Fly tying video: the Copperhead Stone steelhead nymph

I have an emotional connection to this pattern — it’s the fly I used to land my first steelhead. It was given to me on the river with the guarantee that I would hook a steelhead. And so it came to pass. 

My First Steelhead

I kept that fly so I could duplicate it at home. The original had a black wool tag that extended a few turns below the tail; I have eliminated it, apparently with no ill effects.

The North-Country Spider Egg Steelhead Soft Hackle

This modern take on the traditional template is one of my favorite steelhead patterns.

Hook: Orvis 1641 size 8-10
Thread: 6/0, color to match head
Tail: Hen hackle fibers
Body: Diamond braid color to match hackle and tail
Hackle: Hen

Here’s what I wrote about the North-Country Spider Egg in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of American Angler:

T.E. Pritt never chased chrome, but his renowned North-Country spiders make for fine steelhead soft-hackles. I’ve had even more success with the spider template by adding a tail and using bright colors and modern materials. Pritt may be rolling over in his grave at the liberties I’ve taken, but he could not argue with the results: steelhead love this fly.

Classic North-Country patterns like the Winter Brown and the Grey Partridge sport a head of wound peacock herl. In the Spider Egg, I’m simply using a few turns of Estaz Petite. The Estaz should be a contrasting color to the monochromatic body, wing, and tail. I like black/chartreuse; chartreuse/black; chartreuse/white; black/purple; and metallic copper/black. You can and should experiment with different color combinations.

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The North-Country Spider Egg Rogues’ Gallery:

Fresh chrome, Salmon River, 11/2014

Fresh Chrome, November 2014

Steelhead Marabou Stingers

It’s the modern way with so many streamers. But today I am not interested in pushing water. I want to embrace it. Cherish it. Become one with its fluidity.

Here are two simple, elegant streamers, tied on articulated shanks with a trailing stinger hook. Their intent is seduction, not overt lateral line pandering. A tail of rabbit with some Krystal Flash. Soft, flowing marabou that caresses the currents and whispers, “I’m alive.” A little flash to augment the flavors, not overpower them. Intended for steelhead, but certainly appealing to trout. Cast. Swing. Dangle.

And hold on.

Steelhead Marabou Stinger

Steelhead Marabou Stinger

Shank: Fish Skull Articulated Shank 35mm
Thread: Black 6/0
Stinger: Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot, size 2, attached with 30 pound Fireline
Tail: Black rabbit strip with black Krystal Flash.
Body: Palmered marabou: black, then wine, then purple, then two turns fluorescent red
Topping/Cheeks: Red, blue, purple flashabou.

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Steelhead Marabou Stinger 2

Steelhead Marabou Sringer 2

Shank: Fish Skull Articulated Shank 35mm
Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Stinger: Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop Shot, size 2, attached with 30 pound Fireline
Tail: White rabbit strip with pearl Krystal Flash.
Body: Palmered marabou: white, then pink, then four turns chartreuse
Topping/Cheeks: Silver, blue, green flashabou.

Steelhead streamer: The Grapefruithead Leech

The Grapefruithead Leech is the creation of steelhead guide Kevin Feenstra out of Michigan. I first saw this pattern a couple years ago in John Nagy’s Steelhead Guide. I remember thinking it was a horrible fly. You know, over-the-top, unapologetic, in-your-face, clearly inspired by the egg-sucking leech. I was thumbing through the book this past fall, looking for some ideas, and there it was again. Over the next few weeks, I kept coming back to it. It was kind of like drinking a new bottle of wine that you’re not sure you like; as you’re trying to decide, you realize the bottle’s nearly empty. So I tied some up for my November 2013 trip. Wouldn’t you know, I caught my first steelhead on the swing on this horrible, beautiful, wonderful fly. Feenstra says he likes this pattern whenever there’s snow on the ground. I can tell you that steelhead also like it near dusk on a snowless day, dangling in the current near the tailout of a shallow run.

The Grapefruithead Leech

Image

Hook: Daiichi 2461 or 3XL streamer hook, size 4-2/0
Tail: Black Marabou with sparse red flash
Body: Black marabou, palmered
Overbody:  Black or purple schlappen, palmered
Collar: Mallard flank, one turn
Flash: Green, silver, and blue flashabou
Head: Large fuchsia cactus chenille with a veil of chartreuse ice dub
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Tying Notes: This fly looks huge out of the water; however, the lion’s share of the bulk comes from soft-hackled feathers, so it will slim down dramatically when wet. Before you tie the body, remember to leave enough space for the head. I left a good 1/3 of the shank. To make the body, first tie in a large blood marabou quill by the tip, and a schlappen feather by the tip. Palmer the marabou up the shank; leave enough space between wraps so that a single feather covers the shank. Be sure all the marabou fibers are floating freely. Wrapping the schlappen is the hardest part of tying the fly; take care to mat down as few of the marabou fibers as possible. I used a swaying, back-and-forth motion with the feather as I wrapped, and a bodkin to pick out the marabou when necessary. This fly has way more flash than I typically use in my ties, but subtlety not being its strong point, what the heck. I used 3-4 stands of each color, cut them in half, then tied them in one color at a time. Three turns of cactus chenille, then cover the head with a sparse veil of chartreuse ice dub. (Get it? It looks like a slice of grapefruit.)