Scan through the fly bins of any fly shop and look at the flesh fly selection. You will probably find two kinds of flies- one will be a single hook, palmered rabbit fur fly, and the other will be an articulated palmered rabbit fur fly with a bead in the middle. Both of these flies work well, and a whole lot of trout have been caught on them. On pressured rivers, though, I try to have a bit of an edge. I usually assume trout are smarter than they may be. Some of the big trout in western Alaska can live upwards of 20 years. So, some of those trout have seen an awful lot offlesh flies in their day. The fact is that no two pieces of flesh are exactly alike. Flesh is random. The color of flesh varies by freshness, species, and the particular part of the fish from which it came. I tie this fly because I can be positive that fish have never seen my particular fly before. In other words, it's not a perfectly palmered piece of rabbit flesh.
Despite "flesh season" being the bane of some guides existence because of the endless hours of fly tying it represents (some guides will lose upward of ten flies per day on snaggy rivers), there is a fine and addictive science to flesh. As mentioned, no two pieces of flesh are alike. I break it down into three main classes. The first is natural flesh- this is usually represented by spawned out salmon that have become hung up on snags, or are simply sitting on the bottom. On some rivers, late in the season, literally the only place you can find trout is on snags that have dead salmon. Snags that don't have dead salmon on them are barren. The second instance where flesh is super important is where you have "fresh flesh". On rivers that have fishing lodges, oftentimes king, sockeye and chum carcasses will be thrown into the river as early as early June. This gives fish as much as a two-month boost of nutrients they otherwise wouldn't have. On some rivers, this fresh flesh load can add up to over a hundred fresh carcasses per day for weeks, if not months on end. While it is illegal and unethical to chum trout in, it is impossible to ignore the effect that this nutrient load has on the trout fishing. This fresh flesh provides a huge opportunity for the flesh fly fisherman: as the flesh ages in the water it quickly changes color from sushi to white. This is where trout fishermen have a golden opportunity to mimic the huge diversity of flesh in the river. Then there is side channel flesh; oftentimes small channels, some of which are low or running out of water, will have dead salmon on the bottom. Several times, I have seen salmon posted up on a single carcass, every minute or so swimming slowly up to take a bite. At such times, true "micro flesh", tied on a single size 6 OPST Swing Hook, is the way to go as it lands softly and won't spook fish in slow-moving channels. You may be able to tell that I freaking love fishing and tyingflesh. I've seen 18 inch rainbows swimming upstream with entire natural salmon carcasses in their mouths. I've had clients pull 28 inch rainbows from water that has been fished, floated and driven over hundreds of times- fish that couldn't resist a six inch ribeye- a Trash CanFlesh. There are no rules with this style of fly. I often tie it literally from scraps- the more I tie, the more scraps I have for the next fly. It's extremely simple and devastating. I hope it catches you lots of breathtaking Alaskan rainbows. - Ben Paull
Step 1. Secure the dumbbell eyes onto a 20 mm or 45mm OPST Shank. Lash down a length of OPST Trailing Hook Wire, just long enough to fit a size 4 OPST Swing Hook (test this length beforehand). Put the wire through the hook eye and back down the shank just in case, because you really don't want to lose the biggest rainbow that swims in many Alaskan rivers.
2. Prepare a dubbing loop about 6 inches long and set it aside for now, back along the vise.
3. Make another dubbing loop about the same size, and put a bunch of Shrimp Pink Ice Dub in it, and spread it out evenly.
4. Spin the dubbing loop and brush it out. Wrap evenly over the shank. You can either leave spaces between wraps, or not. It doesn't matter. Wrap forward to the shank eye and tie off.
5. Lay down a jumbled mess of marabou in a 4-5 inch line. On top of that lay down some Predator Wrap (don't overdo it, you don't want the fly to be too flashy), and a half dozen or so strands of white ostrich. I like to incorporate the butt ends of the marabou and even the stems- they look like bones.
6. Pinch the mass of materials together and put it in a dubbing loop. Then spread out the materials somewhat evenly.
7. Spin the dubbing loop and pick out the materials. You can also brush them roughly- breaking the marabou fibers adds to the fleshy look.
8. Wrap the materials forward, leaving spaces in between wraps so the underbody shows through as a fleshy glow.
9. Wrap to the shank eye and whip finish. Add your size 4 OPST Swing Hook and go fish the snags.