Optic Bucktails

bearbutt
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Optic Bucktails

Post by bearbutt » Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:32 am

I'm wondering if anyone can help me with sorting out the history of optic bucktails?

Charles Fox mentions them in Rising Trout (pp. 109ff) and has a picture too. The distinguishing feature is not just the painted eye on the head, but pairing this with jungle cock shoulders. The fly seems to have come into being in the 1930s--a Google search in period newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s reveals several references to large trout being caught on Optic Bucktails. Fox mentions that the Optic Bucktail perhaps originated with a certain "Mary S" who tied for Cook, Newton, and Smith of New Haven. He also mentions "Carry Manning" --but beyond this, I haven't been able to find much meaningful information.

An earlier thread on the SGM Boards has a post by Mike Valla with a Fox Brown Optic Bucktail, but the image has been removed--so if you still have it, Mike, can you repost it? If anyone has any other information or images to share, please do.

Many thanks,
bb

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Eperous
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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by Eperous » Fri Feb 07, 2014 2:47 pm

Mike Valla's new book, The Founding Flies, has a nice writeup on these in Chapter 36 dealing with C. Jim Pray... w/o re-reading the entire chapter, I don't recall if Valla said Pray originated Optic bucktails, but he did write that this was his "most famous" fly and considered to be his "signature pattern." Pray's lifespan was 1885 to 1952...

Ah, Valla did write, "Pray didn't invent the Optic fly concept..."

Ed

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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by BrownBear » Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:50 pm

With my roots in the Northwest, Pray is certainly my reference point for Optics. He was long gone before I got there, but his flies lingered. I spent a fair bit of time with Lloyd Silvius, one of Pray's cohorts, and he had a bunch of originals. He insisted Pray was the originator, but Lloyd could be pretty crusty and vague on some points. I won't cast stones though, because he gave me a cup each of three difference sizes of optic beads from a large lot he got from Pray somewhere along the line. The history is neat, but so are the flies. The first true "bead head" I recall encountering.

bearbutt
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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by bearbutt » Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:54 pm

Thanks, guys.

The Pray stuff is pretty good. It could be the east coast and west coast Optic evolved on their own--this would be a good project to sort out. The key thing about the east coast optics is they usually had jungle cock shoulders. This is how Charles Fox captioned the image of one in Rising Trout (2nd edition, 1978, p 109):

Image

And here's one I came across recently, it uses squirrel instead of bucktail, with mallard tail and collar:

Image

I think there's story somewhere, at least I hope so.

bb

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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by BrownBear » Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:01 pm

A huge difference from what I see in your pix is the head. Pray's were a metallic bead (think: bead chain opened up) that is clamped over the head of the fly and painted, rather than thread.

Some of Lloyd's original collection had JC eyes, but I don't think they were standard on any named patterns.

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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by mikevalla » Tue Feb 11, 2014 5:35 pm

An earlier thread on the SGM Boards has a post by Mike Valla with a Fox Brown Optic Bucktail, but the image has been removed--so if you still have it, Mike, can you repost it? If anyone has any other information or images to share, please do.
BB,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been so busy that not much time for SGM these days. Another Stackpole title I'm working on is due to them June 1.
And I have a load of magazine assignments---on top of it all.

Anyway, these are the three Fox Optic patterns that will appear in that "streamer book" that still is not out yet (that publisher---not Stackpole--told me they are working on it. But don't hold your breath---they've had it in their laps for going on two years).

Image

Black Optic

Image

Brown Optic

Image

Yellow Optic
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quashnet
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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by quashnet » Tue Feb 11, 2014 6:54 pm

From chapter 10 of Streamers and Bucktails: The Big Fish Flies (1979) by Joseph D. Bates, Jr.:

"...C. Jim Pray, of Eureka, the originator of the Optic Bucktails. The heads of Optic Bucktails are made from opened metal beads, available in one-eighth-, three-sixteenths-, and one-quarter-inch diameters, which can be clamped just behind the eye of the hook and painted as suits the angler. Nowadays Jim probably would have filled the cavity with Epoxy Plastic Steel. He preferred the quarter-inch size for his steelhead flies, applied usually to hooks No. 4 in length with a 1/0 bend, 4x strong, with hollow point and tapered eye in the Limerick pattern. These were made for him by Mustad."

Bates described Pray's five favorite patterns: Owl Eyed Optic, Black Optic, Red Optic, Orange Optic, and Cock Robin Optic.
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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by BrownBear » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:25 pm

We always used the Mustad 7970 hooks, #4 and #6 for steelhead, #4 and #2 for coho, and #2 and #1/0 for chinook. Great for Optics, as well as conventional Comets.

One word of advice- That stout, stout, stout hook has a barb suitable for harpoons. Along with the heavy shank, it makes for difficulty in securely setting the hook in hard mouths. Sounds counter-intuitive, but pinching, or better, grinding off the barb vastly increased hookup rate and cut fish losses. It's clear that the hook mostly penetrates only as far as the barb and stops.

That's the root of my affection for Limerick bends on Pacific salmon hooks, especially barbless. The bend seems to wedge in the mouth and is surprisingly hard to dislodge. Current favorite salmon/steelhead hook is the Daiichi 2141 hook. Even without a barb, that thing is a phenom for hooking and holding big athletic fish.

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Eperous
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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by Eperous » Tue Feb 11, 2014 8:42 pm

BrownBear wrote:We always used the Mustad 7970 hooks, #4 and #6 for steelhead, #4 and #2 for coho, ... Great for Optics, as well as conventional Comets. ...
Me too... ;)

Ed

bearbutt
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Re: Optic Bucktails

Post by bearbutt » Wed Feb 12, 2014 5:29 pm

Thanks for posting your Fox Optics for us to see, Mike--much appreciated. Many of us look forward to the book. I'm curious--what is the basis for your Fox pattern--especially the ls hook?

I came across a few other Optics recently, here's another picture:

Image

Many are based on pre-existing patterns--Red & White, Edson Tiger, and so on--and adapted as an Optic. But some I can't quite identify as to their origins.

The Pray Optic origin is not altogether convincing for me. Bates quotes Pray saying "I brought out the Optic in the fall of 1940, just getting in on the first of the winter run of steelhead." But there are enough documented references to Optic Bucktails being used on the east coast in the 1930s to suggest that the fly has an east coast origin. Here is one example from the Lake Placid News from 1936:

Image

http://news.nnyln.net/lake-placid-news/ ... 200085.pdf

So--getting back to Fox, I'd like to know when Carry Manning was tying. Can anyone help with that?

bb

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