UNI Products Fly Tiers Corner

A Smoky Mountain Classic

January 2022

The Thunderhead is a dry fly pattern developed to meet the fishing conditions often encountered in the Southern Appalachian Mountain region, and specifically the Smoky Mountains. Generally attributed to Fred Hall of Bryson City, North Carolina, the pattern most likely is named for either the Thunderhead Prong of the Middle Fork of the Little River, or Thunderhead Mountain that overlooks that stream. Both of those are on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Thunderhead is an attractor-style fly. Basically, Hall improved upon the classic Adams pattern by adding a bushy, kip-tail wing, in the fashion originated by Lee Wulff. This created a very visible and buoyant fly that is well suited for fishing in the shadows and rough-and-tumble, freestone waters of the southeast.

Though it mimics no specific forage, it most closely resembles a mayfly dun. Regardless, it has proven to be a fish catcher throughout the southland. It even can be successfully fished in size 12 on small streams in the region. That’s probably because it has such an appealing, “buggy” look that trout in those small places simply can’t afford to let such a tempting morsel just float past.