The Almvig Special has enticed steelhead for decades

March 10, 2019
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Deene Almvig’s namesake steelhead fly, the Almvig Special, is a tube fly.

BURLINGTON — It’s not every day a fly fisherman creates a fly and gets to place his moniker on it.

Deene Almvig is such an individual.

For decades, his Almvig Special steelhead fly has been prominently displayed in publications and used to entice steelhead.

“I tied it to see if I could catch fish with it,” said Almvig, a member of the Fidalgo Fly Fishers. “I first tied that fly many, many years ago. It was for a stream that flowed into the North Fork Stillaguamish River up by Oso, known as Deer Creek.”

The 87-year-old Almvig remembers fishing that particular tributary in the 1950s and the world-class steelhead run that used to make its way through its waters.

“It had a fantastic steelhead run,” he said. “One of the best around. But that was a long time ago. Logging and slides did away with it. At that time, it was a famous run. People would come from all over to fish it.”

And many of those fly fishermen witnessed firsthand the success Almvig was having. It didn’t take long before he was tying his fly for fellow anglers.

“It got to the point where I was tying more than I was fishing,” he said.

A fly shop in Seattle got wind of Almvig’s fly and word quickly spread. The fly not only continued to catch fish, but also graced the pages of books dedicated to tying flies.

With that sort of notoriety, the Almvig Special was born.

“Syd Glasso even came over from the Olympic Peninsula and I met him at the creek,” Almvig recalled. “He is extremely well known in the fly fishing world as a fisherman and a tyer. I even went over and fished with him on the peninsula multiple times. Quite a friendship developed.”

Through many a steelhead have been fooled into striking a perfectly placed Almvig Special, they are by no means alone.

Almvig said he’s had success catching cutthroat and bull trout with it as well. It’s a pattern that doesn’t discriminate.

“I’ve caught them all on it,” he said. “In fact in one book, it was labeled as a particularly effective cutthroat fly.”

But it’s the steelhead he relishes.

“I chase big fish,” Almvig said. “Steelhead and salmon. That’s what lured me to the Skagit River back in its heyday. I had the good fortune to fish it when there were a lot of big fish.”

Almvig still chases those big fish and on occasion with the same gear he used as a boy. Gear that includes his Orvis bamboo fly rod purchased for about $85 and an elegant House of Hardy “Perfect” 3 7/8 Fly Reel complete with agate line guard.

Both are in pristine condition.

Almvig took up fly fishing while growing up in Everett. He wasn’t enthralled with high school, and the boys’ dean at the school decided Almvig just needed a reason to stay around.

“The dean would let me come into his office and tie flies,” Almvig said. “It was great.”

That simple gesture impacted Almvig’s life. Not only did he stay in school — and later teach psychology at Skagit Valley College — he learned an art form he continues to this day.

“Tying flies can certainly occupy one’s time,” he said. “I have box after box after box. I have a lot of flies for a lot of rivers and lakes.”

Almvig uses a tube fly technique, where the fly is tied on a small plastic tube rather than the shank of a hook.

A length of tippet runs through the tube, secured at the head while the hook is tied to the opposite end. This allows the angler to change hooks without having to change the fly entirely.

“It gives the fly a different profile,” Almvig said. “It makes it longer. You can change the way the fly looks in the water. You want to give that fish a reason to take a swipe at it.”

And many a fish have taken “a swipe” at an Almvig Special.

There is one strike, however, that Almvig said is the best of all, and it comes when a fly is dead drifting.

“The fly is just floating along, drifting and suddenly a hole appears in the water and the fly disappears,” he said. “It’s great. It’s the best.”

While he used to fish winter-run steelhead, he said lately he has preferred to wait for spring.

“It’s great, catching a fish on a fly you tied,” he said. “There’s nothing like it.”