Every spring I head north in search of steelhead. For the past five years I have looked forward to this adventure for months prior to the actual dates that we fish. I spend countless hours at the tying bench preparing for what I always hope will be a fruitful spring of catching powerful steelhead. It is angling for the patiently focused fisherman who knows very well that his dreams may not be realized. With that said, when the water stays running clear, and the fish are moving through the system, the chase is on… and it’s worth all the anticipation.
I have now shared my four favorite steelhead nymph patterns with fly tying instructions and a fly tying video for each of them. I do 90% of my steelhead nymphing with these four flies. Check out the links below:
I’ve been lucky enough to have many friends, brothers, one uncle, and my dad join me on such steelheading trips. At the end of the day, it is the friends you fish with that make a trip of this sort memorable. Thanks fellas, here’s hoping for many more trips with such great company!
Steelhead flies are a blast to tie. They are big, colorful, and look really fun in a fly box. Each spring I reserve a considerable amount of time at the vise for these colorful creations. Among my favorites is the Black Jack Steel. About five years ago I created a trout fly that I named the Black Jack. It is a Prince Nymph variant with a thread body that is coated with Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails as the center piece of this pattern. It has found great success for trout throughout the Western United States. While dabbling at the vise with that fly in mind I came up with a steelhead variation that incorporates a hot pink (or chartreuse) bead, and a Semi-Seal dubbing collar. I have now fished this nymph for steelhead for the past four seasons, and done very well.
The two colors I fish this fly in are pink as a first choice, and chartreuse coming in second. I’m not sure why, but it seems to me that steelhead are typically more willing to take nymphs with pink on them over other colors. I’m sure that is not the case everywhere, and it is probably just the rivers that I fish. Either way, I always have a multitude of colors in my steelhead boxes. I think it makes it more fun that way!
There are multiple factors that make this a winning pattern including it’s ease of tying, durability, and it’s ability to catch steelhead. Give it a shot!
Hook: Dai-Riki 135 (Sizes 8)
Bead: Hot Pink or Chartreuse Tungsten (Size 5/32)
Weight: Lead Wire
Thread: Black UTC 140 Denier
Tail: Black Goose Biot
Rib: Fl. Pink/Chartreuse (depending on variation) UTC 140 Denier
Glue for Body: Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails
Collar: Black Semi-Seal (Pink) or Peacock Semi-Seal (Chartreuse)
Wings: White Goose Biot
The Tungsten Embryo has caught everything from Steelhead to Bull Trout to Alaskan Rainbows, dollies, and grayling. Not to mention just about every other salmonid species in the western US. It is an egg pattern with a tungsten bead embedded in the center to add the weight necessary to get the egg near the stream bottom where it belongs.
Steelhead Caught on Tungsten Embryo
Bull Trout Caught on Tungsten Embryo
Alaskan Rainbow Caught on Tungsten Embryo
If you are wondering how to tie flies that quickly get into the feeding zone of fish, tungsten is the answer. In the past I wasn’t a huge fan of the ever successful glo bug because it had no weight to it, and required significant amounts of split shot to get it down. Soft otter eggs fell into this same category of trout/steelhead egg patterns, and after years of moderate success I finally came up with an egg pattern that I have found to be significantly better. I’ve now been fishing this pattern for four years now and have found great success with it. It is extremely durable, and without a doubt either the hook will dull, or you will break off before the body of this pattern will fall apart.
Loon Outdoors has a product called UV Fly Paint. It is a UV curable material that comes in three colors, red, orange, and yellow. All three can be used on this fly, but red and orange are my preferred colors. I’ve also tried many different colored tungsten bead under this material, but silver has a very subtle shine from beneath the material that I personally prefer regardless of the outer material used.
Give this pattern a shot, you won’t be disappointed.
Hook: Dai-Riki 135 Sizes 8-12
Bead: Silver Tungsten 1/8-7/64 depending on hook size
Thread: UTC 140 FL Pink
Egg Material: UV Fly Paint (Red, Orange, or Yellow)