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Fly Fishing 101, Part 23
The 10 Best Streamers

Streamers represent almost anything you can think of that aren't nymphs or hatching insects. For those on the salt it is almost exclusively a baitfish imitation . If you have fished with nymphs and come up empty, start at the top of the following list and work your way through it.

Many of the streamers patterns are tied in a variety of colors, with regional variations adding even more choices. Start with a couple of each streamer, and add to your arsenal when you find one (or more) that work best for you.

Here are the top 10 streamers in order of their importance:

  1. Woolly Bugger.
  2. Muddler Minnow.
  3. Marabou Leech.
  4. Matuka.
  5. Light Spruce Streamer.
  6. Zonker.
  7. Sheep Shad.
  8. Allies Chenille Coachman.
  9. Black Nosed Dace.
  10. Mickey Finn.

    From 40 Best Trout Flies by Robert H.Alley.
    Published by Frank Amato Publication.
    Thanks for use permission.

    Woolly Bugger: The "big" three here are the colors. You should have all-brown, all-black, and all-olive versions. There are also bi-colors available. Start with the solid colors. "Buggers" seem to work best in spring, summer and fall. Fish in lakes, crawling the fly along the bottom. In streams you will need to weight the fly, and either dead-drifted or stripped erratically across the currents and upstream.

    Muddler Minnow: The theory is that as the size of the fly gets smaller, as in going from a size 6 to a size 12, the 12 should be retrieved slower. In large sizes, like a 2/0 you retrieve faster. Why? Because the smaller look more like bugs, and the larger ones look like bait fish, or possibly crustaceans. This fly is most effective fished in deep holes for deep water trout. Fish very slowly, ticking the bottom as you retrieve it. For small rivers cast across the current with only enough tension to keep tension on the line. In big rivers use a fast sinking wet tip line and a short leader. Use weight on the line if you are not getting on the bottom.

    Marabou Leech: Cast cross-stream and follow the drift with the tip of your rod. Let the leech hang in the current and dart it as you retrieve the fly. About half-way back on the retrieve, pick up the fly and take a couple of steps downstream, repeat the cast across stream. This is a searching method best for exploring new rivers and streams. For lakes, use a wet cell, (sinking) line, and slow short strips - about two inches at a time.

    Matuka: Brown or black patterns work best. It imitates a minnow if stripped in fast and erratic strips. Vary the length of strips for best results. Use smaller sizes early in the season, larger flies as the season progresses. This is a New Zealand fly fished cross-current with an upstream mend. Use smaller sizes of the fly for the best results.

    Light Spruce: One of the best of the minnow imitations. Fish in shallows and retrieve in fairly fast and short strips. Think "swimming" the fly. Erratic short, sharp jerks imitate a wounded minnow, easy prey for a trout. Recommended size is size 8.

    Zonker: Most important thing to remember, this is a fly for big fish. Casting to weeds and a fast retrieve work best. Use a leader about 7 and a half feet, and tippets of 1 or 0X. Best overall size is likely a 6. Olive is the best color for stillwaters, Black for moving water.

    Sheep Shad: Primarily a fly for western coastal lakes in California. Shad come to the surface and trigger a feeding binge of trout. A size 4 is the most used. Cast into a pod of feeding fish and strip in long, fast jerks. A six or seven-food leader is recommended, with a 2X leader.

    Allies Chenille Coachman: This is a great fly to use for exploring small streams. It may represent trout fry, and needs to look like it is swimming. Here we need to 'present' the fly - move it just a bit faster than the current. A 5wt DT line and seven-foot 4X tippet are recommended.

    Black Nose Dace: This fly looks like almost any little fish swimming in an Eastern brook or the big western rivers. The best use is in moving currents, not lakes (stillwaters). Cast across and downstream, letting the fly work down deep . Use nine to 10 feet of leader, and weight if the fly is not getting down deep.

    Mickey Finn: This fly works well on bright summer days in lakes which also holds bluegills. For moving water, use a size 10 casting across and slightly upstream. Let the fly sink a bit, and quickly retrieve it. In slower sections of a river or stream 'swim' the fly just fast enough for the hair wing to impart movement.

    Remember streamers are the second most productive flies. If "catching" is the game, start with nymphs. Or if you see small baitfish in the water, match to the streamer. Back to the fly shop! Look at the 10 streamers listed here. Compare the various streamers to each other. Note the differences and similarities. Which 'variation' best suits your needs? Are there local variations? If so, ask "why?" To catch fish you must know what a fish eats! Have a question? Email me! ~ DB

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