Give It A Chance To Fail

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And fail it did not. Photo by Louis Cahill

And fail it did not. Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

On a recent float trip, Louis and I were excited (a.k.a. drooling) about the opportunity to throw our fair share of streamers on a piece of water that is more accustomed to seeing dry/dropper and indicator rigs.

This river is full of big fish that lurk among its banks, and, to me, the probability of catching a trophy-size brown trout on a larger streamer pattern was high. So I made sure to bring with me my “meat locker” as I call it… A Cliff Bugger Beast slap full of streamers of all sizes big.
I also brought along a stout 9ft 8wt, a big reel with an aggressive tapered floating line, and plenty of sink tips to adjust for different flows and depths. My leader is hand-tied by yours truly, tipped with 15lb fluorocarbon, and could turn over a wet dishrag. As I rigged my rod at the truck, our guide checks out my other rod and approves of the dry/dropper rig I have tied on for now.

“Are you fishing a streamer today?” he asks.

With a friendly smirk on my face I reply, “Yes I am.”

My guide picks up my case o’ carnivore candy and scans through all of the patterns. After only a few seconds or so he shuts the case and immediately reaches for one of his fly boxes, leaving me standing there thinking to myself, “well, there must not have been anything in there that he liked.” Interesting….

It’s interesting because my streamer box is slap freakin’ full of nothing but sexy, fish catching strips of deliciousness. (At least I think so anyways). If a pattern doesn’t produce, then it doesn’t take up space in my box. Period. How did he not find something that he thought would work???

Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

So he whips out this “streamer” and hands it to me. I admit, I liked the color combo. A burnt orange dubbed body with an olive rabbit strip laid over the shank serving as the wing and tail. The deer hair head would likely push some water. So what was the problem with this fly? It was a size #8… It was smaller than half the stuff I had in my dry fly box.

Negative. No Bueno.

I kind of chuckled and held this fly up in front of Louis and said, “this is the one huh?”

“Yes, this is the one that will work”, he replied.

“You didn’t see any that you like in my box?”

“No, too big”, he replied.

Gasp!!!!!! What?!

I couldn’t believe those words just came out of this man’s mouth! Too big?! Does this place not have trout? Are we fishing for shad? I had to have missed something. I mean this place has two-foot browns and rainbows caught on a daily basis. It’s not like my box is full of musky flies. What gives?

Setting my ego aside and trusting my guide, I respectfully tied on his streamer pattern and prepped the rest of my gear for the day. We successfully fished with dry/dropper rigs until we stopped for lunch, and had already decided to switch to streamers for the afternoon. As we stepped back on the boat, we changed gears and had a positive vibe about throwing our streamers, even though Louis and I were both coaxed into throwing our guide’s sculpin patterns for the first couple of hours. This pattern did catch fish, but we both just knew the patterns in our boxes would work equally as well, if not better.

Eventually the need to throw something bigger ate at Louis and I enough to outright defy our guide. A couple hours into the afternoon float, we snipped off our small sculpin patterns and tied on our go-to streamer patterns. Both were articulated, had lead eyes, were at least four or five inches in length, and both had bright colored accents. As Louis was tying his on, our guide was trying to talk him out of it as if he were a hostage negotiator, to which Louis replied,

“Let me try it… just give it a chance to fail”.

Louis Cahill PhotographyNeedless to say the day ended with some big trout brought to the net, and even some trophy sized La Perca (which are awesome!). Turns out, the trout in Patagonia do eat streamers that are “too big”.

It was so successful that, by the end of the week, Louis received one of the biggest compliments you can get from a guide. On the last day our guide asked Louis if he could have one of the more successful streamer patterns he had used that week so he could copy it and use it on future trips. He was now a believer! It doesn’t get any better than that!
What I’m getting at with this story is that you don’t know if something is going to work until you try it. Even if it’s something that someone else says “has never worked before”, try it! Don’t let your fishing buddy, or guide, talk you out of fishing the way you want to fish. It’s your rod and reel. Tie on whatever you like and hit the water! You just might make them believers too!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Give It A Chance To Fail

  1. I noticed that you still followed the guide’s advice first. I think it’s important to allow the guide to do their job and put you on fish, especially at first. There is no better way to fray the client guide relationship than to start a trip with let me tell you how to fish your river. By having already had success you allowed the guide to do their job and to be frank protected their ego as well. On the waters I guide I am always up for experiment, but please let’s get a couple fish on the boat first. If for no other reason to get everyone smiling, high fiving, and really enjoying the day. Then absolutely let’s get weird with things.

    • You are absolutely right Sanford and I’m glad you brought that up. Your guide is there for a very important reason: to guide you. This occurrence that I wrote this article about happened on the first day of a week long trip. We knew our guide had taken hundreds of clients down these rivers over many years, and he definitely new his shit. Though we were caught of guard, we sure weren’t going to be a couple of asses and screw up our relationship on the first day. He was right, that pattern was successful. We just wanted to try our style of fishing as well. We went about it in a respectful way and it turned out to be a great thing.

    • Could not agree more, you handled the situation is a very diplomatic manner. Something I can applaud and can be tough for us fisherman who ‘know’ what works…I get looks all the time around here with the size and color streamers I’m throwing, but you never know. Who would have thought rooster flies could allure cut throat trout??

  2. You make an excellent point! Something I will be touching on in the near future as a matter of fact. As a guide I am always open to what the client would like to fish when it comes to patterns and techniques. However, I also know what works best on my home waters. Even though we were certain that our “bigger is better” mentality would work, we weren’t going to outright dismiss our guide’s suggestions for all of the reasons you mentioned. Those were his home waters and he definitely knows what works on them. When he pulled a fly out and wanted me to tie it on, I did. When he said “cast there”, I did. He was a great guide but also open minded and that have him even more knowledge about his fishing that he can use for future trips. It’s a win-win in my opinion. Thanks for the comment!!!

  3. Another awesome one man,
    I am currently in the process of stocking up my ‘meat locker’!
    Do you use any of Galloups patterns?
    What are some articluated patterns you wouldnt leave home without? (For trout)

    • Thanks Gabriel! When it comes to trout and streamers…. My go-to single hook pattern is a Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow. I think it’s the only single hook streamer I have in my box. My confidence articulated fly is a Rust-Brown Galloup’s Boogie Man. I’ve caught more fish on these two patterns than any of the other streamers in my box. Some of my other favorites:
      Galloup’s Articulated Butt Monkey
      Galloup’s Articulated Sex Dungeon
      Rich Stroli’s Headbanger Sculpin
      Rich Stroli’s Hog Snare (it’s a beast!)
      Clark Pierce’s Cheech’s Leech
      Mike Schmidt’s Meal Ticket
      Pat Cohen’s Sulking Sculpin
      You can find awesome video tutorials for all of these patterns (except for Pat’s) on Fly Fishing the Ozark’s youtube channel. Brian does an excellent job and keeps the site updated with new patterns pretty often. He’s probably half responsible for my jam-packed streamer boxes!
      Hope this helps out!

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