Streamer Design

STREAMER Season 2016 is upon us firmly, with the White River up out of its normal banks, snow on the ground and the talk is bucktails and baitfish heads and fly line sink rates.

With all the big fish images floating around, it’s easy to forget the other side of the streamer game, which inspired our first ever Streamer Lovefest: tying streamers themselves.

Tying the big flies, after 9 months of 14s and 16 & 18s, regular tailwater fare, is a fun change. This year’s event on January 30 promises to be a biggest yet.

That first event sprang from the what really was a tying think tank: with musky tyers Brad Bohen and Chris Willen, plus Rainy’s tyer Nick Granato all in town for brown trout and silliness..

Throw in our own talents Chad Johnson & Alex Lafkas plus Brian Wise whose YouTube Streamer Series has an enormous following plus giving him enormous range and we had some serious skills in evidence. Joining the fellowship in subsequent years have been talents like Blane Chocklett, Kelly Galloup and Michael Schmidt.

Johnson’s skills shouldn’t be underrated, you are going to be seeing a lot more of his flies in our bins and globally under the Umpqua banner. Lafkas has been a huge influence and finally he is letting loose some of his tying commercially in the coming year.  Check out their patterns on our White River Tying Video Series, we will be releasing more new patterns in the next few months.

The following article summarizes the stuff I reckon is important, from sitting around with my mouth closed and ears open occasionally. The Lovefest on is a great party but there is a wealth of knowledge if you want to learn and all the guys we have had in are great with sharing.

Cheers, and don’t forget: Swim those Flies!

Steve Dally


Your hook selection, shank choice or combination of the above, is the skeleton, the solid core,  playing a role on how materials will act, and how the fly will move, or not. Wide gape stinger style hooks, the Gamakatsu B10s or Tiemco 8089s, have become extremely popular, for their wide mouth and general stickiness, over the  standard gape streamer hooks and which you might select for buggers.

A longer shank on say conventional tackle worm style hooks will give you a different look, as will short round hooks (often used as a tail hook) like the Owner Mosquito hooks.

Shanks like those from the Flymen Fishing Co, or Umpqua’s Waddington’s, are a simple low cost alternative to hooks for building length and contributing to the action of the fly. It’s handy to keep around some lead strips (Twistons) or lead wire to add underneath a hook shank to keep the fly upright.

We recommend, after trial, error and busted flies, using 50lb monofilament for articulation loops. Its way more durable than wire, braid or anything else we have found. There’s nothing worse than discovering 12 months down the track that your flies have an early use by date.


Fly designers are constantly making the tradeoff between size, profile, action of the materials and their castability, particularly as the size of the streamer goes up.

Size (length) can be altered though adding hooks or shanks and building more body sections or you could add in Deceiver  style hackle feathers, which are way easier to cast. These do tend limit the tyer to a solid or barred colored “end” rather than a light over dark combo.

The profile of the fly can be made taller by adding  longer materials: but the downside is higher wind resistance and perhaps weight, significantly altering the way the fly casts, even before it gets wet. Bucktail is a great choice for flies with the tallest vertical profiles, and there are some synthetics which . Water absorbent materials like craft fur or sculpin wool are better used for smaller profiles.

Marabou has awesome amounts of movement, as does rabbit, but both natural materials also absorb heaps of water, making casting tricky, and I have a scar on my crown to verify it. Again these materials lend themselves to small or midsize flies.

As a general rule “Less Is More” when it comes to streamers, particularly those over 4” long. Reducing the amount of materials will help the mobility of the materials, action of the fly itself and you will enjoy casting them more. Balancing these factors to give, action, mobility and the eye appeal of the fly is the trick of the great tyers.

Flash is about the only material where the Less is More rule won’t apply. In the last few years the amount of flash on streamers is increasing markedly, as tyers lose their trouty reticence towards sparkly materials. Lateral Scale, Krystal Flash and Holographic Flashabou are most popular. Check our Russ Maddin’s Flash Monkey, the smaller Kreelex and Sparkle Minnows and my own Lap Dancer, compared to flies from 5 years ago.


The simple answer is color to match the species of forage you are trying to imitate.

IN the trout world we can split it into two groups, the core and the secondary colors. You can catch a lot of very fish simply using olive, yellow and white and combinations of the 3, and you will find most White River boxes dominated by these colors.

The secondary colors are the browns which runs from the pale tan tones through ginger into darker hues, black ( often paired with reds, blues or fire tiger combinations), chartreuse, orange or pink. These colors might not be first call flies on our tailwaters, but there are other waters and species where these colors come into their own.




“Mississipi” Johnson came up with the phrase “splitting the water column”, to describe where we aim for flies to swim whatever the flows: Not at the surface but not necessarily on the bottom getting hung up either. A good streamer box for our tailwaters will have bouyant flies for shallow running over grassbeds, unweighted or lightly weighted flies for moderate flows and heavy sinking flies for big water. Fast sinking lines are pretty much a necessity.

If your river system is typically fast you might stick to weighted patterns, and a slow sink or floating line with heavy flies to bounce the bottom is popular out West.

Lead wire, or strips for keel weighting a fly, are tied more for balance the fly and ensure it rides right side up than for sink rate. Crawdad or sculpin patterns should be tied hook point up, through weighting the top side of the hook, if you want to bounce them across the bottom imitating a natural.

Weight can also cause or aid certain actions: Lead eyes or coneheads, or modern fish head shaped equivalents, will make a fly dive nose first, a “jiggy action”. Flymen Baitfish Heads or Sculpin Helmets have become extremely popular, particularly for the bigger White River flows.

For ease of casting try one size smaller than you would think. An 8” fly would seem to deserve the large size, except when its blowing 15 and you are casting it. Run a Medium on the 8” flies and small-medium on 6” and your arm will thank us.


So you have finished tying that streamer and now you want to see how it swims, to find its action. There are a myriad of influences on how the fly will behave in the water and not all are choices made at the vise. Current, the type and speed of strip and angle of retrieve are all major factors that come into play.

Casting a fly to the bank from a drift boat moving at current speed is very different to standing on the bank swinging streamers down and across. From a drift boat the effect of a current coming perpendicular to the fly will induce different effects to a fly being swung, or being pulled downstream behind the boat. The faster and more consistent the speed of the fly the “tighter” the action.

But knowing your materials and the effects they will have combined is what makes it fun.

Weight on the nose will make a fly jig but reduces lateral action. Buoyant deer hair or foam head flies, like Chad’s Sluggo, the Lap Dancer or Tommy Lynch’s Drunk & Disorderly get crazy lateral action but are hard to sink in fast flows.

Galloup’s Dungeon has a deer hair head, lead eyes and a single articulation point. It delivers a tight action at the tail, with the jig off the nose. Michael Schmidt’s Double Deceiver is unweighted bucktail with a single articulation point. It dances sinuously with a lateral wobble and kick.