Classic California steelhead patterns...

#1
I'm tying a few flies for a friend in CA who's heading for the Trinity at some point. I thought it might be neat to add some flies with local history to the mix. Just curious if anyone knows of any patterns that originated in California. Given that California is really the birthplace of fishing for steelhead with a fly, one would think there would be some "local" patterns out there.
Thanks.
 

Big E

Active Member
#2
Night Owl, Thor, Burlap, Herniator, Silver Demon, Assassin, Orleans Barber, Barber Pole, Bellamy, Adam's Rib, Orange Shrimp Cocktail, Orange Steelheader, Orphan, Pink Salmon, Improved Govenor, Optics, Steelhead Caddis, Haas Polar Shrimp, Chappie, Ugly Bug, and Brindle Bug.
 
#3
Awesome! I've heard of (and tied/fished with) several of those flies, but never realized they were of California origin. Learn something new every day! Thanks!
 

NCL

Active Member
#4
I fish for steelhead on the Trinity quite often and one of the most effective flies for that river I have found is Mike Mercer's Psycho Prince, not exactly a classis steelhead pattern.
 

FT

Active Member
#6
There are even earlier flies than the ones Big E listed. The Humbolt Railbird (also simply known as the Railbird), Carson Royal Coachman, Van Zandt, Silver Bell, Soule, Martha, Kate, Scarlet Ibis (this fly although not developed in Northern California, was in use by the mid-1890's for steelhead there), Hardy's Favorite, Dusty Miller, Grey Hackle, Royal Coachman, Benn's Coachman Coachman, and Black Prince that were in use for the Northern California steelhead fishing on the Eel, Trinity, and Klamath. Most were developed there for steelhead, but many of them were simply adapted for steelhead by tying them larger. A few, like the Dusty Miller, were adapted from Atlantic Salmon flies.

The most amazing thing about them is they were all in use in the late 1800's and very early 1900's. And back then, most of the steelhead fishers were fly fisherman who got up to the Eel, Klamath, and Trinity by railroad From San Francisco to Sacramento and then a stagecoach to their destination, a not considerable undertaking. All these early flies were also nearly all feather wings with a few hackle flies like the Grey Hackle. None of them were hairwings.
 
#7
There are even earlier flies than the ones Big E listed. The Humbolt Railbird (also simply known as the Railbird), Carson Royal Coachman, Van Zandt, Silver Bell, Soule, Martha, Kate, Scarlet Ibis (this fly although not developed in Northern California, was in use by the mid-1890's for steelhead there), Hardy's Favorite, Dusty Miller, Grey Hackle, Royal Coachman, Benn's Coachman Coachman, and Black Prince that were in use for the Northern California steelhead fishing on the Eel, Trinity, and Klamath. Most were developed there for steelhead, but many of them were simply adapted for steelhead by tying them larger. A few, like the Dusty Miller, were adapted from Atlantic Salmon flies.

The most amazing thing about them is they were all in use in the late 1800's and very early 1900's. And back then, most of the steelhead fishers were fly fisherman who got up to the Eel, Klamath, and Trinity by railroad From San Francisco to Sacramento and then a stagecoach to their destination, a not considerable undertaking. All these early flies were also nearly all feather wings with a few hackle flies like the Grey Hackle. None of them were hairwings.
This may be a bit misplaced in the context of this thread but I just wanted to say thanks for all the knowledge you drop here and elsewhere. You clearly have a deep passion for tying and carrying on traditions and your posts are authoritative and helpful, keep it up.
 

NCL

Active Member
#8
I am not sure on this but isn't the Silver Hilton originally a Klamath River fly? It seems like I read that somewhere.
 

9iron

Active Member
#9
The single most effective pattern I've ever used that worked on multiple norcal rivers is the Birds Nest.
 

David Dalan

69°19'15.35" N 18°44'22.74" E
#10
Copper Colonel -- there are several patterns by this name, but the old (pre-1940's) version was copper body with a black bucktail (or other hair) wing. No tail, no hackle. I use metallic copper chenille for the body.

From what I read, it's probably intended as a caddis/stone imitation of some sort.
 
#13
http://trinityflyshop.com/tfs_fly_bench_hilton.html

On Left margin are some other classics. I've done better on the upper T with small emerger & nymphs than classic pattern's, especially in the recent low water years. My most effective pattern is Herb Burton's Golden Stone, swung. Psycho Prince also a good one, as is Hare's Ear Poxyback, Burton's Plimp and Rock Candy also effective.
Travis, I'd like to see your GS.
Here's my favorite GS, I call it the meter man


IMG_20140104_222433_557.jpg
 
#14
Trey Combs "Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies" published in 1976 gives the most detailed history of steelhead fishing in N California. A excellent book, not only of the people but detailed information about the flies also.