Spade Flush


I know nothing about the Spade patterns. Are the wet fly style hackles supposed to be tied in short? Guess I'm accustomed to wet fly hackles that extend past the butt of the body. The red and yellow versions show longer hackles.

Cool look'n flies in any case.


Active Member
I know nothing about the Spade patterns. Are the wet fly style hackles supposed to be tied in short? Guess I'm accustomed to wet fly hackles that extend past the butt of the body. The red and yellow versions show longer hackles.

Cool look'n flies in any case.

The only experience I have with these flies is I found them on and thought they looked neat; the Joseph's Coat variation was the one that grabbed my attention. The pics I've seen have the grizzly a bit shorter than what I'm used to seeing, so that's how I tied them. The red/yellow guinea (there's shorter grizzly hen underneath that doesn't show very well) are s'posed to be tied longer.


Hillbilly Redneck

wishin i was fishin
Spade = kick ass low water steelhead pattern. One of my favorites because they're easy to tie and catch fish. I always tie mine like the first one pictured. Maybe with a peacock body. No bright colors


Active Member
Bob Arnold is a very good friend on mine, and I know Alec Jackson (who is also a very good friend of Bob's) as an acquaintance. Bob tied his SPADE with fine black chenille, used fine deer body hair for the tail (as you did on these flies), and originally used webby grizzly Chinese Rooster Neck for the hackle, which he tied on the longish side. After good genetic hen necks became available, Bob switched to genetic grizzly hen neck hackle, but still kept tying it on the longish side. The hackle on the SPADEs he tied was long enough to go a bit beyond the hook point, and he always tied it swept back. This fly has a definite "nymph-like" look to it and is in many ways a type of "spider" that were developed in Wales for trout fishing.

He has told me many times that he intentionally tied SPADE to be sort of a black-bodied BURLAP. Bob never tied the fly on large hooks, he tied and fished it on an old Sealy low-water hook that has not been made since the mid-1960's in sizes #8 and #10, with the #8 his favorite size. He likes the way it looks on the Alec Jackson Steelhead Iron (also known as the Daiichi #2161) hook in #9, which is the smallest size, and the hook I tied it on. Russ Miller of Arlington, WA, who has known Bob since the late 1960's also likes it when tied on this Daiichi hook in the same size I do.

Bob tied and fished it in the original black, black body with natural brown hackle with grizzly hackle in front of it, with a tail of yellow and red deer tail, red body, with red and yellow hackle (He did this to have it have the colors of his friend and steelhead mentor Ken McLeod's and his fly tyer son George McLeod's SKYKOMISH SUNRISE.), and with a black deer tail tail, red body, and grizzly hackle (Bob called this one GARTH, which is his son's name.). Bob specifically chose deer body hair for the tail to provide lift to the rear of the fly in order to keep the hook bend and point from pulling the back of the hook down in low, slow water.

In fact, when Bob first tied it back in the late 1960's, it didn't have a name. He simply referred to it as a Black Bug. Jerry Wintle liked it so much after seeing Bob hook several fish on it one summer, that he took it back to B.C. with him and called it "WINTLE'S WESTERN WIZZARD" when asked what it was. Bob was not happy about this, but since he and Wintle knew each other well, the air got cleared, Wintle apologized, and all was OK between them again.

Alec doesn't like the way chenille looks, he says it looks "dead" when in the water. So he developed a chenille rope made from ostrich herl to make the body on SPADE and other flies such as his SAUK RIVER GRUB, and SAUK RIVER SHRIMP because it moves with the slightest current change. This is the body you used. It is made by tying in a piece of fine oval tinsel (usually silver) and from 3-7 ostrich or peacock herls on the bottom of the hook at the tail tie-in spot. He then puts a pair of rubber-jawed hackle pliers on the end of the herl pieces and oval tinsel (this is very important because unless it is rubber-jawed hackle pliers, the herl will break when twisted.). Alec uses a dubbing twister placed in the bend of the hackle pliers and then twists the herl/oval tinsel counter-clockwise until the herl looks like a chenille.

Alec uses mouse deer body hair (he calls it Dik-Dik body hair) for the tails on his various SPADEs. He always used genetic grizzly hen hackle on his SPADEs and often wraps dyed guinea in front of the grizzly. Alec also almost without exception ties his SPADEs with fl. orange Danville Flymaster thread. And to get the super small head on his SPADEs, Alec wraps the thread back over the last wrap of hackle toward the rear of the fly 4 or 5 turns, breaks or cuts the hackle or guinea stem, and them puts a 4 or 5 turn whip finish with a Materelli Whip Finisher right over the wraps used to tie the hackle down and back to finish the fly.

Alec ties SPADE in many different colors, including an all purple one he calls the WHAKA BLONDE, which name he gave it because a blonde teacher who taught in the same school with his wife tinted her hair light purple when she got into her 60's and her hair turned almost white. Hence the name for his all purple SPADE - WHAKA BLONDE Alec's inside joke for old gals that tint their hair light purple, pink, or blue.

Many folks tie it or have tied it, and some have made variations of the original. John Farrar, Dave McNeese, Alec Jackson (or course), Joe Butorec, Sean Gallegher, Jerry Wintle, and other well-known or semi-famous steelhead fishers also tied or tie it.

SPADE, despite its effectiveness in very low-water, has never had commercial success. I've only ever seen it in the old Avid Angler when Tom Dorsey owned it, Dave McNeese had it in his fly shop down in Salem, OR before he got into trouble with the feds for selling undocumented jungle cock and polar bear over 20 years ago, and Manuel used to carry it in his shop in Port Angeles in the 1990's when I tied it for him and before he retired and closed the shop in 2001. Joe Butorec tied and sold it for many years before his death, and I know he tied it for Ted's Sport Shop for a few years before folks quit asking for it. I think Bob Aid had it in the Bellevue Kauffmann Store until Lance Kauffman told him to stop buying flies from Butorec because Kauffmann's had their own supplier who tied the flies oversees.There are probably some other shops that carried it, or still carry it, but it has always been hard to find in a shop.

Despite the lack of commercial success, it is found in the fly boxes of a large number of experience and excellent steelhead fly fishers for low-water use.

Salmo-G knew all these folks and I'm sure he saw SPADE used by all, if not most of them. I'm also sure Salmo-G recalls some of the dispute over who originated it, whether Bob or Wintle.

Forgive me for making such a long post. I thought it important to provide folks who know little or nothing about SPADE with more information about a fly that was originated by a very good friend of mine.