A few from Ora Smith

Published Mar 5th 2012

Variations on Smith's tiny casting streamers


It was a sad day when Paul Schmookler published the final issue of his epic "Art of Angling Journal". Each issue was teaming with eye candy for the fly angler and fly tyer, especially when he'd rummage through his vast collection of flies and publish specimens that had never seen in print before. Sometimes collections of flies would find him - such as when Steve Cullen submitted a collection of Ora Smith flies in Vol 2 Issue 1 in 2003.

Ora Smith had been published before in a number of places, no less than Stewart and Leeman's seminal work "Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon". Smith was not as well know in the non-streamer community as Carrie Stevens or Herbie Welch perhaps, but he definitely made a contribution and had a unique perspective. His fame, as it was, was most likely drawn from his streamers featuring wings comprised of multiple golden pheasant crest feathers, such as the Maynard Marvel, Canopache, and the Pumpkin Head. He used Golden Pheasant Crest like it was the most common material available. Wings featuring a dozen or more GP crest feathers, throats, tails, underwings - anywhere he wanted a splash of yellow you were sure to see some GP crest feathers. I would be curious to know his source for these feathers. As a commercial tyer supplying paying clients, I'm sure he went through golden pheasant scalps at an alarming rate.

I had known about Ora Smith before, having spent many evenings flipping through the pages of S&L and staring at the flies. Not only did Smith's use of Golden Pheasant catch my eye, but also his break away from traditional streamer construction by the heavy use of synthetic materials. He clearly was a tinkerer - never satisfied with a fly as given. You can see that in the many variations of the Grey Ghost he tied. Thus I was quite happy to find a huge collection of Ora Smith flies in Schmookler's periodical. What a treasure! Two hundred forty two flies to mull over and consider. With the magazine kaput - it makes me wonder how many other fly collections are out there gathering dust.

Ora Smith used Golden Pheasant Crest like it was the most common material in the world.

What I find curious is his use of yellow synthetic in so many flies alongside the use of golden pheasant crest in others. He must have had a fetish for using a glossy rich transluscent yellow in his flies. I wish I could ask him why he used natural GP crest in some flies but synthetics in others. Was he running out of GP crests finally - and looking for a modern synthetic alternative? A Grey Ghost variation with a synthetic, but a tiny casting streamer with the real thing. Makes you go "hmmm....".

The flies in that really caught my attention were the little casting streamers with duck flank wings. They are not flat wings - streamers with whole sections of duck flank tied flat on top of the fly - but more like elongated wet flies. I sat down over a weekend and tied up a selection, imaging some warm late spring day when I could cast these tiny flies on a light line to some spooky brook trout. There is a stream a couple hours north of me that I've got plans for.

A quick note - I was a little heavy handed in my "variant" approach to these flies. I have two GP crests in my collection and if I tied the flies as listed, I would have none left, especially if I added some of his GP crest winged patterns. As noted earlier, Ora Smith was not adverse to making use of alternative materials and tinkering with fly patterns, so I am sure he wouldn't argue with my choices below. Even so, I made sure to call out my changes so that readers will know the original pattern.

All the flies tied below were tied on a Mustad R75 5X long round bend streamer hook, mostly size 8 or 10.

RED DEMON (variant)

Tail: Red Hackle
Body: Flat Copper Tinsel
Rib: Copper Wire
Throat: Red Hackle
Wing: Bronze Mallard
Head: Black

This is a variant in that the original called for brown floss body without a rib. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Plain brown floss? Yuck. Sorry Ora.


Tail: Red Hackle
Body: Embossed Silver Tinsel
Underwing: Yellow Goat
Wing: Two White Hackles
Head: Black

The original calls for an underwing of Golden Pheasant crest. As we discussed in the intro, Ora Smith is Public Enemy #1 to Golden Pheasants.


Tail: Red Hackle
Body: White Floss
Rib: Embossed Silver Tinsel
Wing: Gray Mallard
Throat: Guine Fowl

I put a couple strands of white bucktail inside the wing to serve as support.


Tail: Gray Mallard
Body: Golde Embossed Tinsel
Throat: White Bucktail and Red Hackle
Wing: Gray Mallard
Head: Black

The original has a painted eye on the head. This fly is so small that there really wouldn't be room to do a painted eye justice.


Tag: Orange Floss
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Brown, palmered
Wing: Bronze Mallard

The "floss" on this fly is Glo Brite #8.


Tail: Gray Mallard
Body: Embossed Gold Tinsel
Throat: Orange Hackle
Wing: White over Black Goat

The original has a synthetic wing listed as "white over black nylon". I'm not sure what he would use in this instance - floss? I prefer the natural taper of a real hair. I also sub'ed embossed tinsel since it would stand up to fishing pressure better than a layer of mylar.



Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet
Body: Peacock Herl
Wing: White Goat
Topping: Teal
Throat: Red Hackle

The original calls for polar bear in the wing, a material which is heavily restricted. Use a suitable substitute, or just bucktail. Don't as me why this is a beetle. Maybe he meant Beatle, like John and Paul and Ringo? Dunno.


Body: Embossed Gold Tinsel
Throat: Yellow Goat and Red Hackle
Wing: Lemon Woodduck
Head: Black

The original calls for (you guessed it) GP crest in the throat. It also calls for a natural red hackle, which may be brown but it was hard to tell from the photo.


Tail: Peacock Sword
Body: Flat Copper Tinsel
Rib: Copper Wire
Throat: White Calftail and Red Hackle
Wing: Lemon Woodduck

Ora probably used a real metal tinsel for the body, but since the fly shown has mylar I added a copper wire rib for protection. I also used goat in place of calftail for the throat.


Tail: Red Hackle
Body: Embossed Silver Tinsel
Throat: Red Hackle
Wing: Bronze Mallard
Head: Black


Tail: Red Hackle
Body: Gray Floss, Corded
Wing: Teal
Throat: Yellow Hackle

The original has a throat of Golden Pheasant Crest.


Tail: Red Hackle
Body: Embossed Gold Tinsel
Throat: Red Hackle
Wing: Badger

WARDEN (variant)

Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet
Body: Peacock Herl
Wing: Red Goat
Topping: Bronze Mallard
Throat: Red Hackle

I kinda went off the reservation with this one by adding a throat. I just thought the fly as tied looked too top heavy without one. I tied another without the throat and still preferred this one. Probably too much goat in this wing.

User comments
From: Richard Katzman · Rikatzman·at·live.com  Link
Submitted April 18th 2014

The best part of creating your own flies, is catching a fish on something you have created with your own hands. The other best part is being able to create flies where your imagination is your only boundary. Sometimes just creating a different more beautiful fly is enough. Some flies are meant for fishing and some are meant just for display. I don't know about anyone else, but I photograph every fly I create to keep a documentary of each creation. At the end of the day it's only what you like and not what everyone else likes. If others can enjoy my work, the that's just icing on the cake.

From: Wes - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted December 14th 2012

The Pied Piper and the Celeste streamers caught my attention and I decided to try tying them. I used size 10 5XL hooks. I don't have all the materials that a more accomplished tyer would have, so I substituted, trying to approximate the colors in those shown. I struggled with handling the mallard flank feather barbs for the wings through a half dozen ties before I happened on a method that made the result of that task a bit more acceptable. Only about 4 and half months left until I can try them......

From: Wes Walker · budman·at·bigstring.com  Link
Submitted December 10th 2012

Yeah, I suppose that's the difference between a fisherman who ties his own flies and a fly tyer who goes fishing. If someone buys his flies, I doubt that he would spend a lot of money (or time perusing) assortments of flies that might not catch fish, just for variation. At least, I didn't.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·globalflyfisher.com  Link
Submitted December 10th 2012


Most patterns are made to catch fish and will do so. Sure there are variations that seem to be made more for the sake of human eyes that for the sake of fish (in shops, magazines and books as well as on the Internet), but most variations are made with the purpose of increasing catches. On the other hand: If the aim was solely to catch fish, we could all be fishing a gray or black Woolly Bugger and very little else, and still be able to hook quite a lot of fish. But the advantage - and joy - of being able to change flies is one of the ways we make fly fishing more fun as well as more productive.

We could also listen to one melody (or a small selection), always eat one or a few dishes and watch one or just a couple of movies or series on tv again and again. But we like variation - in flies too. Even though one or a few patterns will do, some of us like to tie and fish many different. And we like to fish some that we like.

It's human nature, I guess.


From: Wes - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted December 10th 2012

I'm new to fly tying, having started last spring. The patterns that I tie are ones that I know will catch fish on the waters that I fish a lot. I just have to wonder whether the most of the patterns found on the internet are more for human eyes to appraise or for fishing.....

From: Keven - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted September 5th 2012

Nice Write up about Ora. I grew up near his house and spent many times in his den while he was tying flies as a child. I still have a small assortment of his flies in one of my boxes. I even have one of his pumpkin heads! I bought a Ruger 10/22 from him and got to shoot it in his basement shooting range. It was interesting as it ran underneath his driveway as I recall.

From: Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted August 5th 2012

If anyone's interested, two Ora Smith collections just showed up on eBay, though the commenting rules prevent me from giving you the links. Search for "Ora Smith" on eBay to find them.

From: J. Preston  Link
Submitted June 10th 2012

Nicely done! Love the flies and I appreciate the photography. Thanks for the good work,,,

From: Bob - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted May 8th 2012

The article is extremely well done. As a young man I was fortunate to have been one of Ora's steady customers and still possess many of his flies in their original unopened envelopes. I made many trips to his Blossom Street home in Keene N.H. Many of the flies in the article were named after Ora's customers who used to troll them in many of the nearby lakes in Vermont and New Hampshire. I believe Ora taught fly tying until he was well into his 90's. Both Ora and his wife were a true sportsmen and their legend will live on forever as long as their are trout in Spofford Lake.

From: Bob Chambers · 4jrpc·at·kos.net  Link
Submitted March 28th 2012

Very Nice, I will try some of these patterns on the Triniti River in Quebec this summer for Sea Run Brookies. Very Nice tying job on all.

From: Ed Null · e.null·at·sbcglobal.net  Link
Submitted March 12th 2012

Beautiful streamers. I'll be tying some of these. Thanks, Bob!

From: Bruce - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted March 9th 2012

Very nice ties. Thanks for keeping alive fly tying history. I've never heard of Ora Smith flies.

From: Joel Stansbury · joels62·at·insightbb.com  Link
Submitted March 7th 2012

Bob, really great article & tying. Thank you, thank you. This kind of journalism is what it is all about.
Sincerely, Joel

From: Peter Simonson  Link
Submitted March 7th 2012

Great little streamers, Bob! The article was interesting. Really find the waterfowl wings are pretty and undoubtedly attractive to the fish. Gotta get you some GP crests...

From: Rich Connors  Link
Submitted March 6th 2012

Bob, Fantastic flies and great article. Thanks for sharing!

From: Alan Petrucci · uppahdam·at·aol.com  Link
Submitted March 6th 2012

They are wonderful little streamers. They would work well on the small streams I fish.

From: Craig White · cwhite1·at·maine.rr.com  Link
Submitted March 6th 2012

Very nice, Bob.

From: Kelly - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted March 6th 2012

Oh Bob, I LOVE THESE!! You always have such great articles~!!!

From: Kelvin Kleinman · kkrvp·at·hotmail.com  Link
Submitted March 5th 2012

very nice ties and article

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