Blue..... the new purple??

The color that you like probably doesn't matter much. I favor hot red and black as basic colors. I've caught my share of salmon -- and steelhead with such patterns in spun marabou or other basic salmon and steelhad colors.
I doubt if color is vitally important. I've been blessed with personal friendships over the years with some great anglers, all great steelhead fishermen; Harry Lemire, Mike Kinney, and Dan Lemaich and Alic Jackson to name a few; all of whom are above reproach as steelheaders and gentlemen. You will find that a wide variety of colors are included in their patterns. Personally, if I could only fish with one steelhead/salmon fly (God forbid!), it would be a single plume spun marabou (as tied by Dan Lemaich or Mike Kinney) in hot red with a bit of silver flashtail marabou sticking out beyond the tips.
Some years backI fished the Bulkley River with a friend. A blue fly was offered to us. I stuck with my hot red marabou and proceded to land two steelhead that touched 20-pounds and several smaller ones during a week of fishing. The blue-hackeled pattern was a distant second.


New Member
Here's another rumor! Blue works just fine, I would agree with Duff, Presentation is most important when fishing to a fish? Most importantly would be confidance and the presentation to proof it. As for the new purple! I just don't get that?

Good luck.


Active Member
Don't hurt yourself trying to figure it out Abel. I think everyone here knows profile and presentation are the most important factors of steelheading. Color matters though.

Anyway, after this past weekend I think I'll stick with purple.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
Speaking of... let me describe a fly that's been my standard for steelhead fishing in the winter/spring season for almost a decade; that is, I fish it about half the time then. An orange pheasant crest tail, yellow butt, dubbed sparkly purple body; underwing of blue squirrel (for some stiffness), topped by blue, then purple, then black maribou; throat hackle of blue guinea. I call it the Winter Solstice.

It's just a mostly black maribou that shows flashes of complimentary colors. Materials could be combined in 97 different ways to produce a fly that would look essentially the same to a steelhead. I can't say that it's more productive than anything else, but it's a confidence fly to me.:rolleyes:

I asked Nooksack Mac for a photo of this fly as its description sounded great. He could not send me a photo, so he sent me a fly instead. I got it today from the post office and wanted to show it off here where the ongoing Blue the New Purple discussion was happening. I only hope that the photo does it some justice, my photo skills pale in comparison to the quality and detail of this fly.

The first is Nooksack Mac's Winter Solstice. The second and third are other patterns using some blue that he also included. I'll leave it to him to elaborate on how he ties them, but they look damn good to me. I'll be trying to replicate them and fishing them for sure very soon.
Thanks, Mumbles. It's flattering to see my flies online.

About tying with maribou: Unlike most fly tying, where the tyer is striving to accurately imitate an actual living thing, steelhead and salmon, being past active feeding, aren't tempted by a realistic-looking fly. Our goal is to pass a fly with one or more attractive visual elements before their eyes and hope that some improbable combination of memory associations and dormant instinctive responses kick in in the fish's tiny brain during those few seconds. Hence, we're free to create freeform, impressionistic flies. Instead of copying nature with painstaking accuracy, like John James Audubon, we're free to splash colors onto canvas, like Jackson Pollock. Maribou, inexpensive and available in so many colors, lends itself well to this.

Multiple layering is easy to do. It's helpful to have a stiffer underwing of hair, or palmered hackle, to bulk up a maribou wing, but it's not essential. With the Winter Solstice, after dubbing the body (a bit of yellow then the rest purple in a single dubbing loop; usually no rib), I tie in a sparse underwing of blue/black squirrel tail. I tear a moderate amount of blue maribou off its feather stem, moisten it with my lips or wet fingers, which makes it much more controllable to tie in; I repeat with purple maribou, then tie in a short bunch of purple or multicolor mylar strands; tie in and wind a collar of blue guinea, then top with black maribou. It's easier than it may sound, and who's in a hurry when you're having fun?

Do some freeform maribous for shits and giggles. Tails may not show in the water, so you can do without. OTOH, it takes ten seconds to tie in a red hackle fiber tail, a few seconds more to tie in a rear-half body of tinsel or yarn. Start ripping off and tying in wings from different color maribou, and see what you end up with. Maribou spiders are easy, too. Wind a lump of yarn or dubbing mid-shank (optional); tie in a maribou feather by its tip; advance the thread and coat it with head cement; dampen the maribou and wind it forward; stop when the stem gets too thick. Tie in a different color mar. feather and continue toward the head. On your next fly, tie in two or three mar. feathers of different colors, dampen and wind them together. Admire the contrasting effect, even before you fish it. Use, or don't use: cone heads, bead eyes, tinsel, collar hackle. I seldom do two maribou streamers the same. My second and third flies here are the products of such doodling at the vise.

To keep them under control in my fly boxes, I cut shank-length sleeves of plastic soda straws.

Ed Call

Well-Known Member
To keep them under control in my fly boxes, I cut shank-length sleeves of plastic soda straws.
For those who may not have already known this tip, Mac shipped these three flys, each inserted into a section of straw to compress and keep neat the bushy maribou and bulk of the fly. I had never seen it before, and I must admit after looking at my river fly box, it is bulging at the seams with bushy maribou flies. I'm going to make a few of these straw tubes to tidy things up a bit.

Nooksack Mac, great tube tidy tip!:beer2:
Blue Charm, Kingfisher, Medicine, Haig-Brown Coho Blue, are a few popular patterns that incorporate blue into the dressing. Some years back Stan Reeve, owner of the Swallow's Nest spent a week on the Bulkey River and used a fly offered by our guide called the Bulkley Blue. It worked very well (as did a Bulkley Mouse and Doctor Spratley, which do not have any blue in the dressing).

Kim Hampton

Not Politically Correct
Here is an interesting article regarding color and depth of water.

Instead of reading the whole thing (a lot that I don't understand) you can scroll down to page 6 and then continue scrolling down to see how color changes a various depths. They have a color plate that they photographed a different depths.

Then on page 30 they have a graph of what happens to the primary colors at different depths.

As you can see blue will stay visible longer as light diminishes. Red is the quickest to lose it's color. So does color matter as much to fish as we think it does? Maybe...I sure don't know. The guys that state "As long as it's black." may be the most correct. Again I don't know. All that I really know's just a kick in the ass being out there fishing regardless.


New Member
What about maybe? Orange, pink, red, Oh I have never done well with red, scratch that one out. How about burlap, oh is that really a color? Maybe black, oh that would only be of use in the right conditions, Oh yeh! I could try blue? But what about purple? Does purple still work or is it the knew blue? This internet stuff is so confusing.