November 2010

"Brook Trout"

Jerry Grehl

Brook Trout Streamer

Hook: Mustad #79580 4XL, Mustad #94720 8XL, Mustad #36656A or equivalents--sizes 12 to 2
Thread: Olive green
Head: Tying thread, painted white underneath
Tail: small bunches of webby white hackle, over which is orange hackle, topped by black hackle. All at least as long as the hook gap. Blending of hackles should be avoided.
Body: Rear 3/4 is tapered white floss: front 1/4 pink floss, preferably salmon pink colour if you can find it.
Ribbing: flat gold tinsel. Medium or fine.
Throat: same as tail, same length
Wing: A sparse bunch of orange bucktail, over which are two grizzly saddle hackles and on each side is a olive green saddle hackle. To be truly authentic, three tiny painted alternating dots of scarlet and yellow should be dabbed on the olive quills. Cheeks: Jungle cock eyes, if ya got 'em!

Comments and Tying Instructions:
Originator: Lew Oatman, Shushan, NY, in the Catskills

It was early May, 1969: a cold rainy day on Central Pennsylvania's lovely Loyalsock Creek in Sullivan County's "Endless Mountains" region. We were camped in Forksville and I spent a restless night, anticipating the next day's fishing. I dressed about 6 a.m. and headed to the river, knowing I would be too early for the celebrated Hendrickson hatch. (Pennsylvania has a strange habit of calling her rivers "creeks" and vice-versa. The Loyalsock is no exception.) I thought I would chuck streamers until the first duns appeared. I tied on one of the legendary Catskill tyer Lew Oatman's innovations known as the "Brook Trout." Several hatchery rainbows slammed it greedily, but a long cast behind a rock brought out the cannibal Brown, A hook jawed 19 incher was brought to net. I had an audience. A young turkey hunter garbed in camo said, "That's some trout, buddy!" "This is some fly!" I replied.

I was introduced to this fly by Joseph D. Bate Jr.'s book, Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing (The Stackpole Company. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1950 and 1966). My dog-eared first edition is one of my treasured possessions. Looking through most fly catalogs one rarely finds a classic streamer. It's a dying art. If you do find a small selection, it usually includes poorly tied imitations of a few patterns like the Gray Ghost (Carrie Stevens must be turning in her grave), a few bucktails, and the ubiquitous Wooly Buggers, which are being passed off as streamers.

There are various schools of streamer tying. The Allagash region of Maine probably was the starting point after WW1 in an attempt to imitate the food supply of early spring landlocked salmon. The idea quickly spread to the celebrated streams of New York and Pennsylvania, with modifications. A Western style was later introduced, with their high riding wings. Attractor and exact imitations were fished side by side with equal results.

I cannot end this without a tribute to the great, long-gone tyers of the past: Keith Fulsher, who was one of the first to use bucktails in his flies, tying his heads of reversed bucktail; the great Sam Slaymaker, creator of the the bucktail "Little Trout" series; Ray Bergman; Don Gapen, creator of the Muddler Minnow; Frank Hornburg, whose namesake fly is still sold today; E.H. "Polly" Rosborough, the great western innovator; Austin Hogan; native American Chief Needahbeh; the legendary Carrie G. Stevens of Maine; and Livingston, Montana's Dan Bailey. May all these and other legends of the past cast their streamers into the rivers of our dreams forever.

Photograph ©2010 by Marv Slind