By: Scott Howell
Now that I make a living on the water guiding every day, my extended sessions creating at the vice are over. I now simply need to have proven fly patterns in my box that I have ultimate confidence in. When it comes to Intruders, I have narrowed my arsenal down to two basic styles. The first of these that probably defines my contribution to the Intruder pattern is the Signature Series Intruder. This is a saddle hackle "shellback" Intruder that has already been featured on this site as well as the '08 fall issue of Fly Fisherman magazine. However, it is my Guide Intruder that has become the pillar of my guide program. The Guide Intruder was simply spawned out of the necessity to have an Intruder style fly that didn't take 45 minutes or longer to tie. As a guide, you don't have the time each evening to sit at the bench and tie a half a dozen flies that take nearly an hour each. It also seems to make for better guide/client relations if every time a client loses a fly, I don't want to make them take a "time-out" in the boat.
So, one frantic evening when preparing for my next day on the river, I simplified things at the bench and the Guide Intruder was born. It incorporates many of the same body parts of its Signature Series cousin but in a less complex way. As a matter of fact, the first half of the fly is nearly identical. It has the same ostrich herl tail, dubbed butt, tinsel body, and polar bear/raccoon collar. It is basically the shoulders of the fly that defines this series of the Intruder. After the collar, the Guide Intruder is simply finished off with an ostrich herl hackle and a marabou skirt.
I have to be honest with you - that first night at the bench I thought, great, this will get me by for tomorrow. But that next morning when I gave the imitation Intruder its first dunk, it came alive. It really looked fishy. Luckily for me, the fish thought so as well. I then started tying it in several different color combinations and this simplified version of the Signature Series Intruder became my confidence pattern for the remainder of the season.
Over the years, as I have refined both of my series of Intruders, the reasons for tying and fishing each distinct pattern has become more evident. The Guide Intruder is now my go-to fly when I want the biggest most intrusive silhouette in my box. I find it is often the fly I am fishing in most winter situations. I prefer its large bulky profile when fishing the cold colored water that is often the norm when chasing winter chrome. It also seems to wind up on the end of my client's line in many summer scenarios where I am ultimately trying to show the fish something completely different. When the fish are starting to count the tinsel wraps on the Green Butt Skunks swimming by, it is time to throw on the Guide Intruder. You can be assured you will get their attention!
In recent years, we as fly anglers have gained more confidence in fishing higher than normal river flows. We have come to find that some of our best fishing can occur on the days that at one time were considered unfishable for the fly. Some of this confidence has come as a result of fishing large Intruder style flies. We are now fishing flies with silhouettes similar in size and action to the plugs used by conventional gear anglers. As a result, we as fly anglers are finding we prefer the same big green flows that the gear anglers have always found more productive. We now recognize the fact that when our rivers are swollen and colored, the fish are more active and eager to grab.
As I look back at my years living and fishing in BC, I now wouldn't head North without an assortment of Guide Intruders in several different color schemes. If I arrived to the Dean or Skeena System and was forced to put my dry flies away by cold colored water, I am certain a Guide Intruder would be the first fly to hit the drink. When plying the dark water that often plagues such rivers as the Copper, Kispiox, or Dean, I can't think of a fly that better suits the needs of a determined steelheader than a purple Guide Intruder. The dark contrasting silhouette provided by the purple skirt and the chartreuse butt is widely accepted as one of the best color combinations to cut the grit of off-colored water. The Guide Intruder also has lead eyes to drive the fly to the depths where your bug won't go unnoticed when water conditions are less than perfect. My years fishing in BC also made me a strong believer in the color pink. I had too many fish pulled out behind me by friends fishing the notorious pink worm to not be an advocate of pink. As a result, there was a time when a pink Guide Intruder was about all I fished in BC unless colored water forced me to go darker. As I look back at the photo albums from my time spent up North, it is no coincidence that just about every fish has a pink mop hanging from its jaws. I have since found pink to be productive on most steelhead rivers up and down the coast.
Because I now make a living primarily guiding for steelhead, I often lose sight of the fact that one of my true passions is chasing chrome Chinook with the fly. My interest in this was first sparked while guiding for the overly aggressive kings of Southwest Alaska. There I saw bright kings chasing flies right to the surface. I was not guiding there long before I had gained complete confidence throwing flies for Chinook. I then brought that same level of confidence with me to the Skeena drainage and caught huge salmon that shared the same eagerness for the fly. My success chasing bright Chinook with the fly is due in large part to the massive flies I was swimming. I was basically fishing flies that had silhouettes and action similar to the Kwikfish plugs that have proven to be so successful for gear anglers. Once again, it was a pink or chartreuse Guide Intruder that found its way out of my box and into the drink on most situations when chasing kings.
As a guide, I am seeing more and more anglers show up to fish with boxes full of Intruder style patterns of some sort or other. When I make note of them, each angler has tails of different fish caught on these patterns from rivers as far away as Russia and South America. This year it was fun for me to have one of my regular clients show me the best fly from his latest trip to Tierra del Fuego. We both found it to be amusing that it was the exact same Intruder he fishes with me here on the Rogue each season. He said he could have nearly paid for his trip if he had enough Intruders to sell to the other anglers eager to get in on the same action he was experiencing. It was no surprise to me that the sea run browns of Argentina shared the same attraction to the Guide Intruder that has proven so successful here at home for both steelhead and kings.