In the art of fly tying, it's always a gas to breathe new life to an old standard (even if you don't play much with the recipe at all). That's what Ian McNemar has done with The Golden Demon, a traditional salmon and steelhead fly pattern that originated in England probably around the turn of the 20th Century.
Ian has recently been inspired by John Shewey's brilliant work on steelhead fly tying, and he's been burning through the book, tying pattern after pattern. Steelhead flies are enticing to the modern aesthetic for their restrained use of material and their clean and graceful geometries.
The history of The Golden Demon is that of a well-traveled fly. Fly fishing author and historian, Dick Surette, explains:
"The Golden Demon is probably the most used fly on Black Lake and in the Connecticut Lakes area of N.H. This fly has an interesting and well-traveled background. The fly was originated in England and brought to New Zealand where Zane Grey use it in the 1920's. He then brought some flies back to the West Coast for steelhead and salmon. Then the fly appeared on the salmon rivers of New Brunswick, especially on the Cains River. From New Brunswick the pattern filtered down to the area northern New Hampshire in the early 1930's and has been a most popular pattern in that area ever since. The orange throat is supposed to be the color that is repulsive to demons and is tied in several variations such as the Silver Demon and Black Demon" (Trout and Salmon Fly Index).
Remarkably, the design has gone through very few changes through the course of its travel and continues to be one of those "top producers" fly shop junkies love to chew on about for hours with their fly fishing and tying compatriots.
Today, The Golden Demon is quite effective in the Atlantic salmon water of North America's rocky northeastern coast, and is a killer pattern in the Pacific Northwest. It's sparse dressing style and bright colors are perfect for a fall trip to the Deschutes River in Central Oregon, and it was probably the foundational pattern for the Fall Favorite, another popular fly design used throughout the Pacific Northwest on steelhead and salmon.
Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com
flies and photos provided by Ian McNemar, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com
The Purple Peril, like all classic steelhead flies, has been refined and developed over time. One could liken this process to aging a youthful and brawny chardonnay or single malt in oak barrels, yielding an older, more sophisticated version of its youth.
The original Purple Peril was probably a much less sleek or sparse fly, but the collective modern fly tying sensibility has pushed this bug from bushy and bullish to trim and fit. It's fished effectively on the swing in that classic green steelhead water of the Pacific Northwest from Northern California through British Columbia, and that diehard set of Great Lakes steelheaders in the Upper Midwest can also find great success with this fly.
The fly is traditionally tied (like the one below) with a bucktail wing and a tinseled body for a bit of attraction.
To some, the use of synthetics fly tying materials in the dressing of classic fly patterns ought to be an illegal act sanctioned by the IFGA, but to others, the incorporation of new materials in old designs is just part of how the world progresses.
Here's a take on the classic steelhead fly that makes excellent use of Enrico Puglisi's EP Fibers in place of the more traditional bucktail wing. EP Fibers are a soft, ultra-light synthetic fly tying material commonly used in bonefish flies and long, saltwater streamers and baitfish patterns.
Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.blogspot.com
flies and photographs provided by Ian McNemar, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.blogspot.com