If you have not already done so, it is time to get out on the water to take part in the annual search for winter chrome. While forecasts for winter steelhead have been mixed in their degrees of optimism, we need to be prepared when the word comes that the fish are in the rivers. Our last monthly Fly Tying Night was directed toward the beginning tyer and this month we will be following up with an effective steelhead pattern that will be suitable for both experienced and beginning tyers.
Fly patterns for winter steelhead continue to steadily evolve as people experiment with ideas for what is going to work the best to entice fish to be curious enough, or angry enough, to take a swipe at a fly. Sometimes it is important to have a look at some old stand-by patterns and remember that they should still be worthy to occupy space in your fly box and deserve an opportunity to prove their value. My first successful experiences in the quest for winter steelhead were all the result of using variations of a fly called the Popsicle, appropriately named for the three-toned orange, red and purple frozen treat from childhood days.
Today George Cook is probably best known as a casting instructor and fly fishing industry representative, but earlier in his career he spent many years as a guide. Cook is generally credited with coming up with the Popsicle back in the 1980’s during his guiding days up in Alaska. Fly tyers have long recognized the value of marabou because of its animated action in the water. Using marabou for salmon and steelhead flies was being done as early as the 1940’s, if not before. But by combining colorful combinations of marabou along with synthetic flash materials, George Cook carved his name into the list of noted salmon and steelhead fly innovators.
The Popsicle and all of its near relatives were part of a group Cook’s steelhead and salmon patterns that became known as the “Alaskabou” series of flies, with the Popsicle probably being the best known example. All of the Alaskabou flies originally employed three colors of marabou as the main ingredients, along with some flash material, usually flashabou or krystal flash, or both. With the myriad colors of marabou that are available today, the number of possible color variations of Popsicle type flies is limited only by the tyer’s imagination. These flies can be tied weighted or unweighted and are generally fished on the swing.
For this month’s Fly Tying Night we’ll be tying up some Popsicle steelhead flies, and perhaps some other Alaskabou color variations as well. These are not difficult flies to tie and therefore should be suitable for beginning as well as experienced tyers, and will give you a chance to develop your skills working with marabou. Join us at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, January 23rd. We’ll be starting at 6:00 pm.