Welcome to 'just old flies,' a section of methods and flies that used-to-be. These flies were tied with the only materials available. Long before the advent of 'modern' tying materials, they were created and improved upon at a far slower pace than today's modern counterparts; limited by materials available and the tiers imagination.

Once long gone, there existed a 'fraternity' of anglers who felt an obligation to use only the 'standard' patterns of the day. We hope to bring a bit of nostalgia to these pages and to you. And sometimes what you find here will not always be about fishing. Perhaps you will enjoy them. Perhaps you will fish the flies. Perhaps?

The White Ghost

Eric Austin, Ohio - August 17, 2009

In the last edition of Just Old Flies I started a streamer, the White Ghost. A spin-off of the Gray Ghost, it's another Carrie Stevens classic, designed to imitate smelt, the ubiquitous bait fish of the East. I started by assembling the wings, each of which consists of two white hackle feathers, a shoulder of silver pheasant body feather, and a jungle cock eye cheek. They came out looking like this:

I then selected a hook that I thought would be the right length for the wings I'd done. You may do this the other way 'round, start with the hook, but I was more interested in getting the pre-fabbed sides right. I spend a lot of time selecting just the right materials for the sides, ones that match in length and slope the way I want. The feathers were pretty long, but I had an array of 10x long streamer hooks that I thought would work. Start the thread behind the eye of the hook about a barb length, then wind back to a point several wraps short of the hook point. The trick to winding on a 10x long hook is to grasp the shank with the left hand just behind where you're winding, so the shank doesn't bend as much. Tie in the ribbing then the floss, both on the far side of the hook. Use two strands of Danville 4 strand rayon floss, or one of the three strands of Largartun if you want to use silk. I used metal tinsel here (not necessary, I just like the look), and if you do that, cut the edge you tie in at a very acute angle, long, so it doesn't add a lot of bulk under the floss. When using Mylar, make sure that the side you want to show (silver here) is tied in next to the shank. Now wind the thread back to the front, and establish a smooth base.

Next wind the floss all the way to the front as evenly as possible. Let the floss slip through your fingers as you wind, and you may overwrap the previous wrap just a little if you like. Edge to edge is probably best, but can leave gaps if you're not careful. Secure well with either half hitches or trap the floss by wrapping one wrap over, one wrap in front, then another over the floss. No matter how you do it, do it. It's heartbreaking when you lose the floss.

Now wind the tinsel back to the hook point, then forward to form the tag. Keep going, and wrap evenly spaced wraps all the way to the front. Tie off, and if you're using metal, be careful that the edges don't cut your thread. Don't cut the tinsel until you've completely secured it. I should mention that Carrie Stevens wrapped her tinsel counter clockwise with respect to the eye, angling her tinsel wraps back, not forward as I have done here. That said, many tiers since have angled them forward, as that's the way it's done on most other flies. I was going to angle them back, then forgot and did it the way I always do. Either way is acceptable.

Attach four to six strands of herl under the hook, and endeavor to keep them in a bundle together as best you can. They should be about as long as the wing will be. It helps to select nice straight herl, and make your first wraps softer. Otherwise, the herl will flare out. You may glue the butts as you tie them in. Maine's Mike Martinek, Jr., a great exponent of these flies, uses glue throughout, on virtually every stage.

Speaking of glue, this is one stage where it's practically a must. The bucktail will pull right out if you don't do something. Very good wax wouldn't hurt, but glue's even better. The longest part of the bucktail should be as long as the herl. Don't overdo the bucktail, less is more.

Now attach the first bunch of hackle, which consists of matched sections from the left and right sides of a schlappen feather. Keep adding these bunches one in front of the other until you are forward enough for the crest to be put on.

I've done another bunch of schlappen, shown here:

Next attach a golden pheasant crest as a throat, and another as a part of the wing.

Now, before you tie your sides on, Mike Martinek suggests doing another section of schlappen on TOP of the hook, which will fill in between the two sides after they're tied on. I didn't do that on this one, but it is a nice trick. With this one I tented the tops of the sides together, and after a little trial and error and fiddling around I got them where I wanted them, and decided I didn't need the schlappen. Carrie Stevens did not appear to have used this extra schlappen, but it does help under certain circumstances.

I should reiterate that these flies are not the least bit difficult. I would encourage you to try some Carrie Stevens streamers, they're fun to tie and with a little patience and material selection up front, they'll turn out fine. Give one a shot!

White Ghost Streamer Materials

Credits: Carrie Stevens by Graydon R. Hilyard and Leslie K. Hilyard; ~ EA

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