Thursday, September 12, 2013

Part IV - CT Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Fishing: Tube Flies

A November salmon on a b&w Sunray Shadow (aluminum)

As I stated in Part III, none of my flies tied on conventional hooks are weighted in any way. If I feel I need to get down, I let the line/tip do it for me. If I’m fishing fast water and I want to get down quickly, I might use a fly tied (sparsely) on a brass or copper tube. I use thin brass and copper tubing, so even my heavier tubes don’t weigh all that much. When the water gets cold, I do well on large tube flies. They may be big, but they’re not too heavy or hard to cast. For this fishery, the vast majority of my tubes flies are tied on aluminum hobby store tubing. On to the feature...

Tube Flies:

For brevity’s sake, I’m not going to go into why tubes should be more widely used. Read this for an explanation of the benefits of tube flies. As stated above, when the water gets cold, I tend to use fewer flies tied on hooks and more tube flies. The first fly listed here is a very notable exception.

Sunray Shadow and Variations

I caught more CT salmon on an orange Sunray variant than any other fly last season. I caught a good number of fish on conventional wets, but I probably caught nearly twice as many on a Sunray than the next top pattern. This fly rounds out my top three, vying with the Mickey Finn for the number one spot. Every year, I catch an increasing number of salmon on Sunrays. It’s a great “change-of-pace” fly and one they don’t see too often. I never start out with a Sunray. I usually finish with one, however. Sometimes I fish it as fast as I can strip with two hands. Even when fish don’t take it, often times they’ll show for it and take a smaller, more conventional fly. It’s a tremendous “fish locator.” Tied in a variety of sizes, it is an extremely versatile and deadly fly. It’s also one hell of a trout fly, believe it or not. I carry a bunch of them, tied on plastic and aluminum tubes, anywhere from .5” long to 2” long (total fly length around 1”-5”).

Sunrays - a deadly family of tube flies for both salmon and trout

Some Sort of Shrimp or Flamethrower-type Tube Fly

I use this type of fly when the leaves fall and the downward pointing hook on a conventional fly constantly snags everything floating by. I rotate the single hook 180º in the junction tube so it gets buried in the tail of the fly (it will be pointing upwards). It’s not 100% “weedless” by any means, but I definitely snag fewer leaves. I don’t find these flies any more useful than any of the others in the catching department, but what I save in frustration is worth having a couple on me, especially when it’s windy. I usually tie these on a .5”-.75” aluminum tube. 

Two Red Butt Flamethrowers and a Shumakov-style Cascade.
Rotate the hook 180º for a "leaf guard."


This Icelandic oddity happens to be a pretty killing fly. A medium small Snaelda is my intermediate step between conventional flies and the big stuff tied on longer, heavier tubes. The yellow, orange and black of the so-called "German Snaelda" are classic cold water colors. For me, this fly has been most effective on a slow swing, though I have heard of anglers stripping them with great success. I most often use a Snaelda tied on a .5”-.75” copper tube. 

The German Snaelda might look a little funny,
but the salmon seem to love it nonetheless

Willie Gunn

This is one of the big guns. It’s the quintessential yellow, orange and black salmon fly. I use the Willie Gunn in cold, fast water. Last November, I fished a pool full of large salmon. It was heavily fished, but everyone seemed to gravitate towards the slower water. In under a half hour, I had already landed two on a gold bodied Willie Gunn. The smaller of the two was about 12# and the larger 18# and very acrobatic. I have done well with the classic black-bodied WG, though I prefer the gold bodied variation. I typically tie this on a 1.5" copper tube. 

The Willie Gunn is a killing fly in both gold and black

Temple Dog Type Fly

Here is another big gun. I tie one of two ways:
  1. Tied on plastic tubing with a turbo cone in front. The cone is there to balance the weight of the hook and neutralize the buoyancy of the wing more than to add weight the fly. The turbo cone also helps to push water.
  2. Tied on a Shumakov-type Long Range or Skittle tube. I find these to be more durable than the style above, plus they take a little less time to tie. 
I really only fish two patterns, a Phatagorva (dark) and a Green Highlander (bright). The Phatagorva has worked well in colored water, though I have probably been more successful with the Highlander overall. The soft, mobile wing is excellent in slower water. It’s a sort of hypnotic fly to watch in action. These are both time consuming and material-intensive flies to tie. It took much trial and error to find the right materials in the US. Not all arctic fox is created equally. If you’re interested in tying these type of flies, watch this video of Hakan Norling tying his original Temple Dog.

GH Tube - *double hooks not for use in CT salmon waters*

Most of the patterns listed here will be on sale this season. I have sold CT broodstock salmon fly assortments in the past, but I plan on making a wider variety of flies available starting this season. They should be ready just before the first group of salmon arrives, so check back soon...

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