A Short History of Streamer Fly Design

                 STREAMERS and CARRIE G. STEVENS

I.  Early Developments in Streamer Design

   The streamer is a fly designed to imitate forage fish upon which other
fish feed.  The term streamer refers to both a baitfish imitation
constructed of feathers and to the general class of baitfish imitations
constructed of feathers, bucktail or both feathers and bucktails.  The
origin of streamers is unclear and probably evolved as a natural
development in fly design at some remote time in the past as suggested by
Schullery.  Evidence for the use of fish imitations in England during the
mid 1800's is documented.  However it was in the US that the streamer
became a popular fly and streamer design reached its richest maturation.
Within the US streamer usage originated in either New York or in New
England and "the original" has been attributed to several different
individuals in the past.  In the 1890's the Orvis Company of Vermont was
selling long shanked bucktails.  Theodore Gordon, the 'father' of dry
flyfishing in America and the originator of the Gordon Quill, in the 1900's
created and popularized usage in the Catskills of the the Bumblepuppy.  In
western New York William Scripture at about the same time was tying
bucktails. However it was in Maine where streamer design took root and
evolved to its greatest extent.  In the 1900's Alonzo Bacon tyed the
Rooster's Regret.  In 1902 Herbert Welch created the Black Ghost.  The
golden age of streamer design  and the peak in popularity of streamers
occurred in the years between WWI and WWII.  In the 1920's Joe Stickney in
the 1920's produced the Supervisor and the Warden's Worry and Bill Edson
created the Edson's Tigers.

II.  Carrie Gertrude Stevens

   Arguably the peak of this art form was achieved by Carrie G. Stevens who
first tied her celebrated Gray Ghost pattern in the Western Maine community
of Upper Dam between Mosselookmeguntic Lake and Upper Richardson Lakes on
July 1, 1924. While testing it out she caught a large Brook Trout: 6 pounds
13 ounces and 24 3/4 inches.  She entered this fish into a "Field And
Streams" fishing contest taking second place.  Subsequently she was
besieged with requests for the pattern and had  difficulty keeping up with
the orders she received.  The Gray Ghost was used for trolling and casting
and imitated smelt, forage fish for the trout and landlocked salmon in the
nearby rivers and lakes where her husband guided.  The Grey Ghost had the
color of the then popular wet flies for brook trout but Carrie Stevens
flies were unusual for their long, slim proportions.  She developed a
unique tying procedure.  The jungle cock eye was attached to the cheek by
lacquer and then this assembly was attached to the wing feather.  Many of
these composite wings were constructed.  The final step involved tying
these wing assemblies onto the bodies of her flies.  This step was also
unique to the Stevens's style.  The wings were tied onto the hook shank
along its side, at the 10 and 2 o'clock position.  As a result the wings
lie along side and parallel to the hook shank.  Other techniques affix the
wings on the top of the shank or to the sides at a angle such that the wing
projects 20 to 30 degrees above the hook shank.  
   A characteristic signature to all of her flies was a colored band tied
into the black head.  Most sources list it as a red band in the black head
(Stewart and Lee, Bates) while Klausmeyer indicated that it was an orange
band in the black head and occassionally yellow band in a black head or a
black band in a red head. 

                  Flies Originated by Carrie Stevens

   Blue Devil
   Black Cat
   Big Ben
   Black Beauty
   Gray Ghost
   Green Hornet
   Jenny Lind
   Lady Miller
   Morning Glory
   Water Witch
   White Ghost
   White Devil
   Yellow and Black

   The following Carrie Stevens originals were named after friends

   Allie's Favorite
   Colonel Bates
   Don's Delight
   PLB #1
   PLB #2
   Shang's Favorite
   Shang's Special
   The Happy Garrison was named after her dog.

   Additionally she designed several flies on a patriotic theme during

   General MacArthur

III.  Subsequent Developments in Streamer Fly Design

   Stevens' style of streamer design continued and is still evolving as
evidenced in the recent creations of Mike Martinek Jr., Bob Warren and
others (see Klausmeyer; Martinek). However another trend in streamer fly
design has come to the fore. Instead of colorful imitations of smelt this
style is characterized by precise imitation of specific baitfish.  One of
the most popular and widely used patterns was devised by Don Gapen of
Minnesota as a modification of old American Indian patterns, the Muddler
Minnow.  This was developed in the 1930's on Ontario's Nipigon River.  Then
a flow of other tyers added their contributions.  Lew Oatman of Shushan, NY
in the 1950's tyed darter and shiner imitations.  Edward Hewitt gave the
Neversink streamer.  Sam Slaymaker created a series of little trout
patterns.  Art Flick contributed the Black Nose Dace and John Alden Knight
popularized the Mickey Finn.  Keith Fulsher put together his Thunder Creek
series of baitfish imitations.  These were followed by Dave Whitlock's
Match the Minnow series and Ernest Schiebert's Marabou Streamer. 
Availability of new materials and techniques assures that streamer fly
design is not history but a constantly evolving art form giving ever more
precise imitations and contributions to the rich bounty of flies.  

Bates, Joseph 1966 "Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing"  Harrisburg, PA.,
Klausmeyer, David 1994 Tying New England Streamers, American Angler,
Bennington, VT. Abenaki Publishers

Martinek, Mike "Streamer Fly Patterns for Trolling and Casting"

Merwin, John 1994 "The New American Trout Fishing" New York, Macmillian
Publishing Company

Merwin, John 1991 "Streamer-Fly Fishing" New York, Lyons and Buford

Schullery, Paul 1987 "American Flyfishing: A History"  New York, Nick Lyons

Stewart, Dick and Leeman, Bob 1982 "Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon"
Brattleboro, VT, The Stephen Greene Press

Notice:  This history was complied by Lindsey Grandison, Highland Park, NJ.

The file may be copied and distributed freely but please give attribution. 
This version (5-96) will be updated to add addtional information and to
correct mistakes.  If you have information that would make this a more
comprehensive history please forward it to L. Grandison at
grandiso@umdnj.edu or L. Grandison, 96 Lawrence Ave. Highland Park, NJ
08904.  Whereever possible please cite references so that these might be
incorporated into the text.  

Lindsey Grandison                Internet: grandiso@umdnj.edu
Physiology & Biophysics                    Voice: (908) 235-4603
UMDNJ, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School  FAX:   (908) 235-5038    
675 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854-5635