To many anglers the idea of fly fishing brings to mind the picturesque vision of a neatly-tied traditional dry fly gently floating over smooth, glassy water. Of course experienced anglers realize there is more than just the dry fly available in the arsenal of the fly angler – namely the wet fly, nymph, emerger, and streamer. Unfortunately, it is the streamer fly that many anglers overlook, sometimes using it only as a last resort on a fishless day.
I say this is unfortunate because of the vast ability streamers have to catch fish in all seasons, water conditions, and any time of day or night. And it’s not just trout that will take a streamer. Pennsylvania has numerous varieties of fish for the fly angler to pursue and almost every kind of fish can be caught on these flies from Bluegill, Bass, Crappie, Walleye, Perch, Pike, etc.
Streamers are also a great way to introduce a new fly angler or youth to the sport of fly fishing for a number of reasons. When taking a new angler fishing, especially kids, it is important that they catch some fish and it is hard to find a fly that can catch more fish in a fertile bluegill pond than the right streamer. Also, since streamers tend to be larger than other flies, you don’t have to worry about finer diameter tippets and dead accurate casts at first as you would with dry flies, plus the hook is larger wich increases the chances of landing fish. Streamers can also be a great way to introduce an angler to fly tying since some of the most successful flies are also the easiest of all to tie, most notably the woolly worm and woolly bugger.
For clarity let’s divide streamer flies into two categories: soft swimmers and bucktails. Soft swimmers include woolly buggers, woolly worms, zonkers, matukas, etc. These flies are tied with soft materials like marabou and long hackle feathers that pulsate in the water giving the fly life-like movement. This is where their success comes from. They look so alive in the water that fish will strike them, mistaking them for forage food or simply out of curiosity. Of the soft swimmers perhaps the most popular, and most successful, are the woolly bugger and woolly worm and they should be in every anglers fly box. Soft swimmers are general imitations that look like forage fish, crayfish, hellgrammites, etc while at the same time looking quite like nothing in particular.
Bucktails are streamers tied with stiffer materials like bucktail, deer hair, turkey feathers, etc. These flies tend to imitate specific forage food fish like minnows, dace, and sculpins. The streamers of this category include the Mickey Finn, Clauser Minnow, Black Nose Dace, Muddler Minnow, etc. The Muddler is probably the most popular of these flies. Its success comes from the fact that it looks not only like a sculpin but also like a lot of other small fish at the bottom of the food chain. It has a head of clipped deer hair that makes an attention getting noise as it cuts through the water, attracting fish. This is a very effective fly at night when some fish rely more on hearing than sight to ambush forage fish.
Next time we'll discuss some of the basic techniques for using streamers....