I am a creature of habit, fly fishermen who came up through the late sixties through the 20th Century and into this new age are like that I think. I’ve been very aware of changes going on around me for 20 years but I saw no need to hop aboard the band wagon because what I do seems to work just fine. However, you can only live in the past for so long before the risk that you really are missing the boat becomes an overwhelming thought.

Flies for Salmon & Trout; that’s what I’m talking about here. I grew up dreaming about catching these species in the traditional ways, drifting and swinging feather wing streamers and fancy salmon flies to waiting game fish was my goal. I’ve managed to live the dream pretty well, I’ve caught trout and salmon all over the country using my traditional ties but this year, this year was different. A friend sent me a box which contained some of the most amazing flies I had ever seen. Tube flies and Intruder styles tied on shanks. To those who have been onboard with these pattern types for years this may sound strange but I never saw the need for much more than a Skykomish Sunrise for catching fish. Granted, standard salmon and trout patterns on a salmon hook will work pretty well but……. I tied the first AK. Assassin tube fly to my leader and promptly caught 4 really beautiful wild rainbow trout on a total of 6 casts. That, that makes an impression on even the most dyed in the wool – I don’t need that stuff, people in the world maybe. It changed me for sure.

 

Within a couple months I was busy learning the ropes on how to build articulated Sculpin flies and as soon as I started throwing them into these rivers and creeks they were producing some really beautiful fish. The post here in the blog titled ’Surprising Catches While Trout Fishing’ demonstrates very clearly that King Salmon will grab a Sculpin when you aren’t even targeting them. Trout, well they love these things and pike will come running for a simple Whitlock Sculpin tossed near the shore.

It didn’t stop with the Sculpins’, I began tying on shanks made from some vintage  Mustad salmon irons of which I have a good supply. On these shanks I have learned to tie Intruder style flies or as I think of them ’round’ flies. I like this style, I like it for more than appearance, the concept of the short shank trailer or stinger hook keeps fish on until you land or net them. (most fish) I have a huge amount of fly tying materials and a long Alaska winter ahead of me so I will have enough articulated Sculpin and intruder flies for you if you don’t tie.

 

Without further yacking I’ll stick some pictures of flies that have worked along with notes. I’ll be making a post filled with pictures of fish caught very soon also.

Some of the First Generation Sculpin ties;

Click on image to enlarge / back arrow to return to blog

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All of those flies have been used and most were handed out for others to try. I believe every fly caught fish and as promised I’ll do a fish picture entry soon. I will need to get a little more particular with my photographs so you can see the designs clearly but at this time I’m posting what I have. Many of you viewing this will no doubt be better at making these than I am but here we go…..

As soon as I started this type fly I decided that I didn’t like the look of the lead dumbbell eyes. I answered that in several ways, using foil bodies and copper ribs seems to work to sink them, as well as other methods. I quickly figured out that since you use dubbing balls or other materials to provide support for the long flowing hackles and feelers, I can stash a few wraps of lead wire under them. This provides a good sink rate and leaves you with something that resembles a salmon or steelhead fly.

I’ll show these as they came from the vise but some have been used by the time I took photos.

Some of the first, having lead eyes;

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Rendition of the AK. Assassin

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The hidden weight being perfected and combined into a ‘Food Color’ pattern.

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In attractor flies purple and black as well as blue & black have been good for me here.

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The attractor colors are great for trout / steelhead trout from mid June through July. By that time next year I’ll be very well stocked if you need any flies. Interesting fact; thus far I have not lost any of this type fly and only one Sculpin. The Sculpin was lost tragically when a really big trout took it into and under a submerged tree. The fish tied himself off and when I went in after the fish it bolted and snapped the 10 pound leader knot………………….

Watch for a fish post as well as some shots of happy customers.

Ard

  1. November 18, 2013
    Chris

    Well done, Ard; informative as always. Love the pectoral fins on those sculpins!

  2. November 19, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    Hi Chris,
    I’m just getting started on those flies and will be morphing all my patterns into them. I got myself a bunch of Amhearst Tail Centers and will be dying them into the rainbow for use on these. I am impressed with how they draw fish out of the shadows and unto the hook.

    I’ll be putting up some glory shots of fish tonight. It was a good year, I’m talk to you soon.

    Ard

  3. December 1, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    Things are changing here quickly, I’m tying onTubes now! This past year a fellow gave me some of the most beautiful flies I’ve ever had. They were tube flies and I caught fish with them consistently right up until I LOST The Whole Box!

    Many of us know the terrible feeling that comes when you lose fishing gear and I had a go with the feeling in late June.
    It was a rainy day and I went to catch some Kings. That part of the plan went real well, that is if you accepted the fact that you dropped the little cannon Power Shot camera that wasn’t waterproof in the river while trying to release a fish……….. On that morning / after noon I caught 7 salmon but only got a snapshot of the first three. I had forgotten to zip the pocket which held the camera and while letting one go free the camera went in and was done. Naturally I caught some nice bright fish right away but alas the camera was toasted.

    To add insult to injury, by the time I reached the takeout area with the boat it was a real downpour and in my haste to get the gear squared away into the back of the truck and lash the boat down I left the Plano Box which held ’18′ of those beauties sit on the transom brace of the boat and drove away in the storm.
    It took 2 days before I went fishing again and when I realized the flies were gone I knew just how ‘gone’ they were. It has taken me months to get around to it but I’m making Tubes and must say that I think I’ve got a flare for this style of tying. I’m waiting for some black cones to get here so I can finish the flies tied and then I’ll run a tube fly post about them.
    All I’m doing is to take the patterns which have been working well for the past 10 seasons and turning them into tubes. I’ll get into why I think they work so well when I post the tube thread.
    Jason, if you read this, you already know how bad I feel about the flies lost…….

  4. December 3, 2013
    Jason

    Ard,

    It will be great to see your progression tying your traditional patterns on tubes. I absolutely cannot wait to see what you’ll be able to do with them!

    The flies were made to be fished, and part of fishing is the risk of the flies being lost. I truly appreciate the feedback you’ve provided me on them and am flattered that you thought so highly of them, perhaps more so that yore starting to venture onto tubes and shanks.

    I guess having success on flies will do that to a guy. I hope that years from now, you’ll think of this story and chuckle. It happens buddy!

  5. December 3, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    I didn’t think you would find this posting…….. I’m just waiting for an assortment of head cones to arrive now. That and the dying of materials; I’ll have to spend a significant amount of time with the hot pots and baths to stock up enough fur and Amherst to make a good go at them. My excuse currently is to wait for the remaining components to get here.

    Of course you know that if I were to have a few more of those beauties you make, I’d guard them like gold………..

    Ard

  6. December 3, 2013
    Jason

    Shall I start calling you Mr. Knox? :)

  7. December 4, 2013
    Ard Stetts

    Jason,

    I got a good bunch of chartreuse – bright pink and orange done. next some black – purple and deep blue :) Still looking for the cones to get here before I’ll show any finished products. Based on last years use of your flies I know these will be fish magnets.

  8. January 23, 2014
    Darryl

    Nice ties Ard I like the choice of natural colors for the Sculpins. I bet they look great in the water. Interesting heads.

    Darryl

  9. January 25, 2014
    John

    Ard
    So ,three years ago I am new to both spey and salmon fishing. What flys to use,, I find a posting on spey pages by Ard on the AK. Assasin so I tie up a few and go to the Vedder River. Didn’t use the fly all day ,was happy with what I caught on other flys then everything stopped .What do I do ? How about the Assasin ,and what happened ,four beautiful salmon ,the fly works. Fast foreword to the fall of last year,back on the Vedder enjoying an outstanding time with my Assasin and catching and releasing lots of fish.Two young men about sixteen years approach me ,hey mister you are catching a lot of fish what are you using? So I showed them my fly ,and how to fish it and made them promise to release the fish they caught.Also gave them all my Assasin flys in the box and watched as their day went from fishing to catching.A fine experience for all of us. Oh yes ,I’m going to my room to tie some Jock o Dees now,cause when Ard speaks we listen .Thanks Ard.

  10. January 25, 2014
    Ard Stetts

    Hello John,

    That’s a great report on the fly and you were very kind to give up your Assassin’s to those young fellows. I have sent them down to a fellow in BC who uses them for kings on ….. I’m not sure of the river but he gets his fish with the flies.

    You know I carried a couple around with me for years before I finally tried them. Now I have the basic tie on standard hooks – tubes and shanks.

    That Jock O’ Dee is another story, I learned the pattern by participating in an on-line Salmon Fly Tie Along we held on The north American fly fishing forum. I tied a few to get the wing set figured out and then toted them around for about 2 years before trying one. After 6 hours all three were used up, very torn by 7 rainbow – 3 Char and I don’t know how many Grayling.

    So home I went and tied an even dozen, since then I carry at least 8 in good condition because they always produce some nice trout & salmon too.

    I’m so glad you posted your comment and I wish you the best with any pattern you cast,

    Ard

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