Normally I don’t become engaged in “scuttle-butt” but sometimes you just have to throw your two cents worth in. There seems to be alot of discussion lately about hackle and wings, size and shape, and what-not with Rangeley streamers. (which are sometimes referred to as New England style, Maine style, or classic featherwing style streamers) Being that I’m actually FROM here I thought my opinion might count a little. As much as Carrie Stevens can be credited for her “Gray Ghost”, I think it is a disservice to the other anglers of this state to overlook their part in the development of this streamer style. Being FROM Maine I forget that to the rest of the world these flies are a great mystery, but most of the “sports” here have been tying them all along, just like Carrie did, and fishing them succesfully…….just something they do in these parts. You talk to an old angler from up this way and he’ll tell you he ALWAYS tied his streamers like that and some will even say “Carrie who?”. Now I’m not discrediting Mrs. Stevens OR discounting her contribution to the development of the “Rangeley” style streamer and its popularity. I’m just saying that I have heard it suggested that there was input from other great tiers in this state (like Nellie Newton) and maybe even from some of the “sports” that would come here to fish from Quebec. There weren’t alot of large fly “shops” during Carrie’s time, but then again, there aren’t now either. There was just usually a tier that somebody knew that would tie up what you wanted OR sell you what was working at the time. Alot of flies were just sold at the general store or your guide would have them on hand. I also think it’s fair to say that if 10 tiers all tied the same pattern, from the same recipe, that their “styles” would all be a little different. The wings, hooks, colors, and even materials might vary just a bit. They all might add a little of their own “magic” to their particular flies and often did.
Where am I going with this? It seems to me that individual preference is quite different than “fact”. It is also the reason why we prefer flies from one tier over another. Who is to say what hackle is “right” or “perfect” for a pattern? If the proportions are right, the fly performs well, and fairly represents what we’re imitating, then the hackle is “right”. If you were to ask a Mainer what hackle to use on a Rangeley streamer you would probably get a very practical answer…….”whatever you have 4 of, that’ll keep ‘er up right and wiggle the way she’s ‘spose to”.
In the long and short of it……. these streamers imitate bait fish. When the hackle is wet it should be somewhat skinny. If it’s going in a frame the HOOK can make all the difference for presentation. Let’s face it, different size hooks are sometimes easier to find than the perfect size hackle. To get the most use out of your hackle (especially if it’s strung) pair up some wings and find a hook that works proportionately with them. Pay attention to the gape. If the hackle is thin try using a smaller size gape and a longer length. Don’t be restricted OR intimidated by the speculation that ALL Rangeley streamers have to have “perfect” hackle, with just the right shape, tied only on one of those REALLY LONG streamer hooks that you have to special order. Most of us REAL Mainers tie these on a standard size 6, 7XL streamer hook, like a Mustad 3665A. Now about those wings……yup, that’s the REAL challenge….learning to “set” them right. I’m not professing to know EVERYTHING there is to know about tying flies OR about Rangeley streamers. I’m just saying…..I’m FROM here and that’s how we do it, ayuh.