The 4 Horsemen of Classic Trout Streamers

Words and images from Partridge Ambassador Fred Klein

Partridge of Redditch Ambassador Fred Klein discusses four classic Trout streamer patterns that have stood the test of time. 

Stream patterns, left to right: Mickey Finn, Black Nose Dace, Black Ghost, Grey Ghost.

Mickey Finn        Black Nose Dace        Black  Ghost        Grey Ghost 

A Long Hook Odyssey

Streamer Fly: feathers and fur bound by thread to a long fish hook portraying the appearance of a minnow, the preferred prey of large trout.

“And So big Trout,” the old angler continued “have inherited the ability to use a minimum of energy to acquire a maximum food to the exclusion of all others. We have to conclude that streamers and buck tails usually are by far the best flies for taking big fish. They represent the main course… the meat and potatoes in the diets of lunkers.” Joseph Bates, Streamers and Bucktails, The Big Fish Flies, 1950.

Streamers have been cast into the waters for a very long time. Brief accounts have been witnessed and documented for hundreds of years. The wet fly, tied on large hooks have been fished as a minnow replica, but the proper streamer tied on a long hook had its beginnings in New England, particularly in the Catskills and in the North Woods of Maine.

Theodor Gordon, hallowed Catskill angler and the father of the dry fly wrote about his experiences casting long streamers and created several patterns, one of which became one of the first major streamer patterns, the Bumble Puppy in 1880.

Fast Forward to contemporary times and we find the streamer in its many forms being fished with confidence in streams, rivers, ponds and lakes as well as in the salt. The Wooly Bugger, created in Pennsylvania in the 1960’s being undoubtably one of the most fished flies of all time. This fly can catch fish anywhere from the small mountain native brook trout to salmon, to the giant tarpon og the Southern Hemisphere.

In the 1970’s when I first learned to cast a fly, and went on a search for the best of the best flies to cast for trout in Pennsylvania, I walked into a tackle shop and asked the man at the counter which are the best flies for taking large trout. I walked out of the store prepared to hit the water with my new arsenal. Those flies were the Mickey Finnm, Black Nose Dace, Black Ghost and Grey Ghost.

Theodore Gordon, pictured hunting in local woods
Carrie Stevens tying one of her world known patterns

On the banks of Mooselookmahuntic Lake in Rangely Maine, Herb Welch the famous hunting and fishing guide designed the Black Ghost Feather Wing Streamer in 1927, becoming a favourite fly used all over the world with great success.

Hatmaker and wife of a Maine fishing guide, Carrie Stevens began tying the Feather Wing Streamer, tying some of the most well known patterns worldwide, her most famous and venerable, The Grey Ghost.

The Four Horsemen

The Mickey Finn

The Mickey Finn, Trout Streamer, tied by Partridge Ambassador Fred Klein

Originally called the Assassin until named after a poisoned cocktail used by thieves and pickpockets in the 1930’s. Becoming widely popular in America, a pure attractor fly with flash and colours that cause trout to strike, even out of aggression.

The Black Nose Dace

The Black Nose Dace, tied by Partridge Ambassador Fred Klein

Originated by Art Flick and written about in 1947, “Because the Black Nose Dace is so liked by trout, I tried to imitate it as closely as possible with bucktail. The result is one that has proven itself successful, as well as one that will  take allot of abuse. “A darter, this streamer looks natural and matches many minnows with black stripe. It seduces trout to strike by its darting motion when stripped and twitched in the current.

The Black Ghost

The Black Ghost, originated by Herbertt Welch in 1927 and tied by Fred Klein

Originated by Herbert Welch in 1927 and tied commercially by Carrie Stevens. Herb was quite an accomplished fellow. A popular hunting and fishing guide in Maine, taxidermist and artist. Herb’s artwork is still on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institute to this day. One of the most popular and widely known fly patterns ever tied. It has taken salmon, brook trout, rainbow trout and especially facoured by large brown trout.  I have success with this fly in rivers and streams with good flow, especially in low light conditions and deep pockets, an excellent choice as night falls.

The Grey Ghost

Tied by Fred Klein and originated by Carrie Stevens, her most popular pattern.

Originated by Carrie Stevens, her most popular pattern, and also one of the most well known flies of all time. This fly can be fished across the current or swung from the center of a river to let hang in the shallows along the bank. An excellent all around game fish fly. If you are looking for large trout, try tying a big Grey Ghost onto you line and let it run deep. I like to tie these with wide hackle feathers. In the current a feather wing will flattedn out and larger wings keep a natural profile on the swing. A red or orange stripe on the head adds a hotspot to mimic a bleedin, sick or injured minnow.

There you have it, The Four Horsemen of traditional streamers… If you’ve ever thought of giving vintage fly patterns a try, look no further than these age old flies that have stood the test of time, and proven to bring fish to the net.

Fred Klein

Partridge of Redditch Ambassador

Fred is a fly-fishing historian, author and speaker. Professional fly tyer and fisher of early traditional flies and tackle.

"My journey in the pursuit of trout with the fly began over 40 years ago with a new fly rod and instructions to cast and drift a fly. What a gift it was. The woods and waters of Pennsylvania, the Appalachian Mountains and beyond have brought a life of admiration for the wildernessm forestsm wildlife and a thirst for what lies beyond the next bend in the stream and over the mountain".

Every day I find myself involved in fly fishing, trapping and hunting.
My endeavor is to pass on the techniques of traditional fly angling and dressings to the generations to come.
For tutorials, articles, video and classic fly galleries visit:

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