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Adventures in Fly Tying... December 2006

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 produce.


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 wing

Head – Small black, laquered



Windows Media Video  QuickTime 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 securely.

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 Hansen's Hard-As-Nails.

Till next time, tight lines and Season's Greetings…


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