As winter sets in and water temperatures drop into low 30s, steelhead settle into a pattern of holding in deep holes and pools. As cold-blooded creatures, their metabolism is linked to the temperature of their environment, and cold water brings reduced feeding activity. They don't stop feeding at this time of year, but they are much less apt to chase down a quick-moving spinner or plug when the winter doldrums have set in. Flies tied for "motion without movement" offer increased chances at strikes when things get cold and slow.
Motion without movement is a simple concept once you consider the factors. Most flytying materials are used because of the profile they present in the water, or the action they add to a fly. Manmade fibers (like super hair or crystal flash) add bulk and flash to a fly, but not action. Marabou, arctic fox and rabbit fur have thousands of tiny fibers that pulse and "breathe" when the fly is stripped or the current moves them. This pulsing action makes the fly look alive and can trigger strikes from sluggish fish not willing to chase down a fast-moving meal. Tying in other man-made materials like rubber or silicone legs can offer similar action and visual appeal to predatory species.
Streamers like the Bunny Squidro incorporate motion without movement by using rabbit fur and silicone legs (frequently called sili-legs) cut from the same material used for spinnerbait skirts. These flies are best fished slow and deep, crept or swung through holes and pools on a sink tip. An occasional bump or short strip will add some pulsing action, but they can move fish all by themselves. Remember that excessive stripping may pull the streamer away from fish that are unwilling to move far to strike. The color palette for the Squidro is limited only by the colors used to dye bunny strips. Bigger versions of this fly can be cast and stripped hard for aggressive summer-run steelhead, or any other critter that likes to chase down buggy-looking baitfish patterns. For winter-run fish, tie it small and remember that wrapped bunny patterns soak up a lot of water and get heavy fast. Don't add any additional weight unless you truly need to plumb the depths of a 20 foot hole - a decent sink tip will pull this down just fine.
To tie the Bunny Squidro, you will need the following:
- Plastic tube or lure-making hook shank
- Cross-cut rabbit strips (different than Zonker strips, these are cut at an angle to facilitate wrapping around the tube)
- Sili legs (I prefer a color that contrasts with the body)
- Estaz or Ice dub
- 3D adhesive eyes
The step by step tying instructions can be found in the attached slide show. Tight lines!