I might as well admit right now that fly tying is as much a part of my salmon and steelhead fishing experience as the actual on-stream fishing. The majority of the flies in my fly box are there not because I have a particular faith in them as effective fishing flies, but rather because I find them fun to tie and pleasing to my eye. A fly box filled with classic steelhead or salmon flies is a visual delight, and I don't think I would enjoy the fishing as much without them. A large portion of my off-season tying time is spent exploring west coast steelhead patterns and atlantic salmon flies, choosing patterns and styles that I think might be effective on Salmon River fish.
Given that, there are a couple stand-out patterns that have earned a permanent place in my fly box because they have proven themselves as effective fishing flies. They are:
The black and orange version of this fly has been a terrific fly for Chinook Salmon. I've been using dyed black pheasant rump feathers for the hackle lately, as finding a soft hen hackle long enough to reach the point of larger hooks is not an easy task. This has become my #1 fall season fly.
|Black and Orange Fatal Attraction
Hook: Up-eye salmon hook
(the fly depicted is an early "experiment" tied on a larger Mustad 3906)
Tail: Gold Flashabou
Body: Gold Diamondbraid
Hackle: Black (soft)
Underwing: Gold Krsytal Flash
Wing: Orange Bucktail
Topping: Pearl Krystal Flash and Peacock Herl
This is an egg-like pattern that really isn't an egg pattern. If you cheat with proportions a bit, you get a nice round body that suggests an egg, with a white wing and red hackle that are very attractive to fish. A great fly. I keep a good supply of these on hand. This one can be fished on the swing or dead drifted along the bottom.
Hook: Up-eye salmon hook
Tail: Red Hackle Fibers
Body: Fl. Orange Chenille
Throat: Red Hackle
Wing: White Calftail
Converted to Speys
Other than that, I try to carry a variety of patterns in different styles, sizes, and colors to give me plenty of options to try when things aren't going as well as I would hope. Lately I've been adding several spey-style flies to my fly box. Some classic Atlantic Salmon patterns tied in the true spey style with bronze mallard wings, as well as "steelhead spey" flies tied in the tradition of Syd Glasso with hackle point wings. My theory is that the fish holding in pools see hundreds of egg patterns and nymphs drifted by them all day long. Maybe a spey-style fly, with it's long flowing hackles, will trigger a strike from a fish that's ignoring all the conventional flies. Many of the classic hairwing flies can be converted into a "spey style" by careful substitution of materials. Flies like the Black Bear Red Butt, Green Butt Skunk, and Purple Peril are good examples of color schemes that can be duplicated in a spey style resulting in a fly that is both fishable and aesthetically pleasing.
Black Bear Red Butt
This one is good when you want to fish something dark, but still want a hot spot of color to attract their attention. When do you want to fish something dark? Why, when the bright flies don't draw strikes, of course. Actually, the dark day/dark fly, bright day/bright fly is a good rule of thumb.
Borrowing from the techniques of the west coat steelheaders, I lay down a foundation of silver mylar tinsel and then use a flourescent flat waxed nylon thread to create the butt. It works out quite well.
Green Butt Skunk
This is a classic steelhead fly. I wouldn't feel right unless I had a few of them with me in various sizes and styles.
I also like to have a few purple flies in my box. As many other anglers have found, salmon and steelhead can be very color sensitive. It's nice to have a few flies in different colors in your box. Purple is not one to be overlooked.
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Wets and eggs
As you can tell, I like wet flies with a mixture of colors in the pattern. I think that's important, as you're never quite sure which color will attract a fish's attention on any given day. If you have a fly with a few colors in it's makeup, you have a better chance of catching the fish's eye then a fly made up of a single color scheme.
I do use egg patterns and nymphs when I've exhausted myself fishing wet flies. My favorite egg pattern is an Estaz Egg, which is nothing more than a length of estaz (or cactus chenille) wound on a wet fly hook with a tail of flourescent antron yarn. Another good egg pattern is a Babine Special, which, while still an egg patterns, is quite dressy.
Hook: Standard wet fly hook
Thread: 6/0, color to match antron yarn tail
Tail: Flourescent Antron Yarn
Body: Estaz, various colors
I also carry an assortment of nymphs, concentrating on generic nymphs like a hare's ear or a black stonefly. The real key to eggs and nymphs is to keep the flies very simple as *MANY* are lost to snags when you're fishing. A friend of mine has terrific luck with a fly that has a tail of krystal flash, an abdomen of sparkle chenille, and a thorax/head of estaz. Simple, yet he's hooked a good number of fish with this fly. Another simple pattern has a tail of woodduck fibers, an abdomen of floss, a thorax of sparkle dubbing palmered with a hen hackle, and a wingcase of ringneck pheasant tail fibers. That's about as complex as I care to make my steelhead nymhs. You should be able to pop any steelhead nymph or egg pattern off your vise like popcorn. You'll fish them better that way, because you're not afraid to lose them.
A Schweitzer/Joergensen Publication
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