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. Donít be in a panic though to swap out the bucktail. It still performs; itís 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 Loonís 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.
1) Place the hook into the jaws of the vice and cover the front quarter of the shank with tying thread. Tie in the body material just back from the hook eye. Wind the body material down the shank to the bend. Reverse direction and wind the body material back up to the original tie in point. Tie off and trim the excess.
2) Tie in a few strands of pearlescent Crystal Flash. Stagger cut the Crystal Flash to various lengths so it shimmers throughout the length of the finished fly. The tips of the longest strand should extend about half the hook shank length at most past the bend of the hook.
3) Select a sparse clump of olive bucktail. Clean out the short fibers and hand stack the clump to even the tips. Tie in the prepared clump at the eye of the hook so the tips of the buck tail extend forward over the hook eye. Neatly trim the butt fibers and cover evenly with tying thread. Keep the tips together by rocking the clump upwards and moistening the tips with saliva or by using a sparse application of dubbing wax. The tips of the bucktail, when folded back, should not extend longer than half the shank length past the hook bend.
4) Prepare a second clump of white bucktail or substitute in the same manner as the olive wing. Tie in the white bucktail on the underside of the hook at the hook eye so the tips are the same length as the olive wing. Trim the remaining butts at the tie in area and cover evenly with tying thread. To keep the clump from mixing with the olive wing material rock the clump down and moistening the tips with saliva or by using a sparse application of dubbing wax.
5) Fold the olive wing back over the top of the shank and secure in place ľ of the shank length back from the hook eye. Avoid excessive thread pressure to keep the wing material from flaring. Massage the wing as necessary so it occupies the top half of the fly.
6) Fold the white belly hair back under the shank and secure in place in the same fashion as the olive wing. Massage the belly hair as necessary so it occupies the lower half of the finished fly. Using a red permanent marker color the tying thread. Build a slim red collar to suggest the gills. Whip finish and apply a thin coat of head cement or super glue to the head and gills.
7) Apply a pair of stick on eyes to the sides of the bullet head. Apply a coating of Loon's UV Clear Fly Finish Thick to the entire head of the fly. Mottle and stripe the olive wing using a black permanent marker to create the distinct parr markings.