I don’t often think. Really. Today was a different story. I was really curious as to why fishing with streamers hasn’t taken off like it should have, it still feels like a novelty. I heard grumblings about it in the nineties; Dahlberg Divers, Clousers, Deceivers, so on and so forth. I think the Hollow Fleye was also developed in that time frame. It was a huge era for streamers (so were the 40’s), but the only source of knowledge for a guy like me was magazines. Word spread at a snail’s pace then, but all these flies made it to the masses for good reason, they worked. Sure, maybe a wayward fly ended up in a magazine due to the buddy system, but was quickly and efficiently snubbed out if it failed to perform or benefit anyone.
Here’s my thought process on why streamers haven’t gained much traction in the last five or so years. Allow me to preface, FRESHWATER.
Theory 1: I’m involved in it.
Theory 2: Social media. Hear me out, this isn’t a big ol’ glass of haterade for social media. We can use it to advance the progress if we are patient. For popularity sake, for the sake of content, we internet people have teetered on the edge of running out of material to endow upon you. More often than not, information is regurgitated and accredited to a source from whom is most popular. The problem with this is much like the problem pre social media. Whatever buddy had his article published after he heard the story from the source, without citing the source, gets all the glory. Leading to dissemination of knowledge not fully understood by the writer who is now the leader in whatever field of knowledge they do not quite grasp. This came down the pipe roughly once a month in the world of magazines. Now, this happens every single day. In order to keep your social media followers alive, they need that daily hit of info. This leads content creators to throw out untested flies claiming they do what the creator said when this person has yet to get the fly wet, but it looks pretty, so that’s good enough right?
Let us not put the blame fully on social media content creators, let us also blame fly tying companies for not dropping the expense of streamers to the market and still plays the buddy system to create designers. On the backs of these content creators, companies also pick and choose based solely upon likes or followers. Who, by the way, get there for a reason (for the most part). It’s a lot of hard work to become a viable social media person. Believe me, I’m not viable and it is still a whole lot of work.
Companies and content creators aside, streamers are really hard. They take time and effort to tie and more often than not, you have no idea what you are going to get when it hits the water. The real water, not a bathtub with 5x tippet towing it along. The bathtub gives you a good idea of what the fly wants to do, but not what it actually does when confronted with proper tippet and a sinking line (or whatever). There is only one way to figure that out and that is to fish it. On top of all the time it takes to tie and develop, there is no telling if you will catch a fish with it. Add in the technique to cast and retrieve your unique fly properly, and many people who want to get into streamers fall flat on their face and give up. The terrible part of this scenario is that streamers can be far more effective in the long run for all species if an angler puts in the time.
Truth be told, sometimes you get lucky, like I did with the Laser Yak. Even then, it is a further development of Der Helmut, which was born from a fly called the Broadway (my first true glider) combined with the Arctic Yeti. If you look at it this way, it took me 6ish years to develop the Laser Yak. That timeframe does not mesh with social media. Had I cared for cranking out content, I would have sent some real garbage into the world by teaching you guys how to tie every pattern in between that turned out to be failures.
You are probably asking yourself, why does this guy feel that it is just streamers and not typical trout flies? Trout fishing is what it is, stuff wrapped around a hook that trout eat. We have had a few hundred years to work this out. The only innovation that can come out of this time period are new materials, iridescence, texture and color tinkering. We are entering an era of realism in trout flies. Something we would not have been capable of in the 90’s due to the advent of new materials. I’m not saying that we are following art history to the T, but we are following a certain progression and our changes in the future will be subtle (but quick) shifts in style rather than innovation. Trout flies are established and it is really easy based upon the common flies in the genre to excel by sticking to a certain equation. Streamers are not so easy and we who are looking to progress the streamer genre are reinventing the wheel, leaving the industry to play catch-up.
This is where it all breaks down. Unfortunately, you can’t slap some stuff on a hook and make a streamer work like you can with most trout flies. This truth can be seen on social media. You can see what will swim and what will just spin and side roll. Break it down. Think of all of the styles of trout flies, generally (take your time, there are a lot). Heck write them down and do the same with streamer patterns. Your streamer side is going to look really chaotic because a lot of these patterns are still being developed and mixed. It is evolution in motion. Don’t forget to put a giant question mark on streamers because the places some of us are going, there is no path. If this process is fogged by people cranking out a number of untested patterns, we will have far too many people claiming that “streamers don’t work” and cutting the head off of any progress we can make by being dissuaded and spreading info falsely to others.
This needs to be fixed before it breaks. How do we do that? I’m so glad you asked! First, get into streamer fishing no matter what anyone says. You don’t have to go all in, but keeping one handy when fishing is good and you get bored of throwing a bugger to bass or nymphs to trout. You’ll get good at it, I promise. Second, tie your brains out and don’t think twice about tossing a crap pattern (save the hooks though). Learn from what you have tied and use it to understand what to or not to do for the next pattern. If it works, constantly be thinking of ways to make it better. Third, just because you tied something that looks like a pattern you have seen, doesn’t mean you can accurately replicate what that fly does. Even watching a video may not help. Open up communication with tiers. Get a couple flies from them and physically touch what they have done. It will help with understanding how much of a certain material is used and where. We are (for the most part) normal people, give us honest feedback and forget who we are. We are not infallible either. Sometimes humans are wrong, it happens. Lastly, be careful of who you listen to in the social media world. One of the best tips I can give you is when people use always and never, they just don’t know enough yet. For example, “I always catch fish on _______”. If this is true, this person hasn’t fished enough to fail.
Keep it alive my people!