The Willy Whitefish began nearly a decade ago, the product of much fiddling and tinkering at the bench as I sought to come up with a faithful bull trout fly that was quick to tie, had lots of inherent movement and flash, cast with ease and caught fish. It’s parents were the infamous Zonker and Double Bunny, both highly effective big trout and char patterns, but cast like a waterlogged sock, especially the latter of the two. I wanted a fly that could sink efficiently without a bunch of extra weight to counteract the neutral buoyancy of rabbit and would maintain an enticing swimmy appearance in the water. It caught gobs of bull trout from its inception, but has also become that random fly in the box that I’ll reach for on those tough days when little else seems to be working. Willy Whitefish has since caught rainbows, browns, sea run cutthroat, large and smallmouth bass, steelhead, chinook and coho. It’s a great pattern all year, but really shines in the spring and summer when the rivers come alive with salmonid fry and out-migrating smolts. The dark gray back and light underbelly contrast well and present a highly visible silhouette even in cloudy water when the rivers color up with spring run off. I generally fish Willy Whitey on a light sink tip on the swing in rivers, periodically adding a twitch here and there. In lakes, I’ll cast and erratically retrieve the fly often using a fast sinking line or streamer tip while I anxiously await the big slam. Willy Whitefish has proven himself time and time again as the little engine that could in my arsenal of flies.
The Willy Whitefish
Thread: Black 140 Denier Ultra Thread
Hook: #6 Gamakatsu S11-4L2H
Tail: Charcoal Gray Zonker Strip
Body: Silver or Holographic Silver Diamond Braid
Throat: Tuft of white rabbit
Flash: Lateral scale
Cheeks: Silver Krystal Flash
Eyes: 1/8″ Silver Adhesive Eyes
Finish: Complete head with Loon Thin UV Fly Finish
Confluence Beer Pairing: Gently pour yourself a cold glass of Ninkasi’s Easy Way IPA while you whip up a dozen Willy Whitefish for your next adventure on the water. It’s a light and citrusy session beer that goes down easy, just like the fly you’re about to tie. Like everything Ninkasi produces, this new one is legit.