The cool thing about having your own blog is I get to talk about what I want.This subject has come up lately and I wanted to share what I know.
Some may be aware of the history of the foam lipped twitched fly as used for steelhead, some may not. The following is the real history of the foam lipped dry fly from it's humble and covert beginnings on the North Umpqua where it was first used successfully.
I am open to any comments about these origins and would love to discuss any claims by anyone that say's they were fishing a foam fly like this with a twitched or chugged presentation before we were. My intention here is to give credit where it is due and refresh some memories about what really went on with this fly and dry fly fishing style.
I am tired of defending this but also tire of seeing relative newcomers( and there are many) bull dog their way into the fly world claiming ownership of something I saw firsthand. Maybe this can set the record straight a little for posterity sake. Hopefully this will be the last time and at least I wrote it all down for reference.
Here ya go:
The real origin of the Deer Hair Foam skater, the technique to fish it and how it all came about
The history of the fly, it's origin and the technique developed to fish it start way back in the mid to late 80's. It was a multi step process to get to the fly that we call the Foam Dome. There were a few of us involved in the further development of the fly as well as what became the technique to fish it.
I will not show a picture of the fly as there is still nothing quite like it in the mass market place today. Tony's original design is still the best IMHO, and easiest to tie and cast of any of the scores of copies out there.
The history on the fly and its metamorphosis is as follows:
We often fished muddlers and riffle hitched them, dead drifted them etc. We started to tie muddlers with a flat bottom and we would aqua seal them to get a flared flat surface that would skate well. We even bent the hook shank upwards to increase the angle and make them surf and skate even better. We fished these flies for a few years and they worked great, the fish loved them! We also came up with a disk shaped fly out of deer hair that was quite effective.
One day in around 88 or 89 Tony Wratney(legendary NU guide) was looking at the deer hair muddler fly in the vise and got the idea to add foam to it. He said " I'm going to Joe's(Howell) to get some foam and I'm gonna tweak this pattern. He went to Joe's and got some bright foam and brought it home. He sat at the vise and produced the first deer hair foam lip skater ever. We tried some names out, I thought of Nerf Surfer because the foam was the color of a nerf football. I always liked that name but it never stuck, but Foam Dome did. We fished it and it produced almost immediately. We skated it normally without the twitch at first. It was a cool looking fly.We now had a virtually unsinkable fly that was highly visible that could be fished in heavy water. It was a winner.We had a killer fly that was working well but we had no idea how much more effective it would become with the development of the" Twitch"
Now to the origin of the twitch and how we developed it into a dry fly technique. Another friend Tim Caine(another amazing fisherman) was fishing one day to 4 or five fish in a favorite run. He swung a wet fly through and put it in front of every fish in the pool. No dice they were not interested. So he is standing there just screwing around and he starts to swing through the run again. He starts bouncing his rod, moving the fly, twitching the fly as it comes across the pool. A fish comes up and eats it almost instantly with this new movement. I think he ended up hooking a fish or two after they had just refused the same fly on a normal swing. The movement really got their attention.That started the ball rolling to try the same thing with the newly invented Foam Dome. We all started to fish the new fly with movement......and it worked amazingly well. It took a while to figure out a consistent rhythm without moving the fly to much. We all fished it and compared notes on what worked best in what circumstance. Everyone developed their own rhythm and did it a little different. As time went on we figured out that a bigger lip pushed more water and made more commotion. The fly changed many times. Bigger, smaller ,sparse, bushy etc. Different sizes for different runs. Heavy water, glassy tails we had a bug for all of it. the fish loved them. We had no trouble following people through runs because fish would just clobber this thing. It was new, the fish went nuts for them. They had never seen such a thing before. The fly is still changing to this day some 20 years later.
Now, everyone knows that people have been putting movement on the fly since time began. Atlantic salmon on the East coast and Europe and people have been twitching wet flies on the west coast forever.Bill Mcmillian was doing it in and wrote about it in Dry Line Steelhead (thanks AS for the comment)Nothing new there.I am not claiming that movement on the fly was our idea. It wasn't only the movement/twitch that made this fly work, it was the mechanics/shape and design.This new foam lipped deer hair fly pushed water like a bass popper. That, coupled with a rhythmic, pulsing, metronome twitch was revolutionary to the steelhead world. We kept it under our hat. We didn't talk about it. It was our technique. I truly believe, and to the best of my knowledge we were the only people around that were consistently catching steelhead on deliberately chugged and twitched foam skaters.Those in our group were well traveled in the steelhead community and it's rivers and to our knowledge there was no one in the steelhead world that was doing this with a spun deer hair foam fly. Like I said, I am open to any discussions with anyone that has any earlier claims to this. Please comment.
For years we fished this way. It worked amazingly well for us. There were a half dozen of us that were doing it, the inner circle if you will.However, the public as a whole, even upon seeing what we were doing did not know what we were doing it WITH They remained skeptical. and people would even ask what the heck we were doing and scoff. No one really thought you could get them on top like this,twitching and all. No one wanted to spend the time trying this new technique even when they saw us catch fish. It was too radical, too "outside of the box" to steal a phrase,for the masses. We had confidence in it but no one else was convinced it would work.People actually laughed at us and made jokes about us. "There's those guys with the epileptic twitch" "That will never work:, "You'll scare the fish" "That is the stupidest thing I have ever seen" we heard it all. We didn't care, we were breaking new ground and the fish were on it big time!
In fact, to further illustrate the fact that no one was doing it or had even heard of it, Tony took a handful of the new flies up to BC to fish in the early 90's. He was fishing on the Kispiox with guys like Bob Clay and Wolford and Tom Lee. Giants in the steelhead fly fishing world, in the heart of the very origins of steelhead fishing on the fly and they had never seen or heard of a fly or technique like this. I'm not sure who he was with when he first pulled out the Foam Dome but the guide was skeptical at best. They would only let him fish it every other pool that's how skeptical they were.When Tony was allowed to fish it he cast it out and it started to swing and then he started in with the pulsing, rhythmic twitch and the guide said" Don"t do that, it won't work, it will scare the fish!!!" Tony kept on chugging and hooked a fish. He started hooking more fish, the guides started to dig it. Soon he was fishing it all the time and they were trying it too. The guides were convinced and were sold!They came up with their own versions and the fame of the fly and technique started to spread.
Word of this fly and technique soon made the rounds in the steelhead world.The Deschutes is where I think I saw the first commercial versions of someone else's foam skater. Several well known guides started to tie some similar flies and you started to see them showing up in the fly bins maybe in around the early 2000's. Tony also fished with Ken Morrish who saw the foam fly years ago and later we saw patterns like the Morrish mouse emerged as well as his more recent Pom Skater. I would think it would be hard for Ken to deny that he was not influenced by Tony's fly
As I said,we started fishing this fly and technique on the North Umpqua in around 88 or 89. We actually were using single-handed rods to fish these things.......anyone remember what one of those things look like? We still fish them often and it is still one of my favorite ways to fish a skater.
Anyway,15 years later(that's a long time folks) in about 03 (not exactly sure), Scott showed up and started guiding out of Steamboat Inn. He immediately saw what we were doing and took notes. He bird dogged all of us. He is a very savvy angler no doubt.He watched how and where we fished it. He however did not start fishing it right away. Eventually he started guiding more and converting to the twitched dry as well. I even remember when we first saw him twitching a dry in the Station. I was with Tony and we were like "Hey, he's stealing our technique" we laughed cause we knew that he finally figured it out.
He then developed a similar fly which would become the Ska-opper that is now everywhere.The rest as they say is history.
That's the facts from someone who was on the river and watched it all and was a part of the whole process.
Below is great article about skating and waking flies from Doug Rose. He states in the article that the main issue with many of the traditional dry flies was getting them to stay up and not go under. This is a problem that the foam fly solved and thus allowed the fly to swing through the entire arc on the surface.
Waking and Skating by Doug Rose
I have to pass this along.I have been fortunate enough to meet and fish with Bob and Jed a little on the Dean in BC. They don't come cooler than Bob and his clan! Had some crazy times with Jed. One time he did this gnarly wade to a submerged boulder on the Dean. It was way over his waders but he zipped up his goretex jacket and cranked the bottom tight and plunged in chest deep to get to the rock.Something I would have never attempted. And guess what.......it worked ! That guy was fishy as all get out and one heck of a guide.
A Steelhead Family - Official HD video 3.1 from Andrew Hardingham on Vimeo.
On February 16th, 2011 by Kenny Morrish
In an effort to help stop the Proposed Pebble Mine, I hope that you might take a look at, and pass along to all interested parties, the following essay that I have written about Alaska and the Pebble project.
Click Here for Slide Show
Flow is a new electronic magazine that we recently launched. Generally speaking it is photo rich and artsy but the attached issue “Alaska, Past, Present and Future” has a strong environmental message. It begins with the state’s history and moves quickly into a discussion of the mine and its threat to the greatest wild salmon fishery in the world.
I have contacted all of you in hopes that you might post this essay on your blogs and or forward it to your email contacts. The more people that see this and related materials, the better of Bristol Bay will be. To succeed in stopping the Pebble, it will take a great deal of effort from all of us.
Thanks in advance for your consideration and efforts and all the best for the coming year.
Bryan Huskey is a gifted photographer/videographer whose images have been permeating the fishing world. Check out his awesome photos and more at this http://bryanhuskey.zenfolio.com/ great site! Check it out, an amazing eye behind the lens.
Oh yeah, he of course fishes too!!
Here are some cool random NU shots of Bryan and some buds on the NU.
The master in his element
A quick followup to my last post. This is a neat video I found on speypages on the subject of wild trout and steelhead. The poster of the video, SSpey is far more informed and knowledgeable on the subject than I and is clear in his explanation and views of the article on the OSU study. I will leave the science to those that have done their homework. I am learning more every day on all this and appreciate those like Steve who can break this stuff down in way that is easier to understand. Sometimes it's hard to know what studies like the recent OSU study in Hood River are trying to prove, also who is really behind it and what the political motives are. Like I said he is a guy who's opinion is always informed and I respect.Anyway check the thread out on speypages.
Here is the link to another article Steve mentions in his post which helps a bit as well-Endangered listing
There is potentially a lot more going on with this recent study than meets the eye.
A fairly interesting article on a study the importance of wild rainbow trout in the health of wild steelhead populations in the Northwest.. According to the article, the rainbow trout is often responsible for fertilizing wild steelhead eggs and mitigating the effect of interbreeding/introgression from hatchery strains. So in the end protecting habitat for both species is essential.
Amazing to read how interconnected these two fish are and how rainbows can contribute to the gene pool on years of low run numbers and difficult ocean conditions. Genetically identical in every way,why one goes to the ocean and one doesn't is still one of God's mysteries. While there are some exceptions to this rule(rainbows going to the ocean) the rainbows in those situations do not spend the time that steelhead do in the big pond. Most instances of rainbows going to the salt are in coastal Alaska,BC, South America or Russia. These fish may only spend a short time in bays or areas where fresh and salt water mix. Like I said,we may never know the how and why of it.........fascinating stuff !
Hopefully this study is not used as fodder for more hatchery fish The real thrust of the article I think is rainbow trout and preservation of habitat is a big key to steelhead survival as well.
Check it-Wild Rainbow Article