Relatively speaking, fish can go wherever they please. The spot they held in for the last three trips might be barren on the fourth. The creek that never produces could suddenly produce a dozen fish on an afterthought of a trip. Conditions can’t be controlled, but presentations can. The rod you choose, the line you spool up, what you tie on, and what you make it do are all up to you. It can be completely overwhelming, but it’s easier if you start with what you know. For me, soft plastics and jigs in warm water translated into the streamers I adore now.
Conventional artificials often have fly counterparts. In many ways, warm- and cold-water forage are similar. Large fish eat smaller fish. Crayfish are a delectable snack. And may whatever small mammal/amphibian that feels inclined to go for a swim rest in peace.
One of the trickiest things to get over is that once they’re wet, most flies don’t look better than whatever “present” your cat recently drug in. So don’t make any assumptions about them on land. In fact, the best thing you can do anytime you tie on something you’re not comfortable with is to spend 3 or 4 minutes playing with it in the water at your feet. Find out what it does on its own, how fast it falls, and then start giving it some action. When it makes you smile, then start tossing it for fish. The extra confidence you gain can make all the difference.
The hackle body of the fly gives it a nice silhouette, but the real kicker is the marabou; the movement it produces blows plastic out of the water. Watching it wiggle is a joy that never grows old.
The woolly bugger is the easiest streamer pattern to start with. Just about everyone’s first fish comes on a woolly bugger, and just about everyone has a story about a woolly bugger. It’s not really surprising—they’re just plain fishy. The hackle body of the fly gives it a nice silhouette, but the real kicker is the marabou; the movement it produces blows plastic out of the water. Watching it wiggle is a joy that never grows old. A bugger look alive, and it also roughly imitates just about everything you could hope to find in a stream, especially when it’s near the bottom. In different colors and sizes, it does the job.
Just because the wooly bugger is a classic, it's certainly not the only thing to consider tying on. Scroll though Instagram or do some light research on Google and there are untold numbers of gorgeous patterns. Much like the urge to build a better mousetrap, fly tiers want to create the perfect fly. Always investigate what makes you feel good. I believe length is generally the most important factor when picking out something new. For a lot of applications, I really like about 2 or 3 inches. Starting with a smaller offering is usually easier for gauging what activity is like. Once that’s established, bigger would be better in pursuit of a quality fish.
Not all streamers are created equal. When unweighted, hooks will naturally want to ride point down. Similarly, a lead-wrapped hook will sink point down. Does this work? Absolutely—they slay. But for every fish you pull in while it’s hunting along the bottom, you’re snagging rocks, logs, weeds, and Lord knows what else. To mediate this problem, many recipes can be altered relatively easily. The simple fix is to counterweight the hook (often doubling as eyes), which forces the point up. A classic example is the Clouser Minnow. A jig hook will do an even better job staying out of trouble.
The simple fix to get a streamer to ride point up is to counterweight the hook (often doubling as eyes).
Additionally, a hook that rides point up aids in catch-and-release efforts. The roof of a trout’s mouth is a good place to connect with them. The soft spots on the bottom of their mouths pretty much correspond with gill rakers, an area that really shouldn’t be disturbed. Trout are pretty hardy, but releasing large fish sets a good precedent, and if you’re going to do something, do it right.
The author believes length is generally the most important factor when picking streamers. For a lot of applications, he really likes a length of about 2 or 3 inches. But don’t be afraid to go bigger: This Driftless trophy spat up a half-dead 6-inch sucker during the fight. Big fish eat whatever they can fit in their mouths.
Less snagging is an exciting proposition, but there’s one more reason to consider flies that ride point up: In tight situations, heavily weighted flies get down fast. A floating line helps keep slack out and the end will often act as an indicator, which can signal a take. Casts aren’t always long enough to make neutrally buoyant flies and a sink tip effective. If you have to get within 10 feet of a laydown to make a good shot, your fly will be swinging cross current long before it has any chance to get down. If it’s able to drop by itself, it’ll do most of the work of seducing that kype-jawed fish you’re dreaming about long before you start stripping it back.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
THE TROUT LAB NEWSLETTER
Sign up now to get an exclusive discount and regular updates from Skinny Trout.