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Winter’s Spey

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winter steelhead
winter steelhead

It's not always necessary to have a huge fly, a heavy fly, or the latest and greatest style.  Even in winter, there are certain runs that are pretty straight forward to swing.  They’re not deep, fast or technical.  Im talking about the classic runs, the ones we’ve all read about in our steelheading bibles.  “That run" with a perfect 3 to 4 foot depth, with a sexy catwalk pace flow.  

Im talking about sun warming your fingers, water temperature on the rise, and steelhead senses going on overdrive as you step through.  That run you just know will hold a fish, perhaps even a 40” fish of a lifetime.

Heavy, XL lead eyes on your intruder will snag bottom on every swing, especially when your fly creeps into “that” inside slow flow.  The flow where your line nearly stops, right where you hooked and lost a hog last time you stepped through the run.

Sometimes T-14 is too much tip, some days the fish are feeling happy in their hold, and willing to move a little.  As Dec Hogan says, steelhead aren’t small fish, and with a slight rise of their head and they can reach up a foot in the water column without much effort.  On those days, wouldn’t it be nice to lighten up? Try throwing a type 3, perhaps with your fall Scandi setup or a classic 15’ and long line.  On “that” day, wouldn’t it be nice to fish a fly to suit the mood, one that your buddies envy and wish they could tie and fish.

This is a pattern that looks more complicated than it is, and surely with a little practice could be tied by anyone.  



Here are a few notes on tying the pattern, that could make your life a little easier:

  • Try not to over dub the body, a bushy body looks buggy, but doesn’t sink well. Ever seen an overdressed marabou fly floating on the surface for the first 20’ of “swing”?
  • It's better to dub with less than you think is needed and brush it out with a toothbrush or velcro, or pick it out with a bobbin.
  • The schlappen hackle should be stripped on one side for the same reasons, too much material just doesn’t fish well, and you’ll notice more hackle movement in the water with one side stripped.
  • When you create the Rhea Hackle dubbing loop, keep the fibres evenly spaced, as if they were still on the feather stem.  Trim them to reach roughly the end of the hook, any longer and they’re likely to tangle during the swing.
  • The butts of the hackle wing should be tied down on top, fed through the hook eye, and tied back down on the underside of the hook.  This will create a nibble proof wing.  
  • Do everything you can to keep thread wraps to a minimum.  I prefer Nano Silk thread.  Its ridiculously strong and tiny!  4-6 wraps will secure most materials.

1.5 Alec Jackson Hook
Tag: Pearl Mylar
Tail: UV Amherst
Body: 1/3 UV Pink, 2/3 Orange Ice Dub
Hackle: UV Pink Schlappen stripped on one side with final 1/3 Pink Rhea
Rib: Oval Tinsel
Collar: Silver Pheasant stripped one side
Wing: 4 Hackle tips, 2 Yellow between Shrimp Pink
Head: UV Pink


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