Friday, December 5, 2014

Fly Tying: On the Steelhead Adams

Steelhead Adams

I was asked if this fly is one of my own creations.

Well, yes and no.

I was leafing through my copy of Flies: The Best One Thousand again for inspiration and got involved looking at wet flies. There I found a fly called a Downwing Adams which immediately caught my eye.

From Flies: The Best One Thousand, compiled by Randle Scott Stetzer.

The Downwing Adams wet fly was the inspiration for my fly. In fact, my fly is very nearly a copy, just resized for big fish. I love the whole Adams genre, and the Adams dry has more than once been the fly that finally got the attention of reluctant trout. So, I figured it might work with steelhead, too.

There are two differences between the wet fly and the steelhead fly as I tied it.

The first difference is that the wet fly is tied on wet fly hooks, obviously, sizes 10 to 16, and I tied the steelhead fly on a size 6 salmon hook. I will probably tie some size 4's, too, and maybe 2's. It's a good way to use up those oversized hackles that come with cheap necks.

The second difference is that the wet fly tail is rabbit fur guard hairs, and I tied the steelhead fly with black bear hair. I had just found it earlier in the afternoon at the bottom of my bag of various furs, so it was at hand. But I like it. I might make it a bit longer on the next ones I tie.

The Downwing Adams wet fly is unattributed in the book, which goes to great lengths to attribute the originators of flies when known. It makes sense to me that it isn't attributed since it's one of probably thousands of variations on the original Adams dry fly.

That fly, the original Adams dry, is attributed in the book, to Leonard Halladay.


He first tied the fly in Michigan in 1922 in an attempt to duplicate an insect his friend, Charles Adams, had seen on the water that morning, and described to him. When Adams returned from an afternoon on the Boardman River and pronounced the fly a "knockout" Halladay named it after him as the one who had first had success with it. (Click HERE for a good history of the fly.)


Halladay deserves the credit for that first fly, and for creating a color theme, even a genre of specific materials, that has proven so productive over the years, and which has inspired so many variations. He managed to find a magical combination that fish and fishermen love.

I did a quick check online to see if there were other flies called "Steelhead Adams," but I didn't find any on that first look. So I went ahead and stuck the name on my tie.

I can't believe that no one else has ever done this, and even called it a Steelhead Adams. But it really doesn't matter. It's just one more in a long line of variations, and, by rights, should go unattributed. And if someone has the copyright on "Steelhead Adams," well, good luck to you in your quest for immortality. I'll just call this fly Jim's Steelhead Adams.

By the way, I plan to tie up some of those Downwing Adams wets, too. Nice fly.

P.S. How about this one? Grizzly hackle fibers for the tail, Adams dubbing for the body with a black thread rib, grizzly hackle tips for the wings, and grizzly hackle for the hackle. No brown.

I call it the Grizzly Adams.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much Jim.
    I love the histories of flies.

    ReplyDelete