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
Two years ago while nymphing for steelhead on the Salmon River in Idaho I found myself struggling to catch fish. Like most anglers that day, luck was not in my favor. However, turned out that luck was not the contributing factor to my limited success. Fly selection on my part was probably more responsible for the lack of hookups than anything. This was made evident to me by my friend Chris Cutler who was the only one on the river that day not struggling to catch fish. The guy was killing it while the rest of us wore out our shoulders and pondered what he was doing different to aid in his success. I’m confident it was two things, one, he is a great angler with awesome skills, and two, he was throwing a Hot Spot Rubber Leg Stonefly which was found hanging from the mouth of many of his catches (check out Chris’ blog at Living Fly Legacy). The rest of us continued to pound the river with our own stonefly nymphs, and egg patterns, but the tide never changed in our favor. Needless to say I’ve since tied up dozens of these nymphs and will not be found on a steelhead river without plenty of them.
Traditional Rubber Leg Stonefly patterns have been catching trout like crazy for many years now. By adapting colors that are appealing to steelhead this fly becomes deadly while still being one of the easiest flies to tie around. My preferred method of nymphing is Euro Nymphing for steelhead. This tightline technique has done very well for me, and this fly pattern works very well in this setup.
It has quickly proven to be a go-to nymph, and I now started most of my days steelhead nymphing by tying one on. Simple to tie, and effective on the stream. Perfect combination!