As a fairly prolific tyer, I draw inspiration from everywhere. Pop culture, music, craft beer or life in general. This results in a lot of “one-off” patterns. These singular flies usually wind up in the flybox of my life partner and best friend, Tracy Buckner. So it was, one fine morning a couple years ago, that 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, and 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.
I consider three design components vital to steelhead flies; motion, profile and contrast. On the “Double Take”, I pick out the dubbing and apply a collar to increase each of these components and therefore tie it on a heavier hook. The result is a fly that is active through the top of the water column, swims naturally and doesn’t tip over. The grab can come at any part of the swing. To create a low-water version, reduce the number of thread loops and pinch out dubbing fibers after spinning to achieve a thread that has a minimum of fuzziness. The collar can be omitted, or tied in as a throat. You can either use small Alec Jackson Steelhead Irons or use lighter wire hooks and simply shorten the proportions.