Top 10 Favorite Fall Steelhead Flies (Yum-Yum Eat’m Up)

Steelhead Fishing

31 Yr. Trinity veteran, Dwain Spencer, respectfully revealing his appreciation for the 2013 steelhead runs-Happy B-Day Dwain

Thanks for the calls and e-mails regarding our last post. We are stoked to witness an increasing number of anglers desiring to learn and fly fish traditional steelhead methods; simply a natural progression. On that note, time and time again we are asked what are our favorite fall steelhead flies, complimenting traditional methods, and what water compositions do they apply? First, keep in mind steelhead are unpredictable at best so almost anything goes. However during the fall season try to inventory fly selections that compliment time of year and mood of the river/fish; varied lighting conditions, low clear waters, bug hatches, salmon spawning, etc.. Inventory both weighted and unweighted flies to cover a variety of waters and depths. Fly styles and dressings should also complement waters; smaller size, sparse dressings use for low sensitive conditions and save the full meat-potatoes, large, heavily dressed flies for larger broken waters, getting down deep and off color situations. Although not itched in stone, a good old steelheaders fly selection rule of thumb is: dark day, use dark fly, bright day use bright fly. When in doubt, follow your gut instincts and dig’m out.

Below are some favorite fall patterns that have rightfully earned their merits in the Trinity River and many other northwest waters (Not available in the big boxes folks). Our flies are tied and fashioned for our waters, our fish. Trinity Fly Shop always maintains complete inventories for retail sales and mail order. (Call (530) 623-6757 or e-mail: trinflyguy(at) for additional info).


Muddler Minnow


*Steelhead Muddler – Man’s best friend when targeting riffles, chutes and broken streamy glides. A high riding upper water column damp surface fly that is absolute deadly in the hands of those fishing directly down and across. Also fish a seriously long hang-down as fish will move a great distance and tailgate until the final hang. Takes are explosive, arm-wrenching and lift you off your heels. (1X only!)





*Kit-Chuckie-Joe’s It – Another damp skater nobody should be without. Unique design, influenced by Kit Kreick, Joe Howell and the late Chuck VonGelderon, this fly rattles their cage with a golden pheasant crest, wiggle-tail action. A no brainer to fish and effective in most any waters, simply cast across preferred waters and drop and drag. Easy as apple pie and provokes stimulating, pie in your face, surface takes.



Greased Liner


*Greased Liner – A high riding surface skater, fashioned by Harry Lemier, that rolls the eyes of fish holding in tailouts-streamy glides. Great adult fall caddis (Dicosmoecus) imitation that fishes effectively Sept. thru November. A riffle hitch accents skate and favored when targeting braded seams or choppy waters. Don’t strike until you feel!







*Burlap – Simplicity soft-hackle pattern that year after year out fishes many other patterns. Both weighted and unweighted patterns can be fished in various waters riffles-steamy glides-tailouts-pools-nondescript flats. The style and neutral color
may suggest fall caddis casings/golden stones and always a favorite in bright sunny and overcast conditions. Effective dead drifted and on the swing.



Rusty Caddis Pupa


*Rust Caddis Pupa – Excellent fall caddis imitation when fished Sept-Oct-Nov, during fall caddis emergence. Target riffles with a down and across drifting swing highlighted with occasional twitch, mimicking emerging pupas. Also effective when fished in smaller sizes below spawning salmon in riffles and tailouts; suggesting a simplistic egg pattern.



Silver Hilton


*Silver Hilton – No steelheader should leave home without this fly, especially when targeting Trinity waters. I caught my first steelhead on this fly and it has remained a personal favorite, not for my christening, but rather its year round extreme effectiveness. Early season smaller sizes may represent the abundant (Isonychia) mayfly nymphs while larger sizes up to #2 have accounted for some of the largest Trinity steelhead I have witnessed to the fly. On occasion bright Chinook, Coho and Brown trout have also fallen victim. (Trinity veteran, late Chuck VonGeldern scored his largest sea-run brown in Terra del Fuego swinging a #4 Hilton). Light dark lighting conditions, fast or slow water compositions-it doesn’t matter…the Hilton maintains a hum, which more times than not, gets their attention.

Coppertone Stone


*Coppertone Stone – Buggy/attractor nymph representing the numerous golden stones (Calineuria californica) in the basin. Larger sizes best dead-drifted in riffles, heavy pocket waters and top end of major pools. Smaller sizes compliment
streamy glides and sensitive waters. The copper rib cuts through fall tea colored waters and gives’em something to wink at. When in doubt, cross his eyes!



Olive Breadcrust


*Olive Breadcrust – The drab, yet buggy appearance along with the palmer and long spey hackle deliver jellyfish motion that generally gets the attention of even the most stubborn fish. The simplistic silhouette may suggest the plentiful dragon nymphs that are abundant throughout the late summer and early fall seasons. This pattern can be dead drifted and fished on the swing in a variety of water compositions. Favor smaller patterns early season and larger patterns, the meat and potatoes, late fall and throughout the winter seasons.





*Chappy – Outdoor Franklin (originator claims he dug the Klamath R.) came up with a traditional attractor that has become an all-time favorite; effective on fall-winter steelhead. Fall fish prefer smaller sizes, accepting them in riffles and around spawning salmon; a great egg pattern. Late fall-winter fish tend to favor larger sizes fished deep in streamy glides and top end of pools; possibly representing alvens emerging from gravels. Several candy colors to choose from.



Mr. Pimp


*Mr. Pimp – A wooly-bugger style pattern that offers plenty of flash and breathing motion. As the name implies, the Pimp struts its stuff in most all lighting conditions and water compositions and is extremely effective in slower waters where other patterns are less effective; generally the bigger the better (up to #2). We have received very positive feedback from angler’s pimp’n a variety of steelhead, trout and bass waters. When in doubt, tie on a Pimp!

The flies listed above are certainly not fish magnets or solutions to all steelheading but, based upon thought, design and years of success, they will compliment many situations and conditions that will help enforce confidence and give you the edge for Trinity River tight line success. Get out there and welcome the 2013 steelhead runs!!!