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Fly Box Porn  ─ Part 7

Alex Cerveniak's Steelhead Fly Selection

Photos by Alex Cerveniak


Alex Cervaniak is a fly fishing blogger, one of the new generation of fanatics who've embraced technology to find out where the action is and where it isn't.  A resident of "upstate" New York, the action is often closer to Alex than to most of us!  Surrounded with opportunity and variety, Alex is happy to chase carp or chrome, lake run browns or largemouth bass.  On of the most amazing stories in all of angling, however, is the phenomenal success of steelhead in the tributaries of Lake Erie.  Pronounced terminal fifty years ago, the lake has been resurrected phoenix-like by the introduction of Pacific salmon and two strains of steelhead rainbow trout.  The area from Cleveland, Ohio to Rochester, New York is now home to some of the finest steelhead fishing in the world.  That's a proximity Alex puts to good use. 


Alex, you publish The Day Tripper Blog. How did you start blogging and what do you want to accomplish with your blog?

I never stop thinking about fly fishing or fly tying, it's literally 24/7. So the main reason I started it was to just kind of get my thoughts and experiences on paper to look back on in the future. I want to have a blog that shows people that you don't have to make big bucks, use high end gear, or be a snob to enjoy fly fishing. I want people who are already avid fly fisherman to realize how much fun fly fishing the water in their backyard is and that they don't have to live up to the "Industry Pressure" that you have to travel around the world to find good fishing. Who needs Taimen when you've got Carp?


You've announced a new on-line magazine - www.defconfly.com. What's that all about and when will we see it?

At this point I'm planning to launch the first issue sometime in January 2008. It will be bi-monthly to start, and hopefully I will get enough content from writers to have a new issue out each month. My vision for this is to develop into a hybrid between a video magazine and a standard magazine. Even though a full blown video magazine would be cool, I still enjoy good old fashioned written articles.

How long have you been fly fishing and when did you start tying your own flies?

I've been fly fishing for just under 3 years now, and tied my first fly on January 6, 2005

Where do you live? What are the local waters you fish?

 I moved to the Albany, New York area from northern Michigan just over a year ago so I'm still figuring out what my new home waters are. For Smallmouth Bass and Carp I usually fish the Hudson or Mohawk Rivers, and there's a great little pond up the road I like to go to for panfish and largemouth bass. To get my trout fix I'll fish the Battenkill, Ausable, or some of the unnamed trout streams in the Adirondack Mountains. I'm also within day trip distance of the Catskills. There are some great backcountry ponds here. You've got to hike in several miles to get to them, but the fishing and solitude is worth it. Then for Steelhead, I usually fish the Salmon River.

What's your favorite fish to chase?

My favorite fish to chase? I don't know if I could pick just one. I could narrow it down pretty quickly though. Steelhead, Smallmouth Bass, Carp, and Brook Trout. The best day trips are the ones where I get to go after more than one of them.

What drove you to this selection of flies? Tell me a bit about how you fish them.

I chose the patterns I did because I wanted to have all of my bases covered. There's no worse feeling than not having the pattern you think would be best for the situation you're being faced with. Then each pattern had to be one I could tie in under 5 minutes. Even the speys I tie for steelhead are simplified versions of the classics, only incorporating the key elements of the pattern. I lose way to many flies chasing steelhead to justify spending 10 or 15 minutes on a single fly.


The eggs and nymphs are fished with the standard Indicator Rig, or Chuck & Duck when the current is too fast and deep to effectively fish with an indicator rig.

For the hairwings I cast them up and across, let the fly drift down, and then let it swing. Once it has hung for a few seconds at the end of the swing I strip it in. If water temps are warm I might only make a few casts through a hole or run, or if the water is really cold I'll meticulously cover the area before moving on.

I am not the guy who goes to his favorite hole and stands in one spot all day. I work the area until I'm satisfied I've covered it well and move on to the next. Since moving out here to NY, it's nothing to put 4-5 miles on my wading boots each trip out.

With that said, I don't leave active fish to find active fish.

Describe your favorite outfit - rod, reel, line, leader.

My "go to" rig for steelheading is my 8wt Pflueger Medalist, a 10/11 Okuma Integrity Reel with a spool set up with a WF floating line for Indicator Fishing, and a spare spool set up for C&D. I also carry a few different lengths of T-14 that I'll use to quickly convert my C&D spool into a shooting head setup so I can swing streamers and speys in deeper runs where my floating line won't allow me to get my fly where I need it. For leader material I carry spools of 6#, 8#, 12#, 14#, and 20# Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon.


What's your "go to" when you don't know what conditions will be like?

For Indicator fishing I usually use about 3' of the #20, then about 3-4' of 12# if I'm going down to the 6# tippet, or 3-4' of the 14# if I'm going down to 8# tippet. My tippet length is usually about 6 feet. I decide whether or not to use 6# or 8# based on water speed and clarity. Then a small split shot about 18" away from the fly to get it down. I like the pill shaped indicators that attach by twisting a rubber band. I also use the indicators you peg a toothpick in to keep them in place.

For C&D my main leader length depends mostly on the water depth. But a length that gets me by in most situations is about 7'. At the end of my main leader I tie on a barrel swivel. Then on the other end of the barrel swivel I use about 3' of 6# or 8# tippet. My choice of weight also depends on the water depth. If the current is raging I'll have a slinky which is attached to the main leader by a snap swivel that freely runs on the leader. If the current is slower, I'll use a few split shot attached to the tag ends from my knot to the barrel swivel.

For swinging streamers or speys my leader is pretty much the same as my indicator leaders, just shorter so my total leader length is about 7'-9'. However I just got a 13' 8wt Spey Rod that I'm excited to learn to fish with.

I usually know what conditions will be like ahead of time and will set up appropriately at the car. If I don't I will start out with the Indicator rig and adjust as needed.

What is Alex Cervaniak's dream fish - what do you want to catch or where do you want to catch it? What fishing fantasy haunts you?

I have many dream fish. A 10"+ Brookie from a mountain brook I can step across. A 30"+ Lake Run Brown Trout. A Sea Run Steelhead on a Spey. A 40"+ Northern Pike on a Popper. A 20#+ Carp. A Landlocked Atlantic Salmon on a Dry Fly.

I am haunted by many fish. There was a Smallmouth that hammered an 8" Butt Monkey on the Hudson this Summer. It's the first Smallie I've ever felt the need to play it on the reel While reeling up the slack to play it on the reel, and right afte the guy behind me said, "I am gonna get this one on video!", the fly just came loose. I can still see the fly flying back at me through the air in slow motion. A few weeks ago I lost a Brown Trout on the Battenkill (on a Butt Monkey) that I know in my heart was at least 24". I had just caught and released an 18" Brown minutes before and the second one felt much bigger. I'm haunted most of all by fish I've saw or didn't see, and couldn't provoke into striking. It is these fish that cause me to carry around 2 and sometimes 3 Bugger Barns of flies. It is these fish that have me reading and thinking about fly fishing 24/7.


Bead Head Pheasant Tail Nymph

Hook: 2X Heavy Nymph

Weight: Lead

Tail: Pheasant Tail

Abdomen: Pheasant Tail

Rib: Small D-Rib

Thorax: Peacock Herl

Wingcase: Medallion Sheeting

Legs: India Blue Peacock( Feathersmc.com)  Head: Bead  A variation of Shane Stalcup's Version of the PT Nymph. If you need inspiration for fly patterns, look west.

Double Bead Stone Nymph-Yellow and Brown

Hook: 2X Heavy Nymph Hook

Tail: Turkey Biots

Abdomen: Rubber Legs

Thorax: Gold Bead, Yellow Angora Goat Dubbing colored to match body  Wingcase: Yellow Web Wing, color top to match body  Head: Gold Bead

This one gets deep, now. I like to use it when current is strong, or when fishing deep holes and pocket water.


Blue Charm

Hook: Salmon Hook

Tail: Golden Pheasant Crest

Tip: Silver Oval Tinsel

Tag: Yellow Floss

Body: Yellow and Black Floss

Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel

Throat: Blue Hackle

Wing: Grey Fox Guard hairs

A proven fly for Atlantic Salmon/Landlocked Atlantic Salmon. I try to always have a few on me in case I'm feeling lucky.

Green Butt Skunk Variant
Hook: Salmon Hook
Tail: Pink Synthetic Fibers
Tag: Chartreuse Floss or Thread
Body: Black Floss
Rib:Silver Oval Tinsel
Throat: Black Hackle
Wing: Polar Bear
I didn't have any red for the tail and substituted pink. Real men fish pink.

Crystal Meth Charrtreuse, peach, orange, pink, pearl

Hook: Scud Hook

Body: Sparkle Braid

No Steelhead box would be complete without these


Green Highlander

Hook: Salmon Hook

Tag: Oval Silver Tinsel

Tail: Golden Pheasant Crest

Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel

Body: Rear-Yellow foss, Front: Green Seal Picked Out

Underwing: Golden Pheasant Tippets

Wing: Yellow/ Chartreuse Bucktail

A simplified hairwing version of the classic salmon fly


Egg Sucking Sperm Fly

Hook: 2X Heavy Nymph

Sperm: Sparkle Braid

Egg: Estaz

Veil: Glo Bug Yarn

An estaz egg variation I came up with. Also try using furled chenille for the sperm, as long as 4".


Pink Bugger

Hook: 2X Heavy/2X Long Nymph Hook

Tail: Marabou

Body: Estaz

I fished near a guy who killed the fish with a pink bugger. I haven't left home without them since.


Estaz Egg

peacock black, chartreuse, peach, pearl

Hook: Scud Hook

Body: Estaz

Another fly that takes seconds to tie and just works.

Prince Nymph

Hook: 2X Heavy Nymph Hook

Tail: Turkey Biots

Body: Peacock Herl

Rib: Medium Wire

Wing: Goose Biots

Head: Bead

I didn't fish this pattern till moving east. Everyone out here seems to love them. I've found out why.







Estaz Scud
Hook: Scud Hook
Tail/Scudback/Antennae: Synthetic Hair
Body: Estaz
Eyes: Black Thread

Prince Zug Bug Hook: 2X Heavy Nymph

Weight: Lead

Tail: Turkey Biots

Body: Peacock Herl

Rib: Medium Wire

Wing: Turkey Biots

Zug Bugs are proven fish catchers. I tied these to have a lighter version of the Prince Nymph.

Purple Peril Variant

Hook: Salmon Hook
Body: Purple Ice Dubbing
Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel
Hackle: Purple Hackle
Wing: Polar Bear
Steelhead love purple, and I have no problem giving them what they want.

Retired Doctor

Hook: Salmon Hook
Tag: Oval Silver Tinsel
Butt: Ball of Red Ice Dubbing
Body: Flat Silver Tinsel
Rib: Oval Silver Tinsel'
Throat: Blue Hackle
Wing: Polar Bear
Something flashy for the hens

Rock Worm Caddis
In red, root beer, olive, yellow
Hook: Scud hook
Weight: Lead
Body: Ice Dubbing
Legs: Arctic Fox or Hackle
Head: Peacock Herl
I keep these more for Lake Run Browns, but Salmon and Steelhead will take them as well.



SB Sucker Spawn
Hook: Scud Hook
Thread: ALWAYS Roe or Orange colored
Spawn: Sparkle Braid

Rusty Rat

Hook: Salmon Hook
Tag: Silver Oval Tinsel
Tail: Peacock Sword Fibers
Body: Yellow Floss
Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel
Throat: Grizzly Hackle
Wing: Grey Fox Guard Hair
I omitted the red head for a more natural colored hairwing.


San Juan Worm

Hook: Scud Hook
Body: Chenille
Tie these in hot pink, you won't be sorry.

General Practitioner Variant

Hook: Salmon Hook

Body: Orange Dubbing

Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel

Hackle: Orange Hackle

Underwing: Golden Pheasant Tippets

Wing: Grey Fox Guard Hair

Fresh fish seem to love a good shrimp hairwing.

Pheasant Tail Nymph

Hook: 2X Heavy Nymph
Weight: Lead
Tail: Pheasant Tail
Rib: Sm Amber D-Rib
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Wingcase: Medallion Sheeting
Legs: India Blue Peacock( Feathersmc.com)
Here's my version of the PT Nymph. The India Blue Peacock barbs look awesome.

Would you like to have your fly selection featured as an installment of Fly Fish Ohio's Fly Box Porn series? 

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