If you’re planning on targeting early season Alaskan Rainbows this year, it is in your best interest to have some smolt patterns in your box. Spring marks the time of year when venerable salmon fry begin the smolting process as they make their migration to the sea. During this transition, the colorful salmon fry lose their vertical parr marks and become uniformly silver in color as they prepare for life in a saltwater environment. Large hungry rainbows key into this seaward migration and therefore is essential to imitate for early season success.
There are many smolt patterns out there that will provide success during this time of year, most of which all share a few common characteristics. The most important characteristic is color. Smolt patterns are best represented by materials in the white, silver, or pearl range to best imitate the reflective chrome of salmon smolt. “Sparseness” in a smolt pattern is also very important in representing the slender profile of a true salmon smolt as well.
For today’s step by step, we decided to have some fun and took a classic spin on a smolt pattern, with a pattern we’ve deemed the ‘Retro Smolt.’
The Retro Smolt – Tying Instructions
The Retro Smolt is an “old-school” style feather wing pattern tied on a long shank streamer hook. Termed a “Rangeley-Style Streamer,” this style of fly was popularized many years ago by innovative fly tyers such as Carrie Stevens and Herbie Welch while imitating large freshwater smelt in the waters of Western Maine. Since then, these patterns have made their way all over the world to imitate various forage fish. The salmon smolt is no exception.
The Retro Smolt utilizes this style to achieve the long slender profile of a true salmon smolt. However, with the addition of modern synthetic materials for the body of the fly, we are able to create a more “electric” look to the fly that better represents that of a smolt. As with most streamer patterns, a red throat can also be extremely effective. As a fish struggles, the bright red of their gills is often exposed, causing a predator to key into this subtle flash of color. Here’s how to tie it.
- Hook: Tiemco TMC 300, 6x long, Size 2-8.
- Thread: UTC Ultra Thread, 140 denier, Black.
- Body: Medium clear V-Rib over pearl Flashabou.
- Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet.
- Wing: Peacock herl over four white saddle hackles.
- Throat: Red schlappen fibers.