me amazingly well at times and usually when I was least expecting it it. The first Whiskey Fly was dressed in the streamer style by Albert Whillock from England - it is not a very old fly compared to some and became very popular in the early 1970's on English still waters such as Grafham Water where it was the downfall of many a big Rainbows. Orange flies are always worth a try on hot sunny days and Whillock recommends that it be fished just under the surface at a moderate speed. I have personally caught many daphnia feeding Brown Trout on this pattern which is no surprise as bright flies often work well in this circumstance; but what is unusual is that it works fantastically well for me when Trout are taking the Caenis which is the smallest of the mayfly genus and usually called the ‘Fisherman's White Curse'. No other fly hatch brings as many Trout to the surface from July to August and no other hatch leaves so many anglers totally flustered as they are left to watch the Trout sipping down countless spents on the water.

The problem is not the size of this little upwing as we can match it with small hooks - I do have a few spents dressed on size 20 and 22 hooks with which I have some success - it is the sheer numbers that appear when they hatch so to rely on a Trout choosing your artificial from among countless real flies can be very hit and miss. This is where the Whiskey Fly works for me so well in fact that I used to keep it a secret in my local competition days! The best tactic is cast your fly in front of feeding fish especially if you can find a small pod of maybe two three or four fish feeding together given that they will often compete. Once you have cast to your target strip your fly back towards you at a very fast pace because this will often provoke a Trout into chasing your fly. Needless to say this is very exciting at times because you can see large bow waves just behind your fly as Trout race after it just don't slow up at this point but keep stripping back at a pace. Sometimes the fish will turn aside at the last moment and sometimes you will strip right into the take and the Trout will be on believe me that this is a method that works just try it you will thank me for it the next time there is a caenis hatch on. In common with the other two patterns I have given this month the Whiskey Fly will take migratory lough Trout such as Dollaghan when fished in the evening in rivers.


ProTeam member Stevie Munn works full time as a fishing guide writer and qualified game angling instructor in fly casting and fly tying he has also appeared in many angling books and DVDs and gives demonstrations at angling events all over the world. He has also fished many places in the world and grew up fishing on rivers and loughs of Ireland where he often guides. He runs teaching courses in Ireland and host groups to fish in BC Canada Iceland Argentina and other parts of the world. You can contact him via email anglingclassics@aol.com and for more information visit www.irishflyfair.com.