SS (Short Shank) Salmon Fly - by Greg Weisgerber

As a Fly designer, I strive to create new flies or improve on existing patterns to solve a problem, not just to make something new for the sake of it. In that pursuit, I’m always on the lookout for new materials to incorporate into flies. Even those that are not made for fly tying. This is certainly not something unique to me, I am confident every fly tier does the same. This is why we have such an amazing array of materials we did not have even 10 years ago. 

Over the past few seasons while fishing the beloved Salmon Fly Hatch on the Deschutes I wondered if I could improve upon the standard foam patterns that I have found so successful for many years. I thought about the potential issues I have with the current patterns. Such as, not being able to see them in dying light and the silhouette they cast to awaiting Trout. At 46 years old I am realizing I can’t see as well as I used to. This fact upped the ante for me in terms of why and how I needed to design my version of foam salmon flies. 

With the primary issues of visibility and size in mind as well as a desire to make the fly look more realistic, I began to create prototypes. Knowing I need some sort of foam to float the fly without adding extra weight I had the perfect material in mind, foam Backer-rod.

This material is designed to fill large cracks in concrete and similar locations and then be covered over with caulking. It is readily available at home improvement box stores and comes in long coils so it is very affordable and easy to work with. 

The material is extremely light and flexible and is unsinkable. I find it lighter than most commercial fly tying foams and it comes in the correct shape I need. Its only drawback is that it is soft and can be damaged. To address the durability issue I slip the backer rod into braided tubing which protects it and gives it a realistic-looking body and profile. 

I tested that body system over a couple of seasons successfully and found the profile and floatability were great. However, I felt I could do more to address the weight of the fly. Most patterns use long-shank hooks which can add up in terms of weight/ float-ability and provide increased leverage for fish when fighting larger ones. So, for the 2021 season, I found a short-shank hook to tie the fly on completing the prototype design. 

Finally, the time had come to test the final version of the fly. It was mid-May the first day of our 2021 trip and the reports from the fly shops were all positive that the hatch was on. We were floating out from Trout Creek but the weather had turned cold and it was overcast. Few fish were rising and fewer bugs were in the air. I tied the fly on and began casting and immediately I started to get slashing rises, but no takes. This was the pattern for the next hour or so with multiple fish coming up but none taking the fly. I began to wonder, was it the fly or the weather or something else. 

So, in as scientific a fashion as I could. I tied on a typical well-proven pattern to test the fish. To my delight, I had no more success with the proven pattern than I did with my new one. I had markedly less fish rising to the smaller profiled proven pattern than I did with my new prototype. Emboldened by that knowledge I continued to fish my new pattern with confidence. Finally, the weather warmed and I began catching fish with the new prototype. It performed as expected, not only was it more visible to me but to the fish as well. I never lost a fish because of the hook, although I have to admit I also never hooked any monsters on this outing. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you need a little more visibility either for yourself or the fish or start hooking monsters where hook leverage plays a part. I hope you consider the SS Salmon Fly.


SS Salmon fly

Hook: Owner Mosquito hook size 4

Body: Pearl round braided tubing , 1/4” foam backer rod colored with marker black top/ orange bottom.

Wing: White Poly-yarn

Legs: Barred orange silicone legs (1 leg cut in two per side)

Thorax: Burnt orange ice dubbing

Hackle: Black saddle


Prepare the Body:

1.  Make the body by cutting 2.5” of pearl round tubing and fusing one end with a flame.


2.  Then cut 1” of the backer rod and push it all the way into the body. 

3  Color the top of the body black and the bottom orange with a marker.

Tying Steps:

Step 1: Tie the body onto the hook, trim and put a drop of superglue on the wraps to keep it from rotating. Tie in the wing and then the crystal flash on top and trim.

Step 2: Tie in the legs onto each side of the body, secure the hackle and attach some dubbing to your thread and twist.

Step 3: Wrap the dubbing forward, and then wrap the hackle forward and trim. Wrap a solid head and finish with cement.

1 comment

  • Great idea.Off to “Cheapo-Depot” for the foam.Then to the vise.

    Bob M.

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