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Tying the Scandi-bal

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By Neil Strickland, Photos by Alyssa Halls

The Scandi-ball
Photography by Alyssa Halls

I am a fan of big flies. I live on a swift coastal river whose cold waters originate from a glacier, holds giant steelhead, and all too often has plenty of color to it when it's fishable. A big fly that can get down in fast flows is sometimes the only way to move a lethargic fish. You need a fly that will hold its shape but still be soft enough to swing into the inside, and right off the bat, bunny strips come to mind and 9 times out of 10 you'll see a six-inch long piece of rabbit lassoed to the end of my string. But it soon becomes a chore to cast a wet wallet across the river.  

Sitting around the cabin the last few weeks in between dry spells, Alyssa and I have been playing around with Scandinavian style flies. We use Arctic fox a lot in our Intruder patterns and our Cannonball tube flies. Most of the time it's used in a dubbing loop as a kind-of-hackle, but we started exploring with it more and tying the Shumakov type of fly with the fox as a wing. They turned out great... but they weren't big enough for me.

For the last few years I've been searching on and off for a substitute for bunny in my tying. The synthetics always intrigued me, but the movement never looked right. Icelandic sheep and yak hair were both good thoughts, but in practice I found them to be curly and kinky at the ends and would foul or clump. I could of course just use Finnish raccoon or fox zonker strips, but again the wet wallet comes to mind. I put the thought on the back-burner, kept my head down and kept tying the same flies because they worked. My shoulder hasn't been pleased with me.

A good friend of mine by the name of Jeff Jennings (one of Michigan's myths & legends) recently introduced me to Himalayan mountain goat, or Cashmere goat. Comes about 7"-9" long and all sorts of colors. It can be hard to find but is rather inexpensive. We tied up a few Scandi style flies with it and immediately were impressed, then I started using it the way I wanted... and the flood gates opened. A suitable replacement for bunny as far as length and movement and holds absolutely no water. The first couple I tied in the same fashion as our "Cannonball" tube fly and Alyssa said "Scandi-balls," and I said "I was thinking the same thing."

Step-by-Step Tying Instructions

[Materials List] [Steps 1 to 12] [Steps 13 to 24] [Finishing the Fly]

Neil Strickland and Allysa Halls
Neil Strickland and Alyssa Halls make their home on Washington's  Olympic Peninsula, where as they put it, they "are earning a degree in Steelhead Fly Fishing", tying and operating their unique site for Steelhead flies, ANADROMY. If you are interested in  effective patterns for steelhead made from quality materials, it is definitely the place to go. 

You will find more flies from Neil and Photos by Alyssa on their page on this site, Anadromy Flies - Neil Strickland and Alyssa Halls



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