Tackle Bag

I've always said if you're worrying about your gear, you have the wrong gear. Here in the Tackle Bag I'll review some of the equipment I use that I have found adds to my experience on the water. If you need more information on a particular piece of gear, please call me at the shop. You can also sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of the page to get notices about new Tackle Bag posts.


Joel La Follette - Thursday, December 20, 2018

I asked Bruce to give me a brief history of the Rambulance to add to the Fly of the Week write-up. What I received was a look into the thought processes that went into the creation of this fly. A very detailed description of those thought processes. Normally, I would edit them down to a few sound bites and move on, but Bruce's insight here is too interesting to leave on the cutting room floor... JL

Like most other fisherman chasing Steelhead I was taken in by the Intruder from the first time I saw the fly in Dec Hogan’s “Passion for Steelhead” on the two-page spread. I already had a box loaded with varying flies from 3” to 7“ long. I found the rabbit-infested flies (among other materials) hard to cast, almost impossible in tight casting lies, and hard to sink. In open water where you could make a full D-loop, the flies doomed to the garbage can would lazily waffle their way out mid-stream. Many of the flies were in a constant struggle. What struggle is that you ask? The struggle was loads of Rio T14 trying to get a fly down, but the flies and the way someone constructed them were not having any part of going down. Kind of like trying to inflate a truck tire with a bicycle pump; it doesn’t work! I figured there has to be a better fly that is: easy to cast, has good movement, attractive profile, is durable, etc.

So, my Rambulance was born and has evolved into three color options: 1. The original Blue for fishing from clear to optimal conditions both in late summers and winters. 2. Orange version which is a two-toned Hot Orange/ Blaze Orange that shows up well in all colored up from “Steelhead Green,” to glacial tinted winter Steelhead streams, and even off-color dirty water. 3. Two-toned Hot Orange/ Hot Pink version I call "Shrimpish” (The fly fisherman’s Pink Rubber Worm).

This write up is on the Orange Rambulance. Originally designed for winter fish, it has turned into my go-to confidence fly. My connection with Montana Fly Company has helped me learn about the versatility of orange. As a commercial fly-tying company MFC’s wide distribution of the fly provided me with feedback from shows, shop demos etc. that many fishermen found success chasing Summer Steelhead with Orange “Rammers”. At first, I would hear the story, inevitably look at a picture on their phone, and think to myself, “Man, great to be lucky now and then.” Enough stories and pictures prompted me to try the orange for Summer Steelhead, which I would not have done on my own. It works great, especially in cold weather/cold water.

As for fly design, Rambulance really is not an Intruder nor is it a traditional Scandinavian “Temple Dog”. It is a marriage of both styles with a toe over the line on the “Scandi” style. The main difference is that the back end of the fly has a hackle and wing to create lift towards the back end of the fly. Couple that with forward-mounted weight and Rambulance flies ride fairly level through currents as opposed to nose up which I have a hard time trusting and fishing with confidence. Rambulance flies are a Medium/Large, Fall/Winter/Spring flies that range from 3 to 3 ½” in profile. The advantage of colorways with strong contrast is I can fish them in all water types found Fall through Spring, from low and clear, to high and off color.

Pro Sportfisher (formerly Pro Tubefly Systems) becoming available in the U.S. market was paramount in developing the Rambulance. The weighting systems, tubes, metal and plastic cones all come in lots of sizes and great colors that allows simplicity and creativity in modern fly design. Think Lego’s for big kids!

Tube: Pro Nano Tube, Clear
Hook Guide/Junction: Pro Hook Guide Large, Fl. Orange
Weight: Pro Drop Weight Medium –or- Pro Raw Weight Small
Butt: MFC Berry’s Fish Dope Dubbing, Sunkissed Orange
Rear Hackle: Golden Pheasant Tippet, died Fl. Orange
Rear Wing: Craft Fur, Flame Orange
Rib: Lagartun Silver, Small
Body: Salt Water Flashabou, Pearl over Black Thread
Body Hackle: Saddle Hackle, Fl. Orange
Dubbing Bump: MFC Berry’s Fish Dope Dubbing, Sunkissed Orange
Prop: Pro Opossum Hot Orange Twisted into Dubbing Loop –or- Pro Soft Sonic Disc Medium
Front Wing: Craft Fur, Fl. Orange
Lateral Lines: Krinkle Mirror Flash, Dyed Orange
Front Hackle: Marabou, Fl. Orange
Flash: Flashabou, Copper (tied in like horns)
Collar: Schlappen, Fl. Orange
Cheeks/Optional: Pro J.C. HD Orange

The Perpetrator

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Hedging your bets when angling for Steelhead is a good way to keep sharp and up your chances of actually hooking a fish. By that I mean, when swinging flies for small numbers of Steelhead, it's good to swing something that might appeal to the more plentiful larger resident Trout. In the fall on the Deschutes, Matt's Perpetrator would be a solid choice.

Developed for the Steelhead streams of Southern Oregon and Northern California, the Perpetrator has found favor all across the Great Northwest.

Check out Matt tying the Perpetrator on video below.

Shank- 26mm Round Eye  Aqua Fly Shank or Long shank streamer hook
Bead- Tungsten Bead
Senyos Intruder wire
Hook- Gamakatsu octopus hook size 4
Rib- Wire Brassie
Body- Golden Brown Ice Dub
Collar-Brown Mallard with a natural guinea in front
Head- Black Peacock Ice Dub

Grease Liner

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 22, 2018

By Adrian Cortes

In honor of the release of America's Favorite Flies I asked Mr Adrian Cortes to provide a copy of his favorite Steelhead Dry Fly, the Grease Liner. He was very gracious and supplied the sample in the photo above. I then pushed my luck to the limit and asked if he would add a material list and short antidotal story about the pattern for our Fly of the Week. I even gave him a Thursday morning, 3:00 AM deadline. He missed it.

At 5:24AM I received the following....

Crap! I mistook it for 3 pm! Very bad.

Hook: sz 6 - 10 light wire dry fly (Gamakatsu S10 hooks are a fine suggestion.)
Tail: Deer hair
Body: Mr Lemire preferred musk ox dubbing (because of its water repellency) which can be a challenge to find, however almost any dubbing can be used.
Throat: Grizzly hackle
Wing: Caribou which has a natural curve that Mr. Lemire preferred (can substitute with deer or elk hair.)

Antidote in a few mins.....

In the early 1960s, an iconic steelheader changed the mentality of northwest steelheading by introducing the Grease Liner. The late Harry Lemire was the kind of angler that not only 'fished' for steelhead but also observed their behavior. He wanted to capture this great sportfish in the most sporting way possible...on the dryfly.

Realizing that summer/fall run steelhead are curious and can be aggressive in nature, Mr. Lemire designed the Grease Liner as the first waking dry fly to trigger surface grabs. Such a simple pattern, but so deadly effective. Fished on the swing, it has enticed many steelhead to the surface...it needs no further testing or tinkering.

Harry preferred natural materials and was quoted as mentioning that he did not like the "Buck Rodgers" type of flies. To be honest, the Grease Liner can't compete with the foam and flash of today's current selection. But it is not trying to compete; it is waiting for that certain angler that wants to give a nod to simplicity and effective tradition. Use a little floatant on the leader and keep swinging the surface. It will move steelhead.

I have caught steelhead with the Grease Liner in all types of the normal summer/fall conditions. In bright sun, in fast flows, in shallow water, and even in frog water it will still catch fish. At times when it gets sucked under, the Grease Liner is natural enough that steelhead will still find it appetizing.

It's winter and snowing, now is the time to start your resolve in tying steelhead dryflies. Pay homage to steelheading history and tie the most effective dry fly for steelhead ever made. Surface grabs will be seared in your memories.

Metal Detector II

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 15, 2018

The original Metal Detector had gone out of commercial production years ago much to the dismay of many Northwest Steelhead anglers. So, we asked Mr. Sheppard to reissue an updated version of this iconic pattern that we could have tyed for the shop. He was more than happy to oblige as that would give him a steady source of flies for his clients without hours spent at the tying bench. The Metal Detector II was born and has fast become a Royal Treatment favorite.

Metal Detector II
Black and Blue version

OPST steelhead shank 1 1/4"
Senyo wire
Gamakatsu octopus size 2
7/32" tungsten plummet bead from Hareline or Gold Cone
Tail: Finn raccoon blue
Body: polar chenille blue
Collar: black marabou tied in by tip and EP holo blue sparkle brush palmered together for color (three - four wraps)

Metal Detector II
Red and orange

Tied on OPST steelhead shank 1 1/4"
Senyo wire
Gamakatsu octopus size 2
7/32" tungsten plummet bead from Hareline or Gold Cone
Tail: Finn raccoon orange
Body: polar chenille orange
Collar: red marabou tied in by tip and EP speckled gold sparkle brush palmered together for color three -four wraps

Tying notes
Shank and wire without the hook should be 2 1/4" long

Raccoon tail should be tied on top of the shank, do not pull out the guard hairs, tail should extend just beyond the hook

Marabou and sparkle brush should be wrapped together to create the collar

Foxee Prawn

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 08, 2018

Foxee Prawn GP Orange
By Josh Linn, the Fly Czar

Shank: 40mm Shank
Stinger Loop: Senyo Intruder Wire
Hook: Gamakatsu Octopus size 1 or 2
Thread: 140- Denier Red
Butt: Ice Dub Red- Spun in a dubbing loop
Tail: Long Arctic fox tail Orange, topped with holographic flashabou, Golden Pheasant Tippet(center Trimmed out) and a golden pheasant shoulder feather natural.
Rear hackle: Extra Large Guinea Hen Orange
Body: Small cactus chenille, burnt orange, paltered with a grizzly saddle hackle , Orange
Wing: Arctic fox tail Orange
Collar: Extra Large Guinea hen Orange
Overwing: Pair of golden pheasant shoulder feather natural

When Charles teamed up with solitude to produce his flies they immediately became a success. He’s had a number of great hits, including the Hoh Bo Spey, Foxee Dog, and the Foxee Prawn. One of the things you immediately notice is that most of his flies have a very mobile wing made from arctic fox and that they are unweighted. Charles feels that weighing the fly kills some of the natural swimming motion from the current.

Over the last 10 or so years I have fished many of Charles St. Pierre’s flies personally and have had many clients land their first steelhead on one.

On one such occasion a few years back a client ventured west from New Jersey to fish for the legendary Pacific Northwest steelhead. Malcolm prepped for the adventure by attending a winter steelhead school followed-up with a few guided days on the Sandy.

By day three of his guided adventure Malcolm was struggling with his casting and was yet to hook a fish. Throughout the long cold days he remained amazingly optimistic. The Sandy river was running high and the rain could only be considered a deluge. It appeared as though the river would soon blow out.

We pulled into a run known as “I don’t know.” It had been producing fish when the river was on the rise. Needing to mix it up a bit and change Malcom’s luck, I made the executive decision to search Malcom’s fly box for something that had a large profile, black, blue and easy to cast. Immediately my eye was drawn to a Charles St. Pierre blue Foxee Prawn. As I removed it from the box Malcom’s eyes lit up with a new spark of rejuvenated hope.

We started high on the sandy beach working our way down into to the tail out. Malcolm was refreshed and
fishing better with more confidence. It is amazing what a simple fly change can do to brighten even the rainiest of winter days and spirits.

Malcom swung the Foxee Prawn across a deep trench when it happened. The line pulled tight. The reel started to click. Fish on! Malcom set the hook and became a little disoriented with excitement. In an instant he forgot everything he had learned. The excitement of a first steelhead can do that to anyone. Often in times like that it ends with either a lost fish or an accidental swim in the river for the excited angler.

Malcom was no exception to that trend. He fell into the cold wintery Sandy river. The ever optimistic Malcom didn’t let being soaked on a winter day dampen his spirits. He fought on. Soon after he won the battle bringing a small wild hen to hand. After a photo and quick release Malcom was still smiling when he said, “I think it is time for lobster. I’m done. Let’s celebrate.” Celebrate we did!

Bret's Klamath Intruder

Joel La Follette - Thursday, February 01, 2018
Brett’s Klamath Intruder


OPST Steelhead intruder shank 20mm
Senyo intruder wire
Gamakatsu octopus hook size 4
Ice dub 
Krinkle mirror flash  
Micro Rubber Legs 
Crosscut Rabbit
Lady Amherst Tail
Barbell or Bead Chain eyes  


Attach a Gamakatsu Octopus hook in size 4 or 6 to a 20mm shank with intruder wire.

Make a small dubbing ball at the rear of the shank. 

Tie in Krinkle Mirror Flash and Micro Rubber Legs in the round. Four strands at each corner.

Trim Rabbit fur from the hide strip and spin in a dubbing loop.

Add a few strand of Lady Amherst in contrasting color.

Hackle the front of the fly with contrasting color rabbit, again twisted in a dubbing loop.

Tie in barbell or bead chain eyes

This little intruder is one of the best small steelhead and trout swing flies that we have found. We have been using this little guy all over the place, John Day Steelhead, Deschutes trout or steelhead, the Metolius, anywhere you can swing a fly this bad boy will work.

This micro Intruder fly has all of the essential components that you need, rubber legs, flash, rabbit, and a trailing hook.

In the late fall fished on a sink tip this fly has proven extremely productive for summer steelhead. Pink and orange have been very effective colors.

For Trout we have been fishing the olive color and giving it a short strip and twitch. This technique has worked well for us on the Deschutes and the Metolius.

The Double Take

Joel La Follette - Thursday, January 25, 2018

Double Take by Peter Donahower

Hook: Alec Jackson Heavy Wire Spey Hook, Bronze or Silver size 3
Thread: Uni 8/0 purple
Tag: 3 colors UTC 140 thread- Chartreuse, Peacock Blue, Purple
Mid wing: 3 colors UTC 140 Thread-Purple over, Peacock Blue, over chartreuse
Rib: UTC Wire, Brassie, Hot Yellow
Body: Purple STS Trilobal Dub
Hackle:Purple Pheasant Rump
Collar: Silver Doctor Blue or Kingfisher Blue Guinea
Wing: Fluorescent Blue Badger or Fin Raccoon

Tying instructions:
Tag should start at the point of the hook
Tag should should half the length of the fly, tag and body should be equal lengths.Tag should be split into three equal parts.
The midwing is three loops of each 140, cut in unison 45* at the bend
Mid wing should extend to the barb
Wing should extend to just beyond the bend of the hook.

Starting with the chartreuse UTC 140 tie in the badger wing facing forward. The wing should start forward of the middle of the shank so as not to disturb the floss butt. 
At the same time tie in the rib. Tie the chartreuse thread all the way back to the hook point and then forward to the halfway point of the body and loop the thread around your finger three times to create the mid wing, then tie down with the peacock blue thread. Wrap the peacock blue thread 2/3 of the way back and then forward to the mid wing. Loop the blue around your finger three times and tie off with the purple. Repeat the step with purple. For dubbing the body split the purple thread and dub forward. Wrap rib forward then tie off with 8/0 uni. Cut the mid wing in unison at a 45 from the bend of the hook. Cut the mid wing after wrapping the rib, but before wrapping the hackle. Wrap purple pheasant hackle and the. Blue Guinea collar. Fold wing back form head and whip finish.. 

The back story from Peter...

"One fine morning a couple years ago, Tracy opened her flybox to switch things up at the top of Steelie Flats after losing her first Deschutes steelhead in the tailout thirty minutes before. She selected this random chartreuse-blue-purple fly that resonated with her somehow. A few casts later, she was fast into the second Deschutes steelhead of her life, and the fly earned the title “Double Take”. This was a much larger fish and she fought it like a champ. Her natural athletic ability brought the burly, wild fish to within a rods length. As it rolled on the surface, I saw that the tail was wider than the length of my hand. Truly this was a magnificent, gravel-born Deschutes steelhead. Then one shake of the head and it was gone. It was a poignant moment for us. There were hugs and a few tears. 

Tracy and I work so hard for the recovery and conservation of these increasingly rare wild, native animals that reside in the realm of the unseen. We have a passionate affinity for them and pursue every opportunity to interact with their world, whether wading a river to swing a fly, or engage in a spawning survey. It is a blessed event, a nearly scared act. What heartbreak to lose the connection moments before bringing a fish to hand, to feel the pulse of life before releasing it to slide back into the unseen."

The Provider

Joel La Follette - Thursday, January 18, 2018

Rob Crandall’s Provider by Nick Wheeler

When you need a steelhead pattern to get deep quickly this fly provides. On its first creation this pattern was a secret weapon for a few of Rob’s clients catching many steelhead the first few day it was introduced. Now in Rob’s main roster this fly keeps providing anglers the success it started with. This fly can be used year round, but excels when used in deeper slots.


Shank: OPST Steelhead Shank 32mm
Wire: Senyo’s Intruder Wire
Hook: #2 Gamakatsu Octopus
Eyes: Medium Painted Lead Eyes, White
Butt: Blue Ice Dub
Rear Hackle: Blue Guinea
Rear Wing: Blue Ostrich Hurl
Body: Medium Krystal Hackle Black
Front Hackle: Red Guinea
Front Wing: Black Ostrich and Blue Barred Ostrich
Flash: Flashabou, Opal, Purple, and Blue

Start by attaching the intruder wire and lead eyes to the shank.

At the butt of the fly make a dubbing ball out of the Ice Dub which will help flare the Guinea hackle.

Place a stack (15-20 pieces) of blue ostrich along the top of the shank slightly flared across the Guinea.

Attach Krystal Hackle and wrap up the body of the fly for about 1/2 inch.

Put a few turns of red guinea in front of the Krystal Hackle.

Place a stack (10ish pieces) of black ostrich on top of shank followed by another stack of blue barred ostrich (10ish pieces)

Attach a few pieces of each color of flash to the top of the wing.

Whip finish, glue and it’s ready to fish.

Tying the Silvenator

Joel La Follette - Thursday, January 11, 2018

No fly strikes fear in the hearts of Steelhead like the Silvenator. Simple, but deadly is it's claim to fame. The perfect pattern to chase mid-day summer fish or chilly winter Chromers.

Created by our good friend, Brian Silvey, the Silvenator has become a standard found in many fly boxes across the Northwest. Available in several popular colors, the Silvenator is the perfect pattern for the beginning Steelhead fly tyer.

Plastic tube with junction tube
1/4 Bead (Gold, Pink or Blue depending on the color of the fly)
Straight cut rabbit strip
Dubbing to match

Start with a plastic tube cut 3/4 inches long and place it in your vice on a tube fly needle or mandrel.

Lay down a layer of thread and tye in a short strip of straight cut rabbit about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches long.

Hackle with marabou, then tye in a few strands of flashabou. Add another wrap of marabou.

Add a few ostrich herls to a dubbing loop and wrap in front of the marabou.

Slide a 1/4 bead over the tube and melt tube to hold in place.

Finish with dubbing behind the tube in complementing color.

Slide junction tube over the back of the tube and add your hook of choice.

Now, take it out for a swim….

Airflo's F.I.S.T. Skagit Head

Joel La Follette - Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Airflo released a new Skagit line this week that combines floating, intermediate and sink-tip into one head. Called the F.I.S.T. for Floating, Intermediate, Sink-tip (clever) this Skagit style head is perfect for slowing down your swing when conditions require it. I had the chance to fish this line a few times this fall and winter with Brian Silvey on the Deschutes and Sandy rivers. Brian helped Tim Rajeff with the development and field testing of this new line. My first thought was "just what the world needs, another Skagit head," but soon I saw the potential. I found it very easy to cast and control compared to a full sinking head. The FIST isn't really about getting deeper, it's about controlling the fly in faster water or when colder temps have fish less enthusiastic about moving. With a bright green floating section I found the FIST very easy to see in low light and it mended well. The real magic happens as the intermediate and type-3 tip dig in to slow down the swing of your fly across the current. In some cases I found I could hold the fly in a soft seam for an eternity. The FIST is the perfect platform for your favorite 10' tip. I used T-10 and found that combination cast and fished quite well in the conditions we encountered that day. I even managed to score a nice fish on the FIST. While sink-tip season is slowly slipping away, you may find the FIST a perfect addition to your Spey line wallet. Sizes run from 450 grains to 720 grains.  Available now on our website.

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