Max Canyon

flytie09

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Max Canyon

This is an iconic Steelhead pattern. Developed in the early 1970s by Doug Stewart while fishing the Deschutes.

doug stewart.jpg

Is that an egg fly? Come on Doug......

From Doug's blog - http://www.flyfishingwithdougstewart.com/2013/10/tying-and-fishing-max-canyon.html

In the early 1970’s I developed this fly for Steelhead fishing on the Deschutes River. We had experienced success with a Skunk fly and the Brad’s Brat developed by Enos Bradner. Using the black color of the Skunk and orange from the Brat I tied a fly that had an orange and white tail, orange and black body and a wing of orange and white. With the addition of gold tinsel around the body and a black front hackle, the Max Canyon came to life. In spite of my friends Dick Hans and Steve Dorn razzing me about the contrasting colors of the new fly, I had high hopes for the new fly’s success. I waded into the water the next morning with anticipation. My leader was rigged up with a Skunk on the point and the new fly on a dropper. As I began to cover the water with hopeful casts, I idly gazed across the canyon at some deer feeding on the hillside.

Suddenly, my line stopped and I was into a strong fish. It was a heated battle for 7 or 8 minutes but I finally beached a chrome 8 pounder. The Max Canyon was buried in its jaw. I was elated. In the next few hours I hooked six more and landed five, all of them taking the new fly. Switching the position of the two flies made no difference. I was totally gratified with the success of the new pattern. When I returned to camp it was my turn to razz my buddies which immediately prompted a crash course in tying Max Canyons.

Doug started his career as a teacher. After 12 years....he left teaching and opened up a fly shop and started guiding. He ran the shop and guided for over 30 years. He also wrote several books on fly fishing and fly tying.

Doug's son Dave has a wonderful fly fishing Podcast...The Wet Fly Swing. On Episode 31 of Season 2.....Dave interviews his Dad.....it might be his best interview yet. Worth a listen.


This version is a variation as noted in John Shewey's Classic Steelhead Flies. The second fly (left) is the Black Max....a twist of the original by John Shewey.

black Max and max canyon.jpg

Hook - Blue Heron #3
Tag - Large gold flat tinsel
Tail - Orange gp crest
Body - Orange and black angora dub
Rib - Large gold oval tinsel
Hackle - Black schlappen
Wing - White and orange arctic fox tail
Sides - JC
Head - Black thread and Loon UV cure

I'm not 100% happy with them....a bit over dressed, wing a little poofy and the body a bit too shaggy on the Max Canyon...The black bear wing on the Black Max I simply gave up on. Trying to stack black bear hair is impossible, it pulls out too easy and I left in the guard hairs to try to give it some bulk. I am not a fan of the sparse hair wing look...sorry. Regardless, they should both work well on high flows and darker waters seen on Great Lakes tribs.

To make myself feel a little better I gave them the water test. The seemingly over dressed fly comes alive. The arctic fox wing shakes it like Shakira on a half time show. If you saw it....you know what I'm talking about. The black bear on the Black Max moves some...but retains the same profile with little movement. One of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of the classic hairwings. They catch fish yes.....but they seriously lack movement. Not the case for one with angora in the wing.

See for yourself what they look wet in and out of the water.

black max and max canyon 2.JPG

black max and max canyon 3.jpg

I'll try a couple more versions with squirrel tail, deer tail and maybe a few where I dial down the arctic fox a bit......should I try calf tail? Oh boy more materials to buy. :unsure:
 

dillon

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I am a 1/6 owner of a Deschutes River side house in Maupin. Doug, who recently turned 80, is one of the other owners. Once a year during the Salmon Fly hatch we all get together for some fishing fun and a business meeting. Doug is a great story teller and source of information. Of course, one of is stories is the Max Canyon named after Mack’s Canyon where he often camped at the Pipe hole. However, he named it Marsha’s hole after his lovely bride. He cleverly used Max not Mack’s so as not to draw attention to the area. Obviously, it didn’t work. Although one can no longer camp their it is a well known run.

Another variation of the Max is the “Blue Max” tied with a blue hackle on a down eye hook. Another former owner of or cabin and customer of Doug came up with it. One of the flies above with the dark wing, looks like a “Dark Max” a variation by Marty Sherman, who once worked in Doug’s shop and then was editor of Amato Publications.

Doug has a good blog site that can be found by doing a google search if interested. He is a good writer and has authored a few books.
 

dillon

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“Is that an egg fly? Come on Doug......”

I find the question quoted above somewhat amusing. Doug is an old school fyfisherman who has caught more steelhead than most of us on this forum, combined. He has always fished a single hand rod and may have fewer rods than almost everyone on this forum. Doug never fishes a Spey rod. I have not actually had the opportunity to fish with him, but from listening to his stories and from comments from our other cabin owners he is a superb caster and can lay out over seventy feet of line with a single back cast. Doug always swings flies on the Deschutes with either a floating or sink tip line. However, the photo above is not on the Deschutes. It is either a coastal stream or the Clackamas. That is a Hatchery winter steelhead. It is spitting milt but still good enough for the smoker, which is where it probably ended up. I can see two rods in the photo. One is most likely rigged with a 3 or 4 hundred grain Jim Teeney line for swinging deep. The other looks like a floating line used to dead drift the egg fly, sans an indicator. Both methods were highly used and perfectly acceptable among NW flyfishers before the Spey rod era, which was when this image was captured. If one reads Bill McMillans work, he hook over half of his steelhead on a dead drifted nymph before he picked up a Spey rod.
 

flytie09

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It was simply a good nature ribbing Dillon. I have a strange sense of humor some might say.

From his interview conducted by his son Dave.....he explains he is very much an old school fly angler. He has been fishing the Deschutes and fly fishing for Steelhead for a very long time. He has forgotten more than I'll ever know. And helped a lot of folks along the way.

I didn't see the egg fly upon first glance...but noted it and got a chuckle. There is a time and place for all methods. I have a fair number of egg flies, pink worms and nymphs in my boxes I'm not afraid to use. Don't tell anyone though. I say it's up to the individual what method they choose. It's all good.

Doug shares a great story of his worst day on the Deschutes on his blog, that I thought was worth sharing.......

It was a perfect day for rafting and fly fishing--no wind, the river was in good shape and the prospect for catching Steelhead looked good. My dad, Chuck Stewart, and I were excited as we launched our 6-foot raft at Kloan about one mile above Gordon Ridge rapids. It was a tricky run because as you entered a series of minor rapids you had to carefully line the raft up to avoid a large slab of lava on the left. If you missed a few stroke on the oars, the current would quickly force you against the basalt and cause the raft to flip. Luckily, I positioned our raft in the right slot and prepared for the huge suck hole and clashing 6 foot wave that was awaiting us.

I hit it just right, but unfortunately by dad lost his grip on the restraining rope and fell back into my lap. The raft flipped and we instantly sank out of sight in the strong rapids. Thankfully, we had tied ourselves to restraining ropes and we popped right up. We also had the forethought to tie down all of our gear. The only things we lost was a half case of beer and our confidence.

After that near disaster, my dad never really let me forget that day because he would often tell this story to his friends. He would always start out by saying, “Yeah, I’ll never forget the time my son took me rafting on the Deschutes River. He showed me how to run it from the surface right down to the very bottom!”
 
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