Bootleg Fly: Green Butt Purple Skunk vs. Silver Hilton

Well, we set our clocks forward, the days are getting longer, March Madness is nearly upon us, and spring is in the air. All this, of course, means summer steelhead aren't far behind.

I'm still inspired by mash-up DJs and bootleg fly patterns, and longing for some summer steelhead action, so I decided to combine two of my favorite low water summer patterns. A little Green Butt Purple Skunk, a bit Silver Hilton, this fly is absolutely wicked on the greased line swing.

I've always loved the grizzly hackle tip wing on the Silver Hilton. It's such a severe, sparse fly, yet these long, dramatic wings bring a graceful, rich, and sweeping quality to it. I always use Diamond Brite dubbing for the butt on this fly because it just adds a little something else to the mix, something that pedestrian chenille can't hope to provide.

Underwater, the two stately hackle tips hold forth. They gyrate, flow, and tantalize (if you haven't seen it, get a copy of Lani Waller's original steelhead tapes and watch him fish the Silver Hilton with great success).

When I fish the Deschutes in August, I like to carry a whole box of these in addition to a full array of summer Spey and Dee patterns, as well as a whack of caddis and stonefly adults. It's a smallish Wheatley box. I keep it in my left chest pocket next to a tightly rolled Ramon Allones and beneath a small nip flask of Bullet.

I can't wait for the dog days.

The Green Bootie Purple Hilton >>

Hook >> Tiemco 7999SP, sizes 8-4
Thread >> Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread, 210 denier, red
Bootie >> Spirit River Diamond Brite Dubbing, caddis green
Ribbing >> Wapsi UTC French Oval Tinsel, medium, silver
Body >> Spirit River Angora goat dubbing, dark stone
Collar >> Spirit River Schlappen, purple
Wing >> Matched Keough grizzly hackle tips

Maybe the dog days aren't here yet, and we may not have a summer run for a few months, but in the meantime, here's a little something from DJ Axel, Hova, and GNR to carry you through... (Axl Rose's white leather get up is so rad).

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

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Fly Recipe: Shunji's Kabuki Fly

In the 1600s a new form of dance theater emerged in the dusty streets of Kyoto, Japan. The men and women who performed in these gritty, impromptu plays depicted "ordinary life" in 17th Century Japan and they did so with a new, avant-garde, and sexually charged style that became known as "Kabuki."

Here is an image of an early Kabuki performer, Izumo no Okuni (from Okuni Kabuki-zu Byōbu, a six-panel screen, a collection of Kyoto National Museum).The suggestive nature of these early performances (and their loose association with prostitution) quickly drew attention from all corners of Japanese society and the movement developed at a fevered pace. Soon, Kabuki performers were gracing not only the stages of Kyoto's crowded and narrow streets, but the guilded halls of the Japanese Imperial Court as well. This tradition continues today, and although it's changed a great deal over the centuries, the obsessively stylized and edgy spirit of Kabuki remains.

It's with this same spirit that Shunji, a San Francisco, CA-based angler and fly tyer, developed his Kabuki Fly.

In Shunji's aesthetic contemplation of the fly, color and shape are clearly important. Also, proportion and exactitude shine through in the design. According to Shunji, "I wanted to have a small body profile while keeping enough volume to be a good snack size for trout and steelhead. At the same time, I wannted to give the fly a longer profile for a good swimming action."

He went on to say, "I think these flies are very useful in many conditions; they'll fish well in fast water or calm, pool-like water. I prefer the faster water. They could be used from Russian river to the Smith I hope!"
Shunji's Kabuki Fly demonstrates the value of precision, thoughtfullness, and experimentation in the world of fly tying.

Scholars believe the word "kabuki" is derived from the Japanese verb "kabuku," which means "to lean" or "to be out of the ordinary." Loosely translated into English, kabuki means "avant-garde."

Whatever you want to call them, Shunji's Kabuki Flies are certainly out of the ordinary. Modern fly designers, take note.

Shunji's Kabuki Fly >>

Hook >> Gamakatsu Octupus size 6, and 7999 size 8
Thread >> Danville 6/0 red for some of them, black for some of them
Wing >> Black bucktail
Hackle >> Schlappen, color is varied
Rib >> Medium silver flat tinsel
Body >> Wool dubbing or Angora goat dubbing
Butt >> Black bucktail
Throat >> Natural guinea feather or natural teal flank feather

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos and flies courtesy of Shunji, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Recipe: Ian's Whiplash Prawn

Well, Ian McNemar has been logging some hard hours at the vise lately. He's been caught up in the world of tube flies now for a while, and it looks like the obsession is paying off.

Here are two variations of his newest tube pattern, a fly he calls the Whiplash Prawn.

I think he likes Metallica...

Ian's Purple Whiplash Prawn >>

Tube >> HMH thick wall micro tubing nested with clear HMH hybrid tubing
Feelers >> Black bucktail
Flash >> Pearl crystal splash
Butt >> Pink angora goat dubbing
Body >> Claret wool dubbing
Rib >> Small oval silver tinsel
Hackle >> Purple schlappen
Wing >> Black bear hair
Thread >> Danville 6/0 gray/blue
Hook >> Daiichi 1650 tube fly hook, size 6

Ian's Orange Whiplash Prawn >>

Tube >> HMH thick-wall micro tubing nested with HMH orange hybrid tubing for the junction
Eyes >> Small pink shiny beads glued onto 33lb hard mono
Feelers >> Black bucktail
Butt >> Pink angora goat dubbing
Body >> Brown angora boat dubbing
Rib >> Small silver oval tinsel
Hackle >> Orange schlappen
Wing >> Black bear hair
Thread >> Red Danville 6/0
Hook >> Daiichi 1650 tube fly hook, size 6

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos and flies courtesey of Ian McNemar, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


All Mashed Up: Bootleg Flies

Progress and development in fly tying (aside from the really ground-breaking stuff) resembles the pirate-minded bootlegging of the post-modern bastardized-pop world of digital music. Mashups, smashups, cutups, and boots, are tracks that combine the rythym and vocals of different pop songs to create new, Frankenstein-ed creations. Some love them, some hate them, but it seems they're here to stay.

(Here is a fine example of a mash up for those of you who may not have noticed this under-the-radar, barely legal form of music making:

"Tender Umbrella," Party Ben, Rihanna vs. General Public

If you'd like to learn more about mashups, www.bootiesf.com is a great place to get acquainted with them.)

Hot "new" flies are most often mashups, the result of modern artists combining fly patterns new and old, or elements of them, to create something else to toss into the drift.

And so the analogy is drawn; tyers of new and modern flies
blend tying techniques, color, proportion, design, and materials in the same way digital DJs mix beats, vocals, riffs, and genres to push things forward.

The Original Bootleg Fly: Lefty vs. Bob, the Half and Half

The Half & Half: Just like rich Guinness Stout and crisp Harp Lager at your favorite Irish pub, right? Well, not exactly, but the Clouser/Kreh Half & Half is similarly designed and is perhaps the original mashup of the modern fly tying world.

By ingeniously combining two of the most effective baitfish fly patterns in the history of saltwater fly fishing (a little Clouser Minnow on top, a little Lefty’s Deceiver on bottom), Bob Clouser and Lefty Kreh created a bootleg "Super Fly" and may have stumbled upon one of the most incredible Frankenstein flies a surf-cruising striped bass or ravenous blue will ever lay its eyes and lips on!

To be clear, making a comparison between musical mashups and bootleg flies should not in any way detract from the value of the progression of fly tying (or music).

It's simply a different way to think about the flies we tie.

In fact, I'd argue that, just as the greatest (and worst) tracks of the mashup world demonstrate, a lot goes into the understanding of how to create something new (and good) from something old.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Recipe: MJ's Rubber Leg Copper John

The classic Copper John nymph, an attractor fly originally designed by Colorado-based angler and modern fly tying master, John Barr, was intended to sink quickly and to be fished in concert for big trout with larger grasshopper imitations. Over the years, however, the pattern has developed a cult following of anglers who use the Copper John on its own as a wickedly productive searching nymph in both rapid and still waters.

Matt "MJ" Jones of San Francisco, CA is an avid trout angler. He spends lots of time on the rich fly water of California's high country. The Truckee River is one of his favorite spots and this simple, but effective, Rubber Leg Copper John is one of his favorite flies.

Each time he heads to the Reno-Truckee area, MJ is sure to have a box-load of these bugs in red, chartreuse, and copper color variations at the ready. He loves this fly because it works well in the varied water anglers can encounter on rivers like the Truckee and for its simple design.

MJ's Rubber Leg Copper John >>

Hook >> Tiemco TMC 2457, sizes 12-18
Tail >> Black rubber legs
Body >> Wapsi UTC copper wire, size medium, red, chartreuse, copper, and other colors
Thorax >> Peacock herl
Wing Case >> Flash material coated wtih Z-Poxy 5-minute epoxy and resin
Leg >> Black rubber legs
Head >> Gold bead head, appropriately sized to fit hook

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

fly and photo courtsey of Matt "MJ" Jones, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fundraiser | Flies for Fins!

Let's all take a minute to consider the steelhead we chase and the fisheries in which they run...



Chances are, most of us enjoyed a short, sweet rush of images.
A cartwheeling steelhead. A taught Spey line. A crystal clear adipose fin. The fishy smell on your hands after successfully releasing a bright hen, fresh from the salt.

Despite these magical images, I'll bet at least a few of us entertained at least a few less positive thoughts as well. Were you confident in the current health and long term management of your favorite stretch of water? Were you at all nervous about the dwindling numbers of wild steelhead returning to your home river?

If you were at all concerned, you're not alone, and as in all things, there is hope. British Columbia-based steelhead guide and concerned steelhead lover, April Vokey (pictured below), has decided to team with Reaction Fly and Tackle, Pacific Angler, Michael and Young Fly Shop, Sea-Run Fly and Tackle, and Whistler Fly Fishing to test out an innovative way to raise some extra cash for the Steelhead Society, a non-profit group dedicated to providing advocacy on behalf of wild steelhead in British Columbia.

So what does this have to do with fly tying? Good question.

At April's brilliant suggestion
, local fly shops in her area have decided to sell FLIES TIED BY YOU in their stores with all proceeds going to the Steelhead Society. According to April, "This money will be put towards habitat restoration and several other similar projects, which ultimately will help to save all anadromous species."

We think this is a fantastic idea, and will be donating a selection of Beyond the Bug's flies to the Steelhead Society.

If you've got some extra bugs in your boxes or if you'd like to tie up some special creations for the Flies for Fins fundraiser, you can put them in an envelope and mail them to:

Flies for Fins
8505 Norman Cres.

Chilliwack, B.C.
Canada V2P 5C6

You can send one fly or 50, fancy or plain. Just remember to include your name in the package. You can also follow the developments on Facebook.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Recipe: The Slow Dance

In my last post on movement and flies, I neglected to include a recipe. I've received several requests for the material list via email and the comments section of this blog. So, let's get to it:

The Slow Dance, a fly for sea run brown trout and steelhead >>

Hook >> Tiemco 202SP (or similar), sizes 1/0 - 6
Thread >> Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread, 210 Denier, red
Tip >> French oval tinsel, silver, medium
Tag >> Danville 4-strand Rayon floss, light pink
Tail >> 3 Siskiyou Aviary Long Emu Feathers, 2 dark purple, 1 pink
Dubbing >> Angora goat dubbing, dark stone, heavily teased
Rear Flank >> 2 Golden pheasant tip feathers taken from the joint of the crest and neck
Front Flank >> 2 guinea feathers sized and stripped to fit, natural
Collar >> Schlappen feather, purple

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


The Slow Dance: A Fly for Sea Run Browns and WInter Steelhead

When flies hit the water, everyone talks about movement. "This fly moves well." "That fly has great movement on the swing." "I love how that pattern moves under the surface." As anglers and fly tyers, we've all heard (and uttered) these words, or a similar arrangement of these words at some point or another. But we haven't wasted breath; the concept of movement is important, particularly when showing flies to large, aggressive feeders.

Here's a fly designed to move well in the kind of water sea run brown trout chasers and steelheaders often face.

The Slow Dance is an impressionistic fly designed to attract, not to closely imitate. Its squid-like emu "tentacles" make it deadly on coastal steelhead water, its length and bulk through the body render it downright nasty with a greased line technique, and the dark, but contrasting color scheme has proven successful on water from Tierra del Fuego to British Columbia.

Swing it through a seam, or run it through a moderate-to-fast pool or pocket. It's great in slow water and it's wicked when stripped hard through the second half of a swing and into the hang down.

The Slow Dance gets its great movement from three materials. The primary movers in the equation are the three emu feathers that form the long, wispy tail section. These feathers are tied in convex side up and over a thick wad of dubbing to keep them from fouling about the bend of the hook. The secondary mover in the fly is the wrapped collar of purple schlappen just behind the head. The tertiary mover is the darkly colored and heavily teased Angora goat dubbing through the thick body section of the fly. Flanking feathers of guinea and golden pheasant top the fly off and impart contrast and a visual order to things, but don't do much on the movement front.

Big flies designed to move are fun to create, and even more fun to fish. Grab some material and make some moves.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Recipe: The Emerald Shiner Tube Fly

Recently, Wylie Haggerty took an exploratory trip to New York State's Niagara River in search of some of the biggest lake-run steelhead on the East Coast. Wylie loves to swing for chrome, and some of the most effective swing patterns on the "Big River" are those that represent bait fish.

Here's a relatively simple fly he brought with him, and is sure to carry again.

The Emerald Shiner Tube Fly

Tube >> 2-inch copper, brass, or aluminum tube
Thread >> Wapsi UTC 210 Denier, red, green, or purple
Body >> Flat Mylar tinsel, large
Ribbing >> French tinsel, oval or Antique tinsel
Wing >> Canadian and Russian Goat hair, married, dark green, light green, and white
Throat >> Webby schlappen fibers, red
Collar >> Wrapped schlappen feather, grey or white
Eyes >> Jungle cock nail feathers, sized to match
Head >> Silver cone head, large

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

Fly recipe and photo courtesy of Wylie Haggerty


Battling Winter with the Guinea Wing Orange Spey

This week has been cold, snowy, grey, and icy in Manhattan. Perfect weather for staying in, catching up on episodes of 30 Rock and Mad Men, planning summer steelhead trips, and tying Spey flies.

Here's a simple winter-blues-fighter of a pattern I whipped up using only the materials at the top of my Spey storage bin.

The Guinea Wing Orange Spey >>

Hook >> Tiemco 202SP, 1/0
Thread >> Wapsi UTC 210 Denier, red
Tip >> 3 turns of French oval tinsel, silver
Tag >> Danville 4-strand nylon floss, blue
Ribbing >> 5 turns of French oval tinsel, silver
Butt Dubbing >> Angora goat dubbing, 50/50 blend of orange and red
Body Dubbing >> Angora goat dubbing, dark stone
Collar 1 >> Wrapped pheasant rump feather, blueish green
Collar 2 >> Wrapped schlappen feather, orange
Collar 3 >> Wrapped guinea feather, nautral
Wing >> Guinea feather layed flat and secured to the hook shank just behind the eye

This is a solid winter steelhead pattern designed to honor the past with a flourish of gaudy materials, but tied with a modern, nearly deconstructed style.

I like to really tease out the dubbing on these flies, especially in the butt section. It gives the fly an attractive translucence in the water while allowing it to maintain its great body and shape.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com