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...
Tying the Screaming Banshee
By: Charlie Craven
Hook: #14-20 Tiemco 2487.
Thread: 8/0 UNI-Thread, to
Forward Wing: Natural yearling
Abdomen: Small Opal Mirage Tinsel.
Thorax: Superfine dubbing.
Wing: Natural deer hair.
Shellback: Elk hair butt ends.
Photos: Charlie Craven
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 1 of 8
Start the thread just behind the eye and create a thread base. Clean and stack a clump of yearling elk hair, and measure it to a shank length long. Twist the thread into a cord so it bites tightly into the hair. Anchor the hair in place with a tight, narrow band of thread.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 2 of 8
Clip off half of the remaining butt ends flush against the hook shank and wrap back over the remaining butt ends to the bend of the hook. Return the thread to just in front of the hook point, taking care to maintain a smooth thread base over the hair.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 3 of 8
Tie in Opal Mirage Tinsel where the thread hangs in front of the hook point. Wrap the tinsel down the shank to the hook bend, and then forward to the starting point, forming a double layer of tinsel. Tie off and clip the excess tinsel.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 4 of 8
Apply a tight, thin strand of dubbing to the thread and build an egg-shaped thorax that overlaps the front edge of the tinsel body.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 5 of 8
Cut, clean, and stack a generous clump of deer hair, and clip it to exactly one shank length long. Place the butt ends on top of the hook in front of the dubbed thorax. Place two wraps of thread over the butt ends of the deer hair and pull straight down on the bobbin to flare the hair. Leave the thread hanging at the tie-down point.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 6 of 8
Use your scissors and/or your fingers to divide the deer hair wing into two equal halves. Lift the remaining butts of the elk hair and pull them up between the divided wings. These butt ends help maintain the divided position of the hair, and create a body much like a Humpy.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 7 of 8
Make two more turns over the butt ends of the elk hair directly atop the deer-hair tie-in location. Pull down on the thread to flare the elk on top of the butt ends of the deer-hair wing. Lift the butt ends of the elk hair and trim them even with the butt ends of the deer hair, leaving a short brush.
Tying the Screaming Banshee Step 8 of 8
Lift the forward wing slightly, advance the thread to the front of the wing, and build a small thread dam behind the hook eye to prop up the wing. Whip-finish and clip the thread. This finished top view shows a fly well-designed to float and skate through almost any water.
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.