By Louis Cahill
Streamer junkies, and I include myself, get a bad rap from the dry fly crowd.
In some places they even go so far as to call them lures, rather than streamers. The dyed-in-the-wool purest would portray those of us with the nerve to fish a four- or six-inch fly as neanderthals. The mantra of the dry fly purest is this.
“Imitation and presentation, that’s fly fishing.”
When I hear those words, I think to myself, “Is there a better description of streamer fishing?”
That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? Imitating a type of forage food and presenting that Imitation in a manner that makes it believable. The fact that the forage food we have chosen is not an insect makes it no less artful. If your streamer is not presented in a way which the fish can appreciate, it’s still not going in the mouth.
I was reminded of this the other day when fishing a great Tailwater river with my friends Dan and Garner. Water conditions were perfect for streamer fishing and we were working the banks, buckets and blow downs hard. Each of us, streamer fishermen but each with his own style.
I worked my big articulated patterns and snaky sculpins on a long leader and intermediate line, while Garner fished a Sex Dungeon in full Galloup style with a short leader and sinking line. Dan tossed his beautiful classic Maine style streamers. All of us caught fish, but none of us caught the fish we wanted.
I’m not complaining, it was an awesome day of fishing. We caught chunky wild browns and rainbows fourteen to eighteen inches all day and even ended the day casting number twenty-two Blue Winged Olives to picky sipping trout, but there were fish we saw and never hooked. On a seven-hour float, the three of us moved about a dozen fish in the Nimitz class. Twenty-four to twenty-eight inch brown trout which would follow and charge our flies, but wouldn’t eat.
The first of them came up off the bottom of the river like a nuclear submarine, to inspect my fly, less than a quarter mile from the put-in. When it turned and sank back to the bottom I combined some childlike body gestures with some very adult language. My friends, who never saw the fish, laughed at me. “You don’t usually get worked up about missing a fish,” Dan told me.
“You didn’t see this fish!” I replied.
Over the course of the day we each had that experience multiple times, and none of us got an eat from one of the leviathans. The fish would follow and charge, then veer off at the last second, just as they would if refusing a dry fly that didn’t pass inspection. Three different imitations, three different presentations, zero success. These were very educated fish.
I have confidence in the flies that each of us chose. I am convinced that the problem was in the presentation. Where exactly I can’t say for sure. A few things were obvious. On a couple of occasions the fish followed the fly so far that they were at the boat when they charged. It was impossible to accelerate the fly to imitate a fleeing baitfish without resorting to a musky style figure eight. I tried the old stop-and-drop with a heavy sculpin pattern which will dive down into the rocks on the bottom like a natural. Still no success. The only thing I didn’t try was tying on some 6X. In the end, these fish were too smart. Just like a wily brown refusing a dry fly, except these fish were never going to look at a dry fly. Not without a cicada hatch.
But, hey, that’s fly fishing. No matter what the purests say.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!