A cold December day that caught me by surprise. No surprise to myself that I was going to catch steelhead. The first run that I fished was no good, and I left pretty quickly on account of the cold air. A little hike was necessary to get to the next spot. This run felt better as the noon sun was lighting the water. I worked down the hole and near the tail out was rewarded with a stop. The steelhead put up a good fight and I was happy to see that she had taken the very small fly I had tied on. Cold, clear water sometimes means small flies! I soon found that the chill of the day had numbed my finger tips as I struggled to remove the fly!
After a quick break for a peanut butter lunch, I went back to casting. Wasn’t too long before another fish was on, and this time leaping his way down river. I landed the buck steelhead and found that this one had taken a larger Carpetbagger fly with the hot orange bead head. Fishing a couple other holes, I found the cold daylight waning, and I beat a hike back to the car. Multiple fish on!
This nice Rogue River winter steelhead took a size 8 Brown Fork Tail (Prince) Nymph under murky, high, February water conditions.
The Prince Nymph. Also know as the Brown Fork Tail. The most prolific steelhead catching fly of the past season. Fished on a dead drift. The weighted Prince. I like a brass bead and wrapped lead wire underneath. A drop or two of Zap-A-Gap will cement it in place. Two brown goose biots are wrapped on as a forked tail with red thread. An oval silver tinsel is attached to the far side to be wrapped as a rib. A length of strong, fine wire is attached to the near side. The thread is advanced to the front of the hook. 15 pieces of natural peacock herl are attached there at their fine tips. The thread is wrapped back to the base of the tail over the herl. At this point the red thread is wrapped around the full length of the peacock herl strands. The herl and the thread are twisted together to form a strong rope. Then the “rope” is wrapped to the front of the hook forming a tapered body. End the peacock herl body behind the brass bead head. Be sure to separate the extra herl from the thread. Clip the herl leaving a little free space behind the bead. Wind the oval silver tinsel forward over the body with 5 or 6 equal spaced wraps to the front. Counter wind the strong wire over the tinsel to the front. Bind down the tinsel and wire with several taunt wraps of the red thread. Trim the excess tinsel and wire ends. Attach a prepared brown feather hackle to the little space left between the body and the bead head. The fibers of the hackle can be folded to help slant rearward. The brown hackle is wrapped once or twice to sweep rearward as a collar. Two white goose biots are attached to the top just behind the bead as wings. To securely attach the wings, I like to fold/bend the cut ends rearward and cover them with the final wraps of thread. Build up a little red space with the tread behind the bead, whip finish and cut the thread. Several coats of cement (Sally Hansens or Zap-A-Gap) are applied to the thread. Notice the folded end of the white goose biot poking out at the base of the wing. A very attached wing that will not slip off.
Considering all the snow, ice, rain and high water of early January this year it is good to reflect back on the warm days and hot fish of summer on the Rogue River, Oregon. Early morning wet wading. Oh what a treat. It will be a while until we can do this again. In the meantime keep an eye on the weather and river flow. Winter steelhead fishing is next on the Rogue agenda, and with the high water flows, fish could be trickling in sooner than expected.
A diminutive Brown Fork Tail Prince Nymph working well. I like the pattern with a slight, yellow-brown tail. Today I was using the pattern on the size 10 hook.
Even with all the fancy fly choices you can fling out there, cold water Rogue River steelhead like Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymphs best. Maybe it is the wiggly legs? Maybe it is the cool New Age Chenille body colors? Maybe it’s the weighted bead head? Maybe all that real matters is that they work best in the waning months of the year! Try the Midnight Fire, Midnight Rainbow or Copper/Gold/Black chenille body colors. Try the bead head “Magic Flies” this November and December and don’t go home a big gobbler!.
Native Rogue River steelhead released to fight again.
The Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph tied with the New Age Midnight Fire Chenille.
The Carpetbagger Stonefly Nymph done in Midnight Rainbow chenille. This was the original hot color.
The orange egghead Brownbagger is the pattern to use now on the upper Rogue River.