Above: A Skeena River steelhead caught on a dead-drifted Black Tube Bomber ™ Picture with courtesy of Mr. Chad Black
Wake fly, dry fly, and skating flies are fishing forms closely associated with fly fishing for steelhead. Way’s of fishing only truly efficient when conditions and time are right, but anglers will prepare and gear up for the climax of fly fishing with great anticipation. Some steelhead anglers would say: Fishing on the top – is the only true way to catch this great fish.
Surface fishing for Atlantic salmon and sea-trout is a possibility during summer – But when low temperatures starts creeping up on angler in Europa and eastern Canada – salmon and sea-trout turn their attention away from waking and dead drifting flies – But steelhead can go ballistic on wake flies On a cold October mornings
Steelhead angler and Director of Wild Steelhead Funding with Native Fish Society: Mr Tom Derry Fish on the top for steelhead in British Columbia – Tom is using the Monster Tube Caddis steelhead tube fly.
Dead-drifting dry flies for steelheads
As all Salmonidae, the steelhead-parr have their focus pointed upwards a good part of the season, and fishing dry flies at dead-drift * is one straight forward method to hook up with adult steelhead
Fly patterns like; Clark`s Stonefly – Wulff flies – Humpy and Bombers are favoured dead drift patterns.
* Fishing at dead-drift: This morbid sentence is a term explaining a classic technique where the anglers leave the fly drifting motionless on the river surface – as opposed to waking the fly
1950’s The Steelhead Bee – The first intentional dry fly pattern for steelheads
Mr. Roderick Haig-Brown, author of many books on sport and a dedicated fly fisherman is considered to be the true pioneer in the discipline surface fishing for steelhead. Mr. Haig-Brown initially discovering some of the key elements in steelhead flies that led to the design of steelhead wake flies and wake fly fishing as we know it today.
Above: A beautiful hen fish caught on a Steelhead Bee A fly devices by Mr Roderick Haig-Brown from Vancouver.
Above: Superior holding pool for steelhead on the Skeena River system – Big boulders and safety in the medium deep water, will have the steelhead resting in these areas. A well presented dead drifting dry fly or a slowly moving wake fly like the Grantham Sedge or Steelhead Beetle could bring the fish to the oily surface. Picture with courtesy of Chad Black Nicholas Dean Lodge
Dead-Drifting a dry fly in one minute
Wake fly for steelhead
The steelhead is a highly surface active Salmonidae and fishing them on the top is regarded as the highest form of fly fishing. During summer and long into Autumn the steelhead will react aggressively to flies waked or skated across the surface. Steelhead anglers have built flies for this fishing for decades – Flies that will work on the top in both rough and calm water. Wake fly patterns like Waller Walker, Wag`s Walker, Pooldozer, Air B.C, The Ska-Opper – and The Grantham Sedge, to mention but a few.
Pulling flies in the surface is about creating a commotion – In some cases the wake could be the main attraction and the fly could literally be secondary
Regular flies used as a riffling hitch fly
Dragging a regular wet flies in the surface (Portland Hitch) or using tiny tube flies fished on an angle is a long-established technique for Atlantic salmon that also work fine for steelhead. One could call Riffling Hitch fishing: a quiet way of skating or waking a fly – but it would not be all correct as the actual presentation of the fly could be different on a steelhead river versus a salmon river – To see more on the riffling hitch technique see our pages on the subject
Bulky flies that wake
Bulky buoyant material like deer-hair and EVA-foam (Ethylene vinyl acetate) – Is widely used in conventional steelhead wake flies. The shape of the fly and the sheer bulkiness will also work to generate the wake.
Famous versions of the Bomber have been honed into shape to perform well and on the surface – when fished across the river.
Steelhead wake flies on tube
Tube wake flies – with a unique design
We have reworked the way of doing steelhead wake flies – By using the riffling hitch system on steelhead patters – You no longer have to work with demanding hitch knots or technical advice on what position the knot has to sit in correlation to the slope of the hook and the flow of the river etc.
Simply insert the leader through the hole in the belly of the tube – tie on a hook of your choice – and you good to go.
You may also want to try our way of designing steelhead wake flies: Tied on a tube with the leader entering at an angle thereby forcing the fly to the surface.
The Waller Walker – A wake fly icon. Designed by steelhead angler Mr Lani Waller. Supposedly the design was forced through by film-maker Mr John Fabio, who was filming Mr Waller. Mr Fabio wanted a fly that would show up on the river surface – so it could be seen properly on film. Mr Walker then made the fly that should become the grandfather of modern wake flies
Photo: We took the liberty of transforming the wake fly icon to a Fishmadman Tube Waller Walker
Wake version of the Bomber
It is said that the first Bomber pattern was designed by a Mr E. Smith in the 1960s. Mr Smith designed the fly as a commotion fly to fish Atlantic Salmon in the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. The pattern proved very successful on salmon and soon spread to steelhead anglers in the West who changed the overall design to enable it to wake better. Some even shape their Bomber to work with a dive and pop-up motion
Right: The Rusty Brown Bomber conceived by steelhead guide John Hazel in 1979. A favourite Bomber pattern with many steelheaders – Here done the Tube Bomber way.
To make Bombers perform better/differently when used as a wake fly West Coast anglers may also tie their Bombers with sparse or simply no hackle at all
Bomber influenced wake flies like; Moose Turd – Cigar Butt – Purple Bomber – Air B.C are chosen versions for commotion fishing
Photo : The famous Moose Turd wake fly by Bill McMillan – done the Fishmadman way on our Riffling Hitch Tube – The arrow show`s the entrance hole for the leader. This is a very dependable way of getting a fly pattern to pull to the surface and wake. Big and long wake fly patterns benefit much from this transition – like the tube fly fitted with a small wide gape hook (like a coarse fishing carp hook) – will weigh less than a conventional fly tied on a long shank hook – furthermore, tube fly patterns do not have issues with leverage that so often is associated with flies tied on bigger single hooks. The fly wake´s effortlessly and work´s very lively on the surface. The tube allow`s for multiple choice of hooks and hook settings.
Right: Our version of the classic steelhead fly the Rusty Brown Bomber Tied on our Riffling Hitch tube
Babine River style Bombers
We have been fortunate to work with some longtime steelhead anglers on a new Bomber project – producing some unique versions of the Bomber styled for rivers like; The Bulkley, Skeena, Kispiox and the Babine.
Above: The Green But Bomber wake fly – that we will do in # 6 and # 2
These two Bomber wake patterns were designed to fit our riffling hitch tube system by steelheader Mr. Loren Irving from Oregon. The fly composition and styling were inspired by his fishing partners Mr. Frank Cammack and Mr. Jim Bussard, two veteran steelheaders also from Oregon.
Above: The Brown Bomber wake fly
Above: A favourite Bomber colour both for steelhead and Atlantic Salmon: The Aqua Blue Bomber wake fly
Wake and skate fly with a very different approach
Some top water flies for steelhead is made to plow through the surface some are made to create a moderate wake, others like the Ska-Opper or the Quigley’s Dragon Gurgler is designed for a more active life in the surface: bobbing, making a wake and spitting water.Left: The Ska-Opper: A modern Skate/Popping fly by steelhead guide Mr Scott Howell – Here done on our Riffling Hitch tube. Buy the Ska-Opper wake fly tied on a tube
Photo by Mr, Adam Tavender
See the Ska-opper in use
The Grease Liner
A classic steelhead wake fly pattern designed by Mr Harry Lemire in 1962. This pattern was once everybody’s favourite fly and a “must-have wake fly” in the fly box – but over time flies that wake with greater ease was to substitute the Grease Liner.
We tie the Grease liner on our Riffling Hitch tube and you will find that it wakes as well as any modern wake fly.
The Grantham Sedge a fly to create a small wake
Here we have made a version of the superb Grantham Sedge wake fly – Designed by Mr Ron Grantham – Fly is tied on our Riffling Hitch Tube. The tube will allow the hook to be turned in various positions facing down, up or on an angle allowing for different hook-up options.
The Monster Tube Caddis
The WAKE version of our Monster Tube Caddis – A special design we have perfected over the last years – Developed for steelhead fishing – but has also proved to work for salmon in lakes and rivers – A unique caddisfly imitation to bring curious fish to the top. Buy the wake Monster Tube Caddis here
The FlashBack Bug
Steelhead anglers have been fishing this new wake fly pattern on different rivers in British Columbia and Oregon the summer of 2014 and the results have been great. It was later named The FlashBack Bug
We have tied it in 3 sizes similar to flies tied on # 1 – 4 – 8 hooks
It features our Riffling Hitch tube system and wakes perfectly in rough and calm water.