In 1950, “Streamer Fly Tying and Fishing” by Joseph D. Bates Jr. (The Stackpole Co.) hit the market. For that time, it ranked as one of the finest fly-fishing books ever.

Bates included more than 200 meticulously researched streamer and bucktail patterns for imitating baitfish, and more than 50 of them came from Maine. In my early 20s, this book — an old title by then — first caught my attention, and the emphasis on Maine flies wowed me — a source of great pride.

For starters, right after World War I, fly rodders from Maine and visitors from elsewhere started a bottom-dredging revolution in this state, and it would be no exaggeration to say that by the 1920s, we led the world in fly-fishing skills aimed at working deep water for big salmonids.

I once freelanced a lot for fly-rodding magazines, and editors jumped at buying bottom-dredging, fly-fishing articles from me. A big part of the allure began and ended with my Maine roots.

Jump ahead to 2012, though, and look at the L.L. Bean Fishing spring catalog and see how baitfish patterns have fared in the 21st century:

This Bean publication contains but two Maine-origin baitfish streamers — the Black Ghost and Gray Ghost. Herb Welch of Mooselookmeguntic Lake developed the first one in 1927 — an upside-down smelt imitation with white on top and black on bottom. The second fly came from the mind of Carrie Stevens of Upper Dam in July 1924 — a somewhat drab baitfish fly to match dead smelts collected from salmonid stomachs.

It’s sad that baitfish imitations have fallen along the wayside in Bean’s catalog. In the 1960s and ’70s, the annual publication contained myriad streamers and bucktails, but this company is just responding to the public’s evolving tastes, centered on insect imitations.

Not to belabor that point about the Gray Ghost’s drabness, but a Red Gray Ghost and Jerry’s Smelt look more like a colorful, schooling rainbow smelt on spring spawning runs, a favorite forage for trout and salmon.

I like to tie the Red Gray Ghost identical to the Gray Ghost, with two notable exceptions. I put three or four strands of pearl Flashabou in the white bucktail and use red silk floss instead of orange for the body.

Many people tie the Red Gray Ghost with red bucktail instead of white, but red for the bucktail and body puts too much red on the fly.

A Jerry’s Smelt, close kin to Joe’s Smelt, has pearl Mylar piping for the body rather than silver Mylar piping — an adaptation that makes all the difference in attracting salmonids.

A Red Gray Ghost and Jerry’s Smelt work gangbusters right now, particularly in the upper half of the state, because smelts are schooling in front of tributaries and outlets, and brookies and landlocks are chasing them there, continuing an age-old fly-fishing tradition in Maine.

Other baitfish imitations fool brookies and salmon now, and my third favorite is Slaymaker’s Little Brook Trout. What times I have had with this brook-trout fry imitation on waters such as the Roach River east of Moosehead, Frost Pond by Ripogenus Dam on the Penobscot’s West Branch, Nesowadnehunk Lake west of Baxter, the Deboullie Pond area southwest of Fort Kent, and the Rangeley Lakes, just to name a few.

My favorite way to fish baitfish imitations in ponds and lakes begins with a watch and super fast-sinking line. It helps to anchor a canoe or boat from both ends so the craft doesn’t swing back and forth, which impedes the line’s sink rate.

Then, good bottom-dredgers make the first cast to 1 o’clock, the next to 2 o’clock and so forth all around the boat to each number on the imaginary clock. On the first casting series around the boat, the line sinks 10 seconds after each cast, timed precisely with a wristwatch.

On the second series around the clock, the line sinks 15 seconds after each cast. Then, on each additional series around the boat, the caster continues, adding five-second increments until catching a fish or hitting bottom.

If a trout hits — say, on a 40-second descent — fly rodders stay at that level, because often, that first strike indicates the depth of all the fish. If not, continue going deeper until ticking bottom or hooking weeds. Bottom is often a honey hole for catching salmonids.

With each presentation, I cast as far as possible in an attempt to cover more water, and a great trick helps catch fish. After the cast, feed out loose line so the fly line sinks in an L-shape, with the bottom of the L parallel to the lake bottom. That keeps the fly deeper longer, rather than coming directly up in a diagonal path on each retrieve.

With streamers and bucktails, I begin with a rapid retrieve as fast as my hand can move the fly to imitate a fast-swimming baitfish. My hand is a blur while stripping line. If that doesn’t work, I change speeds and retrieves.

With nymphs, I roll them over my fingers to inch them along like a swimming nymph. A nymph inched along bottom really draws strikes, but this topic is for another column.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]