Fly of the Month – Thunder Creek Minnow

Guest Blogger + FOM Tyer: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

In the 1970s, Keith Fulsher, a commercial fly tyer from New York, popularized the Thunder Creek Minnow style of baitfish streamer.  The reverse bucktail style head enabled larger heads and eyes on otherwise slender baitfish patterns.  The style has been widely adapted to both fresh and saltwater species.  Although a relatively simple pattern to tie, creating a clean, secure head and eyes using the original methods takes a bit of practice.  This is where Deer Creek comes in (metaphorically).  Deer Creek is just one of many brands of UV cured cement.  Brand is not important here, but UV cured cement, Fish Masks and Living Eyes has made tying the Thunder Creek style a whole lot easier.

As I occasionally participate in fly swaps on Flytyingforum.com, I recently took the opportunity to participate in a “Classic Bucktail” swap.  The rules were simple: “Anyone up for some quick, easy classic bucktails? Don’t get hung up on “classic” patterns…get creative if you’d like.”  Swaps are great opportunities to get a bit creative so I needed a pattern I could play with.  I had all the materials I needed to create a variation of the Thunder Creek style for the swap.  The result has proven to be a pretty effective fly on my local trout streams.

Pattern:

Tying Steps:

  1. After forming a thread base on the rear 2/3rds of the hook, tie in a short clump of Finn Raccoon with guard hairs removed. The tail should be no longer than 2/3rds the hook length.
  2. Select 5-8 strands of Polar Flash and tie in at the hook bend at the middle point of the strands. Wind forward creating a smooth body to a point 1/3 behind the hook eye and secure ensuring the tag ends are on top of the hook shank.
  3. Fold the tag ends back toward the tail and secure with a few wraps. Make a smooth transition of thread toward the hook eye.  Trim the flash even with the tail.  Apply a bit of cement to the wraps.
  4. Select two grizzly or Cree hackles. Tie one hackle on each side of the hook shank with smooth wraps.  The hackle should extend no longer than the tail.  Apply a bit of cement to the wraps.
  5. Select a small clump of dark bucktail or moose body hair for the top wing. Remove and the fuzz and short fibers and ensure the butts are flush.  With bucktail you usually have to trim the butts to get the desired length.  Moose body hair is already an ideal length for size 4-8 hooks.
  6. Take the hair clump and hold it tight on top of the hook with approximately ¼ inch of butts back from the hook eye. Begin securing with loose wraps and follow with tighter wraps as you proceed.  There are two critical aspects of the step.  Don’t allow the hair to spin on the hook shank.  When finished, all the hair fibers should be on top of the hook shank.  Two, make sure there are a few tight wraps close to the hook eye.  Moose is going to flair more than bucktail but provides a slightly bulkier profile in the water.
  7. Repeat steps 5-6 with a lighter colored hair. Finish the thread wraps at least 3/16 inches behind the hook eye.  Trim any wayward hair butts and apply a liberal coat of cement.  This helps keep the whole head area of the fly from twisting loose.
  8. Carefully grab the dark top hair and fold back along the hook shank. Pulling the hair tight, take several tight thread wraps at the tie in point.
  9. Turn the hook over (rotary vise works well here) and repeat step 8 with the lower hair. Make sufficient wraps to create a smooth, even gill line.  Secure with several half-hitches and cut the thread.
  10. Slide the Fish Mask over the head to ensure it fits.  Remove the mask and apply an even coat of thick UV cured cement on the entire head.  Slide the head on and allow the cement to settle a bit before curing.  When curing, hold the hair wings tight along the hook shank so they lay as flat as possible.
  11. Apply Living Eyes, seal with a flexible UV cement. Apply a finishing coat of normal cement over the whole head.
  12. The UV cured cement and Fish Mask take away the tedious method of finishing the original Thunder Creek Minnow style making this fly simple and quick to tie.  Using Moose also makes using the Fish Mask easier as there’s no need to build up a bulky thread head.  It is a versatile style that can be tied on any number of color combinations and sizes to simulate whatever baitfish is needed.My originals have been on the water several times with great success.

2 thoughts on “Fly of the Month – Thunder Creek Minnow

  1. R Leslie

    Mr. Cline,
    Please consider comeing up with another name for this series of flies.
    Granted, these are reverse tied, as in the manner of Mr. Fulser’s Thunder Creek patterns. They are not however, truly Thunder Creek Minnows as in the historical sense.
    It appears that they are indeed fish catchers and they have a well-designed uniqueness of their own. Unlike the original Thunder Creek patterns though, their heads are bulbus and they lack the slim and trim look that Mr. Fulsher designed in. Keep in mind the previous comments are not intended to be criticisms, they are only some of the differences.
    Kind Regards,

    Reply
  2. Mike Cline

    When I submitted this post the original title was: Deer Creek meets Thunder Creek, I was using Deer Creek as a metaphor for all the UV cured cements available today. Indeed my ties are not exact replicas of the original Thunder Creek Minnow, but adaptations of the Thunder Creek style using current materials. There aren’t many flies today based on flies tied 30-40 years ago that resemble the originals. The styles have longevity, but new materials are always adapting the old styles in new ways.

    Reply

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