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.