“Up on the Esopus”with Ed Ostapczuk – Bucktails: A Catskill Tradition

In Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, Joseph D. Bates, Jr., perhaps the definitive authority on streamers and bucktails, defined the bucktail as “a fly possessing a predominately haired wing, whose shape and intended action are to represent a baitfish.” Bates went on to write: “A hair wing fly of this type is called a bucktail regardless of the kind of hair used.” This definition was given the stamp of approval by A. J. McClane in both McClane’s Standard Fishing Encyclopedia, his angling Bible, and The Practical Fly Fisherman. However, McClane did suggest that the name is derived from the use of hair from the tail of a deer for the wing. Regardless of the hair used to tie a bucktail, who can argue with this? Not me!

Bates also wrote that “the origin of both the streamer and the bucktail is lost in the dim history of the past.” But then he quickly adds, “It is certain that the American Indians used similar flies in the first half of the nineteenth century.” Further, he suggests that the origin of modern long-shanked flies can be traced back to the Catskills. In Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing, Bates devotes a fair amount of ink to the Bumblepuppy, which he notes was originally tied as a bucktail and streamer as early as 1880 by Theodore Gordon and later by Herm Christian, perhaps Gordon’s only fly-tying understudy.