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The "Favorite Flies" series started a few issues back with a relook back to the flies that our contributors have submitted and several new submissions. This issue, with the approaching summer steelhead season,  we take a look at surface flies for steelhead with a heavy concentration on Bombers. Bombers were developed in the 1960ís for Atlantic Salmon fishing on the famed Maramichi River in New Brunswick, Canada - during a period of time when there was quite a lot of experimentation going on there with new designs. According to Trey Comb's in his book, Fly Fishing for Steelhead, the original Bomber was developed by the Rev. Elmer J. Smith.

Eventually they caught on as a Steelhead dry fly and became so popular that they come in an endless number of colors and styles these days. These flies are not fished to ride on their hackles like a traditional dry, nor does the wing help it as a floater. They are often tied, without hackle at all and with a deer hair body clipped to a flat belly to improve its stability on the water surface. Bombers are fished in a variety of ways but very often as a waking fly, on the downstream swing.


Green BomberGreen Bomber  is shown here because in form, it most closely resembles the original bombers tied for Atlantic Salmon  - tied with a tail of deer body hair or white calf tail, spun deer body hair, clipped to shape; tapered at both ends and palmered with brown saddle hackle; a wing of a single bunch of deer body hair or white calf tail. The Green Bomber is a typical variation - that of modifying the body color, hackle and wing. This fly can be be found in Flies for Alaska, by Anthony J. Route

Cigar ButtCigar Butt, is a variation originated by Keith Stonebreaker of Lewiston, Idaho. It is perhaps the simplest form and easiest tie yet, no less effective. Trey Combs writes in Fly Fishing for Steelhead that Mr. Stonebreaker likes this tied in a #8 or #10 because larger sizes do not seem to move steelhead as well. Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen write in Flies for Steelhead that by eliminating the hackle, this fly plows through the water rather than skating on it.

Bumble Bee BomberBumble Bee Bomber shows how Bombers can be modified to look more buggy by changing the colors to a bee-like coloration. It is hard to imagine any fish not being enticed by this a fly as it skates across the water like a downed bee.  Trey Combs writes writes, as a matter of fact, that when this type of fly was first introduced the "Results were immediate and Spectacular."

OrangeandBlackBomberJust like the fly above, the Orange and Black Bomber is an extremely buggy-looking fly. This one, in the orange and black color combination, with the black tail, wing and hackle, looks remarkable like a caterpillar. The originator, Don Hathaway probably intended for it to look just like that - imitating caterpillars that he had observed in British Columbia.

PooldozerThe crazy-looking Pooldozer to the right is another example of the endless variation out there in bomber-type flies. There is a useful purpose in this fly however, as crazy as it looks.  This skater fly was designed by Dr. Wes Terasaki of Issaquah, Washington with a full deer body hair head and collar to plow across the surface while the foam head keeps it from diving under.

Air BCAir BC again shows the amount of variability in bomber flies, but as always, with a purpose. This one, according to Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen in Flies for Steelhead was designed by Bill McMillan. The story goes that it was unsuccessful with Mr. McMillan's first attempts at fishing it, but it found great success on the Dean River after he gave it to British Columbia anglers Jim Abbott and Don Collis. The name Air BC came from the Canadian airline that uses the same colors.

Rusty BomberOk, back to flies that follow the traditional Atlantic Salmon bomber model. After tying this, however, I see two errors. Rusty Bomber can be found in Trey Comb's fine book, Fly Fishing for Steelhead and he writes that "the Rusty Bomber is a marvelous pattern if the wing is not tied too long." This one is. The other error is that the body should have been clipped flatter at the bottom, giving it more stability on the water's surface.

Lemire's IrresistibleLemire's Irresistible was originated by Harry Lemire and has reportably been responsible for many steelhead throughout the Northwest. It is as you can see, yet another example of the variation in form and color of bomber flies. For this one, the designer specifies that the body and hackle be trimmed flat across the bottom to give it stability. The entire bottom surface of the fly should be able to rest on the water.

Here is another fly that is simple in form and easy to tie, but not lacking in originality, at least as far as the name is concerned. Moose Turd is another bomber  originated by Bill McMillan, author of Dry Line Steelhead and other Subjects during a period when their was a lot of experimentation going on with the surface flies. The curled tips of the wing is also clipped to help give the fly more of a "waking" action on the water and keep it from diving.

Green Wing BomberFinally we'll finish with one more variation in form. Green Wing Bomber, originated by Sean Gallagher of Enumclaw, Washington, is an example of how the wing can be varied in bombers. The squirrel wing, aside from being green on this fly is divided, adding more stability by keeping it from rolling over on the water.  That could make a big difference in keeping the "waking" action of the fly from becoming erratic.

Dennis Dickson Surface Flies

Finished Crystal CaddisNorthwest guide Dennis Dickson introduced his Dickson's Crystal Caddis to us in the Jul-Aug 2008 issue. But clients who went on one of his fall wilderness steelhead trips to the Grande Ronde in remote southeast Washington already knew that this was a deadly surface fly.  Now as another fall steelhead season approaches, I thought it might be appropriate to take another look at the fly and the story behind it.

Dickson's Lights OutLights Out is the low light variation of Dickson's Crystal Caddis - at least it was developed for that reason. But there were surprises with this fly as the story will tell. This surface fly is tied with the same materials, but with purple instead of natural deer body hair. It has proven equally successful for Dennis and his clients on his Grande Ronde trips, so you might want to consider one of two things - You can try your luck out by tying a few and fish them on your own, or you can get in touch with Dennis Dickson to book a trip. I have already booked my trip and I can't wait.

That's it for another month. Each month, we'll be presenting new "Favorite Flies" and targeting different species, so there will always be new flies and fresh ideas to look forward to in addition to the ones submitted by contributors. As always, Salmonfly.Net invites other contributors to submit their flies or ideas. That can be done by filling out and submitting the form on the page, Showing Your Flies or Photos on Salmonfly.Net.

Happy Fly Tying,


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