Fly Tying: November, 2017

The Metal Detector


For some of us the dropping temperatures and the falling leaves are signals that the annual approach of winter steelhead fishing is just around the corner. Instead of traveling to the Deschutes for our steelhead “fix” we are able to stay closer to home and fish local waters like the Clackamas and Sandy rivers. So now is the time to get ready by checking those fly boxes to make sure you have a full arsenal of winter steelhead patterns.

When asked to give me the name of a likely winter steelhead fly candidate for our November Fly Tying Night, two of my regular sources of information, Josh Linn and Dave Kilhefner, both mentioned the fly with the promising name of “Metal Detector”. When searching for a grab by a steelhead it makes sense that you can hardly go wrong with a fly called the Metal Detector.

Northwest guide Marty Sheppard is credited with coming up with the Metal Detector series of flies. Marty and his wife Mia have been the owners since 2003 of Little Creek Outfitters, a guide service based in Maupin. They specialize in swinging flies with both two handed and single handed rods and regularly guide on the Deschutes, Grande Ronde, John Day, and Sandy rivers.

Marty, along with his friend Josh Linn, experimented with a variety of materials in hopes of coming up with a large profile fly that was also easier to cast than some of the flies on the market at the time. The key turned out to be using materials that don’t soak up a lot of water. This makes the Metal Detector flies lighter and thus easier to cast than many flies. And we all know that heavy flies and sink tips can turn a promising day of fishing into an unpleasant chore. Marty Sheppard’s fly was originally tied with bucktail but now is also tied with finn raccoon. Both materials are buoyant, absorb little water, and don’t clump together when wet. Polar chenille, while also absorbing little water, is included in the body to give a translucent glow from the inside out. The flies are finished off with some flash and a marabou collar which provides added movement in the water. Trailing stinger hooks are used to help ensure the greater chance of a hookup.


Metal Detectors are usually two toned flies with favorite color combinations being black and blue, and red and orange. Black and blue is especially good on overcast days, dark conditions, or when the water is off color. The red and orange flies are preferred in bright sunlight or when the water is especially clear. It is interesting that all of the Metal Detectors I found in fly shop bins were tied on metal shanks, while Dave Kilhefner says that Marty actually ties his own on tubes.

Join us at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, November 29th to tie up some Metal Detectors for the start of winter steelheading. It would be helpful if you brought your own super glue along with your vise and fly tying tools. As always, we will start at 6:00 pm. Hope to see you there!


Leave a Reply