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New England Streamers
Thunder Creek flies
By Lindsey Grandison
In 1962 he started to experiment with constructing streamers that would more exact imitate bait fish. Unsatisfied with the bulky and gaudy streamers then available he set about creating a sparse and streamlined minnow imitation. He was particularly concerned with the size of the head and the eyes. He didn’t feel that thread heads with painted eyes or jungle cock eyes appropriately represented the large head of a minnow.
The style he settled upon had been employed earlier, the reversed bucktail. This style involved tying bucktail onto the hook shank behind the eye so that the tips projected forward of the hook eye. The bucktail butts were then secured to the shank and wrapped to the eye. The free ends were bent back over the shank and secured so that they now projected beyond the hook bend. This reversed bucktail style results in a substantial head and allows for large sized eyes.
The reversed style was not new. His style evolved from wet flies he had seen as a young angler. These had feather wings tied with the tip projecting forward beyond the eye. The stem was then bent back over the shank and secured again. Here the intent was to promote a secure attachment. In fact this style goes back even further. Mary Orvis Marbury includes several reversed head flies in “Favorite Flies and Their Histories”. An early practitioner of this style was Carrie Stevens who used this design for saltwater flies. Fulsher’s real innovation and contribution was the creation of a series of imitative flies that matched the form and coloration of local baitfish. He tested these patterns initially on Thunder Creek in northern Wisconsin, a low flow, tannic, small stream which is interrupted by beaver ponds.
These streamers employ either two or three colors of bucktail. Typically a dark color forms the dorsal surface, a difference color represents the midline and a light color serves to mimic the belly of the fish.
Fulsher noted that these patterns could be weighted if the situation warranted. While tying examples of these patterns I have noted a few observations that inexperienced tiers might take into consideration.
The first is head size. All of the patterns depicted here were tied on size 6 hooks. Fulsher indicates that the head should represent approximately 20 percent of the shank length. The examples he provides in his illustrations give the impression of a head size which is much slimmer and longer than the ones shown here. This probably results from his use of a larger hook size and from his coating with lacquer. In the flies shown here the heads were coated with epoxy which would give a thicker coating and thus produce a more rounded head. The epoxy coating gave a smoother surface on which to paint the eyes and was consequentially used for that reason.
Several of the patterns call for use of bucktail from the dark center strip of the tail frequently the dark strip dyed a specific color. This part of the bucktail is very often much shorter in length than the white hairs on the side and ends of the tail. In several cases it was difficult to find sufficently long, dark hairs for the flies. It would be advantageous to carefully select the bucktails used for these particular patterns.
This article was inspired by the excellence of Keith Fulsher's book and the disappointment that this salient contribution to streamer design is not better known and not more widely available.
Keith C. Fulsher. “Tying and Fishing the Thunder Creek Series” Freshet Press Inc, Rockville Center, New York, 1973
Keith Fulsher. “Keith Fulsher” In: (editor, Judith Dunham) “The Atlantic Salmon Fly”. Chronicle Books. San Francisco p. 78-81, 1991
Keith Fulsher. “Saltwater Thoughts Revised” The American Fly Fisher 24 (3): 2-6, 1998.
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