Max Canyon

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Max Canyon steelhead fly. It was developed by Doug Stewart in the early 1970’s.

Our fly club has an outing in Max Canyon on the Deschutes River next week to fish for steelhead and I thought it timely to highlight this fly.

Max Canyon

You may have seen it spelled differently…Macks Canyon, but it’s the same fly. In addition, there’s a different variation called the Dark Max Canyon. The “dark” fly replaces the tail with a gold tag and the white calf tail is tied with black calf tail instead.

The Max Canyon was inspired by the Skunk and Brad’s Brat (developed by Enos Bradner – perhaps a likely candidate for a future TBT Fly). Stewart took the black from the Skunk and orange from Brad’s Brat to create the fly.

This particular fly came from a box of steelhead and Atlantic Salmon flies given to me years ago by a good friend. The fly box belonged to her dad and one of the rivers he fished was the Deschutes. I’m honored to keep his dream alive.

The fly is a little over-dressed in my opinion. In fact, it might even float with such a dense wing. I’d tie a more sparse looking tail and wing.

Have you used this fly? Let me know.

Enjoy…go fish!


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Copper John Rainbows

I’m finishing up a custom fly order which includes a few Copper Johns. Since I had all the materials out, why not tie up a few Copper Johns in different colors for me? I’m calling these my Copper John Rainbows.

Copper John Rainbows |

The Copper John is the creation of John Barr. He started to create the fly in the early 1990’s and spent about three years refining it. The fly you know today as a Copper John was finished in 1996. Read about the full history and how to fish the fly in his book Barr Flies. It’s a great book and offers many variations to the Copper John theme along with several other creations. The book provides step-by-step tying instructions and detailed information about how to fish his flies. I’ve used the book as a resource for several years and keep going back to it!

Original Copper John

Copper John Nymph |

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Quill Gordon

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Quill Gordon.

Quill Gordon - TBT |

I think there’s something elegant about Catskill style flies. And the Quill Gordon is one of the originals.

It was created by Theodore Gordon before 1906. Gordon was born in Pennsylvania in 1854 and is recognized as the father of dry fly fishing in America.

Upon moving to be close to the Neversink River in the Catskills, he spent time developing dry flies. He ordered some wet flies from England. Gordon realized these flies didn’t imitate the insects here in America. In addition, he cast the flies upstream trying to allow them time to sink. Occasionally, fish rose for the flies before sinking. Hence the need for dry flies.

The Quill Gordon utilizes stripped peacock herl for the body, learning the technique from the British fly tyer, McClelland. Stripped peacock herl was used in several Catskill fly patterns and is still used today.

I think I’ll wait for a good winter day, pull out 6 hooks and tie up a few Quill Gordons.


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Splashy Rises

I love to see fish rise. That’s why I fish dry flies. Splashy rises are my favorite. It’s the type of rise form which tells me the fish are exploding at the surface with reckless abandon. I like those two words…reckless abandon. These takes may be the most memorable. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

Splashy rises are what makes the Salmonfly hatch so much fun. You know where the fish are. There is no doubt when a fish takes your fly!

Ever thought about why fish make different rise forms? Splashy rises…head and tail rises…tails only…a sipping fish which only leaves a barely perceptible ring? I’m lucky enough to fish quite a bit and I see these different rise forms all the time. 

Rising Fish |

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LaFontaine Emergent Pupa

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the LaFontaine Emergent Pupa.

Anyone see any continuity from last week? Just checking…

LaFontaine Emergent Pupa |

The LaFontaine Emergent Pupa is the final phase of a caddis as it climbs out of it’s pupal shuck and makes it’s way to the surface to finally fly away from the water. The earlier stage is a pupa and last week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly – the LaFontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa.

This is another Gary LaFontaine creation from the 1980s and his book entitled  Caddisflies.

Gary’s underwater research highlighted the shinny pupa as it was right at the surface trying to get through the meniscus…where water and air meet. The sheath of antron represents the gaseous bubble surrounding the body of the real caddis and something trout key upon.

Amazing how fly fishers forget about some of these older flies.

I better tie up a few more of these in different sizes and colors. Perhaps those selective fish might just eat one!



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Fall Fishing

Yes, fall fishing is here. My wife is still clinging to the notion summer is not over, but the weather and changing leaves tell a different story.

And the fishing is different too. Dry fly fishing is back with a vengeance. Gone are the dog days of summer and it’s been replaced with fish rising to strong hatches of caddis, mayflies, and stoneflies.

I love this time of year.

One day last week, my fishing partner landed 6 fish to my 1. And it wasn’t because the fish weren’t rising where I was fishing. I couldn’t dial it in. Frustrating, but quite a challenge. And you know the fish win when I leave the river with respect for the fish that continue to rise. 

I’m a fly tyer, so I’ve been working on a few “beta” flies I’ve tied recently and testing out this year. These flies are the result of being “schooled” by rising fish. It’s part of the chess match I enjoy.

Here are a couple of size 18 caddis patterns I’ve tied recently.

Caddis - Beta 1 |

Caddis Beta 2 | www.johnkreft.comAnd then there’s the different versions of CDC Caddis I’m tying for matching the Little Continue reading

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LaFontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the LaFontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa.

Here is a fly I tied many years ago.

LaFontaine Deep Sparkle Pupa |

I first learned of the Deep Sparkle Pupa when I purchased Gary LaFontaine’s book entitled Caddisflies in the 1980s. It took him 10 years to write the book because of the research he performed.

When Gary started the book, not many people were talking about caddisflies. It was all mayflies. He wrote the book with the fly fisher in mind…as a problem-solver. What caddis fly stages (larval, pupal, and adult) are available to the fish? How can the fly tyer create fly patterns to imitate these stages and catch fish?

Gary spent many hours underwater watching trout eat real insects. Then he went to the fly tying vise and created patterns to imitate what he saw in the water. And the Deep Sparkle Pupa was one of his creations.

He found that DuPont’s Antron yarn produced the desired sparkling effect he observed in the real insect as it began it’s journey to the surface. Antron is translucent and reflects light, two important properties to emulate the real insect and trigger strikes from fish.

So after pulling out Gary’s book and refreshing a little of my knowledge, I better give this fly pattern another go!

Enjoy…go fish!


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Recent Changes

I’ve been working hard adding fly patterns, so I thought I’d highlight a few recent changes you may not have seen. Even if you’re not a tyer, read on because some of these fly patterns are well known flies that can be purchased at your local fly shop. You might recognize the names…now you have a picture to go with it!

In addition, I’ll be adding a few steelhead fly patterns in the near future. Any favorites I should include on the RiverKeeper Flies Steelhead Flies page? Be sure to leave a comment about your favorite steelhead fly.

Why add more fly patterns you ask? Here’s a few reasons:

  • First, I’m a fly tyer.
  • Second, I’m a fly tyer..can’t help myself.
  • When adding Throw Back Thursday Flies, several of my readers asked me to add fly pattern sheets for those flies. 
  • In some of the posts, I discuss similar or variant fly patterns, so I’ve added them as well.

Here is a list in case you haven’t seen them. I’ve sorted them by the Fly Pattern page categories:


Purple Haze

Purple Haze |

PMD Foam Emerger

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Forest Maxwells Purple Matuka

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is Forest Maxwell’s Purple Matuka.

Maxwells Purple Matuka |

I first started tying this fly in the 90’s after I met Forest. At that time, he worked part-time at Keith Burkhart’s Valley Flyfisher fly shop in Salem, Oregon. Forest talked me into a couple Powell steelhead rods for Karen and me to fish. And he sold me a steelhead fly line using 30′ interchangeable heads attached to some running line (the non-fly line type). I had a little problem getting used to casting the line, but once I got the hang of it, I could cast a long way! Continue reading

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Flies from IFFF

During the IFFF Fair in Bend, Oregon earlier this month, I had a chance to sit down and watch some pretty good fly tyers. I thought I’d share a few flies from the IFFF Fair.

Lee Clark has a new version of the Clark’s Golden Stone he calls the Clark’s Lady Stone. The fly is very similar to the original, but Lee found a way to imitate the female egg sac that really seems to work. Lee’s excited about the new fly and  allowed me to add the fly pattern sheet to RiverKeeper Flies.

Clark’s Lady Stone

Clarks Lady Stone |

Clarks Lady Stone - Bottom View | Continue reading

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