Four Multi-Purpose Flies

With warm, dark nights still a possibility in September, I wanted to tie a few more flies for nightfishing. I also wanted my selections to be useful for the rapidly approaching steelhead season. Given a minimal amount of time for tying, I wanted to quickly find some patterns that would have dark colors and a bushy quality for the night-time browns, and would still be attractive to the spawning steelhead of the tributaries.  It would be a bonus if the patterns were also effective for late-summer bass on streams like lower Pine Creek. A tall order? Perhaps.

There are literally thousands of fly patterns that have been developed for anglers over the years, and probably most of them will eventually catch fish for you if, by magic, you have time to try them all, so you might be thinking that the pattern possibilities for nightfishing, for steelhead, and for smallmouth have to be overwhelming. Actually I found the process of selection fairly easy, but only after I included several criteria that had to be met.

The patterns had to be simple in design and easy to tie (my abilities are only average, at best). The patterns had to be traditional, with some history behind them. The assumption here is that if time has proven the patterns to be effective, the angler is enabled to focus on the fishing process rather than on the fly itself. Lastly, the patterns had to “make sense” for the time of year and water conditions.

The four patterns that I tied all use a #6 wet fly hook, except for one that uses a #8 streamer, although the hook sizes can vary according to taste.

First of all, let’s take a look at the one exceptional pattern. I call it an Egg-sucking Bugger, which is really just a cross between the famous Wooly Bugger and the Egg-sucking Leech. I don’t think there’s another pattern in my boxes that attracts as many fish (or big fish) through the fall, winter and spring as the Bugger fly. I wouldn’t be without it.

Hook: #8 streamer. Thread: black. Tail: black maribou, with a few added strands of Krystal Flash. Body: dubbed black fur. Hackle: palmered ginger or grizzly. Head: orange bug yarn.

A second pattern is the Black and Orange, a Lord Baltimore variation that I know almost nothing of except that it is old and looks eminently “fishable.”

Hook: #6 wet. Thread: black. Tail: black hackle. Rib: black floss. Body: orange yarn. Hackle: black. Wing: black.

My third selection is the well-known steelhead pattern called the Green Butt Skunk.

Hook: #6 wet. Thread: Black. Tail: red hackle fibers. Butt: green chenille. Body: black chenille. Rib: silver Mylar. Hackle: black. Wing: white calf tail.

My final selection for the job is the classic Coachman, with a variation at the wing.

Hook: #6 wet. Thread: black. Body: 3 strands of peacock herl. Hackle: brown. Wing: instead of the traditional duck quill I opted for the softer grouse or partridge feather (2).

I’ll keep you posted on how these patterns work after dark or in the steelhead riffles and the smallmouth pools this fall. Admittedly this is an experiment. If you’re a fly fisher and have any favorites of your own for this occasion, I’d be interested in hearing of them. Till then I hope your line gets a jolt and the rod bends deeply.

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About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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2 Responses to Four Multi-Purpose Flies

  1. Mel says:

    Walt, looks a very good set of fly patterns to approach your challenges with. The “Bugger” and it’s many variations are impossible to be without! Wishing you the best. Fish on!

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