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Alaskan Fly Patterns Streamer Flies

  Thunder Creek - salmon fry

The Thunder Creek is a well-known pattern for imitating a variety of small baitfish. And in Alaska its primary purpose is to imitate salmon fry which rainbows, lake trout, char and grayling readily feed on each spring as the tiny fish emerge from their gravel bed nurseries.

After a long dark winter and near freezing water temperatures, spring brings an increase in sport fish activity in the streams and lakes as oxygen levels and water temperatures increase. Rainbow trout, grayling, pike and lake trout are also spring and early summer spawners so high protein food sources are the first thing on their agenda.

The Thunder Creek, when tied in the larger sizes, will also provide a good representation of salmon smolt which have completed their freshwater rearing cycle and have begun to migrate downstream to the ocean for their next growing phase. These fish are major targets for the larger trout, char and pike.

1. Eyes - Testors model paint enamel in either white or yellow and black
2. Head - 5 minute, 2 part epoxy
3. Gill - red thread accent
4. Body - silver tinsel
5. Hair - Natural deer hair (for added realism, the deer hair can be substituted with whitish caribou or calf tail)
6. Thread - black
7. Hook - #8 or #10 long


1) - Wrap the thread along the shank to form a base.

2) - Tie in silver tinsel near the bend of the hook, wrap thread forward, then wrap the tinsel forward to a point 1/4 the distance from the hook eye to the bend. Tie off.

3) - Cut 8 to 10 strands of deer hair to 1 1/4 times the length of the shank. Stack the hair to even the tips, then tie the butts in at the point behind the eye where the tinsel is tied down with the tips pointing forward over the eye of the hook. Wrap the thread forward over the hair to a point immediately behind the eye, then wrap the thread back to the point where the hair started.

4) - Pull the hair back toward the rear of the hook and hold it in place with one hand while making several wraps of the thread at the point where the hair started and the tinsel ended. (The finish wraps at this point should be done in red thread to simulate the gill slits.)

5) -Whip finish. The hair should be flared slightly with the tips extending just past the hook bend.

The Thunder Creek can be fished effectively at this point or the next steps can be taken to add the epoxy head which creates realism and additional weight for getting the fly down in the water column.

6) - Thoroughly mix a small amount of 5 minute epoxy. (the amount mixed depends on the method of rotating the fly while waiting for the epoxy to set up. Motorized epoxy fly rotators can be purchased for approximately $60.00 which allows a person to rotate several flies at once unattended.) For rotating by hand mix enough for 1 to 2 flies.

After the selected amount of epoxy has been added to the head, the fly must be slowly rotated while the epoxy hardens. (approx. 4 to 5 minutes) During the first few minutes the fly can be rotated at various angles to assist the flow of epoxy to properly form the head.

7) - After the epoxy has hardened sufficiently to prevent further flow, the fly can be hung in a position so as to not contact the head with other surfaces then left to continue the curing process while applying epoxy to the next fly. (With some practice the epoxy can be applied to 2 flies during one mixing.)

8) - When all the flies have had the epoxy applied and have cured to a point where you can handle them without smudging, then apply the first step of the painted eye by using a cut off toothpick or the handle end of a small hobby paint brush. Dip into either white or yellow model paint then carefully add a paint spot to each side of the head and return the fly to hang for drying. The eyes for all the flies should be done at one sitting.

9) - When the first step of the painted eye is dry, use a toothpick or pointed brush handle to apply a smaller DOT of black paint to the center of the painted eye then return to hang until thoroughly dry.

Field Notes: The effectiveness of this fly comes from the prominent head and sparse translucency of the body which accurately imitates the young fry. Spring and early summer is the most effective time for fishing this pattern to match the natural conditions instream.

Pattern tied by Brad Hanson
Photo by B. Hanson 1999

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