Hair Wing Patterns
Simple hair wing flies may have been some of the first flies fished by early anglers over 1,500 years ago. More recently and as steelhead fly fishing became popular in the West Coast, early tiers copied Atlantic salmon and wet fly patterns but substituted various types of hair for the traditional married feather wings. Early steelhead hair wing flies often incorporated buck tail as the wing material that was later replaced with polar bear. Other types of hair often used included squirrel, calf tail, skunk, goat, arctic fox, and ringtail cat. Both natural and dyed hair is available today and each type of material has it own properties and often lends itself to a particular pattern.
Hair wing steelhead flies remain popular and effective today and are a durable and functional fly. Several methods are used to mount the hair wing including flush cut and the E. L. Haas reverse wing method. I attempt to make sure that each hair wing will not pull out even after a days fishing.
Only the best and most appropriate materials are used for tails, bodies, ribbing, and hackles. I often twist ostrich, peacock herl, or other feathers on wire or thread instead of using less expensive chenille. Ribbing is often reverse wound with fine wire to ensure the body does not unravel or the tinsel break. I often use fine twisted wire instead of oval tinsel to enhance the flies appearance and durability.
Feather Wing Patterns
During the British Victorian era, various exotic and not-so-exotic feathers were used in the construction of Atlantic salmon flies. Often several colors and different types of feathers were used in the construction of the wing. Feather wings include the married or single strip feather wing using materials from turkey, goose, various waterfowl, rooster, and the quills or individual feathers; bunched and paired wings that incorporate the paired sides from a single waterfowl feather or several individual fibers; and hackle wings that use paired hackle feathers.
I tie feather wing flies to be both durable and functional. For patterns that incorporate paired wings of hackle or duck flank, I reverse and tie the stem under the head wraps to ensure the wing will not pull out. I also tie traditional wet fly patterns with paired duck quill slips and can create interesting and unique patterns with married goose and pheasant slips of various colors. I use the best and most appropriate materials for tails, bodies, ribbing, and hackles.
Spey and Dee Patterns
These styles originated in Scotland about 150 years ago for Atlantic salmon fishing. The Spey style originated on the River Spey and generally incorporated a subdued wool body with tinsel ribbing, a palmer-style long body hackle, and bronze mallard wing. The flies are usually tied tailless (exceptions such as the Lady Caroline) and usually included a collar of teal flank feather. The distinctive body hackles included both “spey” cock hackles (similar to today’s schlappen and “coque” rooster tail plumes) and heron feathers. Today blue-eared pheasant or other varieties of pheasant and marabou feathers are substituted for heron.
The Dee and Don styles were similar to the Spey style but the wings consisted of two strips of quill, often turkey, and tied thin and flat on the top of the fly. For some flies such as the “Eagle” patterns, marabou or raptor flank feathers were incorporated into the throat hackle.
Sid Glasso, an innovative fly tier from the Northwest, is credited with modern steelhead Spey flies. Today, many West Coast steelhead fly tiers incorporate Spey and Dee styles into new and innovative steelhead patterns. I tie both traditional Spey and Dee patterns and modern steelhead spey flies using the best and most appropriate materials, and additionally can create unique patterns of your own design.
Marabou feathers come from the marabou stork, a large bird native to Africa. However, many other birds including turkey and pheasants, and even some genetically altered chickens produce “marabou” like feathers. Steelhead flies tied with marabou feathers have an ethereal and wispy-like quality with lots of movement in the water.
I tie marabou patterns to ensure that the action of the marabou feather is preserved. This is accomplished by carefully folding and palmering each individual hackle. Several different colors of marabou hackles can be wound to produce unique combinations. To ensure durability, I reverse wind fine complementary wire through the hackle. Tails are absent on most marabou flies (exceptions such as the Skagit minnow) while bodies on marabou flies are kept to a minimum using complementary tinsel (marabou absorbs water). Collars on steelhead marabou flies are usually tied with waterfowl breast or flank feathers, or chicken feathers such as schlappen or saddle hackle.
Practitioners, Shrimp & Prawn Patterns
This category of fly patterns includes old time favorites such Colonel Esmund Drury’s General Practitioner and Jack Horner’s shrimp, and new patterns such as the Ally’s shrimp and Usk Bug that have led to a whole of host of additional patterns used for Atlantic salmon. Many of the new styles and patterns are gaining popularity for West Coast steelhead.
Leech and Rabbit Strip Patterns
These include the popular egg sucking leech pattern and my own rabbit strip leech-type patterns. Any can be tied with a plastic or metal bead at the front of the fly for more realism and added weight, or with metal dumbbell eyes. The use of rabbit strips in a variety of colors combined with my fur spinning technique creates a fly that is easier to fish and swims in a most seductive fish-attracting manner.
Articulated Intruder Patterns
Articulated steelhead flies are tied on a hook-less shank and the hook is attached to the body with a flexible material such as braided fishing line or wire. The body is often tied on a Waddington shank, a popular product marketed by Partridge of Redditch Limited, England. Articulated fly styles were popularized in the British Isles for Atlantic salmon as a way to construct big flies for use with small double and treble hooks. West Coast steelhead fly tiers have incorporated the articulated hook style in several patterns that are collectively called “Intruders”, a fly pattern created and popularized by Ed Ward. Today, there are numerous "intruder” style patterns that are popular in the West Coast and British Columbia and innovative tiers are coming up with new styles and patterns yearly.
I can duplicate your favorite “Intruder” pattern or suggest successful styles and color combinations. Spey style patterns using marabou, rhea, or turkey hackles, and flexible rubber and silicone strands that movement without creating bulk. I bend shanks my own custom shanks from stainless steel wire and provide a wider range of body lengths not available commercially. Short shank articulated or “stinger” hooks are attached using seven-strand stainless braided vinyl coated wire. I double wrap the wire to the shank and bond the wraps using a cyanocrylate glue to ensure the hook and braid stays attached to the shank. If additional weight is desired, lead wraps or weighted eyes can be added to the pattern.
Dry and Waking Patterns
Dry flies for steelhead generally fall into two categories, ones that are floated in a dead drift, and patterns that are waked or skittered across the surface of the water. Dead drift patterns include standard hackled patterns of which the Wulff series and deer hair body irresistible-type patterns are popular for steelhead. Waking flies include the popular Atlantic salmon bomber patterns, modern waking patterns tied with foam, and old standbys such as the muddler minnow. I can even duplicate the historic Hewitt skaters, a large bushy fly tied with back-to-back select rooster hackles on small short shank up turn eye hooks. On West Coast steelhead streams with half-pounder and summer/fall steelhead, small patterns tied on light wire hooks that imitate caddis flies can be very effective.
Comet, Spade, and Hackle Patterns
Comet, spade, and hackle patterns can be considered impressionistic representatives of small freshwater and marine organisms. The comet or “boss” style is popular among both steelhead and salmon and was originally developed in the 1940’s. The pattern was traditionally tied with a long tail of bucktail, chenille or tinsel body, simple wound hackle, and bead chain eyes. I tie all the popular comet and hackle patterns to your specifications.
Several spade or hackle patterns have evolved for California’s Klamath, Trinity, and Eel rivers half-pounder steelhead runs of which Lloyd Silvius’ brindle bug may be one of the most famous and successful. Hackle patterns include current examples and innovative soft hackle patterns. Any pattern can be weighted with lead wire wraps if desired.
Tube flies for Atlantic salmon Ire first described in 1959 in the British magazine, Trout and Salmon, but did not become popular with West Coast and British Columbia steelhead fly anglers until some time later. Today, a variety of tube styles, sizes, and materials are available and most are fished with a single hook held in place with clear or colored junction tubing.
I can tie any pattern on a plastic or metal tube fly and the light semi-flexible plastic tubes cut to length are the very popular for steelhead. My custom brass tubes add extra weight to the fly and will fish deeper. Metal cones or beads can also be slipped on the front of the tube fly to add extra weight.
1/ Includes “Intruder” style articulated patterns