Adventures in Fly Tying... December
The Light Spruce Streamer
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard
The Spruce streamer is, like the
Skykomish Sunrise and the Steelhead Bee, a Northwest pattern in origin.
It was designed for West Slope cutthroat trout but is a popular and
productive pattern for rainbow, brook and brown trout as well.
This pattern started life as the Godfrey Special. It's red and
peacock body are reminiscent of the Royal Coachman. The peacock
sword tail adds a festive sparkle. This is a pattern that reflects
the excitement, the richness and the contrasts of the winter solstice
season. I'll bet Santa Claus keeps a few of these in his streamer
wallet just in case he gets a few minutes on the water!
The Spruce streamer, in the light
silver badger version shown, is a productive smallmouth bass fly, too.
When I am prospecting new water for the first time and I want to work a
streamer aggressively and with a variety of retrieves from fast to slow
and deep to shallow, this is the pattern for which I'll reach.
When this fly is tied with a furnace hackle wing and collar it becomes
the Dark Spruce streamer. The picture below illustrates a Dark
Spruce between two Light Spruce streamers. On overcast days or
when the water is just a bit stained the darker pattern can sometimes
add an advantage.
I like this fly in small to medium
sizes. I tie and carry the Light Spruce in 10, 8 and 6.
Sometimes I'll carry a couple in size 12, too. I carry the Dark
Spruce in a size 6, sometimes 8. I also like this fly tied on a
longer streamer hook than is originally specified. Traditionally
this fly is tied on a 3xl hook. I prefer a 6xl . Substitute
gray squirrel, coyote or fox tail to make a tough bucktail version.
No matter how you dress it, the Spruce is a fly that's guaranteed to
Hook – Mustad 3665A size 12 to 4 or similar
4xl to 6xl streamer hook
Thread – Black 6/0, 140 denier. Optional
use white under the body.
Tail – Peacock sword fibers
Body – Rear 2/3 red floss, front 1/3 peacock herl tied thick
Wing – Matched pair of silver badger or furnace hackles
Collar – Silver badger or furnace to match the
Head – Small black, laquered
Windows Media Video
Select a quality streamer hook
in a small to medium size. I find that long shanked streamer
hooks in sizes larger than 6 tend to sink "bend down" in an
unnatural manner. When tying featherwing streamers I tend to
stay in the size 10 to 6 range. Above and below these sizes
I'll opt for a bucktail conversion.
Start by laying down a base of
fly tying thread. If you intend to tie a "presentation"
quality fly, use white thread and make a very smooth underbody.
It will make a big difference in the final appearance of the fly.
For fishing flies I tend to be just a little less demanding. A
spiraled base of black thread makes a durable foundation. Tie
on a bunch of peacock sword fibers that are about 1.5 times the
hook's gape in length.
You can use Uni-Stretch or a
similar synthetic material. I am using a Rayon floss in the
fly pictured. To keep the floss from fraying while being
wrapped, I use a bobbin to apply the floss body. After tying
in the floss, half-hitch the tying thread several times and cut off.
Wrap a neat, tapered floss body and use a two turn whip finish on
the floss itself. Then tie the working thread back on and wrap
back over the two-turn floss knot.
The floss body should extend to
a point just past the mid-point. The rear two-thirds of the body is
floss, but you need to leave room for the wings, hackle and head.
Hence the body is really tied on 3/4 to 4/5 of the actual hook shank
length. I like to use three or four layers of floss for a
nice, thick tapered body.
Tie on six to eight
quality peacock herls. I break off the fragile tips by
pinching them between my thumb and finger. Tie the hurls from
front to back, then pull out a length of tying thread. Twist
the herls around the thread to make a peacock herl chenille.
Wrap forward and separate the herls from the thread and tie off
Select a pair of hackles for the
wings. The wing can extend to a point even with the tail or
just slightly longer. The more you go beyond one and a half
times the shank length, the greater incident of fouling the wing on
the cast Select feathers with a well defined center line
and rounded tips with fine stems. You'll have to shop a bit to
find a quality Silver Badger cape, but Furnace is relatively common.
For a top grade streamer neck expect to pay $20 to $40. Get
the best you can, it will last for many seasons with proper care.
Tie in a fold a hackle collar
with barbs that extend to the back of the peacock. Tie in and
sweep back. Form a neat thread head and coat with Sally