Are you a streamer junkie? Is the Tug your drug? Do you spend all year dreaming about gray autumn days and vicious takes from belligerent brown trout?
If the answer is yes, then you are undoubtedly familiar with the “Bump”.
We’ve all been there. You made a great cast. Your fly sets up at the right depth. The current takes hold of your line, and you feel the pressure build all the way into the cork of your rod. You begin to retrieve your line with deft strips, bringing life into your fly, and there it is. That moment when you connect with all your hopes and dreams at the end of the line.
But, what follows isn’t what you had hoped and dreamed for. It’s not a storied battle with a gnarled-faced brown trout. A heroic net job. A steely-eyed grip and grin shot that.
Nope. All you got was a Bump. And then there was nothing.
Many anglers count the Bump as a loss. But, it doesn’t have to be.
If all you get are Bumps some days, and you want to convert more of those Bumps into hopes and dreams, here are 3 Tips to Up Your Streamer Game.
Keep that Tip near the Water
Streamer fishing is unique among fly techniques because we impart life into our flies, enticing the take of a predatory trout through a tight line.
Sure, you can “Dead Drift” a streamer like a nymph or a dry fly. But, most of the time we are making them swim by swinging or stripping.
Whether you fish streamers on a static swing, or with a stripped retrieve, the position of your rod tip is very important to maintaining contact with your fly. A rod tip that is held too high while stripping or swinging will result in a length of slack line extending from your rod to the water. This slack line is a killer of hopes and dreams, and can be the difference between a Bump and a hooked fish.
By keeping the rod tip pointed at or near the water it’s easier to stay in touch with your fly and eliminate excess slack in your line. Every time you strip your line that movement will translate directly to your fly, and when you do elicit a strike you will be more likely to convert it into a hooked fish.
Slow it Down
Streamer fishing is one of the most active games that we can play with a fly rod. With all of that casting and stripping there’s a lot going on.
Many times the stakes are high as our targets are often the biggest fish we will chase all year.
It’s easy to get a little carried away. All it takes is one ferocious grab, and you’ll be stripping that fly like it owes you money.
We all want the savage eat from a furious brown trout that nearly rips the rod from your hands. But, let’s face it. That’s a low probability situation, even on the best of days.
Far more fish will eat a fly that is presented slowly and enticingly than one which is ripped past the trout’s face.
A slower retrieve will also maintain better contact with your fly making you more likely to convert those takes into hookups and not Bumps.
Don’t Trout Set
In fact, the best set is no set at all.
Not every streamer eat from a trout is an aggressive take where the fish turns on the fly making it easy to hook them in the corner of the mouth.
Frequently, a trout will see your fly and follow it as it moves through your retrieve. When the fish eats, it will often overtake your fly moving in the same direction of travel. Then, you strip, and take the fly right back from the fish.
If the next thing you do is trout set, then you completely remove your fly from the game, and the fish is left wondering what happened to it’s meal.
If you do nothing, and continue to swing or strip. Then, your fly is still in the game, and you have an opportunity to convert that Bump into a hook up.
The Argentines call their streamers “Gatos” for cats, because of the similarity to teasing a cat with a cat toy.
When you feel a Bump try to keep your cool, and tease that fish into another Bump. Sometimes it takes two or three (or more) Bumps before the fish is keyed up enough to turn on the fly and catch the hook.
Bumps aren’t all bad.
It means that you put the fly in the right place, and made it look good enough for a trout to eat it.
Some times, no matter how hard you try to tease them, trout just won’t fully commit to your streamer.
But, if you keep these 3 tips in mind, you’ll be better prepared to convert those Bumps in hook ups.
Now grab your Gatos, get out there, and find some trout to tease.
Originator: Brian Chou, MFC Signature Tier
Shank: Cut off hook or pre fab shank, Straight eye
Trailing Hook: Owner SSW, #6 or 8
Trailing hook connection: Coated wire
Weight: Cross Eyed Cone, ¼”. Substitute tungsten for extra depth.
Thread: 6/0 black
Tail: Marabou blood quill, Pearly Krystal Flash, and a pair of matching grizzly hackle tips in matching or contrasting color.
Body: Ice Dub, color to match pattern (olive, uv black, pearl, rusty, purple)
Legs: MFC Barred Sexi Floss
Collar: Guinea hen, palmered, color to match pattern
Notes: This pattern is a real winner from the bench of my good friend Brian Chou. Originally tied to fish for trout from a drift boat on Washington’s Yakima River, the Fortune Cookie has, in recent years, become a real favorite among Trout Spey and swung fly enthusiasts from Montana to New Zealand. The fly’s moderate size makes it easy to cast on lighter Trout Spey setups, and the profile has all the right qualities to suggest baitfish, sculpin, or crayfish. Contrasting colors and wiggly materials help to move those fish who might not be on the feed, but are in the mood to be influenced into making bad decisions. The weighted head makes it very versatile in terms of action and presentation. On a straight swing it planes out, stays deep, and wiggles. Bounce the rod tip and you get a great jigging action and tons of motion. This pattern comes in great colors too: Olive, Black, White, Purple, and my favorite, Brown/Yellow!
CHECK OUT the 360 degree view on MFC’s website!
- Origins: Based on an old Idylwilde pattern called the LE Leech
- Hook: TMC 5262, #4 or Gamakatsu B10S, #2
- Thread: 6/0 Uni, Black
- Tail: Black marabou with topping of black Lite-Brite or equivalent
- Body: Thread wrapped black
- Collar: Olive marabou, palmered behind and in front of eyes
- Eyes: Large Lead or Non-Lead Dumbell Eyes
A good friend, great fisherman and one of my early mentors, Paul Swenson, once told me that the basis for all great flies is to have no more than three ingredients. I can’t say I follow this train of thought to a tee, but when I find one that does conform to these standards, I always remember those words. The brilliance of this fly lies in its simplicity: quick to tie, few materials, and useful in a variety of situations. There are a lot of factors to consider when looking at a streamer these days, color, weight, size, profile, etc. One of the more overlooked is the weight:surface area ratio that determines whether or not a fly will sink quickly in a current. There are loads of heavy streamers out there that just don’t sink, they have too much surface area to cut the current. The BFE is nothing but a couple of marabou feathers, lead eyes, and a thread body, it is a perfect example of a fly with a weight:surface area ratio that allows it to plummet. When this fly is wet, it reduces in profile to nothing and cuts right through the current. It can be effectively fished in a variety of situations, I love to fish it upstream on a floating line, almost Czech nymphing it, swing it out at the end of the drift. I also use it on sink tip lines in big currents, reach casting a long line over a large run, stacking some slack into the drift to allow the line and fly to sink, and then fishing on a swing or stripped retrieve back across the current. This is a deadly fly in fast pocket water when fished on a floating line from a drift boat as well – it’s a guide favorite in the Box Canyon of the Henry’s Fork.
- Originator: Ivan Miller
- Hook(s): TMC 5262 or equivalent, #4 (2 of them)
- Thread: Danville Flymaster Plus Size A, black
- Eyes: Medium Dumbell Eyes, Red, Lead or Non-lead
- Articulation: 25 pound monofilament, and 2 to 3 plastic beads
- Tail 1: Marabou, black barred olive; Saddle hackle tips, black; Flashabou, rainbow
- Body 1: Lite-Brite, rainbow
- Wing 1: Marabou, black barred olive
- Tail, Body, and Wing 2: Same as 1
- Hackle Collar: Schlappen or webby saddle hackle, black
If you have spent time in West Yellowstone over the past 20 years, there is a chance you have either run into or at least heard of Ivan Miller. Among other things, Miller is one of the fishiest streamer anglers that any of us have known. He puts in the time, and also has a knack for fly design and presentation that just triggers the big grab from over sized brown trout. This pattern is one of Ivan’s (and our entire shop staff’s) go-to streamers in both spring and fall. It fishes best with an aggressive presentation that includes manipulation of the fly using both the rod and stripping the line. Incorporating abrupt, but pronounced pauses brings out the extra wiggle from this articulated beast, and seems to also trigger the hardest strikes. We are lucky to have these in our bins for visiting anglers, and we also stock all the tying materials for those interested in spinning up their own Dirty Dumpsters in this and other color combos!