I had never fished for steelhead or even seen one.

I read everything I could find about the fish and was eager to try catching one.

I had not tied flies very long at that time, but I was still going to give it a try. I listened to other fly fishermen talk about the success they were having with a fly called a Brad’s Brat.

I went to my pattern books and finally found the pattern. It was developed by Enos Bradner many years ago. I thought to myself that if this pattern was working for all those other fishermen I was going to give it a try.

I purchased the needed material and got started. What I tied did not look much like the pictures in the book. It was far too large and had too much material on it. But I had tied it.

I did not even own a fly rod. I grew up in Wyoming fishing for brown trout with a spinning rod and reel. I would attach two or three split shot and a streamer fly. It worked for brown trout. I did not know if my old spinning rod was capable of handling a steelhead. But I had caught several large browns, so I was going to give it a try.

After work one evening, I went to the Clearwater River by where the old rodeo grounds used to be. I tied my very ugly Brad’s Brat on my leader and attached three split shot. This can’t be much different from catching some of those large brown trout I had caught before. I did not catch a fish that first evening, but I was going to keep trying.

The next time I went, I had a grab and found myself attached to a large steelhead. The power of that fish was so much different from the browns I had caught. The strike nearly jerked the rod out of my hand. I found myself chasing the fish up and down the riverbank, stumbling over rocks and debris, trying to keep up. I didn’t land that first steelhead. It came unbuttoned during the fight, and I was very disappointed. But now more than ever I was determined to catch one of these ocean-going fish.

It was several more evenings on the river before I landed my first steelhead. Now I was more determined than ever to start fly fishing for these fish.

I purchased a fly rod, reel and line that I was assured would handle a steelhead. I tied some more Brad’s Brat flies, and I was ready to give my new rod a test. It took several more tries to catch my first steelhead on my new fly rod. I finally had learned how to cast it without winding the line around my head.

Since those first days, I have learned so much more. I now have a two-handed rod and the line needed to fish with it. I also have learned how to tie a respectable-looking Brad’s Brat, and I have now caught several fish with this new fly system and the old fly pattern.

A two-handed rod is not needed to catch a steelhead. I like it for the ease of casting and mending the line. So whatever rod you choose, tie up a couple Brad’s Brat flies and go give it a try. It is a very satisfying feeling to hook and land a steelhead on a fly rod and a fly you tied yourself.


“Fishing is not so much getting fish as it is a state of mind, a lure for the human soul into refreshment.”

— Herbert Hoover


Thread — Uni Thread size 8/0. 6/0 can also be used.

Hook — Steelhead up eye hook. I prefer Daiichi No. 2441 size No. 4 or No. 6.

Wing — Orange and white calftail. Orange on top.

Tail — Orange and white calftail. Orange on top.

Body — Strands of orange and red yarn.

Rib — Fine gold tinsel.

Hackle — Brown wet fly hackle.


Pinch the barb and dress the hook shank with the tying thread. Tie in a very sparse clump of orange calftail with the tips extending over the eye of the hook. The wing should reach to the bend of the hook when folded over. Tie in a sparse clump of white calftail on top of the orange. Wind the thread to the rear of the hook. Tie in a sparse short clump of white calftail. Tie in a sparse clump of orange calftail over the white you just tied in. Tie in a strand of orange yarn. Tie in a section of fine gold tinsel. Wrap the orange yarn halfway up the body. Tie in a strand of red yarn and wind forward. Don’t crowd the head. Wind the fine tinsel forward in smooth, even wraps. Tie off the tinsel and clip excess. Fold the two sections of the wing over the body and tie down. Build a small, neat head, whip finish and apply head cement.

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