THE MASSIVE fly bin loaded with feather, fur, flash and “what the heck is that?” is daunting upon first discovery.
Probably couldn’t tell you how many time’s we’ve heard “You throw that at trout?” or variations upon the theme. The streamer game is a little different, another niche in the fly fishing pantheon with its own jargon, trends and the White River is all that and moreso. The river, the flies, the rods and oh yes the brown trout are big.
So how do you go about assembling a fly selection for a White River trip. Here is Steve’s four principles whether you are tying or buying your flies:
I never thought I’d say it but you truly can have too many streamers. There is no worse feeling that knowing your next fly change is critical, the bite window is now, and you can’t find that mojo fly in that overcrammed fly box.
The solution is obvious: buy another damn box and keep them in a system which makes sense to you. You are probably back to not enough streamers again, which is the perfect way to be. Harmony restored.
These days I’m loading 3 briefcases of flies: the MFC Waterproof Boat Boxes, with an internal leaf are pretty hard to beat. I organize on color, because I don’t want my yellow flies bleeding on the white flies or chartreuse on the yellow.
Color is just one of four principals I make sure my fly boxes cover: Size, Sink Rate, Action and of course Color. Every fly in my box is judged on each those criteria to make the cut. Some years one principle will outweigh another. Low flow years mean I’ll be leaving the heaviest flies at the house. (Though a handful in a sealed ziplock, to allow for the whims and fancies of the generation authorities is probably a smart play).
SIZE is an easy place to start, but as they say size is relative. The mid-size 6″ streamer is has probably caught more White River browns than any other size. To put it in perspective there are way more 6″ flies, purchased, tied and fished than the bigger stuff. It’s still a big fly compared to a #6 conehead.
It takes a lot more commitment to cast the Big Chicken all day, and its tougher in the wind and to have the same accuracy. Accuracy is way more important than most believe. My boxes hold way more 6″ than larger because of the needs of my fishers but I still keep the big flies there, looking for that behemoth.
Summary: build the bulk of you box in what you can throw well for a long time, but cover the sizes, a handful of smaller and some bigger.
SINK RATE: The bulk of most fly boxes, will feature unweighted Deceiver style and foam or deer hair head flies like Sluggo’s and the Dancer flies. Unweighted flies have lateral movement like nothing else and even in flood gate water can bring up predators.
But don’t leave out the weighted flies. We used to talk about the depth flies would achieve, these days its more about how fast they drop when they hit the water, or when you stop stripping.
These types of flies are a must have on steep fast banks to get down quickly. Russ Maddin’s Circus Peanut and Galloup’s Dungeon have set the standard on mid-size lead eyed flies which sink fast and catch fish and are must have flies in as many colors as you want.
Summary: Unweighted flies on sinking lines is the standard, but don’t leave out a selection of get down bugs.
ACTION: Every articulated fly is going to get some wiggle at the join. The best one’s do way more than that. Bouyant headed flies like CJ’s Sluggo, Big Johnson and Dally’s Dancer flies both have crazy erratic turning actions, but are harder to get to depth in big water. But these flies can bring in fish from a wide area looking to see what all the commotion is about.
Leaded eyes and BFH skull head flies offer a lot of up and down jigging type action which can be super productive, as discussed above. In the middle comes the classic injured baitfish Deceivers, whether tied from bucktail or synthetics. These swimming flies are a mainstay and score a lot of big brown trout. The right technique, not just burning these off the bank can get the best from these patterns as well.
Summary: There is a wide choice of actions which work. Cover your bases with your favorites and keep some others on hand for variety in key colors.
COLOR: Some smart fellow once said look through your fly boxes until inspiration strikes. Then tie on olive and yellow anyway. Its hard to beat the efficacy of Olive and yellow, or olive and white. The cover a multiple of forage species on our water ways.
But they aren’t the only colors that work. Chartreuse comes and goes in popularity as does the ginger tones or Cotton Candy. Then there are left field choices like the Lap Dancer Musky Suckah, The brown and olive Big Johnson or the gray and white flies.