The Stayner Ducktail is a streamer pattern that has been knocking around in my fly boxes for a long time. It has caught more than its share of trout and landlocked salmon for me over the years and like all successful flies it eventually migrated into my warm water boxes. However, this one did not find its way there by accident. Over the years I kept hearing about this particular fly’s effectiveness when fished in warm water for big bluegills. Once I gave it a try I was as hooked as the bluegills it caught.
The pattern originates from Idaho, and that is likely where I first encountered it. The fly was invented in the 1960’s by Ruel Stayner, a sporting goods store owner from Twin Falls Idaho. His fly was a staple in fly boxes everywhere at one time but seems to have fallen off of most folk's radar these days. It’s time to change that. While I believe the fly was designed for trout in still waters, I probably caught more trout using the pattern in the moving water of streams and rivers. Where I discovered the fly shines is in warm water lakes and ponds.
The Stayner Ducktail has a solid reputation as a smallmouth bass pattern. I believe the fly was designed to imitate perch fry, so that makes sense. On a recent trip to Maine, I enjoyed a lot of success catching smallmouth bass on a large, size six Stayner Ducktail in a lake where the yellow perch is one of the predominant prey species. But we are not here to talk about smallmouth bass, are we? Big bluegills are what gets the juices flowing around here, and this fly has long been a go-to pattern for large bluegill and other panfish. Large bluegill include small fish in their diet so it makes sense that this streamer pattern would work. Yellow perch recently mysteriously appeared in one of my local lakes. I have been fishing this particular watershed for over 15 years and have never caught one until recently. The fish are now reproducing as I see young of the year fry present in the shallows. Since the introduction of perch to this lake, the Stayner Ducktail has been a very effective pattern. I have a number of streamer patterns that I use for bluegills, and this one ranks near the top of that list. I tend to fish it rather quickly with erratic strips and pauses. During the dog days of summer when larger bluegills retreat to the depths, I like to fish this and other streamer patterns on a clear intermediate line. I want to target the deep water side of weed lines, fallen trees, and drop-offs along the shoreline. Big, chunky bluegills will inhale this fly along with the occasional largemouth bass, pickerel, and catfish. I have also enjoyed a good deal of success using this fly when targeting crappie.
The Stayner Ducktail bears a resemblance to another pattern that has taken some sizable panfish over the years a fly called the Sheep Creek Special. The Sheep Creek Special also originates from the northwest. I believe that the Sheep Creek Special was designed to imitate still water insects opposed to baitfish. The Sheep Creek Special is also a great fly, and I’ll give it some love in a future blog post.
The Stayner Ducktail is one of those fly patterns that tend to lend itself to a lot of experimentation in regards to color. Over the years I have played around with this pattern in all of the colors of the rainbow, but I have settled on two. A dark version and a light version. I was turned on to the light version in an article written by Marv Taylor many years ago. I believe he called for substituting the mallard wing for one of wood duck flank to better match the overall color of the fly. I often tie them that way but I am just as likely to stick with mallard flank for the wing.
Hook: 3 or 4x long streamer hook (pictured is an Allen S420BL in size 10) in size 6-14
Thread: Black 6/0
Tail: Orange hackle fibers (1/2 shank length)
Body: Fine or medium (matched to the size of the hook used) olive chenille (variegated yellow and olive for a light version)
Ribbing: Small gold mylar
Wing: Natural mallard flank feather tied flat extending to end of the tail (optional - substitute a wood duck flank feather wing for light version)
Beard: Orange hackle
Head: Black thread
Note: Some versions of this pattern call for red hackle fibers for the tail and throat