An oldie but goodie...

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Idaho steel, Feb 9, 2013.

  1. My take on an old classic. It's difficult to find anyone under the age of 40 these days who even recognizes this pattern, let alone anyone who actually fishes it!

    Beachmen, Tacoma Red, GAT and 2 others like this.
  2. Isn't that a sunrise?
  3. Yep, a Skykomish Sunrise to be precise. This fly dates back to 1940, and was invented by George McLeod when his Father Ken, told him to come up with a fly that mimicked the colors of a sunrise over the Skykomish River.

    It has largely fallen out of favor over the last several decades, but it still catches fish. I like it both because it shows up well in off color water, and because of the neat history.

    It was the first steelhead fly I tied as a kid in Alaska. It absolutely "popped" in the tannin colored water so common to many of our coastal streams up there. Thirty years later, I'm still swinging it!

    If anyone's interested, here's the recipe for this version:

    Hook: Alec Jackson model 2051
    tag and rib: medium oval silver tinsel
    rear 2/3 body: red floss
    front 1/3 body: red chenille
    body hackle: yellow hen saddle
    wing: white calf tail
    collar hackle: red schlappen
    Jeff Dodd likes this.
  4. Nice one, IS. Thanks for sharing :cool:

    Hans W
  5. I'm 25 and fish it all the time tie it up in small sizes too for cuts
  6. Very cool! It's interesting you mention cutthroat, since I usually caught more sea run cutthroat than steelhead on it. Like you I eventually started tying it in small sizes specifically for that purpose.
    navajoe117 likes this.
  7. Great minds think alike
  8. This is one of the PNW classic steelhead hairwing wets. And as you mentioned, it is very good at getting steelhead to strike, both summer and winter runs. Just use smaller ones in summer.

    I know George McLeod, as I'm sure others here on Washingtonflyfishing do as well, and have often talked to him on the gravel bar below his "cabin" on the NF Stilly on summer evenings. George like to fish it in early summer and after October 1st. He doesn't fish it in winter because he prefers to use a conventional steelhead/salmon casting rod and reel with lures or yarn in winter.

    George told me this was the fly he used to catch the large summer run he did up on the Kispiox when he first going up there, which was the 1950's or very early 1960's.

    George's original was tied like this (and this is how I tie mine):

    Tip: flat silver tinsel
    Tail: Mixed yellow and red hackle fibers
    Rib: Silver tinsel (he originally used flat French metallic tinsel, but
    switched to oval in the 1970's when good flat French metallic
    tinsel became hard to find)
    Body: Red chenile (I change the body material because I prefer red
    dubbing on larger sizes, red floss rear body and red dubbing front
    body on smaller sizes, and red floss on low-water dressings). Alec
    Jackson (who knows George very well) tied his with the ostrich
    herl chenile he has become famous for, red of course.
    Hackle: Red and yellow wound together as a collar
    Wing: White bucktail. George also used white polar bear when he could
    find it. He never used white calftail. (white artic fox or
    mountain goat can also be used.)
    Head: Red thread. George would use black thread when he ran out of
    red, but he prefered using red thread.

    Georges' flies were and are very well tied, but they look very different than the ones we tie today. George tied his on a Sealy hook that has not been made since the early 1960's that looked an awful lot like an Eagle Claw 1197 down-eye, heavy wire, modified Limeric bend hook. He also tied a very long, not large in diameter, but very long in length head on his flies, which is a very distinct feature of all the hairwing wets George tied.
  9. Interesting. I know it was pretty common for people to tie salmon and steelhead flies on down-eye hooks at one time. I have a few old full-dress Atlantic salmon flies a friend gave me, that are all tied on heavy wire, down-eyed (I believe) Partridge hooks, with limerick bends.

    I first found this patten in Dick Stewart's Universal Fly Tying Guide. In that book it is referred to simply as a "Skykomish," and is listed with a calf tail wing. It's not surprising that the original was tied with polar bear when he could get it. I suspect that calf tail and other substitutes came into popular use only after polar bear was no longer readily available.The two recommended hooks are the Mustad 36890, and as it turns out, the Eagle Claw 1197. What d'ya know!

    I originally tied mine on Mustad 9672 hooks, 'cause that's what I could get. Later I was able to get a hold of some of the up-eyed salmon hooks, but I continued to tie my cutthroat sizes on the 9672.

    When I was in high school I ran into a guy who commercial fished out of Sitka, and wintered in Wa. He and I got to talking about fly fishing for steelhead, and he gave me the background on the fly. (And also the full name...)

    I think it's pretty rare for any patten to survive contact with the public completely unchanged. I actually like that, as each variation then reflects the sensibilities of the person who tied it.
  10. It is indeed a beautiful pattern. I can't say it ever worked for me for steelhead but I switched the red to pink colors, tied it much smaller and it worked great for SRC on the Oregon coastal rivers.

    I don't know if folks still use it on the North Umpqua and I don't fish the river but for many years, The Skykomish Sunrise was the pattern of choice.
  11. Love it. When I started swinging for steelhead on the Clearwater my "mentor" had been doing it for decades. He gave me a half dozen patterns to tie up and this was one of them. I've stuck with most of them because they work.
  12. That fly brings back some great memories. The biggest steelhead I ever caught in the Wind River was taken on a Sky on a late fall day when there was about 4'' of fresh snow and the river was a gorgeous ribbon of emerald green running through a sea of white. It was a starkly beautiful scene and the Skykomish Sunrise was the cherry on the sundae that day.

  13. Here's a picture of a Skykomish Sunrise tied in the more traditional style. The low wing was typical of Northwest steelhead flies of the period and the hairs of the wing were never stacked, allowing the wing to show a tapered silhouette in the water.

    As noted above, the Skykomish Sunrise was actually tied by George McLeod at father Ken's suggestion (most of Ken's flies were tied by George or by Ken's daughter. Another classic George McLeod pattern, the Purple Peril, had its inception when an order of claret-colored materials ordered from Herter's (one of the major suppliers of fly tying materials in the 1930s) for tying some Montreals was SNAFU'd by a clerk and purple materials were sent by mistake.

    1-sh1.jpg 1-DSCF1866.JPG
  14. Cool! That looks pretty much like what I used to tie. (My first hair stacker was a 35mm film canister.)

    I never realized that the Purple Peril was George McLeod pattern as well, and one born of a mail order screw-up to boot. The Purple Peril actually still enjoys a certain amount of popularity here on the Clearwater. Thanks for sharing that tidbit.
  15. Idaho steel,
    Thanks for reminding us of a great classic pattern. Certainly one of my favorites and you will always find a few in my fly box. Funny thing, though, I've caught steelhead and cutthroat on the Skykomish Sunrise in many rivers but it never produced for me on the Skykomish! Go figure.
  16. lol im 23 and not only fish it but tie it in a few different colors instead of the red. lt. blue, chartreuse, orange, and lt. pink. its a great fly. the sunrise is a great fly.
  17. Here is a Skykomish Sunrise I used last summer. It's a little wet. DSC02063.jpeg
    Beachmen likes this.
  18. You'd have better luck if you attached the pattern to your tippet :)
  19. That's a new kind of fluorocarbon. You need a special lense to see it.:D
  20. Works damned good!!! :p

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