October Sea-Run & Jack Salmon Flies – from the 1970s

Orange Caddis tenkara Cutthroat Fly.

Orange Caddis tenkara Cutthroat Fly.

Everyone knows that the Borden Special is a very good fly to fish in the fall. No argument there. And by the way, the photo above is not a Borden Special!

But Bob Borden’s pink fly isn’t the only fly to fish for Bluebacks and Jack Salmon. I have been researching the most reliable flies that have been fished by several friends: flies that have been in use for fifty years. This is a solid basis to be assured of these flies’ fish-attracting powers.

And I’d propose that there are two reasons to tie up these flies before setting out to fish the coastal streams.

These are the same two reasons we don’t limit ourselves to fishing a Green Butt Skunk for steelhead.

First, always tying & fishing only one fly, even the Borden Special, is boring.

The process of challenging ourselves with new patterns, different materials, and different proportions inevitably challenges us to become more proficient and versatile as fly tyers.

So without droning on with more rationale that you know already, I’ll move on to show you three effective patterns you can fish for sea-run cutthroat and Jack Salmon.

Although I will list a materials recipe for the flies I am featuring here, none of the materials are precisely crucial. The important matter is to try to achieve a similar shape, color, and so on.

Green Caddis Cutthroat Fly.

Green Caddis Cutthroat Fly.

Yellow dubbing can be substituted for yellow chenille. Baby Pink chenille can be substituted for baby pink yarn. White deer body hair or arctic fox can be substituted for white bucktail. Finding a good substitute for yellow-dyed mallard is difficult, but a modest-sized, yellow-dyed grizzly marabou would be very good, I’m sure.

Have fun, give these Autumn Coastal River flies a genuine try. These patterns are fun to tie, and if there are cutthroat or Jack Salmon around, you have a good chance of connecting.

My thanks to Jeff Hunter for loaning me the Yellow Blueback Spider (Jeff’s pattern), and “Jerry’s Pink Panther” (a pattern of Jerry Stoopes, tied by Jeff). Thanks also to Stan Davis, for loaning his “Blueback Special.”

Jeff Hunter's Yellow Blueback Spider.

Jeff Hunter’s Yellow Blueback Spider.

Yellow Blueback Spider

Hook: Wet fly, size 6, 4
Thread: Veevus 8/0, yellow
Tag: Gold
Tail: GPT any color
Body Yellow chenille wrapped with
grizzly or yellow badger
Wing: Yellow Mallard

Jay’s note: You could substitute yellow schlappen for the yellow mallard if the schlappen is very bright yellow and very wide to give a “breathing” action.

“This is a great fly after the river comes up. The fish will move into the backwater to avoid the salmon, and this fly is deadly then. Has lots of action when stripped.”

Jay: I like this fly midday in sun, the bright yellow cast of the fly shows well and seems to produce better than my Borden Special. This fly also reminds me of the days I fished yellow RoosterTail spinners on the Yaquina tidewater.

Jerry Stoopes' Pink Panther.

Jerry Stoopes’ Pink Panther.

Jerry’s Pink Panther” (Jerry Stoopes pattern, tied by Jeff Hunter.)

This is a sea-run fly developed by Jerry Stoopes, mentor of my friend Jeff Hunter. Jerry was fishing blueback cutts in the 1960s, and this was one of his go-to patterns. It is pink, like the Borden Special, but it is the far more subtle baby pink rather than the hot pink we now associate with the flies we tie for sea-runs and silver jacks. The recipe is here.

Jerry’s Pink Panther

Hook: 2 X-long #8
Thread: Veevus 8/0 pink
Body Baby pink yarn
Rib: Small silver tinsel
Wing: Baby pink yarn, to end of body
Hackle: White, webby wet fly

Note: Baby pink Marabou is a perfect substitute for yarn as a wing. The Wooly Bugger Marabou makes very nice wings on a fly of this size.


Stan Davis' Sea-Run Special.

Stan Davis’ Sea-Run Special.

Blueback Special (Stan Davis Pattern).

Hook: Eagle Claw 1197-N #6
Thread: White 3/0
Tail: Golden pheasant tippets
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Yellow Chenille, yellow hackle
Hackle: Orange collar
Wing: White bucktail or other hair, soft

Jay’s note: The TMC 3761 in a size 6 or Daiichi 1530 make very nice hooks for this fly, Naturally, a TMC 7999 in a size 8 is excellent also, but I would not fish the TMC 7999 in size 6, in my opinion, the hook is too large for sea-runs that could be anywhere from 11 to 18 inches.

“Dad found this pattern in “Sea-Run Cutthroat Trout,” a book by Less Johnson. He used this fly at Winchester Creek, Winchester Bay, as a backup pattern.

One cold, foggy evening, five fishermen were fishing Winchester Creek just below the bridge. The fishing was very slow. The fish must have had “lock-jaw.” Dad tied on a Sea-run Special and caught three Bluebacks on about 10 casts. Dad was a hero and he found a new friend, the Sea-run Special. He usually tied this fly on a Wright & McGill 1197B hook. Nine-foot rods matched with five or six weight lines were the preferred rod. Five or six-pound Ultra Green was the tippet material of choice.”

I hope you find amusement, an idea you find useful, and joy somewhere in this post.

A final note regarding these blueback flies and their barbed hooks. These flies are traditional, and some are twenty years old. They are not the flies in my working fly boxes. These flies are as they are, and the photos are as they are, as traditional flies were tied and fished.

Please smash all of the barbs on your hooks that you will fish. I am not pretending that I always have done this. My friends know this. But nowadays, using a barbed hook just isn’t acceptable and doesn’t fit in my conscience under any manner of reasoning.  Life is about change. Some people change. Some change is for the better.

Jay Nicholas

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