Published Jan 10. 2000

Herb Welch flies

Welch feature title graphic

If I was sitting with ten fellow trout fisherman and mentioned the name "Herbie Welch", I would probably get ten quizzical looks. On the other hand, if I mentioned "Black Ghost", I'd be quite surprised if I didn't noticed a number of nodding heads, as the Black Ghost remains as popular and killing a fly pattern today as it was during the depression era of the 30's.

Herbert "Herbie" Welch tied his first streamers around the turn of the century, a fact he used as the basis for his claim of being the first person to tie streamer flies. True or not, the statement certainly adds weight to his mythical status. I can also be said that he served an important role in the development of modern day long shanked streamer hooks. His initial streamer flies were tied on hooks reshaped from bluefish bait hooks which he forged into a sleek shape that better served the needs of his smelt imitations. He recognized the need for streamer hooks long before there were any commercially available. In many ways, Herb Welch can be considered the "Father" of the New England streamer.

Herb's shop was at Haines Landing on Lake Mooselookmeguntic. Although best remembered for his fly patterns, he was also a well known taxidermist, guide, and an accomplished artist and sculptor. Some of his bronze pieces remain on display today in the Smithsonian's American Museum of Art. An excellent fly caster, he was often invited to be a featured demonstrator at many sporting shows. He was far from a one dimensional personality.

Although versions of the Black Ghost were tied as early as 1919, the version we know today was first introduced in 1927. There is some legend behind the origination of this famous fly pattern, but there is no doubt that the rise in popularity of the fly was the result of Nellie Newton producing them for Percy Tackle Company in Portland, Maine. The fly continues to be popular today, although you see far more bucktail or marabou winged versions than the saddle hackle featherwing.

In addition to the Black Ghost, he also tied a fly known as the Green Spot, or what is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Green's Pot. Herb made another rather controversial claim that this fly went on to become the "Nine Three", another very famous Maine streamer. Some of his other original streamers include the Welsh Rarebit (sometimes spelled Welch), the Jane Craig, the Kennebago Streamer, and the Welch Montreal.

While not as well known as Carrie Stevens, the undisputed "Mother" of the New England streamer, Herbie Welch's impact and contributions are no less significant. It is with that in mind that we present a sampling of his fly patterns, tied to represent as closely as possible a set of original Herb Welch streamers photographed for the latest edition of Joseph Bates classic work "Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing".


Submitted By Chris DelPlato


TAILA small bunch of yellow hackle fibers
BODYOf black silk, dressed rather heavily and tapered slightly at bothends
RIBBINGMedium flat silver tinsel
THROATA small bunch of yellow hackle fibers
WINGFour white saddle hackles
CHEEKSJungle Cock

Undoubtedly, one of the most famous streamers ever tied - and with good reason. Quite possibly the most effective streamer pattern on the planet. Maybe one of the most effective FLIES - PERIOD. If I had to take only one streamer out with me, this would be the one. No fly fisher should be out on the water without at least a couple in his fly box/wallet. Have I made my point? It is more common today to see this fly tied with a marabou wing, to which it converts very nicely, rather than the original feather wing. Herbie preferred saddle hackle to neck hackle for his featherwing streamers, claiming they had better action in the water.


Submitted By Chris DelPlato


TAILSmall bunch of yellow hackle fibers
BUTTMade in three parts, which take up one third of the body. Rearquarter of butt is peacock herl, middle half is white silk, and forwardquarter is peacock herl.
BODYRed silk
RIBBINGNarrow flat silver tinsel, over red silk only
THROATSmall bunch of yellow hackle fibers
WINGTwo dark red saddle hackles with a bronze furnace saddle hackle oneach side
SHOULDERSA gray saddle hackle, two-thirds as long as the wing
CHEEKSJungle Cock
COMMENTSOne of Herb Welch's (or anyone's, for that matter) most intricatepatterns. Inspired, in part, by salmon flies Herb had been given from'across the pond'.


Submitted By Bob Petti


BODYFlat Silver Tinsel
RIBBINGOval Silver Tinsel
WINGWhite bucktail, over which is bright green bucktail, overwhich are four dark green saddle hackles.
CHEEKSJungle Cock
NOTESometimes mistakenly called "Green's Pot". Welch claims thisfly is the ancestor of the very well known Nine-three. Blame my lackof suitable hackles for the olive green wing instead of the dark green called for in the original pattern recipe.


Submitted By Chris DelPlato


BODYMedium flat silver tinsel
THROATSmall bunch of white hackle fibers
WINGSix white saddle hackles
TOPPINGSeven or eight strands of bright green peacock herl, as long asthe wing
CHEEKSJungle cock
COMMENTSOriginated by Herb Welch around 1923. Named after a popular Vaudevilleactress of the era. It was intended to be primarily a smelt imitation. Like many of Welch's flies, it has a simple, yet elegant look with all thenecessary ingredients required for effectiveness - white hackle, silverflash, dark back and prominent eye.


Submitted By Bob Petti


TAILA small bunch of orange hackle fibers
BUTTMade in three parts, which take up one-third of body. Rearquarter of butt is peacock herl, middle half is pale blue floss,and forward quarter is peacock herl
BODYFlat Gold Tinsel
RIBBINGOval Gold Tinsel (over gold body portion only)
THROATA small bunch of orange hackle fibers
WINGTwo dark red hackles inside of two golden badger hackles
CHEEKSJungle Cock
NOTESNamed for the Kennebago Stream, a trout and landlocked salmonfishery in the Rangeley region of Maine. Note the length of thehackles in relation to the hook shank - rather long.


Submitted By Chris DelPlato


TAILExtremely narrow sections of duck or goose wing feathers in red,yellow and blue plus two strands of a peacock sword feather. All fourcolors are of equal and normal length, with the blue and yellow marriedtogether on one side (with yellow at the top) and the red and peacock onthe other side.
BODYMedium flat silver tinsel
RIBBINGNarrow oval silver tinsel
THROATA small bunch of fibers from a guinea hen body feather
WINGOne wine red (dark red) saddle hackle on each side of which are twowhite saddle hackles
TOPPINGNine strands of bright green peacock herl, as long as the wing
COMMENTSSimilar to the Jane Craig, the dark red saddles give a nice color blendwith the white. Perhaps the most complex streamer tail you'll tie. Notice the wing extends well past the hook bend - a common characteristicof Welch's streamers.


Submitted By Bob Petti


BODYFlat Silver Tinsel
RIBBINGOval Silver Tinsel
WINGFour bright yellow saddle hackles
TOPPINGSix or seven strands of bright green peacock herl as longas the wing
CHEEKSJungle Cock
NOTESA varation of the Jane Craig streamer used on dark days oroff-color water. Also not the lack of throat hackle and the additionof a ribbing, differing from the original Jane Craig. As with mostWelch streamers, the hackles are long in relation to the hook shank,extending a good length beyond the bend.

Chris Del Plato
Bob Petti
January 2000

Log in or register to post comments