The best steelhead nymphs are the ones in which you have the most confidence. After all, “best” isn’t measurable. But if you buy into the old saw that the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it, I’d like to offer up five steelhead nymphs that have proven their worthiness on New York’s Salmon River.
So, what qualifies a steelhead fly as a nymph? For the purposes of this list, I’ve kept it to flies that are size 8 or smaller; flies that feature predominantly muted colors (hot spots, contrast points, and bead heads are allowed); and flies whose basic construct is at least 50% actual invertebrate driven. So, no bigger stoneflies here. No Steelhead Hammer types. And no black-light poster colors. Here we go, in no particular order. As a bonus, some of the patterns have links to my tying video.
Soft-Hackled Bead Head Pheasant Tail. I was pleased no end to discover that Salmon River steelhead would eat this rather muted pattern. I’ve done really well with this fly in winter.
60-Second Redhead. The beauty of this fly isn’t that if you lose one to the bottom gods, you’re not depressed because they’re so fast and easy to tie. It’s that this fly, which would never catch your eye in a retail bin, is like candy to steelhead when they’re eating bugs.
60-Second Copperhead. After pounding up so many steelhead on the redhead, I wondered if they’d like a version with a copper Ice Dub head. A wise old Salmon River veteran once told me, “It’s hard to go wrong on this river with black and copper.” He was mighty right.
Copperhead Stone. I landed my first steelhead on this fly, and years later, it still works. I remember one morning in the Lower Fly Zone when I was handing them out to everyone who wanted to know, “What fly are you using?”
Spider. Another ridiculously simple tie (notice a pattern here?): size 12 hook, black Krystal Flash tail, black Estaz body, copper (the original calls for olive or pearl) braid flashback. Designed by Clyde Murray for Erie fish, the Salmon River steelhead like it just fine.
My top five steelhead nymphs for the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY, are all very simple ties. Note that they all have some kind of contrast, flash, or hot spot. These are all high-confidence patterns for me, all proven producers, and it’s hard to go wrong with any of them when you suspect the steelhead are eating nymphs.
looks like you are tying these on short shank nymph hooks or egg hooks?
You’re spot on with the short shank nymph hooks — 2x short I believe — but you can get the exact hook specs if you click on the links to the flies that have videos and recipes. 🙂
Coll I am actually going up there Sat. I will let you know how the flies preform. Tying a few of each as we speak.
Slow weekend up here in Pulaski, not one fish between the 4 of us not one hit between the four of us, saw one salmon taken and talked to many drift boat guides 5 boatfulls to be exact 1 fish 1 hit
Ouch! That’s rough. I know how frustrating that can be. We just got back from two days and had to work hard for our fish. By all accounts, it’s been a very challenging year and so far a poor run.
[…] As you can see, we were successful! The first fish came on a Copperhead Stone. The second came on a small nymph called the Spider. Photo by James Kirtland. I wish I was signaling that I’m currently engaged with my fifth […]