Tag Archives: streamers

The Real Deal On Streamers

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Break Point

The last time I published a technical article, I was met with some really positive feedback. So, Im going to follow this rabbit hole a little further. Since I have been writing everyday, there seems to be plenty of time to explore a little. Plus, my computer decided to completely clean itself out. Everything (and I really mean everything including my sign in for wordpress) was deleted, buried in an unknown digital graveyard to live out its afterlife.

Typically, people will refer to a joint in a streamer as articulation. A place where the fly is designed to flex with a rigid shank on either side of the joint. As fond as people are of articulated streamers (both dual hook and looped shank), there is a far more subtle area of the fly I like to refer to as the “Break Point”. This break point is a transition between materials tied on the hook and is often destroyed by an articulation. Greater motion with less force can be applied to a fly with a break point. It’s all about delivering the energy you create by stripping a streamer and its ability to continue that motion through momentum. An articulation will flex and absorb that energy by folding in half. It’s very much like wiggling a chain and a fly rod. The chain will hang lifeless, and when force is applied, the movement is absorbed by each link in the chain. The fly rod, given the same force, will continue wiggling after force is applied. To make this more direct, a broken fly rod doesn’t wiggle like it should either. Hence, underwater, an articulated fly must rely on constant and greater force to move as it should and you should spend a little more time thinking about material transitions.

Put simply, the break point is the point in the fly where dense, sturdy materials meet those of a typically longer and more supple sort. Usually these transitions are found at the rear of the hook shank. The break point is easy to point out in flies like the Dahlberg Diver, but can often be much more complex and hidden as the break point is elongated. For example, bunny leeches with a bunny tail have a break point at the tie in for the tail. Whereas, in a fly such as the Derp, the break point is at the center of the more rigid structure (more on this in a minute, I promise) and creates a curve rather than a hard angle. Like the bunny leech, most streamers have a “hard break point” where the fly has soft, long fibers tied in on the rear of the fly. The harder a break point is (how sharp the angle is at the transition), the more likely the fly is to foul and have its tail wrapped around the hook shank.

How flexible the break point is can be a two-edged sword. Sometimes you want a hard break point when you are oriented vertically over structure. That wiggly tail can provide movement in a place where linear movement is difficult. However, that same fly stripped over open water will fold in half on the pause. In my experience, fish hate this. I mean, when I see a cow in pasture, I look at its cuts. Where my burger is going to come from is important. If the cow is unhealthy, it is apparent. Now, imagine that same cow walking along normally and suddenly folding in half and emerging again walking normally. I don’t want that burger anymore. I think this hitch is what drives a smallie to haul over to your fly and suddenly spook when you stop retrieving, only to come back once it moves again. If you see this often, you are probably almost there in design. Continue tinkering.

There is an exception to the rule. Moving water. If you are fishing moving water, the fly is constantly on the move and great force is constantly being applied to your streamer. Kinda like one of those silly “fly tester” aquarium things. Yes, it does give you a read on how the fly will swim under constant motion in perfect conditions, but we aren’t always fishing moving water with our flies. For me, it is incredibly rare. Quite frankly, because our moving water usually has no warm water fish and when it does, access is near impossible. If you do fish a lot of moving water, the break point has less importance. Hook orientation and balance are the keys to success there.

Maintaining shape and profile are critical under stillwater conditions. Back to the cow, either folded in half or front legs jutting out vertically from its shoulders, you will notice that. But three legs or one horn or an odd color can be overlooked in the proper circumstances. The same can be said for your flies. Sure, you tied a perfectly stereotypical brown cow, which is mostly what the streamer world focuses on. However, the most important aspects of streamers deal with profile and motion. Your perfectly tied brown cow that is levitating and turning inside out like a cheap 80’s horror movie will attract the wrong kind of attention.

This is getting long, bear with me.

Break point elongation is critical in flies that you want to work with long pauses. Accomplishing this is quite the easy task indeed. First, the fly must be light. rather than using extra mass on the fly, use a weighted fly line to drag your fly to the depths. This creates a slight forward motion on the fly to keep it from binding. Now, for the big number two.

Decide where you want the break point to be in terms of total length of the fly. Like last time, break it down into thirds. This time, only work in the center third. The forward third is reserved for techniques enough to write a book. The rear third is pointless.

IMG_1472

In this example, the Derp has a slightly rearward and very soft break point with the hook far in front. It is a very unexaggerated motion, more of a drifting, legato motion on the pause. No hard turns or anything of the like. It can be worked with speed, but designed to be general purpose. And such are rear break point flies. The elongation of the break point is created by making a kind of mesh. Both EP and bucktail are notoriously grabby and the use of polar flash binds it all together. When the hook drops due to gravity, the structural integrity of these materials spreads the force over a longer distance and keeps the overall profile in tact. Even though the tie in transition is on the rear of the hook, through different types of materials like the sturdy bucktail add rigidity and structure to the more supple and lengthy EP.

IMG_1473

Transversely, the Laser Yak has a forward and slightly harder break point with mass behind the transition tie in. The break point is elongated again, but not as much, by utilizing structural materials (in this case laser dub) interlocked into longer, softer fibers. The elongation is shorter due to the suppleness of the fibers but creates more lateral motion when mass and resistance are properly added into the equation.

Keep your break point in mind next time you are staring down that fly on the vice. How can you manipulate it to get your fly to do what you want? The more forward the break point, the more lateral motion the fly will have. The more rear, more subtle motion. The harder a break point, the sharper the flex and more loss in momentum. The softer the break point, the more momentum can be maintained. Have fun and go tinker!