When you make a living landing fish, a quality landing net is important, and this past season at Alaska West we had the privilege of trying out one of the more unique net designs we’ve seen – A net currently being produced by a fresh new company called GoDolly landing nets.
We fish a lot of articulated ‘leech’ style flies at our lodges. Why? Because they work really well! In fact, we just ran a step by step fly tying post on one here.
However, one down side to most stinger style leech patterns is that once the stinger hook becomes dull or straightened, the hook cannot be changed.. After all the stinger hook is typically tied directly to the bunny tail at the vise.
We like a little more versatility in our flies, so today we present you with a great tip from Alaska West guide, Grant Turner, on a great way to rig a bunny tail fly so that it not only rides even with the stinger hook, but the hook can be replaced as well. See the step by step below.
We know many of you enjoy our expert rig series of posts, where we highlight every detail of the setups used by the experts chasing fish in our neck of the woods. It’s been a while since we’ve put out an expert rig, so we reached out to Alaska West guide, Grant Turner for the nitty-gritty of one of his go to set-ups.
Grant is a super fishy angler, and a go-to guide at our Alaska West operation who loves to catch fish on the swing whenever possible. Trust us, he’s put quite a hurting on our resident rainbows over the past couple seasons! He’s also a year-round Alaskan resident, and takes to chasing Alaskan steelhead during the off-season. Having been born in Alaska, raised in Oregon, and educated in Washington, grant knows a thing or two about swinging flies for steelhead.. Here’s his rig of choice when searching for AK steel.
- 250 yards of 3o lb. Dacron backing attached to spool using an arbor knot.
- Bimini Twist tied in running line end of backing to create a loop large enough to pass a spool of miracle braid through.
- Entire spool of Airflo 30 lb. Miracle Braid (50 yards) as running line attached to backing using a loop to loop connection.
- Loops are made in both ends of running line by doubling back miracle braid and securing with 3 nail knots using 15 lb. Maxima Ultragreen (click here to see how!). Nail knots are then coated with Loon’s UV Knot Sense.
- Airflo Skagit Switch 540 connected to running line via a loop to loop connection.
- 10 feet of T-ll, looped on both ends using nail knots (same method as used for running line).
- 36 inch leader made from 12 lb. Maxima Ultragreen attached using a non-slip mono loop for the loop to loop connection, and to attach the fly.
- Custom variation based on the Idylwilde’s Moreohn’s Bantam (more on this below).
“I like the method because it isn’t overly stiff or fast. It loads deeper in the base of the rod, and the tip maintains its stiffness which helps throw lots of line. It also fights fish really well.. The rod might be over-matched for many of the steelies up here, but there is always the possibility of hooking a big fish in the 12 lb+ range. The 8126-4 allows for long casts AND the insurance that you’re not going to get your ass kicked if you hook that fish you have been dreaming about! It’s also a great crossover stick for those looking to pursue the big boys in other areas as well.. Big chrome kings? Large B.C. steelhead? No problem ..”
“The Hatch 9 plus balances the 8126 perfectly, and when dealing with hot anadromous fish you can’t get much more bomb proof than Hatch. Its one of the best drag systems I have ever fished with and you can fine tune your drag more so with this reel than many I have fished with.. I buy gear to use and fish hard, and I don’t feel like I have to set this thing on a satin pillow when I put it back in the boat. Like I said.. Bomb proof.”
“I don’t believe that there is a formula one can use to pick the perfect shooting head for any particular rod. Everyone has a slightly different stroke, and fishes different water which requires different needs in terms of the attributes of a given head. Try many different heads, go 30 to 60 grains lighter than you think you need, and also do the inverse to go heavier. Try as many different heads as you can, your casting will benefit from tweaking and tuning your setup, and you might be surprised with what ends up being your favorite, or your most effective head. On the same note you might discover that you want to change your head if you are changing your sink tip!”
“I personally like shorter skagit style heads. They allow for easy anchor placement in tight quarters or with branches hanging over your head. Steelhead don’t only live on gravel bars, and the Skagit Switch preforms exceptionally well in tight quarters, and high banks.”
“My go to pattern would be a variation of a fly marketed by Idylwilde called the Morejohn’s Bantam (see photo below). This fly incorporates barred rubber legs, which makes a very durable and wiggly substitute for barred hackle tips which are a feature in a steelhead fly that i have lots of confidence in. I tie it using a pro cone as it is is very light but gives the fly some nice aesthetic appeal. I shy away from big flies. Intruders are great with low vis, but i think fishing a smaller sparser fly is key to not scaring a fish or putting it down. Color of choice would have to be black and blue.. Its hard to beat with steelhead.”
More Expert Steelhead Rigs
Today we present you with a common sense, yet not so commonly practiced tip courtesy of Alaska West guide, Grant Turner. If you’ve ever spent a day in Grant’s boat, odds are after tying on a fresh new fly you’ve heard him say, “tea-bag your fly!” In other words, soak your fly until it is completely saturated. After all, in the words of Grant, “bunny don’t fish unless it’s wet!”
Whenever fishing subsurface flies, particularly large bulky patterns (streamers, flesh flies, or large saltwater patterns), it’s important that the fly be well saturated in order to fish properly. Sure, the fly will become saturated on its own after a few drifts or retrieves. However, those first few drifts or retrieves could be the only presentation Walter sees.. Especially when fishing from a boat!
Most of the time, fishing from a boat means one shot at a particular lie, drift, or fish. Think rowing down stream ‘drift boat’ style, or making a shot at a tailing bonefish from the bow of a flats skiff.. Listen to Grant, tea bag your fly, and make the most out of every second your fly is in the water.
More Universal Fishing Tips