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Fly Fishing
Thunder Struck-Thunder Creek Minnow

Thunder Creek Minnow (Pink Fry)

Hook:                    Daiichi 1750, #8 or #6
Tying Thread:       MFC 6/0 or UTC 70, White
Body (Optional):  Silver or Mirage Opal Mylar
Under wing:         Pearlescent Crystal Flash
Belly:                   Bucktail or Marabou, White
Wing:                   Bucktail or Marabou, Olive
Gills:                    Tying thread

Tying Note: Mottle wing with black permanent marker to create the parr markings. Use different colored wings to suggest other salmon species, trout fry or minnows.

In the early sixties Keith Fulsher was dissatisfied with the look of the minnow patterns of his day. He was looking for a simple, sparse, slender design that better imitated the larger head and eyes of the minnows he observed. Building on similar hairwing designs he had seen, Keith settled on a unique bullet head streamer now known as the Thunder Creek Minnow. The pattern was named after Thunder Creek, Wisconsin, where the initial prototypes were tested and perfected by Keith himself.

Thunder Creek Minnows feature a prominent head formed by pulling or reversing bucktail back over the hook shank and tying in place, bullet head style. This technique also works for dry flies such as large stonefly or grasshopper patterns. There are plenty of materials that can be substituted for bucktail. Hairs such as calf tail, squirrel and polar bear all work well. Marabou is a personal favorite of mine due to the animation it provides. Synthetic materials to try include: UltraHair or SuperHair, craft fur, and even long strand dubbing. Don’t be in a panic though to swap out the bucktail. It still performs; it’s still the material I use most often.

Bullet head style flies are unique in that the wing and belly materials are tied in directly behind the hook eye so the tips point forward, out in front of the hook eye. In the case of the Thunder Creek, it is important to keep the two materials apart until they are ready to be folded back into position so the finished fly has a distinct dark back with a light belly. After tying in the wing and belly materials rock them away from each other to further separate them. Moistening the tips of each material tacks them together as does a touch of dubbing wax.

The folded back wing and belly material should extend no longer than half the shank, past the hook bend, to avoid fouling. Use larger denier threads such as 6/0 to disperse thread pressure and avoid flaring natural hairs. As with most streamers, sparse slim Thunder Creek Minnows work best.

Additional colors can be added to create a multilayered effect. Adding a slender grizzly hackle tip along each side creates vertical barring, a common feature of juvenile trout and salmon.

Bodies are optional on modern Thunder Creeks. I prefer bodies on mine. They glow through the belly and wing material suggesting the translucent nature of small baitfish. Holographic silver, pearlescent Mylar or braided materials are personal favourites. A splash of Crystal Flash further accents the fly. Stagger cut the Crystal Flash to different lengths so it shimmers throughout the length of the fly.

Thunder Creek Minnows feature a distinct narrow red thread color to suggest the gills. Prior to folding the wing and belly sections back, you can transfer from the white thread most often used to tie Thunder Creeks to red thread. Swapping thread can be fiddly due to the hair extending forward of the hook eye. Rather than changing thread try colouring the white thread with a red marker when forming the collar. 
As with most superior baitfish patterns, eyes are a prominent Thunder Creek feature. Prior to adhesive eyes Thunder Creeks featured painted eyes. Pointed fondue sticks trimmed at different places up their tapered points work great for creating the larger iris and smaller pupil. Various sized nail and pinheads also work. If you choose painted eyes, let the iris dry completely after dabbing onto each side of the head. Adding the pupil prematurely causes the unset iris to mix with the pupil, creating a nasty mess. No matter the eye choice, coat the bullet head with epoxy or a UV cured epoxy substitute such as Loon’s UV Fly Fish Finish or Knot Sense.

Original Thunder Creeks were tied on long-shank straight-eye streamer hooks. These style hooks still work. I prefer short-shank straight-eye hooks though. Short shanks allow for a larger hook and are harder for fish to shake loose. As most predatory fish target the head and eyes of their quarry, having the point near the hook eye provides for better hook ups.

Thunder Creek Minnows are easy to tie, fish well and, by varying the colour combinations, can match any forage base.

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