What's tied to your Tippet?
With conversations in the shop focusing on the upcoming summer Steelhead season I decided to survey the crew to see what their favorite Traditional Steelhead pattern was and why it had become their go-to fly on the swing. As I expected, the answers were as unique as they are and went from classics to their own creations, with a few somewhere in between. I present my findings here, in their own words...
Nick Wheeler (the Sugar Samurai)
Out of all the summer steelhead flies I enjoy to fish, the one that’s always in my box and is my confidence pattern would have to be the Klamath Intruder. Clearwater, muddied up, with just enough flash to work in almost all conditions you can’t go wrong. This fly comes in lots of color choices, typically I choose a bright color for a bright day and a darker color on an overcast or cloudy day, but if all else fails just put an orange one on. Just remember all flies work if they are put in the right place at the right time to the right fish.
Josh Linn (the Fly Czar)
Summer steelheading is a very personal and emotional sport. Everyone has a favorite fly, river, and run. When I started steelhead fishing a long time ago the internet was in its infancy and you didn’t have access to all of the information we do now. In those days, steelhead lore was passed on by very few books, word of mouth, and mentors. One of my early mentors Steve Kruse (who is pictured a number of times in Dec Hogan’s book) used to always say you only need three flies; The Bloody Muddler, Walt Johnson’s Deep Purple Spey, and The Green Ant. In Trey Combs book Steelhead Fly Fishing, which is widely regarded as the Steelheaders bible, on page 157 in the section on the Clearwater River, Trey talks about The Green Ant and gives the recipe. I took that recipe and modified it to be my own. I have been fishing that fly for almost 20 years and you will always find a bunch of them in multiple sizes in my summer steelheading gear. This fly has accounted for more fish than I can remember. And you can rest assured that when I’m rigging up my rod for the Deschutes this will be the first fly I choose. As a matter of fact, I have so much confidence in this fly that I had them custom tied just for the shop.
Dave Hendrie (the Commander)
The one fly that I will always have with me during the summer and fall will be Travis Johnson’s Hanky Panky. I was introduced to this fly by Travis on a guided trip many years ago. I was amazed at how much the flies' wing literally radiated into the water. The fly has that traditional skunk look, in the east of the cascades color of purple, with that flashy ice and green wing. I have so much confidence in this fly that I will fish it anywhere summer and fall steelhead run.
Jennifer La Follette (#Reelhussy)
What’s always in my wallet, one might ask? Without question, my Slimline Wheatley house’s a magical variety steelhead flies, some of which always include, a Muddler, some variation of a Green Butt Skunk, and a Silver Hilton. Why? These timeless fly patterns produce! The Muddler tied for Steelhead is a classic pattern, perfect for presenting on the swing. The pattern is highly effective on both summer and winter steelhead runs in a variety of rivers because as we well know, big fish eat little fish and the Muddler looks like a little fish!
As you can see, I have a group of individuals whose fly selection has been developed over many years of angling and is as varied as their personalities. Choosing a go-to pattern as Josh eluded to, is a personal thing based on experience and the confidence that pattern as earned over the years. There is no right or wrong answer to the question, although I don't consider a Klamath Intruder to have earned the Traditional moniker just yet. For Nick, that pattern has become his "Skittles for Steelhead" and we'll just leave it at that.
My wife Jennifer, like Josh, has an appreciation for traditional classics and her choices didn't surprise me at all. Just the fact that there are matching battered Wheatley boxes in the glovebox of the 4Runner gives you a glimpse into the anglers who carry them. While my box contains those same classics, it houses mostly patterns of my own creation as they have served me well over the years. The Peacock Spyder, Summerberry, and my go-to Royal Treatment are well represented in the clips of my Wheatley box, and I notice a few have migrated to hers...