Living and guiding on te Bulkley River, one of the best steelhead dry fly rivers in the world, has given me great opportunity to test out dry flies for steelhead. When I first started fishing the Bulkley most of the dry fly patterns were some form of deer hair wing and head. Very simple flies tied on a single iron. The Bulkley Mouse is the best known pattern that came out of this style of flies. It is a good pattern that attracts fish well and it has a good solid take ratio. The main disadvantage is that it needs to be greased, and riffle hitched, and even then it tends to be dragged under the surface quite easy. In those early days I fished atlantic style Bombers a lot. They are very good attractor patterns, or search patterns, as they are called in steelhead lingo. The problem with Bombers is that, again, you have to riffle hitch them and the fish tend to slash at them and don’t eat the fly. I recall rising a steelhead 12 times on a Green-butt Bomber and never catching it…. Over the years I have tried to come up with the “perfect” dry fly. One that floats all day without grease, does not need a riffle hitch, attracts like a Bomber and “closes” like a Bulkley Mouse. My “Seek & Destroy” dries are the end result of many years of experimentation and fulfill all my criteria. Tied on a tube they are almost unsinkable; I can fish the same fly all day without greasing it. I don’t have to riffle hitch it, or thread the leader through a hole in the bottom of the tube. It will ride up all day long without it. It’s visibility for the angler is good, due to the calf tail wing/post, which allows me to track it on long casts (try to do that with a black Bulkley Mouse!). The flies are as attractive to the steelhead as a Bomber is but I get a much higher hook-up percentage. For the last 4 years or so I really have not changed anything to the fly because I cannot think of anything that would improve it. After many requests on how to tie the “Seek & Destroy” patterns, here is a step-by-step instruction on how I tie them.
For the Low Light version:
– 1.8mm chartreuse inner tube
– 3mm Glow in the Dark tube
– Pearl Accent Flash
– Black craft foam
– Black deer hair
– white calf tail
– black Nano Silk thread 12/0
For the Bright Light version:
– 1.8mm salmon orange inner tube
– 3mm salmon orange tube
– Pearl Accent Flash
– Rusty brown deer hair
– brown craft foam
– white calf tail
– pink Nano Silk thread 12/0
The total length of the tube for the Seeker (which is the bigger sized searching pattern), is approximately 2.5cm. For the smaller closing pattern, the Destroyer, the size is 1.5 cm.
The flange on front of the tube will act as a disc that pushes the front of the tube out of the water.
Tying in a series of bunches of deer hair for the wings creates a delta shaped wing, like a moth. I like the silhouette this creates and it maintains it’s shape better then a single wing, which tends to slant backward more and more as the day progresses. To restore the shape of a wing after a day of fishing hold the fly in steam from a kettle. The wing will jump back to it’s original shape.
The orange/brown combo is the bright condition variation of the Seek & Destroy pattern. Note that the foam head slightly extends past the tube, again creating a scoop that pushes the fly up on the water surface.
The super glue is essential. It helps secure the wing and makes it easier to clip the tag and short. I also let the glue penetrate up the base of the wing so that it stiffens the wing; further aiding the scoop effect.
I use a 15 degree up angle hook with off set, size 1. I quite like the Partridge Patriot Stinger. I tie it on with an improved clinch knot and pull it directly into the 3mm plastic tube. I fish the hook “up side down”. The hook will thus slightly trail behind the pattern with the hook point in line with the tube. Most steelhead will approach and take a fly from behind and short takes are common. This set up minimizes the chance of short takes. The up-side-down hook also acts as a keel, stabilizing the fly. The fly almost always rights itself if it happens to land upside down, which it rarely does. The hook also helps dip the butt end of the fly under the surface film, which creates a nice trigger point for the steelhead to focus on.
Some points on how I fish this pattern. On overcast days and at dawn and dusk I fish the low light variety (black with glow in the dark tube). During clear days I fish the bright light variety. I always start fishing the larger Seeker. I usually make long casts and “search” big sections of river. When I find a fish one of two things can happen; it rises to the fly but does not take it, or it takes it. If it takes it I give it line. The moment I see the fish appear under the fly I drop my rod tip down and forward, thus creating slack in the line. I fish my rod tip high when I fish dries (and often with sinking flies as well). I prefer this over fishing with a loop. When you let go of the loop you temporarily loose sensory contact with the fly, I don’t like that. Dropping the rod tip gives sufficient slack for the fly to be taken by the fish and allows you to feel when the fish is on. When I feel the weight of the fish, I set the hook.
If the fish misses the fly I wait for about one minute and repeat the exact same cast, with the same fly. Most of the time this will result in a solid hook up. If it misses again, I wait a bit longer and repeat the same thing. If it continues to “slash” at the fly, I switch to the Destroyer. It will generally do the trick. If the fish rises once, but does not come back. I switch to the Destroyer as well; I’ll try one or two casts with it. If a fish does not come back to the Destroyer I do not switch to any other flies. I leave the fish, mark the spot, and come back to it after I finish the pool, and try again with the Seeker.