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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Summer's Hope

Summer's Hope
(An edited version of this step by step appears in the current edition of Swing the Fly)

I started tying the first versions of my current skater in the fall of 2012 and I've been honored and humbled that there are folks out there that have liked my pattern enough to have asked for step by step tying instructions for it.  It took a while, but I finally got a step by step posted on my blog this past fall.  I'm such a steelhead fanatic that every spare moment of my time is spent taking advantage of those windows of opportunity to fish so it was only under the forced down time of late fall that I got around to putting an SBS together.

My skater was born out of the necessities of pure function, so efforts to create a pattern that stays on top and has good visibility were the key goals in it's conceptualization.  Over time, the pattern continues to evolve and I continue to tinker with colors, visibility posts, flash, etc.  This pattern is one that lends itself to many color combos, but I'll just use the "Summer's Hope" version, tied in size 4, in this SBS.

This particular version of my skater got it's name after realizing that it's color scheme utilized all the colors (plus a couple more) of Bill McMillan's famous Winter's Hope.  I checked in with Bill to see if he'd be offended if I named my fly the Summer's Hope and Bill was gracious enough to reply that he felt my fly would be a fine compliment to his famous Winter's Hope - Bill is a kind man indeed!

Materials list:

hook:  Mustad R73 (9671 equivalent), 2xl streamer hook.  The Tiemco 5262 or other similar hook can be substituted.  I most frequently use size 6's and 4's although I have tied versions of this pattern ranging from size 2 to size 10.  If one prefers, up eye light wire steelhead hooks such as the the Tiemco 7989 can be used as well.  I just prefer the down eye hooks for ease in rigging the fly due to the foam lip being compressed against the eye of the hook.

tail:  Moose body

thread (rear half):  white 3/0 or A

Flash:  purple holographic flashabou, over tail and cross wrapped up front

butt:  florescent green floss, use a single strand

tinsel:  oval silver

body:  purple globrite floss

Foam shellback/lip:  pink 2mm foam, cut into a tapered piece approx 1" x 3/8" x 3/16"

Flash ball/thorax:  Large Minnow Blue cactus chenielle (distributed by Hareline)

Thread (front half):  140 denier black gelspun, for strength in tying down the elk hair wing

Wing:  Black Cow Elk, select a patch with as straight hairs as you can find.  Too much curvature in the hair makes tying down evenly difficult.

Rear facing visibility post:  yellow 2mm foam, cut into a rectangular piece about 3/8" x 3/4".  Cut a V into one side.

Front facing visibility post:  orange 2mm foam, cut to approximately 3/16" x 1/8" x 7/8"

This is not a difficult fly to tie, but it is labor intensive, so be patient in learning to tie it.  Even when I'm on a roll, I can take 20-30 minutes to tie each one.

So here we go - hope you have fun with this one and even get to experience seeing it disappear in a surface steelhead attack sometime!

I put a slight dropping bend in the shank with needle nose plies, not mandatory, this just appeals to my sense of aesthetics.  Start the white thread mid shank, wind down to a point just past the barb.  This marks the body proportions I use for this fly.

Cut a small bunch of moose body hair, clean and stack to even tips.  Measure the tail to be about equal with the overall length of the body.  Tie in at the mid body point and wrap to the end of the body.  Take a couple soft wraps around just the moose hair to help keep the fibers gathered.

Add four stands of purple holographic flashabou on each side of the tail, cut even with the tips of the tail.

For the butt, tie in a single strand of fluorescent green floss, wind to the tail and back onto itself.  Be sure to cover the white thread.  The white thread provides a bright underbody for the floss.

Tie in the tinsel rib

Tie in the purple globrite floss.  Wind up and down the body a couple times being sure to cover the white thread.

Tie off the purple floss and start the black gelspun thread in front of the body.

Take five turns of tinsel and tie off.

Cut a tapered piece of pink foam to approximately 1" x 3/16" x 3/8".  Tie in by the narrow tip as shown.

Tie in the Minnow Blue Cactus Chenielle by it's core right in front of the foam.

Take three wraps of chenielle and tie off.

Take 8 strands of purple holographic flashabou and cross wrap in front of the chenielle.

Pull straight up on the flashabou strands and cut even.  Guesstimate the length to be a bit longer than the wings that will be tied in front of it.

Cut a bunch of Black Cow Elk about yey big.  It takes some practice to gauge how much to cut as you want to have enough hair to cover the perimeter of the hook and allow for some being trimmed on the bottom while having full wings remaining.

Remove the fuzz and short hairs from your clump of elk and place in a hair stacker to even the tips.  Carefully gather the black cow elk from the hair stacker.  Holding the clump in the right hand, evenly distribute the hair around the perimeter of the hook, making sure there is roughly an equal amount of hair on top and bottom.  Measure the hair so the tips are even with the bend of the hook as seen above.

Carefully transfer holding of the hair by the tips to the left hand, being sure to also gather the flash as well.

Take the thread and make a couple soft wraps around the hair and slowly tighten down with firm pressure.  The object is to flare the hair in place, not to spin the hair around the shank.  Make another wrap or two at most to secure the hair down.  DO NOT LET GO OF THE TIPS OF THE HAIR WITH THE LEFT HAND AT THIS POINT.  KEEPING A HOLD OF THE TIPS SERVES AS A GUARD WHEN THE BUTTS ARE TRIMMED IN THE NEXT STEP BELOW.

While still holding on to the tips of the elk with the left hand, grab your scissors and roughly trim the butts of the elk down. 

At this point, snug down on the gelspun a bit more, push back on the trimmed butts, work the tread to the front of the butts and make a few wraps behind the eye of the hook.

Trim the hair flat on the bottom to allow the blue chenielle to show through.

Turning to the top of the fly, evenly part the elk hair with the closed tip of your scissors to allow the foam lip to be brought over in the next step.

I make an upward facing pinch in the pink foam in preparing to tie it down.

Make a couple soft wraps and slowly tighten down.  Be careful not to apply too much pressure or the thread will cut through the foam.

Cut a piece of yellow 2mm foam 3/8" x 3/4" for the rear facing visibility post.  Cut a V into half of this foam piece.

Upward pinch on the yellow foam before tie down.

Tie down with 2-3 wraps, tighten slowly, again careful not to apply too much pressure.

Cut a piece of orange 2mm foam for the front facing visibility post.  I cut this one to approximately 1/8" x 3/16" x 7/8"

Tie the orange foam down with the wider side on the bottom, 2-3 wraps as seen above.

Work your thread under the fly and around just the eye of the hook, make a couple wraps.

This part may be a bit tricky for some - At this point, hold the foam back while making a whip finish, then follow up with making a second whip finish around the first one to secure everything.  Since head cement would not hold very well to gelspun, I have resorted to this double whip finish routine.  I previously did the whip finishes manually without a tool, but I have been recently using a whip finish tool as seen above as it prevents the fine strands of the gelspun from getting tangled in the dry skin of my fingers.
Cut off the gelspun close to the eye.  The foam lip will need to be trimmed down and the photo above depicts the proportions for the the foam lip that I like.

Side view of finished fly.   BC here I come!!  Oh darn, that's not until this fall....
I have been finding that the orange/yellow color combination for the visibility posts are probably the most easily seen under varied conditions.  The color combos for this pattern seems endless and I have tied this skater in color schemes including those of the yellow stimulator (The "Stimuwaker"), October caddis, McKenzie green caddis, green butt skunk, all pink, and various other combinations of baby blue, black, purple, and pink.

I hope folks have fun tying this skater and find lots of surface friendly steelhead this summer!!


  1. Well done on the Swing the Fly tutorial, my friend! This fly (as well as it's "tinkerer") has truly changed my steelhead game over the years.

  2. Thanks Adrian. Glad that you have fished my crazy foam creations from time to time, even with your insanely beautiful classics and all natural greaseliner, muddlers, etc., on hand. Also glad that you are fully immersed in the surface steelhead maddness, As you say "the surface steelhead attack is like crack"!