Thompson Tube [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Thompson Tube

05-07-2001, 12:36 AM
Thompson Tube
Dana Sturn

The Thompson Tube is the tube fly version of the Thompson Stone, a fly I designed a few years ago for steelhead on British Columbia’s Thompson River. The fly is relatively easy to tie and requires few materials. The original has been very productive for me on the Thompson and Dean rivers, and the tube version put two Thompson fish on the beach the first day I used it last season.

To tie the Thompson Tube you need the following:

· 1/8in OD (outside diameter) black semi-flexible air brake tubing (sold at auto supply stores)
· fine reddish-brown wire (I got mine from the spools found inside old rotary telephones)
· black dubbing
· black saddle hackle
· black 6/0 thread
· tube fly vice

I generally use the Tiemco 105 “Glo-Bug” hook in size 4 with this fly, and you’ll find that the air brake tubing fits snugly around the hook eye. To be certain, take a hook with you to the auto supply shop and test the fit of the hook eye before you purchase the tubing. Don’t worry too much if the clerks look at you funny—just tell them you’re a fly fisher and they’ll sort of understand. Heck, they might even take pity on you and give you a few feet of tubing for free like they did where I bought mine!


1. cut your tube to desired length—I use 1/2in-to-2in tubes for this fly. If I am using it as a winter dressing on the Skagit or at first light on the Thompson in the fall I’ll use the longer tube.

2. using a lighter, heat one end of the tube by holding the tube close to the flame but not in contact with it. The heated end will curl back a little, forming a nice “head” for the fly. This head will prevent the thread wraps from slipping off the fly.

3. mount your tube in the vice. The air brake tubing has a natural curve to it so make sure the outside of the bend forms the top of the fly.

4. mount your thread at the rear of the fly, leaving @ 1/8in exposed tubing at the back. This exposed tubing will become your hook holder.

5. take several wraps around the thread mount point creating a slight “bump” which will help to flair the rear hackle out around the hook.

6. tie in a saddle hackle with barbs of the appropriate length by the tip in front of the bump of thread. Take several turns of the hackle around the tube, stroking the barbs back with each turn so that the barbs flair out around the back of the tube, creating a shroud that will conceal the hook. Tie off the hackle.

7. wind the thread forward to within 1/8in of the front of the tube.

8. lay the wire across the top of the tube and secure the wire to the tube with thread by winding the thread back to the rear hackle. Then wind the thread forward again, tie off and cut the thread.

9. if you have a rotary tube vice it will pay for itself during this step. Wind the wire forward to the tie off point by rotating the tube with your rotary mechanism. Then, using a pair of old tying scissors snip off the wire, re-mount the thread and secure the wire end to the tube with several turns of thread, making sure to cover the wire end.

10. wind the thread @ 1/3 of the way back toward the rear hackle and tie in a long saddle hackle by the tip. Trim excess. (note: be sure that the barbs on the lower part of the hackle stem are long enough to reach to the mid point of the fly, measuring from the front end of the wire body.)

11. Dub a thorax, leaving @1/8in between the thorax and end of the tube.

12. Palmer the hackle forward to the front of the thorax , stroking the barbs to the rear with each turn, then take several turns around the front of the thorax, forming a hackle collar that shrouds the front half of the fly. Tie off and trim excess.

13. take several turns of thread along the remaining length of tubing and whip finish. Cement with Zap-a-Gap or head cement.

14. Go catch a steelhead.

05-07-2001, 09:46 AM
Looks deadly for the Thompson! Those big steelies up there love black. Clever design, and I like the brake tube / copper wire trick!

Nice job

Ken D
05-17-2001, 09:50 AM
Radio Shack, and may have that shade. Looks like a good pattern...I'll bet it has potential in other colours too. My mind is already envisioning one in lettuce and tomato for the sockeye and pinks. (hot orange/red and flo green for front and rear hackles.)

05-17-2001, 11:02 AM
Thanks for the feedback on the fly, chromer and KenD! Ken, reading your post has me thinking that your lettuce and tomato version would also be great for fresh-run steelies on the Dean. I currently favor a pattern called the Artic White or Bride's Fly that Derek Brown developed for Atlantic salmon on Russia's Ponoi--tied in-the-round, it has a long greenish-yellow tail and orange arctic fox veiled with white artic fox at the head, with a copper wire body. In the water the white fox "disappears" and the overall effect is of a soft or pale orange. I think your "deluxe burger" version of the tube tied with a longish tail of mixed green and yellow bucktail would make a passable "imitation" of the Artic White--there, now you've done it! I have to get to the bench and tie some up for August!

01-25-2002, 04:35 AM
There's some 'really cool' stuff back in the "archive" section. Back to look at more of this.

01-25-2002, 06:04 AM
Yes I like the look of this one but will need to do in smaller sizes
6 and below for mid west.

Our steelhead go into seizure with anything larger than a size 6 with these clear spring creek type water clarity conditions we usually have in Michigan.

Right now we are fishing size 10 - 14 nymphs for winter runs, and there are fish in the 15 -17 lb range being hooked but not landed on those sizes.

02-10-2002, 05:33 PM
Hi Dana,
It certainly looks like a great pattern -- useful (read - visible)both in clear and dirty water. Like Henry Ford said, "any colour as long as it's black." It too should work well over here on the Island streams.
I think copper is an underrated colour when it comes to adding some subtle flash/glow to a fly. Not only that, but there seems to be some positive electrolytic (ion) properties to copper which seem attractive to fish -- but that's for a whole 'nother thread.
I have been fashioning my own tubes out of 1/8 O.D. general purpose copper tubing. That tubing offers some nice weight and gets the fly down quickly when that is necessary. Copper tubing is relatively easy to work with -- it can be cut cleanly by rolling it under a sharp knifeblade, and it's fairly cheap -- about 28 cents per lineal foot. Shine it up and coat with clear lacquer, or over-rib with tinsel, or cover it up with other body materials -- any way you want, it serves as a great base for building a fly pattern.
I use a short section of small diameter surgical tubing to connect/trap the eye of the hook (Mustad #9174) to the rear of the tube.
These heavy tubes work well for steelhead on my turbulent home stream -- Gold River -- and are easily, and safely handled with a nine or ten-weight Spey rod.


02-10-2002, 06:49 PM
I agree I am preparing my copper tubes right now to tie this pattern.

:D :D