Brian Silvey's Tandem Tube steelhead fly might be my favorite all time workhorse winter steelhead pattern out of a great big line of options. Sure, I'll tie Speys, Marabous, Intruders and fancy Prawn patterns with eyes and love them all, but when the clock is ticking, the river is in and you've got a trip fast approaching and gaping holes in your fly box, you can crank these out at break neck speed.
Let's face it, for all the pomp and circumstance we lovingly build into our steelhead flies, a simple rabbit strip lashed to a hook just plain gets it done day in and day out. Of course, being steelheaders, many of us are wired to take something as relatively simple as swinging a fly for a pea-brained critter newly arrived from the ocean and apply infinite layers of complexity when it comes to getting the job done. As much as I like the Silvey Tandem Tube Leech and have boxes of them tied more or less like the original, I also couldn't leave well enough alone and felt driven to add a few things.
I do really like the Pro Tube Flexi Beads for weighting this fly. Cones continue to work well if you want a lighter pattern, but the beads have some additional heft to them if you want to swing a little deeper without really compromising the castability of the fly. Also, every good steelhead fly worth its salt these days has to have a composite loop. Why not? They're fun to make and the creative possibilities are endless. And besides, when that tantalizing strip of bunny rabbit comes wriggling by Mr. or Mrs. Steelhead's face and they note the masterful concoction of synthetics veiling the fly, they're naturally going to think, "This dude really went the extra mile on that pattern and we ought to oblige." Or so I tell myself most minutes of the day while I'm dreaming of steelhead.
No matter that steelhead will also eat corkies, tufts of yarn and various bits of debris tumbling along in the current, this fly's got pizzazz. Originality in fly tying is tough to come by these days and I'm certainly not going to claim it here, but I refer to this one in my box as Eleven. It fishes well, just like Silvey's original, but in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnal, "It's one louder".
11 Steelhead Tube Recipe:
Tube: Pro Tube Flexi Tube
Composite Loop: Copper Ice Dub, Fl Hot Pink Baitfish Emulator, Orange Barred Predator Wrap
Tail: Black Barred Hot Pink Rabbit Strip
Flash: Copper Flashabou
Collar: Fl Fuchsia Crosscut Rabbit
Bead: Medium Ultra Orange Flexi Bead
Confluence Beer Pairing: Let's be honest, just about any beer tastes amazing after slogging 10 miles through a dripping rainforest in search of chrome, be it Milwaukee's Best or a well-balanced IPA from your favorite neighborhood craft brewery. I don't generally dig the coffee beers so much, but Kulshan's Coffee Milk Stout makes a great midday pick me up whether you're slacking at the tying bench or trying to muster the energy to get to that next primo run. The thirst quenching appeal and warming qualities of a dark beer paired with the kick of a high octane cold brew seems to be the right combo for the job.