Behind the Fly

Behind The Fly - RIO's Pay Dirt (Popsicle)

Patrick Kilby January 11, 2023

RIO's Pay Dirt Popsicle was designed to have all the triggers to attract a steelhead. Its combination of color, movement, and weight make it a go-to pattern for steelhead anglers from Alaska to the Pacific Northwest.

When I found out I was going to the Dean River last year, I wanted to put together a fly specifically for testing on this trip. I was looking for something that was easy to cast, offered a decent sink rate, and had plenty of movement. I was told pink & orange was a great combination for BC steelhead. I had already developed RIO's Pay Dirt in Pink and Orange, so I decided to make some modifications on this pattern. 

While reading some of my older fishing books about the Dean, I came across a fly pattern by George Cook called the "Dean River Tiger." This fly appealed to me because I liked the contrast of the dark barring on the hackle fibers and thought it added to the flies’ attractor qualities. Re-discovering Cook’s Dean River Tiger made me think about another popular west coast pattern by George Cook—the “Popsicle.” I've fished it with great success over the years, and largely attribute that to its bright colors, and excellent contrast. (See both below)



The Pay Dirt Popsicle is built upon a combination of favorable attributes found in George Cook’s Popsicle and Dean River Tiger added to our tried and true Pay Dirt template. I started to create the fly using a black-barred orange bunny strip, adding pink marabou hackle, and finishing with a purple turkey collar. The fly is finished with a white bead to help achieve depth and stand out in glacial waters. All of these elements combined to make a fly I was excited to test out on the fabled Dean River. 

On the Dean, I had been fishing the Pay Dirt prototype with good success, but one fish sealed the deal. I was swinging a tail out featuring a root wad that had created a deep pocket in front of it. This required a long cast (made easier with the fly). My fly traveled just past the zone as the fish took the fly going downstream immediately peeling line off the reel. I adjusted my drag to add pressure in an attempt to stop the fish from heading into a whitewater section of water. This fish was not fazed in the least and felt like it pulled even harder. Fortunately, the fish decided to turn away from the rapids to blast back up stream. After some acrobatics and other antics I was able to land the fish, grab a quick picture, and revel in the fact that a fish around 10 pounds gave the strongest, most determined fight I've ever encountered. It was time to move the Pay Dirt Popsicle from prototype status into full commercial development.



If you don't have a couple of Pay Dirt (Popsicle) flies in your arsenal. I'd highly recommend grabbing a few. A prized steelhead may make your day.