Tube flies have been around for a long time, but over the last five years or so they've become much more popular on Steelhead Alley and this past fall I finally succumbed to buying a kit and started tying my own. I decided to try out the tubes even though two store-bought versions failed to produce a single strike. I was won over after a day of instruction and fly tying by Jeff Liskay. We tied up a sample fly at the end of the day and it was much simpler than I anticipated. Of course, that fly also has failed to produce a strike. Rick Kustich's new book, also provided ample of reason to give tube flies a try.
The water was running a brownish green on the Rocky River about noon as I walked up to the river. Conditions looked perfect for a dark marabou streamer behind some T-11 sinking line. I resisted the temptation to tie on an articulated intruder fly and instead tied on a black and purple marabou fly with a cone head in front. One of the appealing characteristics of tub flies is that you can add cone heads simply by slipping the cone on the line before tying on the fly. The cone rides down the leader and rests on the front of the tube. It's an easy way to add (and remove) weight.
I assumed I would need the extra weight to get the fly down in the heavy current. I had the pool to myself except for two geese hanging out at the head. A large hawk that squawked from the sycamore tree took off in search of rodents. Water tumbled down the 60 foot cliff, providing a constant soundtrack as I double-spey cast my way through the run. I was beginning to wonder about my fly choice when a hard strike caused by spey rod to jerk and the reel to scream. The strong female steelhead skated across the surface as I tried to tighten the drag. She then ran fast straight up stream, forcing me to reel up line as fast as possible. After a hardy fight she came to shore with the tube fly stuck in the side of her mouth.
A few drifts later a second steelhead struck the tube. And after moving downstream, two more fish hit a pink and white tube fly. Yep, tubes work. It will be a little harder to pick which fly to use next time I'm on the river. That's a good problem to have.