Richard “Dick” Petrak is a name unfamiliar to most anglers in southern Wisconsin, and that’s too bad. He was a long-time fixture at the Madison chapter of Project Healing Waters (PHW), though I first met him at the shop one day as he was on a mission to find a list of fly tying ingredients. After I struck out on the first few things on his list, I began to worry that he was going to leave the store in disgust. What I soon learned was that, if he did sometimes appear to project a stern demeanor, it belied an otherwise soft-spoken and gentle man whose passion for the sport of fly fishing was far greater than most. The strength of that statement can only be fully understood by adding that, due to his health, he rarely had the opportunity to actually go fishing.
A few weeks back Richard passed away. Once I heard that I immediately thought of this fly pattern, because Richard was unusually occupied with it. I would consider him a regular in the shop, and he would show up most frequently on Thursday afternoons ahead of PHW classes. One day earlier this year, on a somewhat busy day at the store, Richard waited patiently for me as I finished up with another customer. I could tell he really wanted to show me something. Once he got my attention he produced a small, portable DVD player and showed me a video of a gentleman from Fly Fish Ohio tying an odd-looking bass streamer, an extended-body deal that looked like fly fishing’s answer to the soft plastic grub. Richard told me how hard he searched for the special blanket chenille for the body, and then proceeded to give me a length of the material, plus a copy of the DVD, so I could tie the pattern.
(That’s just the way Richard was. It wasn’t the first or last time that he simply dropped things off at the shop for me to keep. Even as his health was failing he showed up at PHW with homemade fly box kits: pieces of pre-cut wood and instructions on how to assemble them. All of his fishing gear is also destined for the organization.)
Every time after that encounter, Richard would ask me if I had tried the fly, which is properly called Shannon’s Streamer. I admit, I tied up a few with the material Richard gave me, and I even briefly experimented with turning the fly into a crayfish pattern. But it didn’t grab my imagination like it did Richard’s, and I stubbornly went back to my tried-and-tested bass patterns. I don’t know how many times I had to simply tell him that I hadn’t had time to fish it yet. With his passing, now I’ll never give him the answer he wanted.
That thought struck me hard because it brought back memories of another veteran, and another missed moment in time.
The man was my grandfather, a Navy vet who served in World War II. He was stationed aboard the USS West Virginia until a week before the bombing of Pearl Harbor; was at Cavite Naval Yard in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked; and was aboard the USS Missouri when it entered the Bay of Tokyo for Japan’s formal surrender. I like to think that he was, in some small way, integral to the beginning and end of the war.
I wouldn’t call it his passion, but did like to play backgammon. He picked it up while in the Navy. He tried to show me how to play on multiple occasions, and even offered to let me borrow his board to practice with at home. I was your typical apathetic teenager and always turned him down. He died when I was seventeen, having never played a game with him.
There are few things I look back on with regret. Not allowing my grandfather to introduce me to the game he enjoyed—when, in hindsight, he so clearly wanted to—is something I will always regret. And I can’t do a damn thing to change that.
I can’t talk to Richard anymore, but I can still fish. On the last day of this year’s PHW tying class I demonstrated a few of my favorite bass patterns, and I decided to include Shannon’s Streamer among them, in a tribute to Richard. What I didn’t realize was just how pervasive Richard had been in spreading his streamer gospel: every instructor knew about the fly through Richard, but it didn’t seem that anybody had tried it yet.
I don’t know what Richard saw in this pattern, but it was clear that it meant something to him. I figure we owe it to him to tie up a few and give them a try. And if anyone from Fly Fish Ohio is reading, I hope your understand and forgive me if I re-christen this fly Richard’s Streamer. I think he earned it.
Hook: Saltwater, size 2 to 1/0
Thread: 3/0 White
Tail: White Woolly Bugger Marabou
Body: Bernat Blanket Chenille, natural or white
Eyes: Optional, your choice (I use Googly Eyes here)
First, a little bit of prep work: grab a marabou feather (you want what the industry calls a “Woolly Bugger Marabou” feather, which has a stiffer vein and will support our extended body much better than a standard marabou quill) and strip off the bottom 2/3ths of fibers. Set it aside for now.
Start by tying a thread base onto the hook.
Tie in the marabou feather. Note that I’m using nearly the entire length of the feather here; it is extending about three times the hook shank length beyond the bend of the hook. Bring the thread back to the front of the hook.
Cut a ~5″ piece of Bernat chenille, and tie it in at the front of the hook. Note that the chenille is draping over the front of the hook eye at the point, and not sweeping back like you would typically tie in materials for wrapping. (Bernat chenille, also called blanket yarn, is found at most craft shops. I found a 100 yard spool of it at Walmart for about $4).
Start making a series of tight wraps of the the chenille back toward the hook bend. After you reach the hook bend, continue wrapping the chenille around the marabou feather to create an extended body.
Continue wrapping the chenille until you reach the marabou fibers. Note that I am supporting the marabou feather by pinching it with my thumb and index finger and pulling it taut. Once you’ve reached the tail, start wrapping the chenille in the opposite direction, back toward the hook eye.
Once you’ve reached the hook eye, tie off the chenille and cut away an excess. Whip finish the thread and cut it loose.
If you’d like, add a pair of eyes. I find that Duco Cement works best at adhering eyes to a wide variety of tying materials.