Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - Apr 07, 2014

Sysadmin Note
Part 25 can be found here


Fly Patterns for Lewis Lake & the Lewis River Channel

Streamer flies often seem to be tied to catch anglers as well as trout. Some of us, me included, seem to have that dreaded disease called "collectoritis", which sometimes leads us to acquire impractical patterns. But impractical or not it sure is fun and I don't believe that any angler ever has enough flies.

There are some important factors that the angler should consider before rushing off to the local fly shop or sitting down at the tying bench to lay in a stock of streamers. First we should consider why trout take streamers. What type of waters are we going to be fishing in--shallow, gentle flows or deeper, heavier water? We should also find out if there are any special patterns for certain times of the year. Next we should find out what minnow forms are available to the trout in the waters we will be fishing and what are the popular local patterns. It would be silly for us to tie or buy a bunch of smelt imitations if there were no smelt in the waters we are fishing. Then we need to decide what tackle will be required to present these imitations at the proper depth and angle to be effective. Once these questions are answered the angler can then make the proper choice on what streamers will be required.

I believe that trout take streamers for three main reasons: Hunger, Anger, and Curiosity. I think that hunger is something everyone can readily understand. Often when streamers are mentioned the angler thinks of brown trout, but rainbows, cutthroats, and brook trout will also feed on minnow forms.

Anger comes in two forms. Trout will hit a streamer because it has invaded their territory. Trout will hit streamers during the annual spawning cycle in defense of the redd (nest), or because it is "in their face".

Curiosity can be recognized as those lazy swirls after the streamer. They rolled on it or bumped it simply because it looked like something to eat, but they really were not hungry. Or, in the case of some of our creations, maybe it was a "What was that?!!"

Now that we understand a little bit about why trout take streamers we need to investigate what minnow forms are available to the trout on the waters we are going to fish.

We covered the minnows in the last selection of the chronicles and the following is just an example of collecting the needed information.

Longnose Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae): This minnow is found in large numbers in most of prime trout streams and lakes in Yellowstone Park and are heavily preyed on by the trout. The coloration will vary from black to light olive on the back and upper sides, with silver to yellow on the belly with a very dark lateral stripe. In some rivers there will be a faint to very pronounced mottling noticed. The experts think they spawn in the late spring and summer but little of the life history has actually been studied. They will vary in size from .03 inches to 6 inches and live 5 years. They feed on small forms of aquatic insects and are constantly moving about in search of food, which brings them to the notice of the trout.

  1. Byford Zonker (Sizes 2‑8) There are many color variations and some variations are excellent imitations for the Longnose dace and Longnose sucker. This pattern could be classed as both an imitation and attractor. Used periodically throughout the year.
  2. Black Girdle Bugger (Sizes 2‑8) This is a general attractor pattern which is effective throughout the year.
  3. Western Feather Streamer (Sizes 1/0 to 6) This is an excellent general minnow type attractor. There are various color variations. This pattern has proven to be one of the most effective of the streamer patterns due to its shape and life‑like movement in the water. This pattern can be tied with a conehead if it is being fished in deep runs and pools.
  4. Full Dress Western Streamer (Sizes 2‑8) This is a series of feather streamers designed to imitate several different minnow forms. Generally used in the spring and fall during the spawning runs.

Now that we have covered the local patterns, let's talk about what items the angler or tyer should consider before buying or tying a streamer selection. The important elements for a successful pattern are shape, color, movement, balance, durability and what I call cast‑a‑bility. Now let us examine each of these elements needed for a successful streamer pattern.

SHAPE: The shape or silhouette can be influenced by several factors: the material being used to construct the patterns, the type of water the imitation is to be fished in and of course whether or not the pattern is an imitation of a particular minnow or just a general attractor. The shape can also affect the cast‑a‑bility of the pattern, just as the materials used in construction can affect the sink rate, which in turn will affect how the pattern is presented. For shape follow the lead taken with known effective patterns of the same type or imitate the shape of the natural as close as possible.

The type of water may influence the overall shape. In heavy water you may want a fuller and heavier wing so the fish will be able to see the fly. In smoother water you may want the imitation to be dressed a little more sparsely.

COLOR: Some claim that color is of no importance. But if that is the case why not tie everything in black, white or maybe hot pink. Studies have shown that trout do indeed see color. Now the color they see in 6 feet of water may indeed vary from what we see while holding the imitation in our hand. When tying flies that imitate a certain minnow I try to match the color of the natural as close as possible. When tying attractors I try to use colors or combinations of colors that have been proven to be effective on trout in a given stream. Often the tyer must mix and match several materials to give the overall appearance of color that is desired. When working on new patterns I always put the finished fly in a tank to see if getting it wet will change the overall color. Some materials turn very dark when they get wet and may change the overall shade to something you didn't want.

MOVEMENT: Use materials or combinations of materials that will move and flow in the water. This movement is what creates the illusion of life and attracts the trout. More often than not flies that are stiff and lifeless are ignored by the trout. What movement you create will, in part, depend on what you want the fly to do and the type of water you will be using it in.

BALANCE: This is how you want your fly to sink in the water and what you want it to do when you are retrieving. Example: if you put the weight forward on a flash-a-bugger, it will sink nose first and dive nose first on the retrieve. If you place the bulk of the lead back toward the tail it would dive tail first. Think about what you want your pattern to do before putting the lead on the hook so you can balance the pattern to act properly in the water.

DURABILITY: Make sure you have flies that are constructed with materials and tying techniques so they stand up under the abuse of fishing. Make sure that heads are glued and well finished. Nothing will upset you more than to make a dozen casts and have the fly fall apart.

CAST‑A‑BILITY: Once I watched an angler try to cast a 1/0 Whit Matuka Sculpin that was weighted with .035 lead fuse wire with a 6 weight rod. Well, you could say that he had an encounter of the wrong kind with his fly. When weighting a fly take into account the type of line and rod you will be casting with and balance the fly accordingly. Also take into account the water absorbency of the material you are using and adjust accordingly. Example: Weighting a Woolhead Sculpin with 20 wraps of .030 lead wire may make the imitation heavier than you wish to handle as the wool head, wool body and rabbit strip wing all will soak up water.

CONCLUSION: If the angler takes the knowledge of the trout, the food forms, the tackle, and the imitations and mixes them together the end result will be increased success while fishing streamers. With streamer flies there are two basic styles: imitations and attractors. Some are used as both. The angler will learn that success depends on learning what combination of patterns will make the trout respond during the various seasons.

I hope this assists you in tying or buying better streamer imitations. Now I will list the patterns for the first four imitations that I have discussed in this section.








Sysadmin Note
Part 27 can be found here


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