Streamer fishing for Michigan steelhead- fly patterns

This is part 2 of Kevin’s series on streamer fishing for Michigan steelhead. You can read part 1, gearing up, by clicking here.

The past several years my steelhead streamer box is filled with mostly one pattern in several color combinations. I call them Basic Bucktails and I’ve been reluctant to post anything about them because they are so basic and simple [editor’s note: don’t worry, we’re working with Kevin to pick a better name for this fly pattern].

The Pere Marquette and other west Michigan rivers, especially the lower sections, are chock full of wood. These tube flies are easy to tie so when you break one off it’s not the end of the world. This fly is the polar opposite of what most tiers aspire to: it is absolutely basic, not a collection of exotic materials and involving no complex techniques. Dubbing loops? Temple dog? Nope and nope.

For those folks that are eager for a more complex version, perhaps you should shoot your own deer and dye your own bucktail.

Though do not underestimate this fly pattern. The fact is, the Basic Bucktail puts steelhead in the net.

Most of the key attributes of the Basic Bucktail are shared by all tube flies: the tinsel rarely tangles and fouls, it is extremely versatile, you can quickly add weight with in-line cones and change bead colors, and it allows for the use of a short shank hook on a large fly, in particular the Gamakatsu 02408, which greatly increases hook ups and fish landed.

But the Basic Bucktail also has it’s own advantages: it casts and handles like a small fly but has a big profile in the water with quite a bit of action with the tinsel over-wing. It can have a lot of horizontal contrast, i.e. different levels of color from top to bottom, something that seems to be important for convincing steelhead to eat.

Kevin has tying directions here and recommends tying this fly in a few different colors. He divides his box into dark, light, and dark over light combinations. Black over orange and black over pink have been quite productive.