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As Told by Dennis Dickson

Dickson's Lights OutA simple request... Not so long ago, I found myself looking for a surface steelhead pattern I could fish effectively in early mornings and evenings on the Grande Ronde. Crystal Caddis has always been our go to surface fly some time. As the blonde deer hair of CC is not a great silhouette in low light periods I thought if I could come up with a dark colored counterpart, this could compliment the Crystal Caddis fishing, quite nicely. In the end, I decided to keep it simple by creating a dark version of our favorite Crystal Caddis.

The skunk series catches a ton of steelhead on the Ronde. It’s my opinion the steelhead get jaded with the black series, in all the flyfishing downstream. These steelhead also appear to like the colors of purple & orange, and as such we developed the popular GR which is a wet fly fished just under the surface. Where anytime you can be swing fishing a floating line, there is something about the takes you get from a surface fly buzzing in the currents. Bottom Line: Lights Out is a surface steelhead fly; a marriage of action and profile of the Crystal Caddis with the color scheme of our favorite wet fly, GR.

As a long time steelhead outfitter, if I am fishing more than one rod on a piece of water, I rarely fish the same pattern over the fish. My reasoning is that if steelhead want a particular fly, they would probably hit it the first time. Why show it to them again? I will freely confess, my idea was not to create a fly to take the place of Crystal Caddis. I was merely looking for a fly with increased visibility for surface fishing the afterhours. That is how I came up with Lights Out.

So there we were, chasing the summer run steelhead of the Ronde. I remember we were fishing a lovely canyon pool down in the roadless section on another three day adventure. Life doesn’t get better than this. Did I ever tell you how much I enjoy it down there? Anyway, as a long time surface steelheader, you can hardly get Russ to fish anything but Crystal Caddis, and frankly I can’t blame him. Year after year, he catches more than his share of Grande Ronde steelhead, all on a skating CC.

Robert is more of a pragmatic angler. As a guide’s dream, he will do pretty much anything (within reason) I recommend to him. I asked him to try out our new purple fly. He obliged. As the evening shadows crept over the pool, Robert fished his way into the sweet water of the pool, there came a lovely head and tail steelhead roll, rod goes down, and “you know the drill”. I have to tell you, I was more than thrilled that we may have come up with another Grande Ronde taking fly, and a surface fly at that! That was the good part.

When I moved in and tailed the fish, I muttered, “Oh my.” Robert says, “What’s the matter?” “Gees Man, she almost swallowed it!” Sure enough, the fly was down the steelhead’s throat, barely missing the tongue and a gill raker. Lucky. A quick hemostat release and the barbless hatchery hen was off to deeper water. None worse for the wear. Ten minutes later, Robert was releasing a second steelhead while I was up tending to dinner. More perfect! Well, not to belabor the point, but I guess you know what fly Robert wanted to fish all the next day.

The daylight steelhead the next morning was understandable; after all, I did build it to fish when the light was off the water. What I didn’t count on, was the 9:30 AM fish or the 2 in the afternoon steelhead, both coming with full light on the water. By day‘s end, all three of my anglers were fishing our new fly, “Lights Out“. Their concept of the name, however, was more like a knockout punch, instead of the afterhours kind of fly I envisioned. Gee, tuff problem to have.

Best of fishing


Materials List

Name Dickson's Lights Out
Category Steelhead
Hooks Gamakatsu T10 3h #4 or #6
Thread 3/0 for body, Kevlar thread for head
Tail None
Tag 4 strands of Krystal Flash, Orange
Body Orange poly yarn
Rib Orange Krystal Flash, wrapped forward
Wing Orange grizzly hackle tips (optional)
Overwing 12 strands orange Krystal Flash
Collar Spun Deer Hair or Elk, Purple
Head Spun Deer Hair or Elk, Muddler style, Purple

Lights Out Step 1
Step 1
Lights Out Step 2      
Step 2
Lights Out Step 3
Step 3
Lights Out Step 4Step 4
Lights Out Step 5      
Step 5
Lights Out Step 6
Step 6
  Lights Out Step 7    
Step 7

Lights Out is tied exactly as the Crystal Caddis, the only difference being that Purple Deer Hair is substituted for the Blonde.  The inset is a photo of Lights Out on the thumbnails and on the instruction page photos.

Fishing: I always fish the fly with a riffle hitch, depending on which side of the river I am fishing. For full details on fishing surface flies please read my article on Surface Flies for Steelhead.

As you can probably tell, skating flies for steelhead is the finest freshwater experience I know. That’s my opinion and I am sticking to it.

1998 Photo (Dennis holding a steelhead)
1998 Photo (Dennis Holding Steelhead)

Northwest native Dennis Dickson is a Washington fisheries biologist who also has enjoyed the opportunity of being a steelhead flyfishing guide for over 20 years.  He and his staff share their vast experience, teaching their highly popular flyfishing schools and bringing anglers from all over the world to enjoy the thrill of flyfishing steelhead. Dennis and his guides, who along with himself, fish many clients throughout the year.  His website, is among the most widely read Internet weekly steelhead flyfishing reports in the state of Washington. Dennis also has personally written some 40 articles and stories about steelhead flyfishing. Flyfishing has been good to Dennis; The writing is his way of giving something back.*

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