Matching the Hatch With Streamers

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Photo by Travis Tolliver

Photo by Travis Tolliver

By Louis Cahill

Imitation and presentation in fly fishing, even with streamers.

It was a bluebird day and we were launching the boat about 9 AM. No need to get moving any earlier with the chilly morning and the generation schedule. We’d run shuttle and be on the water at quarter to ten and ride the falling water for most of the day. The high pressure was certainly less than ideal but flows were on our side and everyone was just happy to get on the water for a day we might actually end up in shirt sleeves.

I took the first shift on the oars, while Jason Tucker went to work figuring out what would get eaten. We were not getting a lot of encouragement from the fish. Jason tried dries, nymphs and streamers, picking up a couple of fish but not finding anything working consistently. When it was my turn to fish I went to work with a gray and white Double Cougar. I got a few chases right away but no takers.

“What color do you like?” Jason asked, digging through his box.

“I always fish white here on high water,” I replied

I an, of course, aware that my whole approach to the day runs contrary to conventional wisdom. Throwing a big white streamer in bright sun on the front end of a high pressure system is not usually a recipe for success, but I have spent a lot of days on this river and I know how cranky it can get. You might nymph up a couple of fish on a day like this but it won’t be lights out. It’s possible one might rise to a dry but without rising fish to target or any naturals present, I lose interest in that. What I prefer to do is to target big fish by imitating the food source I know they have available to them.

The river has a modest, but significant, population of big, wild brown trout. Thanks to the DNR, it also has an abundant population of stocker rainbows. I don’t much care for targeting eight inch stockers, but those browns sure do. On a day when nothing is happening, I’ll take my chances working the water with a fly that I know looks like food to those big fish. It’s a low percentage shot, but on a day when everything is a low percentage, the odds start to look better.

I worked hard that day. I stuck to my guns, made good casts and kept the faith. about a mile and a half from the takeout I caught my one fish for the day. He came up from the bottom of a deep green run like a kraken and thrashed my Double Cougar. A male brown about six pounds. Not the biggest fish I’ve caught out there, but damned fine.

Here’s where things get cool.

DSC02798When I put him in the net I noticed something. In his mouth was my fly, and an eight inch rainbow. Like my brother Tom says, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” It was remarkable how much my fly looked like that pale stocker. That’s all the proof I need that my logic is sound. I know everyone thinks you don’t catch fish on streamers on bright, high pressure days, but there he is.

Davy Waton calls the streamer box the, “Box of parrots.” Most streamer patterns are brightly colored attractors or dark seductive forms but, for my money, the old adage “Imitation and presentation” goes a long way. Only, it isn’t just for dry flies any more. It works for streamers too.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
www.ginkandgasoline.com
hookups@ginkandgasoline.com
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