Technique Tuesday - Broaden size range in your streamers for all season success!
First of all, Happy November! This is one of the best fishing months of the year up here in Montana. It is glory's last shot before winter water temps set in, trout metabolism slows, and the sun stays up very little. Fishing is still great in the winter, but fly tying becomes more rhythmic with darkness increasing daily. At Dirty Water, the goal is to bring many more folks into fishing via fly tying by offering a welcoming place for all to gather in a learning environment. Simple and informative concepts that everyone can understand and apply to their time fishing and tying means more enjoyment and awareness of our fisheries. Every Tuesday, a new technique or concept will be delved into somehow related to tying and fishing. This weeks topic helped land the pig rainbow above just last week on the fabled, and heavily pressured Missouri River in middle Montana.
For the maiden -"#techniquetuesday"- post, this topic encompasses both the construction and the presentation attributes of the flies your using. Trout anglers are used to this, they vary the size of dry fly or nymph depending on hatches and use tippet size accordingly. However, streamers seem to have a more generic approach in most anglers mindset with minimal adjustment throughout the season. Your favorite patterns are often tied in different sizes, and if they are not, do it yourself! The image below shows a size run of C.R.E.A.M. Smoke 'N Mirrors.
The five different sizes represent casting with 4-10+ wieght rods, and can tackle nearly every species out there. The clouser minnow along with the Lefty's Deceiver are a couple of narrow profiled baitfish patterns that certainly can be tweaked to suit nearly all conditions. Chasing big trout around the west typically would mean using the three sizes on the left; #4, #2, and #1. For low water work, the #4 can be fished shallow and deep depending on locale with a softer entrance when needed. It is tied sparsely making it an excellent size for smaller rivers when stealth is important, yet a broad profile is still the desired to match the forage base. It is also a great choice for those who like to use two hands (350 grains+) On the other hand, high water season means fishing the larger rivers from the boat. Anglers can really churn up big fish and also put a ton of pressure on your hook/fly. The force of the boat moving downstream along with the trout typically attacking and taking the fly the opposite direction means more difficulty in securing a solid hook up. Enter the #1. More hook gap and shank length, plus a more stout profile for the fish to find in the fray. Overall, the #2 is great all day, every day. Anglers venturing into warmer or saltier water will find the #1 to be well suited for ultra light fishing, however the #1/0 and #3/0 will be needed for bigger game. Beyond fly size, it is important to match leader setups to your desired fly size and presentation. See below.
In the image above, you will see three sizes of Maxima, three sizes of Smoke N' Mirrors, and a couple FLASH! minnows. (More on those little guys soon) This ensemble, plus a few surgeons knots represents the spectrum of flies and leaders needed to tackle all the seasons in the Rockies. Fall river conditions are lowish and clear with fish having seen a plethora of flies for last two hundred days. It is not just the flies, but also lines, leaders, bobbers, and bad casting that spooks fish. Getting the big fly to land near the target without the sink tip entering the water column at break neck pace is EXTREMELY important. Standard streamer protocol would have a total of 4-5' combining 20lb and 12lb as a base leader. From the time the water rises in the early spring to when it drops in late summer, this is all you need. For deeper, faster sinking presentations, and angler may add a few more feet to 12lb to allow to penetrate the water column.
To increase your odds of picking up a fall trophy, add 3-4' of 8lb to soften your delivery and give your streamer room to work without sending that hawg swimming in the opposite direction because two hundred grains of plastic just made an emergency landing overhead. The rainbow above pounced a JJ Smoke N Mirrors on the fourth strip in less than 12" of water. It ripped off a 90' run to the other side of the river once hooked, which it likely would have done without the fly had the leader not been lengthened. It takes a lot for me to say this, but do not be scared to lighten up on your tippet when throwing the big fly this fall and you may see a few more hawgs than in the past. Remember, 8lb maxima is tough stuff when thinking about the underwater world. Just keep the fly out of the bleachers and you shouldn't have any issue wetting your net.
Finish strong this season,