By December, bright sea run steelhead are entering many of our west coast rivers. Most fishermen use drift rods and an assortment of lures although yarn flies are also popular for enticing a steelhead strike! The advantage of this technology is that a float can be adjusted to the depth of water where the fish are lying just off the bottom. As well, by placing your initial cast in the right spot, very long runs can be accomplished with the assistance of the downstream current and thus keeping your lure or yarn fly where it counts for much longer periods of time. However, there are steelheaders who still prefer to use fly casting equipment for these wonderful fish and I agree that there is no greater thrill than catching a steelie on a fly that you have tied! As the rivers begin to clear from the fall rains, patience and skill with a flyrod does pay off providing you can work your fly near the bottom where the fish are resting. The steelhead skunk is a time proven fly that will catch fish with the right presentation and it is the subject of this month's fly tying article.
Start by wrapping a few turns of pencil lead near the hook eye. Next, lay the red kip's tail along the hook shank and secure it to form a tail about 1/3 the length of the fly body. Then attach a 4 inch piece of either silver or gold tinsel to the hook shank and allow it flow past the hook bend. Also secure some black chenille at the hook bend and wrap it foward to the hook eye, followed by 5 or so wraps of the tinsel in a counter direction to the hook eye. Next make the wing by first tying in a piece of black kip's hair, then overlay that with white kip's hair and half hitch so that it flows over the hook shank as far as the end of the tail. The final step is to spin one or two turns of a black hackle feather at the hook eye, forming it so that most of the hackle flows underneath at the throat. Tie off, cement, and you have finished a very effective steelhead fly.
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