Summer Steelhead Flies?

Summer Steelhead Fles?

This is the age of Intruders and Tube flies, and oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention “strung-out” steelhead flies.  These are great fish catching innovations.  They wiggle and jiggle and use different hooks, and do, in fact, sometimes elicit great takes and quite possibly enhance fish-hooked-to-landed ratios.


One might wonder, if one has finished reading all the boring articles about the history of salmon hatcheries; digging globs of AquaSeal out of the carpet in the family room; nail-knotting braided loops to shooting heads; tying up full boxes of Clousers that are ¾” longer than the flies fished last season; working overtime to buy a lifetime supply of claret saddle hackles, conducting break-strength tests on seventeen brands of leader material, using 6 different knots;  and trying to hack the boss’s computer to add twelve weeks of vacation time to one’s account; and figuring (optimistically) how much of a tax refund one will get next year to justify a home equity loan to buy a new power boat now – why bother fishing old-style summer steelhead flies?

Well, here’s why.

Sometimes they will catch more fish then the new-fangled flies.  Honestly.  I think.

I just finished shooting over 40 videos of some of my favorite summer steelhead flies with Chris Daughters at the Caddis Fly.  Some of the “old differs” out there in Google-land will look at these flies and see crittery bugs they have fished in year’s gone by.  Some will see flies they still have n their boxes.  Ain’t much that is “revolutionary” in this collection.  Maybe “evolutionary, though.  I have taken a number of traditional steelhead (and salmon) flies, modified colors and materials a little, and developed these flies.  No, I don’t carry two-dozen each of 40 different flies every time I go on the river.  that would be silly.  That would be what I did twenty years ago.  These days, I only carry one dozen each of these forty flies, plus my Intruders, my Tubes, and my strung-out flies.

Just kidding.

I am more likely to fish flies like those pictured here during the spring, summer, and autumn.  They fish well, swim straight and true, and steelhead eat ‘em.

My go-to summer steelhead flies include large and small comet-boss style flies, and traditionally silhouetted steelhead or Atlantic salmon wet flies.  Remember the Green Butt Skunk?

Shortly, I’ll describe each of these fly styles and my (irrational) rationality for fishing each.

Meanwhile, have a great weekend, go fishing, be grateful for your life gifts, and be kind to someone – I bet they need some good Karma just like we do.


7 thoughts on “Summer Steelhead Flies?

  1. Small flies & summer steelhead! It is time, my friend. Long may you swim #8 Comets (and all your glorious and evolutionary variations)…

  2. Jay,

    Great looking flies. I especially like the blue and purple. Is there a reason you favor the down eyed hooks? Also, any skaters in the arsenal or are Willamette hatchery fish not terribly prone to eating on the surface?

    1. And the down eye hooks? Highly scientific studies conducted by me, personally, and without any bias whatsoever have determined positively that the hooked/grabbed ration and the landed/hooked ratios are 0.00693 higher on this down-eye hook, as compared to an up-eye hook. I would actually prefer a straight eye hook which delivers 0.00042 improvement over the down-eye, but such hooks are rare in combination with the desired length/weight/point sharpness/point taper/barb height/steel hardness factor. Basically the TMC 700 is one rockin’ hook.

      Just because i happen to live in the Willamette Valley, home of ONLY hatchery summer steelhead, doesn’t mean that these flies are fit ONLY for hatchery summer steelhead. That cleared up, yes, Willamette summers are probably more likely to eat the sunk fly than the skated fly, but look out when you find slightly less pressured fish and the water warms up a little, like at 3 PM. JN

    1. Mark, belatedly, you know that I am not tying commercially thank goodness. And I am glad that you were able to hook up with Barrett and Clay to get some custom fly work done before your exciting trip. JN

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