As summer transitions into fall, many anglers turn their attention to local rivers and the pursuit of Pacific salmon as they make their final spawning migration. Although fly fishers target all five species, for many, coho salmon are preferred.
Todd Oishi is arguably Canada’s most accomplished and decorated competition fly fisher. As the competition season winds down Todd enjoys exploring the backwaters and sloughs of the eastern Fraser Valley in pursuit of both coho and cutthroat trout. Todd’s TNT is one of his favorite patterns. It is a simple dressing that, as Todd says, “Works like dy-no-mite!” for those of you old enough to remember the popular 70’s T.V. show, Good Times and actor Jimmy Walker.
The TNT is tied on size 8, 3xl, streamer/nymph hooks. Todd favours soft wire hooks as these straighten rather than break when they accidentally hook an underwater snag. Coho and cutthroat love to hang out near and amongst sunken logs and weed beds. Stiff, brittle, hooks don’t fare as well and often break when you try to pull them out. A characteristic that empties a fly box in rather short order. Using a pair of forceps, softer hooks can be easily bent back into position without any loss of integrity should they deform after being forcibly removed from a sunken log or rock.
Beads are a standard TNT component. One of Todd’s bead choice considerations is based upon how the weight affects fly placement within the water. Todd’s goal is to select a fluorescent orange bead, brass or tungsten that keeps the fly at or slightly above the level of the fish. For water moving at or faster than walking speed, Todd favors tungsten. For slower paced “frog water,” which coho often prefer, Todd prefers gold brass beads. If fish are cruising near the surface or when facing bright clear conditions and spooky fish Todd leans towards gold brass beads. As the fly rides higher in the water, due to the slower sink rate, and the bead colour is less likely to spook fish a gold brass bead is the better choice. Todd’s walking speed guideline is an excellent gauge to consider for other patterns and presentation choices as well.
Todd is adamant about the body material for his TNT bodies, size small, pearl grey, Palmer Chenille. Using larger sized Palmer Chenille ruins the body profile and subsequently, the fly doesn’t perform nearly as well. On sunny or light overcast days the Palmer Chenille flickers and flashes like a spoon, a feature which coho and cutthroat love.
After tying in a length of Palmer chenille, prior to winding forward, Todd attaches a bulldog clip or a pair of hackle pliers to the opposite end and twists it tight so the individual fibers radiate out from the material’s thread core. Twisting the Palmer Chenille creates a sparse slender body with lots of life. Traditional flashy body materials, such as Crystal Chenille, are too bulky and negatively affect the fly’s performance.
A dubbed collar of UV Pink Ice Dub completes the fly. The collar aids the overall profile of the fly by shielding and flaring the Palmer Chenille fibers away from the bead while adding an extra element of attraction. Once the pattern is finished Todd rolls it between his thumb and finger, so the chenille lays a little tighter to the shank of the hook. A trick that also works well for similar flies such as Boobys, Blobs and FABs.
Be sure to have a good selection of Todd’s TNT in your fly box for your next coho or cutthroat outing. If there are any TNT’s left over at the end of the season don’t despair. Todd’s TNT is also an excellent river and lake pattern and one of his favourite competition patterns.
How to Tie the TNT by Todd Oishi
Hook: 3xl Nymph/Streamer, #8
Thread: 8/0 or 70 Denier, Fluorescent Orange
Tail: Crystal Flash, Pearl Grey
Body: Palmer Chenille, Small, Pearlescent
Collar: Ice Dub, UV Pink
Bead: 5/32” (4MM), Brass or Tungsten, Fluorescent Orange or Gold
Tying Note: Use fluorescent orange beads for low light conditions and coloured water, gold beads in clear water or when targeting spooky fish.
Slide a 5/32” fluorescent orange or gold bead onto the de-barbed hook. Place the hook into the jaws of the vise. Cover the shank from behind the bead to the hook bend with tying thread.
Tie in a clump of pearlescent Crystal Flash behind the bead and secure down the hook shank to the bend. Trim the tail so it extends back behind the hook about half the shank length.
Tie in a length of small, pearl grey, Palmer Chenille at the base of the tail. Twist the Palmer Chenille tight so the individual fibres radiate out, perpendicular to its thread core.
Wind the twisted Palmer Chenille forward using tight, adjacent, wraps to the rear of the bead. Using moistened fingers, sweep the fibres back after each wrap to avoid trapping any errant Palmer Chenille fibres. Tie off and remove the excess Palmer Chenille.
Form a sparse dubbing noodle by twisting a modest amount of U.V. pink Ice Dub around the tying thread. Wind the dubbing noodle 3-4 times directly behind the bead. Remove any excess dubbing from the tying thread.
Coat roughly half an inch of tying thread with head cement or brushable superglue. Wind the coated thread directly behind the bead and in front of the dubbed collar. Whip finish and remove the tying thread. Brush and stroke the dubbing back so it flows along the body. Take the fly out of the vise and roll it between your thumb and forefinger to further flow and style the fly.