Streamers Of Herb Welch - Guest feature

By Bob Petti and Chris DelPlato

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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".

Black Ghost
Green Spot
Jane Craig
Kennebago Streamer
Welch Rarebit
Yellow Jane Craig
Chris Del Plato
Bob Petti
January 2000

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