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Salmonfly.Net Salmon and Steelhead Fly Tying Guide  In Memory of Yuri Shumakov 

Tips and Techniques

The Flies of Dr. David Burns (And a Few Good Tips)


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Dr. Burns into a Steelhead on the Little Salmon River; Photo taken by Zach HawsDr. David Burns, Master Fly Tyer, conservationist, and fly fisherman, is currently enjoying his time in retirement after serving a distinguished career as an educator, a 3 year stint with the Washington Department of Game, and 30 years as a fisheries biologist with the USDA-Forest Service. During that time he has written, published, or presented many professional reports and papers dealing with fisheries science and conservation and has been an active member of several professional organizations. Dr. Burns has won numerous fly tying awards and competitions over the years and received coverage in many magazine articles and books. It you would like to know more about Dr. Burns and his flies, see his Contributing Fly Tyer pager at The Flies of Dr. David Burns. 

El Pinto, shown below, is one of Dr. Burns latest creations. In this article he shows that and offers some of his simple techniques he has come to use over the years  for tying and fishing his favorite flies.

 El Pinto

El Pinto is a new fly designed by Dr. Burns for the BVFF auction in January. The hackle is from a new batch of cock-tails that he received from John Shewey. The collar is hen cock de'Leon. The wing is mottled peacock.

El Pinto



Tips and Techniques from Dr. David Burns

"The picture below illustrates why I tied my heads back away from the eye of up-eyed hooks. I lash them to the tippet as on the top hook. This allows for a more direct pull on the shank and against the hook point. I believe that I miss far fewer fish this way. The tippet is lashed around the hook shank passed back through the eye and then a uni-knot is tied and pulled up to the hook. Try it for yourself both ways and pull the hook into a cork. The difference will be obvious. I've been doing this with up-eyed hooks for about 50 years and at least I'm convinced it matters."

Tying up-eyed hooks to the tippet.

"Tying the Green Butt Skunk Spey-style is a staple of mine. Here (below) are two pictures illustrating flies from my fishing box. The picture of the single fly is shows one with a straightened eye, so that I can lash it directly to the tippet rather than wrapping the tippet around the hook shank; this fly has a gold rib rather than silver, wings of cockatoo, and some peacock Lite Brite worked into the black wool body dubbing."

GBS Variation - White -Tipped Hackle

"The second picture with five flies illustrates, from top to bottom, a pretty standard size 4 with wool body and white goose shoulder wing; then a size 1.5 heavy wire hook with the same materials. Third is a fly that has been in the drink; it's tied on a 1.5 standard wire hook that has had the eye straightened and a body of purple SLF. The fourth fly is tied on a hook that I buggered up while straightening the eye; I filed it down and put on an eye of 15# Rio Extreme tippet braided in three strands; it has some peacock Lite Brite in the body, as does the last fly with black wings. These flies illustrate being consistent with style, but not being a slave to pattern. When you tie this way, you can use a lot of materials that might otherwise not be used. I tied with scraps a lot!"

GBS Variations

"Here's a picture of some variations on the fly that I call the South Fork Salmon River. Most of the time I tie as in the top two flies. The top fly is on a size 1.5 with a more claret-ish coloured hackle. The second fly is on a Partridge model N. The third fly is on a 2/0 Partridge Carrie Stevens streamer hook; they don't grow mallard big enough for wings on this hook so I used turkey. The last fly is on a 2/0 model N that I broke the eye on so I used a Rio Extreme tippet eye braided in three strands; I had some scraps of black cock-tail, purple hackle (throat), and turkey so this fly was born. "

South Fork Salmon River Spey Variations

"I think it would be good to explain the soft eye that I use a bit more (see some of Dr Burns' flies below). The first thing that I do is take three strands of Rio 15# Extreme tippet and braid them together. I used to use Climax Duramax and I'm sure that there are similar types of fishing line that would work. Then with the hook in the vice I run thread from the rear of the hook toward the eye with no gaps between turns, and stop about 1/16" before getting to the end of the shank. Then I double the braid to form an eye similar to the procedure shown in John Shewey's book, and start turns of thread over the doubled braid back toward the rear of the fly. As a rule of thumb, I lash the braid down for about 2/3 of the body length. Toward the rear of the braid, I shred it and cut it off at an extreme angle to the hook shank, not perpendicular to it. Then I lash that down and whip finish the thread. The braid is very slippery and that is offset with glue. I run thinned out Pliobond over all the turns of thread and thoroughly saturate them and the braid. Finally, I saturate the eye with some flexible head cement and set the hook aside to dry before tying a fly. The cement on the eye helps keep it open and reduces fraying during fishing; it comes off a little, but is easily replaced when needed. This makes a durable eye that I have never broken nor pulled out of the fly using 15# fluorocarbon tippet. Pliobond is great stuff. Leroy Hyatt from Lewiston, Idaho, got me using it years ago. If you coat the hook before wrapping it with wool yarn or dubbing and then tie into wet Pliobond the finished fly is extremely durable. I don't believe that's covered in any books. It's sort of the same caliber trick as dampening the tie in point on wings with saliva before lashing them, too "delicate" to write about. There are lots of nifty tricks in John Shewey's Spey Flies and Dee Flies: Their History & Construction and his more recent Steelhead Flies; I highly recommend those books to people interested in more tricks and tips."

A Sample of Previously Submitted Flies From Dr. David Burns

Click on Thumbnail to Enlarge in New Window

Rochers Rouge Black Watch Over Ste Marguerite Joque Etchemin Ancient Campbell Three Ayes For Idaho - This fly, designed by Dr. Burns was called by him 'An experiment in asymmetry' Isle of Skye - This beautifully fly was tied by Master Tyer, Dr. David Burns for a TU Earth day auction. American Steelheader Steelhead Lay Dee - Originated by Dr. Burns Jock Scott Blue Jock Scott with a blue floss body; one of the variations that Dr. Burns ties for his fly box. Purple King South Fork Salmon River Spey - An original Dr. David Burns Fly Sol Duc Spey Pimp Mo Shrimp - This beautifully spey was tied by Master Tyer, Dr. David Burns in the style of Clark Lucas. Klamath Topping Egg - Another Dr. Burns original, this one designed to imitate a fish egg. Veach's Green Sockeye Fly - A Fly A proven Sockeye-taker, designed by Dr. BurnsPornge - The name Pornge comes from its colors (pink-orange). Dave created this for a April trip to the Klamath.

Bimps Cutt - a special creation for a customer Kelson's Black Doctor - tied for fishing McCall's Special - recently completed and framed for a Shepherd's Home benefit auction Turkey with Blues - tied for a National Wild Turkey Federation auction

Also see

Summer Steelhead

New Flies for Mar-Apr Issue

New Flies for May-Jun Issue

"Treasure of Idaho"

"Tartan" Flies 1

Ancient Macdonald Lord of the Isles and Ancient Red Macdonald Lord of the Isles

By Dr. David Burns

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