Deb Paskall is both an accomplished fly fisher and tyer. Together with her husband, Randy, they pursue a wide variety of species on the fly. Chasing salmon and cutthroat is one of Deb’s favourite pastimes, especially during the fall months as migrating Pacific salmon return to the place of their birth to mate, lay eggs and die.
Deb is continually experimenting with different pattern designs and materials. This creative approach led to the design of one of her favourite patterns, #9. A pattern name derived in part to the number of incarnations and variations during the fly’s evolution and in reference to the 1968 Beatles song, Revolution 9, and its haunting, repetitive lyrics.
The #9 is a versatile pattern that works for both salmon and cutthroat. It has also saved the day when stillwater trout are targeting baitfish, such as red-sided shiners. Depending on the target species, the #9 can be tied in a variety of sizes – size 4 for salmon, size 10 for cutthroat. Due to their stout and large gape, stainless steel saltwater hooks work best for migrating salmon. Heavy wire trout hooks work fine for cutthroat and other trout.
No matter the size or target species, the #9 performs best when tied sparse. Coho, in particular, love sparse patterns. The #9 serves as both an attractor and imitator, both in its pattern components and presentation. The sparse, thin look of the #9 suggests small baitfish such as needlefish, which returning coho are targeting just before their final upstream journey. The bright flash and contrast of the #9’s body, bead and Palmer chenille hackle catches and reflects light, attracting fish from a distance. Contrast is a crucial pattern component for any fly pattern, trout, salmon or otherwise. As the synthetic Palmer chenille hackle opens up during the pause portion of the retrieve, the fly appears larger from a distance, further aiding the #9’s attractive side. Deb also believes that the thread collar is vital. Typically tied with a red collar, there are times that a vibrant orange-collared #9 performs best.
A gold body combined with a small pearlescent Palmer chenille hackle is Deb’s favourite #9 colour combination. She also ties the #9 in other colours, too. A fluorescent pink body, Palmer chenille hackle, tail and bead, along with an olive body, Palmer chenille and gold bead are Deb’s favourite two coho colors.
For tail material, Deb prefers a tuft of rabbit fur from either a zonker or crosscut strip. You can also use marabou. However, rabbit fur is more durable and is also available in unique two-tone combinations. No matter the material, keep the tail short, no longer than shank length, to avoid short strikes and fouling.
Depending on water depth, current speed and other presentation challenges, Deb prefers to fish her #9 on either a floating, clear ghost tip or intermediate lines. These line options allow for slow, controlled retrieves with minimal risk of the fly fouling on the bottom debris in the quiet frog water both coho and cutthroat love in to inhabit and where the #9 excels. Deb stated it was essential to, “Fish the fly right to your boots,” as coho love to follow the fly for a distance before taking it. Bead choice is also crucial to the pattern’s success. Brass beads provide a slower, more controlled sink rate than tungsten.
The next time you head out to chase salmon or cutthroat, be sure to have a few #9s in your fly box in gold, pink and olive. Chances are the #9 will work its potion-like charms, producing more than a fish or two.
Slide a gold bead, narrow end first, onto the hook. Place the hook into the jaws of the vise. Push the bead forward, tight against the hook eye. Attach the tying thread directly behind the bead and cover the hook shank with thread. Remove a sparse clump of rabbit fur from the hide. Secure the rabbit fur clump at the rear of the hook, forming a shank-length tail.
Tie in a length of pearl Palmer Chenille, fibers pointing down, at the base of the tail, along the near side of the hook. Tying fibers down ensures the Palmer Chenille core lies against the body, and the synthetic hackle fibers radiate outward.
Using the thumb and forefinger, strip the fibers from one end of a length of gold metallic chenille to expose the thread core. Tie in the metallic chenille by its exposed core at the base of the tail, on top of the shank.
Wind the metallic chenille forward, using close-touching turns to the rear of the bead, to form the body. Tie off the chenille and remove the excess.
Wind the Palmer chenille forward over the body using even open wraps. Place one complete wrap behind the bead. Tie off the Palmer chenille and remove the excess.
Build a red thread hot spot directly behind the bead. Whip finish and remove the tying thread and coat the hot spot with head cement, UV resin or brushable superglue. The finished hot spot should be approximately half the width.