Spade Fly [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Spade Fly

08-02-2002, 01:03 PM
I have seen a reference to "spade" flies on occasion yet have been unable to find out just what they are, what type, style, etc..

Okay, what is a spade fly?


08-02-2002, 01:26 PM
but, if I remember correctly, the 'spade' patterns were done in a low water configuration but used very long neck hackle to give them a very 'bushie' appearence in the water.

Think Tray Combs book has quite a section on them.
The following is an Alex Jackson book on the patterns.

08-02-2002, 01:30 PM
Hey WS,

Check it out - he's got the classic Spade. Also, as Fred mentioned, you can get history and a better pic in Trey's Steelhead Fly Fishing.


08-02-2002, 02:31 PM
Thanks, guys.

I was beginning to think the name was a play on the word "spey" and simply a sparsely dressed spey fly, yes, like Sparkie's avatar. Later I found one reference in Trey's book "Steelhead Fly Fishing and Flies", a soft-hackle type in black (tied by Harry Lemire) which didn't look anything like a spey fly, hence the question.

I have Trey's larger book, "Steelhead Fly Fishing", on order from my book club.

Fred - I saved the link on videos, great series of tapes. I've been meaning to pick up the one on tying/spinning deer hair flies by Chris Helms.

I believe I got a handle on it now.


Nooksack Mac
08-02-2002, 02:31 PM
The Spade was devised around 1964 by Washington angler/author Bob Arnold (or alternately, by B.C. angler Jerry Wintle, as "Wintle's Western Wizzard" - believe who you will), as a non-threatening fly for low, clear late-summer rivers. It's a very simple fly, originally tied on No. 6 Sealey hooks. The tail is a generous clump of deer body hair (evidently, to provide enough bouyancy to hold the butt end up); body is black chenille; hackle is a collar of soft grizzly. That's it - no rib, no wing. Naturally, fancier versions soon followed. Note the resemblance, except for the body, to the older and still deadly Burlap.

08-02-2002, 02:45 PM
"I think I got it now".

Err, until Nooksack Mac's post. Which brings me right back to the fly tied by Harry Lemire which I alluded to. Mac's decription fitted this fly to a tee!:confused:

Seems I'm back to square one. Oh well, ain't fly fishing great; so much room for individual expression?:chuckle:


08-03-2002, 12:42 AM
Everyone priot managed to fill you in...for an excellent read (the book that got me hooked on steelhead fishing about 8 years ago) pick up Bob Arnold's Steelhead Water.

He is a great storyteller, has a unique sense of humor and fills you on the history of the Stilly and has some great stories from his days on the Skagit/Sauk, Grande Rhonde and he is very contraversial and you either love or hate 'em.

old man
08-03-2002, 01:21 PM
Watersprite,that book that I lent you has a picture in the shiny pages but dosn't tell how to build it. I tied some up from reading Bob Arnold's book Steelhead ??(something or other,I forgot the rest). It talks about fishing the Stilly and the Sauk. Quite interesting. I might just check it out from the library again.

He goes into detail about some things. Now if I just knew where the Elbow holw is.........

Nooksack Mac
08-04-2002, 01:36 PM
Bob Arnold's more recent book is "Steelhead on the Floating Line - A Meditation". The Elbow Hole is several hundred yards below Deer Creek and the unglamorously labeled Manure Spreader run. It's more or less opposite Steve Raymond's property and just below what used to be Ralph Wahl's. It's a high, riprapped curving north bank with several large slabs near midstream. The cover of one of Steve Raymond's books is a wide-angle Wahl photo of the Elbow Hole, with my friend Jerry Swieringa wading the upper riffle.

08-04-2002, 08:04 PM
Lived in Washington for about 30 years (emigrated from Canada), then moved to Calif. in 1984. Used to fish this run frequently but had no idea, then or now, the "name" of the slot. Didn't have 'pet names' for the rocks, but just about. Ahhhh, "pre-Judge Bolt."

Very cool to get 'educated' 20'ish years after the fact.

old man
08-04-2002, 08:40 PM
Thank you. He tells about other spots in his book. I guess that I will have to search them out. The more spots that I can find to fish on that river the better or happier I will be.

Scott K
08-04-2002, 09:31 PM
A good friend can endorse this pattern (the black spade) for the Wild Summer runs found on the small-medium sized VI streams. Simple, but effective. A Very versatile pattern. (I think it's about the 18th or so paragraph down in this link)

08-04-2002, 11:03 PM
Nooksack Mac-
It is amazing what 25 or so years will do to a river...I had fished the Elbow many times and at the same time had read Raymond's book and looked at the picture on the front cover.

I knew that picture had to have been taken from somewhere I had fished because it looked too familiar (and somewhere on the Stilly because of the backgroud with Whitehorse Mt.)...I then visited Steve Raymond's exhibit of flyfishing in Washington in Bellingham (a truly amazing collection and production) and saw the picture with the caption "The Elbow Hole-North Fork Stilliguamish."

I could not believe it....since that picture has been taken the river has changed for the worse. Hell that hole (and river) have changed alot since the photo in Steelhead Flyfishing...some would argue that the Elbow Hole no longer exisits...gone the way of The Pocket.

08-05-2002, 01:26 AM
Arnold is a very good friend of mine and when he developed the 'spade' the Stilly was extremely low and he wanted a fly that wouldnot spook the fish and which would be somewhat like the burlap. He wnated it to be black and that is why he tied it with the black chenile body and grizzly hackly collar. The deer hair tail is tied very short and is not all that bushy if tied as Bob ties it. The tail is used only to keep the fly from swinging with its butt down.

The 'elbow hole' does not exist any longer, it was buried in sand, clay, and fine gravel 5 years ago after a lot of heavy winter rains flushed some of the junk that had been in the river from the Deforest Creek slide down the river and depossited in in the elbow. In fact, the big yellow rock that ARbnol speaks of in his book 'Steelhead Water' can not be found any longer, it is buried beneath the sand, clay, and fine gravel. The water in this area is now only about 18 inches deep and is a featurless sand bar with very fine gravel. A real shame that it, like the pocket which used to above it, are now nothing but memories.

Scott K
08-05-2002, 02:05 AM
As much as Floods ruin fishing spots, floods are also a good thing for rivers provided they don't happen too much and they aren't poorly dampened (a poorly dampened flood, dampened meaning the river doesn't rise or fall too fast, would be a result of a poor riparian zone, more reason to protect the riparian zone). Floods change the river and while they may wash out some habitat, they also create new habitat. With a steady supply of LWD, when it settles on the bank, it will create cover and scour the river bottom which will help give Steelhead juveniles a new place to live.

So if it's anything to reconcile the loss of a popular and well known fishing spot, it could be a good thing too....

08-05-2002, 02:11 AM
ScottK is right in one aspect...the major floods of 5-10 years ago did benefit the Deer Creek steelhead greatly. The major floods flushed Deer Creek of the fine sediment from that rape of the watershed that over time clogged the spawning gravel and the river bottom that provided a food source for the juvenille steelhead.

But I can not tell you what I would do to spend one day fishing the Elbow Hole of old and its Big Yellow Rock and the Pocket.

Arnold showed me some pictures of the old Deer Creek Riffle...truly amazed me.

It is amazing not only how this river has changed below Deer Creek but above as well.

The Fortson of old resembles nothing of the present day Fortson... is Bob doing these days? I have not seen him on the Stilly this summer.

Scott K
08-05-2002, 02:26 AM
A river started flowing. Salmon started returning. Trees started growing. It rained, the riparian zone absorbes the water, purifying it and slowly releasing it into the river acting like a resorvoir in the true sense of the word. The river raises, the Salmon die and are left on the bank to fertilize the Riparian zone and feed the various animals which inhabit the forest. Wind storms happen, or trees get too old, and they fall down. They fall into the river where the next flood carries them down river to a sand bar where they get lodged into the side of the rip rap. Here they stabilize and protect a bank from erosion, and scour the bottom of the river which creates important cover and pool habitat for Steelhead Juveniles. More floods occurs, and more Large Woody debris is washed down into the riverbed creating more and more habitat. The Large Woody debris catches Salmon carcasses and holds them there until the next Spring where they will fertilize the surrounding river and jumpstart the food chain.

Now if you put two and two together you can see where a logged watershed fails. It raises and falls very quickly. It has very extreme floods, and since the riparian zone doesn't hold back water, it washes everything into the river. Dirt, sediment, fine gravel. There will be some Large Woody debris, but when the extreme flood settles the debris will be high up on the bank where it serves little use to that of the stream rearing fishes. It won't catch carcasses and it won't create any habitat.

Like Ryan said, the fine sediment covers the river bottom. Here it will cover the rocks which destroys the ability of algae and any nutrients in the stream to fertilize the algae on the rocks denying them the completition of photosynthesis. Without algae, there is no bug life, for the invertebrates use algae as a food source. Eventually the fish which use the stream are left starving because the streams ecosystem has been destroyed.

I think you get the point.

On a side note, you have to watch things like clay banks. There are a few clay banks up here too believe it or not (Yes, we have clay banks in Canada!). What can happen, since many clay banks are on a steep face, is the river will erode away at a clay bank and leave an overhanging piece of clay creating an undercut bank. Eventually with some rain, a slide will occur and it could put the river out for weeks and this whole undercut will fall into the river.

From my understanding, Deer Creek is where Roderick Haig-Brown caught his very first Steelhead.

Nooksack Mac
08-05-2002, 03:53 AM
Although I've been fishing the North Fork of the Stillaguamish for 3l years, I'm no expert on the dynamics of its watershed. I only know the deplorable results. Why does this lovely little river, the first fly-only steelhead river in the Pacific Northwest and a perfect size for summer steelhead, run opaque in its lower half into late summer? Why have its native steelhead become as phantom-like in their questionable continued existance as Osama? Why no natives upstream of Deer Creek? Is the famed Fortson Hole a reliable treasure or a legal shooting gallery for hatchery freaks? Someone should relocate this thread to a more suitable place - this started with a steelhead fly, remember?
Let me leave this with a visual image. At Cicero, 8-10 miles east of Arlington, the highway crosses the river on an arched bridge. Just above it is an old railroad tressle. Jammed into the side steel ribs of the tressle is a cedar tree that appeared there a decade ago, after one of the winter floods that rip and ravage this tender watershed every year or two. Walk out on the old tressle and look up at the voilent junction of the tree and the grillework, both dead and obsolete. It's about thirty feet above normal river flow. You'll understand why there's no more Elbow Hole.

08-05-2002, 11:05 AM
One of the old-timers once told me that we are lucky to have a good run much over 5-7 years. Sometimes they come back though. The Mixer seems to be fishing better in the last year as one example. The floods giveth and the they taketh away.

old man
08-05-2002, 04:18 PM
This has nothing to do with the North fork. but I though that I would mention it. I was fishing up on Rapid river a few years ago.(a trib of the Beckler,which is a trib of the Sky). The dept of F&W was up there trying to make hiding places for fish. Such as tying down logs,drilling holes and installing rebar to try to hold them in place. Well to make a lond story short. The next year after the winter snows and after spring run off it all disappeared.

I guess you can't control a river no matter how hard you try.

08-05-2002, 08:18 PM
Ryan (aka Northfork 16),

Bob is doing very well. Just saw him on Saturday at Oso. I see him every week or so most of the year. He has caught a few Deer Creek fish this year and a few hatchery fish at Oso or Cecero that were on their way upriver. He caught his last Deer Creek fish on a Royal Wulff I tied for him, which is one of his favorite flies to catch summer runs on. The Black Spade is his second favorite summer fly.

There is a small run of wild summer fish that go upstream of Deer Creek to Squire Creek. This is and always has been a very small run. This is the reason you don't have wild summer fish above Deer Creek. Wild winter fish are found throughout the river, but not in Deer Creek or Squire Creek.

The clay that colors up the Stilly comes from a bad slide near the falls on Boulder Creek that has been active for about 4 years now and a smaller slide on a small creek just between the "C" Post run and the Mermaid, which has also been pretty much ruined from a slide.

The slide on DeForest Creek (this is the one that nearly eliminated the Deer Creek fish) that is a tributary to upper Deer Creek was the result of logging. It was clear cut in the 30's and then clear cut again in the early 70's. The slide was the result of the old root systems of the original old growth logging from the 30's having rotted out and allowing a monstrous slide to occur on the unstable clay, sand, and gravel slope.

08-05-2002, 09:10 PM
Good to hear that Bob is doing well and still enjoying his beloved Deer Creek steelhead.

Squire Creek is used extensively by winter steelhead. In fact most years the highest density of winter steelhead spawning in the upper North Fork (above Deer Creek) is in Squire Creek. These fish have the same size and with the same spawn timing as the rest of the winters in the North Fork. The only summer steelhead that I have found in Squire were hatchery fish. Over the last 25 years the only so-called wild summers I have seen in the North Fork above the Oso loop road were either reconditioned winter kelts or resident trout (16 to 21 inch fish). On low water years (when steelhead can't get into Deer Creek) sometimes see wild summer fish (Deer Creek) holding in the water above the Creek; up to about the Hwy 530 bridge. After the first rain they disappear and are not to be found above Deer Creek.

Tight lines

08-05-2002, 11:31 PM

Thanks for the correction to my information on Squire Creek. I knew that Squire Creek was used by winter fish and was unaware of any summer fish in it. However, George McCleod was so sure that Squire had summer fish in it that I made the assumption that he had to be right, my mistake.

I have also seen winter kelts called wild summer fish by otheres and have managed to catch a resident trout or two above Deer Creek that were about 17 inches long. Beautiful fish, but not steelhead.

08-06-2002, 12:30 AM
Thanks for the word on Bob.

Nooksack Mac-
The Stilliguamish Basin runs through very unstable ground...alot of which consists glacial muck and clay...both of which seem to be condusive to massive and prolonged slides.

The source of that constant opaque color is The Slide...Deer Creek puts in her share of much (chocolate brown after rains like last night's and grey silt during the winter) and Boulder Creek puts in some color as well.

But the major source is The Slide below C-Post in the vicinty of Steelhead is a massive slide on the north face of the river that has only gotten worse in the past few years. The Slide is what makes the lower unfishable in the winter unless we are lucky enough to a prolonged dry spell.

The Slide will be fixed though...just in time as it is only getting worse and is nearing the point where it could totally block the river...not to mention the fact that it focus angling pressure above itself during the times when the lower river is unfishable due to its 'puking.'

A project is being undertaken to divert the Stilly through the old river channell via is a massive (and expensive) project that I am very excited for as it will stabilize the river and give myself many more days on the river below The Slide (the section of the river I adore the most). By 2005, back should be Febuary and March winter-runs below Deer Creek (on a more constant basis) and June summer-runs in the lower river as well.

Nooksack Mac
08-06-2002, 01:29 AM
NorthFork, that's great news! Who do we have to thank? Couldn't be the resource-starved WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, could it? Or is it the good folks who give the river its artificial logjams last year, perhaps? Anyway, my thanks to whomever.

08-06-2002, 09:17 AM
Believe or not. The Army Corp of Engineers will be doing the bulk of the work fixing "The Slide". I talk to a gentleman close to the project last night and he mentioned that the feds have given 4 million bucks for restoration work in the Stilly watershed. Things are looking up.

08-06-2002, 10:33 AM
Sounds almost too good!:)

Nice that the Corps is doing the work, since everyone knows that if the state had been doing it, the $4M would just about cover the FIRST study of the problem/project:( .


08-06-2002, 12:49 PM
Simply nice to see the Corp doing something to help fish after their part in forcing in the dams on the lower Snake and NF Clearwater back in the late 60s and early 70s.