Written by: Jim Lampros, fishing manager, Orvis Cleveland
Anglers chasing steelhead on the Lake Erie tributaries are faced with constantly changing water conditions. Though fish are not typically pattern-selective, finding them and getting them to actually see a fly can be a challenge. With that in mind, here are 10 flies that I fish with confidence throughout the fall, winter, and spring seasons:
1. White Beadhead Crystal Bugger (Sizes 6-10): Given that the vast majority of an Erie steelhead’s diet is composed of baitfish, such as emerald shiners and smelt, it is no wonder that white is such a productive color choice. When I tie this fly, I typically wrap an underbody of ice dubbing in colors such as chartreuse, blue, pink, and olive to help the fly “show up” under a variety of water conditions.
2. Micro Nuke Egg (Fluorescent orange and pink, size 12): Egg patterns consistently produce the highest number of hookups on the tributaries. The contrasting colors and translucency of the Nuke, I believe, are the keys to its effectiveness.
3. Jellystone Nymph (black, chartreuse, pink, size 8): A great, easy-to-tie stonefly nymph in highly visible colors. Fish it down and deep without fear of losing it.
4. Lynch’s Double Dot Egg (tangerine, orange, pink, size 12): A twist on the venerable Blood Dot Egg, the contrast of this two-tone egg pattern increases its underwater visibility. (Are you noticing a theme here?)
5. Psycho Prince (orange, dirty pink, sizes 10-14): This is one of my favorite flies for fishing low, clear water. Under these conditions, I like to fish the Psycho Prince behind a small, pale-colored egg pattern in a two-fly nymph rig.
6. BH Flash Zonker (white, olive, sizes 6 & 8): Another staple baitfish pattern. A versatile fly that works equally well whether drifted below an indicator or swung on a tight line.
7. Senyo’s Ice Man Minnow (blue/pink, chartreuse/olive): A baitfish pattern that presents well when fished under an indicator with weight (split shot, sink putty, etc.) ahead of it. Tied on a tube, the fly is durable, and dulled hooks can be replaced without discarding the fly.
8. Vitso’s Psycho Spawn: A flashier version of the local staple sucker-spawn fly. An example of the tried-and-true formula of taking a good fly, adding some flash to it, and ending up with an even better steelhead fly.
9. Al Green: A great leech pattern for swung-fly presentations. Check out noted tier Kevin Feenstra’s Grapefuit Head Leech for a flashier alternative, which I like during high water or during the winter when fish are sluggish.
10. Senyo’s Shaggy Minnow: Baitfish profile, movement, and flash: a perfect recipe for a successful swinging fly.