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Adventures in Fly Tying... November 2006


Skykomish Sunrise

Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Photography and Video Production by Jim Stuard



"Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed."  Walt Whitman


It was in 1938 when George McLeod of Seattle, at the request of his brother, tied this fly to celebrate the brilliant sunrise over the North Fork of Washington's mighty Skykomish River.  The cheerful glow of the Skykomish Sunrise went on to become a staple pattern for Pacific steelhead.  In the 1950's this fly enticed a fish of more than 29 pounds from the Kispiox River, a fly rod world record for the originator of the pattern, Mr. McLeod himself. 


Traditionally this fly is tied on a japanned black salmon iron using a fat red chenille body and a wing of polar bear.  The bear has been generally unavailable since 1984, but only traditionalists will lament its loss for this fly.  Quality straight calf tail, arctic fox or goat are all fine substitutes.  I choose to use a dubbed body to increase even more the inner glow of this fiery pattern.  While seal fur has gone the way of polar bear for most of us, there are great synthetic substitutes.  Antron is used as a modern seal substitute and in a bright red color works well here.


The silver finish hook is a perfect compliment to the pattern, and with the advent of a silver double I think we have a great alternative for flies designed to be swung in the current.  The double hook is designed to sink fast and the additional keel ensures the fly rides right-side up, even in tumbling, white water.  These are important attributes for a fly used in the powerful Northwest steelhead rivers - and in the relentless Great Lakes tributaries as well.  A quick sink rate and stable attitude are also fine characteristics for white bass and hybrid wiper flies, too.  Those powerful pelagic predators prefer pounding currents and breaking curls where baitfish become an easy target, and a fly that finds the level and rides with a clean profile pays dividends in the form of more hook-ups.



Hook Partridge Salar CS14/2S
Thread 140 Denier, 6/0 red

Tail Yellow hackle fibers under orange (or red) hackle fibers
Body   Red seal substitute dubbing or, in the original tie, red chenille

Rib - Medium flat silver tinsel

Wing - White calftail (polar bear in the original)

Hackle - Mixed yellow and orange (or red) hackle, long and sparse

Cement - Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails

Windows Media   QuickTime  



Click on individual images for a larger view.

You can use an up-eye salmon hook such as a Daiichi 2441, Gamakatsu T10, Kamasan B190 or a 3xl or 4xl streamer hook.  I like this pattern, and other colorful patterns I fish "across and down" tied on double hooks. The new Partridge CS14/2 in size 7 or 9 is my favorite.

Mount the hook in the vice and attach the thread behind the hook eye.  Lay down a smooth base of tying thread.


Measure a clump of orange saddle hackle fibers about as long as the hook body.  Tie in the orange with two tight thread wraps.

Measure a clump of yellow saddle hackle so it is the same length and density as the orange. Carefully tie in the yellow so it stacks on top of the orange.

Prepare a full sized noodle of antron dubbing or a similar synthetic seal substitute.  I like to lightly wax the thread to make the dubbing stick a little better.  Loosely dub the thread and wind a fat body

Tie in a length of medium width flat silver tinsel.  You can use hammered tinsel for a bit more sparkle in stained water.
Wrap three or four turns of tinsel, letting the body material show shaggily through to create a glowing red halo.`
Measure and stack a clump of calf tail.  Make sure when you purchase the calf tail that you look carefully and select only those tails with good, straight fibers.  Clean the short hairs out of the clump and tie in with four or five tight wraps of thread.  A drop of glue will make the fly much more durable.
Wrap an neat thread throat on which to tie the hackle.
Select and match a yellow and an orange saddle hackle.  The barbs of the hackles should be about as long as the fly body.  Match the hackles and strip the fluff from the bottom. Tie in the hackles so the concave side faces the tail; this way the hackles will sweep back.

Wrap both hackles together.  Make two wraps and tie off.

Wrap a neat thread head and cement.
The Skykomish Sunrise is a delightful bucktail the lends itself to many variations.  Try this fly for shad, skipjack, white bass, smallmouth, largemouth and perch!



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