Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Streamer Odyssey

Last summer I began what has grown into a full blow obsession: tying and fishing BIG streamers, including but not limited to articulated flies. It has been a learning curve, frustrating at times, and very productive at others.

The adventure started through watching youtube videos from the White River in Arkansas. I wondered how well the techniques could be applied here in the Northeast and started researching the use of big streamers int the area. Particularly, the Farmington and Housatonic rivers. Things looked promising. People reported catching size able fish, particularly in the late evening during early fall.

When I stopped at Cabelas on my birthday to pick up some fly tying materials a big olive articulated streamer caught my eye. I bought two.
Later in the day I went to the Salmon River. It is far closer to my home than the other big rivers. Although it holds over very few fish it is good habitat when the water is cool, and has plenty of smaller fish. Perfect to start working streamers on.
The weather was cool for mid June, and it was cloudy with light rain. A good flow meant the conditions were perfect. It was not long before a bow hammered the fly. My first trout on a fly over one inch long. Further down I had a large brown chase a few times without taking. Then I lost the fly to a snag.

This first experience taught my a little about retrieves, as well as casting such giant flies. But the real learning was still to come. I began to try to tie some articulated flies. Over many days of use I discovered the faults of my early attempts: foul ups, hook gaps too small to hook fish, and easily removed trailing hooks. But as I continued some things seemed to work, and eventually I was really put to the test.

It was a day fairly similar to June 12th, rainy and a bit chilly for mid summer. I had targeted smallmouth all day and hadn't had much success. I was poking around just a bit upstream from where I had caught the rainbow two months before when I spotted an enormous brown. I switched to a small nymph and it was ignored. I continued to present every fly in my box to that fish without any response. Then I pulled out an articulated streamer I had tied to represent a red breast sunfish. The third time I swung that fly past the fish it took, and after a brutal fight I tailed a 26 inch brown trout. 

This high was followed by a lot of lows. A few unsuccessful tries on the Salmon, one on Roaring Brook, and a few days of practicing retrieves in a local bass pond. It was there that I made a break through. I began to realize that there was essentially no point to having an actual hook for the trailer. Any fish willing to take enough to get hooked at all just bashed the head. I started to tie flies with a strait bronze rod with an eye. I filed grooves into it to prevent the thread and materials from sliding off. 

The fly I started doing this on was a huge white buck-tail and grizzly hackle creation. It fished really well in non moving water. It's head liked to change direction as it slowed down after a quick strip. It drove big bass absolutely mad. However, it didn't have the same effect on trout in moving water. It didn't have as much action. I began experimenting with bigger, water pushing heads and slimmer tails. I was getting somewhere, albeit slowly. I was having some problems with stiff head materials getting in the way of fish getting the hook. On one day I had probably fifty takes and only one brief hook up. I did have some mixed success with an olive and yellow pattern I had tied to imitate chubs, as well as bright yellow flies. I had some really spectacular takes, even a fish following my fly onto shore!

I gave the big browns a rest for a while to target native brookies. But in late fall they once again called. In the lower Salmon River I continued my quest. Swinging a red and yellow streamer with small strips, a sudden wait signaled the take. I set, and instantly new this was a big fish. A twenty inch brown spat the hook four feet in front of me. It was a little longer before I was back for more. 

In early December I headed out with a modified version of the olive and white pattern, single hooked but with a stronger, wider gap. It payed off. In one day I had five solid takes, and when I finally hooked up I landed an ugly 20 inch brown. 

I essentially ended the years streamer fishing on that high note. I have big plans for 2015. Some Farmington River streamer fishing, a bit of sea run action in April and May, and of course trying to lure in some bigguns on the Salmon.  Hopefully I will learn some completely new things. 


  1. This is what makes fishing so great. Trying to understand what, when and where these critters will take on a given day. It's a never ending learning process and that's what has us Hooked.
    Tie, fish, learn and write...