For those of you that read my columns but haven’t fished with me, and for those that don’t read my columns but have fished with me, you know I don’t like fly-fishing with nymphs. In fact, I refuse to fly fish with a bobber (strike indicator), two or three tiny flies, and a split shot weight. It’s just not my idea of fun. However, I have started tying and fly fishing with streamers. Now, before you start calling me a hypocrite, I don’t believe nymphs and streamers are even remotely related.
Streamers are big, therefore easy to tie to a leader. They also can be made to sink without a split shot weight, and you set the hook when you feel the fish take the fly. Streamers can also be fished in lakes, ponds, salt or fresh water, deep, shallow, slow or fast moving streams. You can’t do all that with tiny nymphs.
If you’ve never fished with streamers, you will find an endless number of patterns to choose from. In a recent review of patterns in one fly fishing catalog I counted over 100 fresh and saltwater patterns. Of these patterns the Woolly Booger, invented by Russell Blessing, and the soft hackle seem to be the most common and copied patterns. In fact, the soft hackle is the subject of a three-volume set of books by Sylvester Nemes. Mr. Nemes believes the soft hackle is the only fly you need in your fly box. I like having more than one pattern. If you were to use only store bought flies your choices are many. If, you tie your own streamers your choices are endless.
I use streamers when dries aren’t working. I tie streamers because my creative side is showcased in my streamer collection. Deciding on what I want a streamer to look like is my first step. So, after doing hours of research, usually on the water, I come up with something I want to imitate. These imitations can be minnows, worms, snakes, panfish, big leaches, or anything else that swims and lives in the water. Once I have decided on a water animal, the first item I try to imitate is its size (no size 22’s here). I then go to shape, followed by color, then how deep I want to fish it, and how fast I want it to get there.
I have the most fun in working with various color schemes. The reason for various colors is I never know, from year-to-year, what the color of the year will be. For example, year before last the color fish liked best was white. Last year the color was green. Who knows what the color of choice will be this year. Therefore, I keep a complete color chart of streamers in my box.
Sink rates and depths can be handled in several different ways. You can tie all your flies with no weight and then attach split shot weights to your leader. You can also use a sinking tip leader. Or, tie some lead wire to the shank of the hook. The problem with that is if you are like me, you can’t remember what you did yesterday, much less two weeks ago when you were tying streamers. You might pick a fly that sinks rapidly when in fact what you wanted is one that hovers two inches below the surface. Getting old does have its drawbacks.
Shape is simply making the streamer resemble the creature you have used for a model. This brings me to my quest for this year. I am attempting to tie really succulent minnows. I’m doing this because I love fly-fishing for bass, and bass love minnows. So, if you see me in a bait shop, without my grandchildren, know I am researching product and not fishing with bait.
Once you are finished tying for the day, tie one more fly. Gather all the remnants of the material you have used, get a big hook, and then tie what I call the bench fly. It’s a fly tied with everything left over. Then use it. You’ll be surprised at how many fish a big and ugly streamer will catch, as opposed to well-thought-out art.