Winter Steelhead Tube Flies

Winter Steelhead Tube Flies are extremely popular on rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

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Tube Flies have gained popularity for many kinds of game fish.  In the last ten years, this type of fly has become extremely popular for winter steelhead, especially in our local area.  Originally adopted so that a smaller hook could be used with a large fly to cut injury to wild steelhead, this configuration also proved itself as a way to land a higher percentage of fish as well. The tube fly configuration has proven to be extremely versatile as hooks can be changed at will, and

be strung on the same leader to increase the size or the color combinations of any fly. With a tradition that fishing deeper is always better, it was surprising to learn that the most productive flies are often tied on lightweight plastic tubes.  This is because they move more freely in the currents which results in a a lot of seductive action.  Also inherent with in the popularity of lightweight flies is the increased efficiency of modern sinking tip spey lines.  You no longer have to have a heavy fly to fish deep.  As a mater of fact the lightweight fly concept fishes more snag free and lets the angle fish more efficiently. In order to construct a light weight fly that moves around a lot in the water, it is best to employ lightweight materials in its construction. If these material retain their bulk when wet, they will make the fly even more buoyant, thus increasing the movement of the fly even more. By varying the loft of the materials use to construct the fly, the flies resistance to the current flow can be fine tuned.  Materials with long soft strands gives the most movement.  In this realm nothing provides more movement than marabou, especially when combined with supporting

materials. Marabou plays an integral part in both the looks and usefulness of the fly patterns listed on this page.  Marabou is turkey underwear.  When wrapped on a hook or a tube and submerged in flowing water, marabou has the ability to move and impart life like no other known material.  Marabou comes in several configurations.  There is Marabou with short stiff stems and short, fluffy fibers.  This kind of marabou works great for wooly bugger tails, but doesn't work very good for the flies listed on this page. The kind that works best has long fibers and  
PremiumSchlappen are the giant hackles that flow from the base of the saddle and along side of the tail of a rooster.  They are opaque and the fibers are water absorbent and webby but much stiffer than turkey marabou. 
The best schlappens for tying steelhead tube flies have a fine stem and have a good portion of marabou like fluff at the base.  When the fly is submerged and fully saturated with water this fluff  fills in the shape of the fly and transitions the water flow from the stiffer hackle-like fibers in the front of the fly to the soft marabou at the rear of the fly.   The stiffer schlappen deflects the water flow, and allows the marabou to open-up in the current and move freely.  
Tubes for tying tube flies can be made from brass, copper or plastic.  Soft plastic tubes can accommodate the eye of a small short shank hook.  This configuration hooks fish quickly, yet decreases the injury that sometimes occurs using larger hooks. Brass and copper tubes add weight to the fly and com in differing wall thicknesses for different amounts of weight.  A liner tube is recommended for all metal tubes to decrease leader abrasion. A short piece of soft flexible tubing is added to the rear of each metal tube to hold the hook in place while fishing.
This drawing displays the colors of the Red Rocket Tube Fly and is meant to give the tier a sense of how the materials interact with each other.  As you can see all of the materials are tied in near the front of the tube.  First an orange marabou feather is wound on as a hackle starting about 1/2" from the front of the tube.  Then four strands of gold Flashabou are tied in the middle and the eight ends are distributed around the tube so that the strands radiate outward and lay on top of the orange marabou.  Next a red marabou feathers is wound on as a hackle.  Then a red schlappen feather is wound on as
a hackle.  Be sure to include some of the fluff from the base of the schlappen.  Before you apply cement to the head of the fly, take a brush or comb to the fly and make sure that all of the feather fibers are separated from each other. Tube Fly Parts can be found HERE.

The Simple Tube Fly 

Winter steelhead are usually found near the bottom and they tend to congregate where large structure gives them cover. In fact, when given the chance they even like to hide under things like logs and overhanging vegetation. One of the best things about marabou tube flies constructed on soft plastic tubes, is that they are fast and simple to tie. I have often thought that catching steelhead gets easier if you eliminate all emotional attachment to your fly. That is, if you are worried about losing your fly,

you are less prone to fish it in places where there risk of "snagging-up".  Using flies that you can tie in volume from cheap materials can give you a distinct advantage.

Pattern: Red Rocket Simple Tube
Tube: 1.5" Soft plastic tube
Hook: #4 TMC 105
Tying Cement: Anglers Corner Water Base Head Cement
Thread: Fluorescent  Red 210 Denier Flat Waxed
Tail: none
Rear Collar Hackle: orange marabou
Flash: Gold Flashabou, four strands each side
Mid Collar Hackle: Bright Red marabou
Front Colar Hackle: Bright Red schlappen
Head Cement: Anglers Corner Water Base Head Cement

The recipe at left is for the Red Rocket pattern which has been extremely effective, especially during bright light periods.  Simple Tube flies are tied in every color combination imaginable. The four most popular color combinations are listed below. These patterns have accounted for many many fish to the hand and will remain very productive in the future.

Set up up your tube fly vise.  Shown here is the famous HMH Premium Tube Fly Tool clamped in the jaws of a Renzetti Master Vise. The HMH Premium Tube Fly Tools features a machined, tapered mandrel which holds the soft plastic tube very securely.  Soft plastic tube have a lip on the fron end to keep materials from spilling off the front of the fly.  Place this lip against the head of the mandrel.  Secure the rear of the tub under the chisel edge of the tool.  This will keep the tube from turning on the mandrel.

With the mandrel of the tool aligned perfectly on the rotary vice, the tube can be turned on axis for either conventional, or true rotary tying.  Start your thread 1/8" behind the lip of the tube and wrap back as in tying any conventional fly.

.Trim the tag end of the thread.

 Extend the foundation of the fly another 1/2".

Tie in a large, fine stem orange marabou plume by the butt of the feather.

Grasp the tip of the feather with a hackle pliers. Rubber tipped hackle pliers work best as the fine stem of the marabou plum may be fragile.

Wrap the marabou plume forward using as much of the feather as possible. Tie it off and break off the remaining tip (or leave it in the fly).

 Tie in four complete strands of gold Flashabou. Tie these strands in the middle and pull them back on each side of the fly so you now have eight strands.

Gather these strands of Flashabout and pull them back and trim them just slightly longer than the marabou.

 Now you will have just the right amount of Flashabou to move freely when wet.

Tie in a bright red marabou plume.

Grasp the tip with your hackle pliers.

Wrap it forward and trip of the tip.

Tie in a bright red schlappen feather.

 Wrap the schlappen forward, tie it off and trim off the tip.  Finish the fly off with a smooth head and add head cement.

Popular Simple Tube Fly Patterns
These are the four most popular Simple Tube Fly patterns.
Red Rocket
TUBE: 1 1/2" long, 1/-16"inside diameter plastic or brass
THREAD: fluo. orange flat waxed
REAR HACKLE: hot orange marabou
FLASH: gold flashabou
FRONT HACKLE: red marabou
FRONT HACKLE: red schlappen
HEAD: fluo. orange
Sandy Blue
TUBE: 1 1/2" long, 1/-16"inside diameter plastic or brass
THREAD: fluo. blue flat waxed
REAR HACKLE: black marabou
FLASH: rainbow flashabou
MIDDLE HACKLE: black marabou
FRONT HACKLE: blue schlappen
HEAD: blue

This is a favored pattern 
Purple & Pink
TUBE: 1 1/2" long, 1/-16"inside diameter plastic or brass
THREAD: fluo. pink flat waxed
REAR HACKLE: purple marabou
FLASH: purple flashabou
MIDDLE HACKLE: purple marabou
FRONT HACKLE: fluo. pink schlappen
HEAD: fluo. pink
Sandy Candy
TUBE: 1 1/2" long, 1/-16"inside diameter plastic or brass
THREAD: fluo. pink flat waxed
REAR HACKLE: shrimp pink marabou
FLASH: gold flashabou
FRONT HACKLE: shrimp pink marabou
FRONT HACKLE: pink & orange schlappen mixed
HEAD: fluo. pink

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