Float Butt Winter Fly
By Deke Meyer

Previous Flies
Fly Tying Terms

Here I lay out a fly that is not so much a pattern but a way to solve a specific fishing problem, particularly for bottom-hugging winter fish. You don't want your fly bouncing off the rocks but drifting just above them, at the level of the holding steelhead. So you want your fly to sink but not like a stone because you want it to "float" underwater, with the current.

To limit snap-ups, you want the hook point up, away from the bottom, with the eye of the hook closest to the snags - in other words, you want the fly to drift butt-up.

Steelhead drift fishermen accomplish this with a drift hook, lead and a corkie. (A brightly colored, hollow ball that rides on the leader, above the hook, to keep it off the river bottom; some fly-flingers lock them onto the leader with a toothpick, using them as strike indicators.)

Tying Tips

To get that upside-down attitude, you can tie in a short rabbit strip and some folded-over packing foam as a tail. Rabbit strip resists sinking, becoming neutrally bouyant, and the trapped air in the foam further flips the fly. (Use only a short bit of rabbit so the fish will get the whole fly in its mouth.)

The tiny blades of plastic that radiate out from the core of the Crystal Chenille show the sink rate and help keep the fly flipped on its nose. The plastic reflects light, attracting fish; the hackle undulates and adds color, stirring fish to strike.


You can tie this fly in various color combos; fluorescent chartreuse and hot pink appeal to steelhead in a wide variety of water conditions. For a faster sink rate you can tie in barbell eyes on the top of the hook, up front, which will also flip the fly upside down.

Particularly when used with nymphing tactics for steelhead, where your fly is drifting close to rocks and other snags, I believe you should tie the fly well, but also quickly and cheaply. Use the best hook you can find, but you can't afford to be emotionally attached to a fly tht may last only one cast before you lose it.

Part of the nymphing presentation is to go with a driftfisherman's hook, a short-shank, reversed vend style that helps defeat snags. And like trouters, you can use a floating line with split shot on the leader to fine-tune your dead-drift presentation. And even though your fly is drifting updide down, it will be the right way when a steelhead bites it.

Materials for the Float Butt Winter Fly:

    Hook: Short shank, heavy wire, sizes 1/0 to 4.

    Thread: Black 3/0 Monocord

    Tail:Closed-cell packing material: Zonker rabbit strip

    Body: Rear, florescent chartreuse Estaz; from fluorescent pink Estaz.

    Hackle: Fluorescent pink.

    Eyes: Optional, various weighted eyes.

1. Tie in foam folded over itself (makes two layers).

2. Tie in rabbit strip.

3. Tie in fluorescent chartreuse Estaz for rear half of body, wrap forward, tie off, trim.

4. Tie in fluorescent pink Estaz for front half of body, wrap forward, tie off, trim. (Leave room for front hackle and head.)

5. Tie in fluorescent pink hackle.

6. Wrap hackle, tie off, trim. Whip finish and cement. ~ ZM

Credit: The Float Butt Winter Fly is one of the many great steelhead flies in Tying Steelhead Flies published by Frank Amato Publications.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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