Steelhead Fly Fishing - The Blue Thunder
Winter and spring steelhead pattern.
Ian James provides us with his step by step tying instructions for the 'Blue Thunder'. Yes, you're right - it doesn't have a bit of blue in it, but you'll see why when you read Ian's notes.
Hook: Mustad 9671 or equivalent
Size: To match the water conditions. (Overall, the sizes 4, 6 and 8 are the best for steelhead.)
Threads: White and black.
Body: Small diameter silver mylar piping
Wing: White calf tail
Topping: Purple Flashabou # 6913
1. Tie the white thread on at the bend.
2. Cut the mylar piping one hook shank in length.
3. Pull the cotton core out of the mylar piping.
(The above bit is very important, or 'bad things' will happen when you try to stuff the mylar along the hook shank.)
4. Slide the mylar over the eye, down the length of the shaft, to the thread.
5. Tie down the mylar with the white thread.
6. Whip finish and snip off the white thread.
7. If you fancy it, trim the tag ends of the mylar to make it look pretty.
The fish won't care if you do or don't.
8. Attach the black thread to the hook shank near the eye.
9. Tie down the mylar to the shank at the eye of the hook.
10. Trim away any unsightly excess mylar bits sticking out over the eye.
11. Snip a bit of white calf hair from the tail to form the wing.
(Tip: Make sure you snip the hair as close to the bone as you can, so you get the maximum length. It means you can get more flies per tail.)
12. Tie the calf tail hair onto the hook shank, exactly where you snipped off the excess mylar. This will help prevent you building up a big head with the thread.
13. The wing should extend 'about the width of the hook gap' out over the back of the hook.
(Tip: Measure the length of the wing before you tie it in. You won't have to muck about trying to trim away the butt ends if the wing is the right length when you tie it in.)
14. Add a few stands of the purple Flashabou.
15. Whip finish and add a coat of head cement.
Say you need 12 strands of Flashabou in the finished wing. Cut off 6 strands about twice as long as you need them. Tie them onto the fly at their midpoint. Next, fold the 6 strands which are extending out over the eye back onto the wing. You now have the 12 strands you need on the wing and because it has been folded over and tied down, it is virtually slip proof and indestructible.
On many a steelheading trip in the early 1980's, I was getting a butt-kicking while my spin-fishing buddies were whacking fish on a Little Cleo lure. I went home and copied the colors of the lure. Hey, no need to reinvent the wheel.
My colour vision is not all that great, and when anglers were asking for the dressing for the pattern I told them it was tied with blue Flashabou, not purple. Hey, it looked the same to me! Anyway, the blue ones produced fish, but not nearly as well as the purple ones I was using. It was not until one of my fishing buddies tried one of the Blue Thunder flies from my box that the colour difference came to light. "Du-Oh!" By then however, the Blue Thunder name had stuck and so we decided not to chance it.
The Blue Thunder works well on steelhead and salmon, but it will also take white bass, white suckers, river redhorse, sheephead, and, if tied in larger sizes, salt water stripers, mackerel and dogfish. It is a smashing pattern for spring and winter steelheading along the watersheds and the shorelines of the Great Lakes, producing fish from Lake Erie, Lake Superior, Lake Ontario and Lake Huron - particularly in the Georgian Bay area where it was created.
The original pattern was slightly different. It produced lots of fish, but was rather time consuming to make. I have included it just in case you fancy tying up a few. It is a very, very pretty pattern, which looks cracking in the vise and in the box. I still tie these for Atlantic salmon fishermen who insist it should only be dressed on a 'heavy double,' or the Mustad 36890.
The original Blue Thunder had the following dressing:
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Rib: Fine oval silver tinsel
Body: Embossed silver tinsel
Wing: White calf tail
Topping: Purple Flashabou with a golden pheasant crest on top.
Throat: (Optional.) Speckled guinea hen.
Ps. There are no particular reasons why you need to use white thread when securing the back end of the mylar to the hook. It just looks nicer on the finished fly. Yup, black thread will work just fine. As for the use of the small diameter mylar piping . . . it gives the fly a wee bit of flash, without spooking the heck out of the fish. All the pattern needs is a 'glint,' nothing more. If you have any questions about my Blue Thunder, visit my website and contact me, and I might be able to help you out.
Images are copyright © Ian Scott.