Steelhead and the Winter Wren”
By Jason Akl
As the fall season
comes to an end most fly anglers winterizing their gear and
pack it away in place for an ice fishing rod and 5 gallon
pail. Seasoned fly anglers know that with the heavy snow an
ice of late winter comes one of the unique chances to catch
a true trophy trout!
steelhead is a breathtaking trout specimen that exhibits
unchallenged fighting ability and picturesque beauty. These
trout are hardly ever heavily pressured simply due to the
poor weather conditions associated with this time of year
making them more interested in what you have to offer.
Timing for the fall
Steelhead run will vary from year to year and it is very
dependant on that the current water conditions are but, in
most cases these trophy fish will start showing themselves
just after the King Salmon run and deep into the heart of
To catch these
silver beauties nymphs are the way to go. Fall steelheads
are dissimilar than their spring counterparts in that they
do not violently chase down fast retrieved flies. Fall
steelheads are opportunistic feeders that sit tight to
cover, or settled deep in runs waiting for prey to float
down stream to them. With that theory in mind, anglers can
actively target fall steelhead by deaddrifting nymph
patterns or egg flies.
Cased caddis nymphs
in the 10 to 14 size range and dark colored mayfly nymphs in
sizes 8 to 14 will give you the best shot during this time
of the season. One pattern in particular that has that been
extremely effective in the upper Midwest is the Winter Wren.
This fly is a relatively easy tie but incorporates a lot of
the all time greats in steelhead materials. First and
foremost is the classic bead head. Beads need to be bright
and shiny to get the fish’s attention but at the same time
need to be heavy enough to get down deep in fast moving
pools. The silver nymph head tungsten 1/8 (3.2 mm) bead is
ideal for this fly pattern.
While flies tied
with copper and gold beads have also caught good numbers of
fish. Second is the iridescent body. Peacock herl is just
one of those special materials that big trout just can’t
seem to resist. It seems to come to life in the water,
undulating as it drifts downstream. So instead of wasting
time sitting on the ice this year tie a few of these simple
flies and test out your favorite waters. You just never know
when that trophy is going to bite.
Materials Used in
the Winter Wren
Hook: Daiichi Curved
Shank Size 10
Thread: Black Uni-thread Size 8/0
Head: Silver Nymph-Head Tungsten 1/8 (3.2 mm) Bead
Body: Peacock Herl
Shellback: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Thorax: Grizzly Hackle Wrapped on a Pheasant Tail
Horns: Wood Duck Feather Barbs Tag: Yellow Stretch
Collar: Black Ostrich Herl
Weight: Lead Free Weight
Step 1: To start
this fly place the bead onto the hook shank small bore first
and place the hook into you’re vice securely. Attach the
lead free weight and place a few turns (approx 7-9) onto the
hook shank and then slide it up into the back of the bead.
Step 2: Attach the
thread onto the hook shank and tie in a small strip of
yellow floss. Wrap the floss down the hook shank and back up
creating a small smooth yellow butt for the fly.
Step 3: Tie in 5 to
7 strands of peacock fibers extending off the rear of the
fly and the tie in 3 strands of peacock herl in front of the
pheasant fibers. Twist the peacock herls into a rope and
take two turns around the hook shank. Pull the pheasant
fibers over the herls and tie down.
Step 4: Pull the
pheasant fibers towards the back of the fly again but this
time; make three wraps of the peacock herl rope around the
hook shank. Pull the pheasant fibers forward and tie them
off in front of the herls.
Step 5: Repeat this
process again but this time take 4 wraps of the peacock herl
rope around the hook before pulling the pheasant fibers
Step 6: At the tie
down point for the herl, wrap down fine grizzly hackle and
then wrap the remaining herl rope forward up the fly until
you reach the back of the bead.
Step 7: Wrap the
grizzly hackle around the peacock herl as if you were
wrapping a post on a parachute dry fly. After the post is
wrapped pull it forward over the peacock herl and tie off
behind the bead.
Step 8: Strip two
barbs from a wood duck feather and tie them down extending
over the rear of the fly.
Step 9: Tie in one
ostrich herl and wrap a small collar behind the bead. Whip
finish and cement the thread.
and smooth threads.
Jason Akl ©