Applying the same logic why cast a cats tail when you don't have to? Speaking of the Columbia Basin east of Bonn.- sometimes I am amazed at how effective the little tiny stuff is. A size 6 or 8 with 15 hackle fibers and a tiny feather wing, floss or tinsel body, and fished right under the surface with 100' sweeps. Yet the fish go gaga over them as if it were a cats tail. On a few streams even when the water cools into the high 30's. I have even downsized my dries to 6's. Nothing like a mid to high teens fish engulphing a little wet in the surface...or better yet AGGRESSIVELY sucking down a tiny moose turd.
I'm with Salmo, the Spade is my go-to pattern (wet or greased-line) for summer steelhead, east or west. I tie it with a dubbed body and often add a short butt of orange, fluorescent green or kingfisher blue.
I love the story of the creation of the Spade fly almost as much as I love the pattern itself. I just wish the two collaborators would get it straight. Best I understand is that Jerry Wintle was the brainchild, but seeing as how he loved to bum flies, or con someone else into tying for him, he explained his idea for a simple dark fly to Bob Arnold, who then tied the first one for Jerry. It was fish on at the Elbow Hole, and the fly has been a northwest staple ever since as far as I know. John Farrar was the first one I ever saw add an accent colored butt to the pattern, when we were fishing the Morice long ago, along the lines of the Skunk.
Altho it was first tied with a chenile body, and works just fine that way, I also prefer a dubbed body.
Salmo, isnt alec jackson frequently associated with the spade? Its so great the angling tradition we have here in the Northwest. I just cant get over the romance of catching a wild steelhead on a brads brat or another legendary pattern on the same water as our forefathers did some 70 years ago or more.
The Purpil Peril, Hellcat, Purple Floozy (for a little weight) and the Skunk either red or green floss butted used to be my top flies in summer. The Hellcat gave me some great mornings on the SF of the Stilly up around Red Bridge for a good run of summers. I actually had a few that Frank had tied and were given to me by Bob Headrick and it was pretty humbling to hook a few nice summer runs stomping around with the same flies tied by the same trailblazers who made this sport what it is. I spent some incredible mornings, with the sun coming up and me sitting on a rock somewhere and thinking about how special our history and rivers really are. I would think about the fish I had just released and imagine Enos, and Ralph and Walt fishing that same run 50 years ago. Just the river talking, no other sounds. That is a moment as close to perfection that this imperfect being will ever experience. Tight lines Coach :beer2:
Alec's association would be with more aesthetic Spade ties. I don't know that anyone ties a better looking sample than he does. I think Jerry and Bob created the Spade in '68, maybe '67. First time I know of Alec waving a fly rod at steelhead was in '73.
Forefathers sounds so George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I don't think they fly fished. Certainly not for steelhead. I'm an irreverent lout. I've tied a few Brad's brats, Skykomish Sunrise, Purple Peril and others. But I fished them and lost them. I settled on the Skunk (Wes Drain and maybe simultaneously tied by Howell in OR) for a number of years. But when I ran into Martin Tolley on the Morice and saw that he had brought two fly boxes for a full three weeks fishing, and he had one fly pattern filling both boxes, I came to realize the Spade is not only an easy, but very effective dressing. I've probably tied more of Walt Johnson's red shrimp and Sid Glasso's patterns than anybody else's, excepting the Spade.
I almost made some mention of "Wintle's Western Wizard" but since, until the publication of Art Lingren's Fly Patterns of British Columbia, I always knew it as the Spade I didn't. According to Wintle, the creation of the fly was a joint effort of himself, Jim Lewis, Art Smith and Bob Arnold. Perhaps significantly, Arnold makes no mention of this in the chapter entitled The Cult of the Spade in his book Steelhead Water. He only mentions that, "The next day I tried Spade downstream, in the hole it was designed for -- the Manure Spreader. Jerry Wintle was there. I hooked an adult steelhead and lost it. Jerry wanted to see my fly. I showed it to him".
As does Coach, I like to fish some of the traditional northwest steelhead patterns. Many of them are attractive as well as effective. One of my favorites (and apparently one of Coach's too) is Frank Headrick's Hellcat. Frank, by the way, is alive and well and frequently attends meetings of the Washington Fly Fishing Club at the age of 98.