Fly Tying the Screaming Banshee
December 05, 2013
I've always loved the challenge of creating purpose-driven fly patterns. Patterns that creatively float, sink, skate better, or perform some other needed behavior have always appealed to me, and the innovative techniques they spawn always pique my interests. Often while fishing, I'll get just the hint of an idea for a new pattern or technique in my head, and it generally rattles around in my brain for a few days, a few weeks, or sometimes a few years before I get my head solidly wrapped around a concept that I actually pursue at the vise.
My new Screaming Banshee caddis lolled around in the back of my head for several weeks recently before springing from my vise onto the waters of Colorado's Eagle River. What started with a glimpse of a photo of a moose-hair steelhead skater — while I was merging two households — became a nagging thought that festered and evolved inside my head. During that move, all of my fly-tying equipment was packed up in boxes, safely awaiting placement in our new house. So I couldn't tie anything.
After several weeks of moving, packing, and unpacking, I was finally able to organize my tying room, and the first fly I tied is the one you see here. It's not very often that the plan comes completely together internally like this, as my brain has a wonderful talent for dreaming up things that turn out to be impossible. It was with great relief and frankly, astonishment that this new pattern came to life so completely and fluidly.
Continued after gallery...
I started with a light-wire, curved Tiemco 2487 to create an arched body that would hang in the surface film. Remembering the forward-facing wing of some old steelhead skater patterns like the Bomber and Waller Waker, I began with a small clump of neatly stacked natural yearling elk hair tied facing forward over the hook eye. This wing creates a planing surface on the front of the fly that helps it skate and skitter across the surface.
I remove about half of the butt ends of the forward wing, leaving the other half to later form a Humpy back over the body of the fly. My preliminary dubbed body soon gave way to a two-part, Opal Mirage Tinsel abdomen and dubbed thorax to create a slimmer profile with a bit of color and flash.
Finally, a clump of fine, short deer hock tied split by the remaining butt ends of the elk hair created a pair of perfectly splayed wings with a ton of surface area.
It was with great anticipation that my buddies and I launched the raft on the Eagle River with our Screaming Banshee prototypes aboard. The day started chilly, but by midmorning we started seeing caddis hopping around in the bankside shrubs and making their way onto the water, although without a lot of apparent interest
from the fish. Nonetheless, I confidently tied on my new creation and began to cast it tight to the bank in shallow water, hoping to draw attention by skating and skittering the fly away from the bank.
It didn't take long before our suspicions were confirmed — the trout were there and waiting for some hapless bugs to inadvertently cross their paths. While some of the takes were of the exciting shark-on-a-seal variety, many were subtle, with the fly simply disappearing from view while being dead-drifted. Most skating patterns tend toward long hackles and overdressed bodies, and this often means that they are not realistic enough to fool picky fish on a dead drift.
But while the Screaming Banshee skated and skittered even better than I hoped, the fact that the trout ate the pattern in shallow water, and on a dead drift, proved that this fly was not to be pigeonholed as simply a skating pattern, but a completely unique and effective all-around caddis dry fly.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie's Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie's Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011). He is also the featured tier in two new Fly Fisherman DVDs: Warmwater Fly Tying and Saltwater Fly Tying. Both are available at the flyfisherman.com store.