Thunder Creek flies
By Lindsey Grandison
Keith Fulsher is a flyfisherman living in Eastchester,
New York. Early on he tied flies for the renown Angler’s
Cove in Manhattan. There he came into contact with Lew
Oatman, another tier who contributed greatly to streamer
design, and with Alex Rogan a descendant of the Scottish
Rogans who were established tiers and deeply involved in
Atlantic salmon fly design.
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.
Materials (In general)
- Hook : 6 X long, ring eye, typically in sizes 2 to 8 but
ranging as far as 4/0 to 12 where appropriate. Partridge CS5, Mustad 36620 and Daiichi 2460 are similar and have all been used traditionally for tying the Thunder Creek flies.
- Thread: Red. This simulates the open gills.
- Bucktail: Fulsher's preference is for hair from the bottom half of the tail.
- Body: Embossed silver or gold tinsel or floss as required.
- Eyes: After the head is formed, it is coated with lacquer or epoxy several times to form a smooth head. Then a yellow spot is applied and when dried a black pupil is added. Another coat is the applied to protect the eyes.
|Take Me To The Pattern Dressings!
General Tying Instructions:
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.
- Attact the tread and cover the body with tinsel or
- If a midline is called for, attach the bucktail
which will form the midline.
- Tie in a small bunch of bucktail by the butts behind the eye of the hook such that the tips projects toward the bend. The tips should project just beyond the bend of the hook. The remaining bunches of bucktail should be approximately 130 percent of the hook shank length.
- For the top of the fly select a bunch of dark bucktail about
the thickness of a wooden match. The bucktail is aligned along the top of the shank such that the tips are forward of the eye and the butts end at a point 20 percent of the distance from the eye to the bend. The butts are wrapped up to the eye.
- For the bottom of the fly either rotate the hook so that it is upside down or take the hook out of the vise and put it back in upside down.
- To the bottom of the shank attach the light colored bucktail as for the dosal bucktail, i.e. the bucktail is aligned along the the shank such that the tips are forward of the eye and the butts end
at a point 20 percent of the distance from the eye to the
bend. The butts are wrapped up to the eye.
- The thread is then wrapped back to the end of the butts. Return the hook to its upright position.
- Now the top bunch of dark bucktail is bend back over the top of the shank and adjusted so that the hair covers the top of the
shank but leaves the midline visible.
- Next the light colored bunch on the bottom of the shank is reversed. Be certain to maintain a clear color separation. The dark
bucktail on the top of the hook should lie along the top, the midline should be visible and the lower bucktail should run along the bottom of the hook shank.
- The thread which is one fifth of the way back from the eye is then wrapped over all of the bucktail and whip finished in place. The
twenty percent between the thread wraps and the eye of the hook forms the head of the fly. The wraps over the bucktail are made with red thread and are representative of flared gills. The tip ends of the bucktail should reach just beyond the end of the hook bend.
- Cover the head with several coats of clear lacquer or epoxy.
- After it has dried a spot of yellow lacquer is applied and, when dried, a black pupil is added. The head is then coated again to
protect the eyes.
Considerations for Tying
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.
Take Me To The Pattern Dressings!