Great flies are developed out of necessity. To solve a problem. To catch fish in challenging conditions or situations where other patterns just don’t quite get the job done.
That’s the basis behind Deneki pal, Daniel Cope’s Steelhead Phantam; a clever spin on Miguel Morejohn’s popular steelhead pattern, the Bantam, designed to target small-water coastal steelhead.
Daniel is an extremely talented fly tyer based out of Homer, Alaska (check out some of his work on instagram @dbcope). He was kind enough to put together a fantastic step by step on the Steelhead Phantam for our humble little blog, along with a great writeup on how the pattern originally came to fruition. We think its a must have for any coastal steelhead box, and you can find out exactly how to tie it below.
Take it away, Daniel!
The Steelhead Phantam – Tying Instructions
For several years, I struggled to find a fly that would not only be enticing to fresh steelhead found nearest to the ocean, but would also perform well in the smaller coastal streams I fish most often. I began testing dozens of commercial flies and found many were either too bulky (overdressed) to get down quickly in deeper water or cast effectively, or too heavy to ride over rocky tailouts or the inside portion of the swing without hanging up on the bottom. Moreover, most weighted commercial steelhead flies generally seemed to present too large of a profile for our summer run fish. This particular fact was hard to swallow. Thus, I became enamored with intruder-style flies from the first time I saw them. Nonetheless, I persevered
Over time, I quickly learned to avoid traditional-style flies (or any fly with the hook point riding down), due to the ever present wood and (worst of all) coal that’s all too pervasive around the edges and bottoms of my favorite streams. I became motivated to find a fly with the following characteristics; a sparsely dressed and lightly weighted pattern to get down or stay shallow by appropriately adjusting the casting angle, an intruder profile for its open body/translucence appearance and movement, smallish in size by intruder standards (2 to 2 1/2″ long), and fixed with an up-riding stinger hook.
Finally, several years ago it all came together. Not only that, I found some validation from the pros. I remember reading Deneki’s article on Grant Turner’s Alaska steelhead rig a while back and noting that his go-to fly at the time was a variant of Miguel Morejohn’s Bantam. That particular pattern out-performed any other by far during my previous season, and I quickly realized I might have been on to something. Since then, I’ve grown more inclined to tying more sparsely dressed patterns along with avoiding attaching stinger hooks with wire or braid altogether. Tubes felt flimsy and I felt just didn’t look right with dumbbell eyes lashed to them, and the old school intruder rigging seemed a bit cumbersome on smaller flies. Eventually, I settled on the pattern and rigging that I’d been after for so long. It’s also a variation of the Bantam, but tied using pheasant as a major component (as opposed to ostrich). I call it the Phantam (misspelling intended), and here’s how it is tied.
- Shank: 35 mm MFC Fly Shank (Waddington-style).
- Eyes: Gold (Brass) Dumbbell Eyes, size small.
- Thread: 6/0 Uni-Thread, black.
- Dubbing: Hareline Ice Dub, chartreuse and kingfisher blue.
- Rib: Uni French Oval Silver Tinsel, size large.
- Body: UTC Opal Mirage Tinsel, size large.
- Forward Shoulder: Small Guinea, kingfisher blue.
- Rear and Forward Collars: Ring Neck Pheasant Rump, black.
- Wings: Small Grizzly Hackles.
- Overwing (Optional): Rhea or Ostrich (must be very fine).
- Flash (Optional): Krinkle Mirror Flash, pearl or blue.
Step 1: Prepare your shank by securing dumbbell eyes as shown, using minimal thread wraps. No stinger wire/loop is necessary (more on that below).
Step 2: Add a tightly packed BB-sized ball of chartreuse ice dub at the rear of the shank and catch in a pheasant rump feather by the tip. Use only 1 1/2 to 2 turns of the pheasant to form a sparse collar.
Useful tips: Always secure the tip by folding it back and wrapping over itself. This helps prevent the feather from slipping out. Also, when preparing the pheasant feather, be sure to peel the fluff off of the feather very slowly and in a direction parallel to the shaft to avoid breaking the stem.
Step 3: At the base of the dumbbell eyes, tie in oval tinsel and mirage tinsel on the underside of the shank. Wrap thread to the rear of the shank, securing both tinsels at the same time. This allows for minimal wraps of thread for nice smooth body.
Apply a thin layer of super glue to the shank and wrap the mirage tinsel forward, slightly overlapping each turn, and tie off just behind dumbbell eyes. Advance oval tinsel to just behind the dumbbell eyes in 4 to 5 turns, tie off, and trim excess.
Step 4: Tie in a tightly packed pea-sized dubbing ball of kingfisher blue Ice Dub. Be sure to leave enough space between the dubbing ball and dumbbell eyes for two hackles. Then, tie in a small kingfisher blue guinea feather with stiff fibers and wrap tightly against the dubbing ball to form a shoulder (see below). Only 1 1/2 to 2 turns are needed.
Step 5: Tie in a longer pheasant rump feather by the tip. Wrap 2 turns to form a collar.
Step 6 (optional): Add an over wing and/or flash over the hackle, if desired. Here I’ve used 4 to 6 fibers of rhea extending to the back of the shank. I don’t typically add flash, but if you prefer to, a little goes a long way.
Step 7: Tie in both grizzly hackle wings at the same time with a pinching loop followed by 2 to 3 loose thread wraps, Adjust the wings as necessary, then tighten up with a few more (tighter) wraps of thread and finish the fly with a whip finish and a touch of super glue to the head. As a final touch, pick out each of the dubbing balls with some velcro. This, combined with the tinsel body and gold eyes amounts to just enough flash for my tastes.
Rigging: To rig, pass your leader through the eye of the shank and over the back of the fly. Then, pass the leader down through the rear eye of the shank and through a piece of clear silicone junction tubing. Attach a stinger hook to the end of the leader using your favorite tippet-fly knot. Snug one end of the junction tubing over the back of the shank and the other end over the hook eye.
This rigging allows you to keep the hook point riding up, while making use of the advantages offered by tubes and old school rigging; your fly is able to pop loose and ride up the leader, thus minimizing leverage on the hook during the fight.
More on Steelhead Flies
- Steelie Pot Bellied Pig – Tying Instructions
- Tying Steelhead Skaters – The Bulkley Bee
- The Hoh Bo Spey – Tying Instructions