ABOUT this time of year, every year, it comes time to reorganize the streamer boxes.
November and December are the time for serious streamer tying ahead of the post-Christmas big fly flurry, filling gaps, dreaming up new ideas. All too soon we will be inundated with jazzed-up streamer junkies looking for the brown trout of a lifetime from the White River system.
Winter isn’t the only game of course, just the best known: I love summer streamer fishing with warm evenings, flip flops and big fish feeding on the air conditioner driven high flows. Which of course was the last time I undid the boxes, ahead of the low flows of fall.
Color is how I organize: white schlappen against white. The chartreuse over there. Yellows and olives in the other box lest wet feathers leach color. Gingers and tan’s here. My color choices are standards: yellow, olive, white, ginger and chartreuse and combinations of the above: I remain a creature of hard-earned habit.
But I build my boxes on action and depth…
HIGH AND WIDE:
Buoyant heads make for plenty of action, whether its old school Zoo Cougars, or newer patterns like Dally’s Lap Dancer and its new cousin the Tiny Dancer.
Setting up a head that wants to stall and rise with a rear that keeps pushing forward is going to give you crazy action. Fish these on heavy sinking lines perpendicular to the current and watch what happens with a hard, shortish pull and pause. Too much speed and you can force these flies into a rolling action.
But these flies have actions which scream, “I’m hurt” whatever the predator species.
Fish these flies over grass beds and in shallower runs where their buoyancy is an asset. These are also a handy tool for wade fishers who are always pulling their flies into the shallows.
But those buoyant head also come at a price. On the White at least, flies in the first foot or so below the surface attract more tire kickers than committed buyers. You will see plenty of activity, “drive-bys”, “stalkers” and “lookie-loos”. But we want the name on the contract and getting your fly down 4 to 5 feet can sell the pitch.
The Tiny Dancer is also a pretty cool one to toss for smallmouth and largemouth, on rivers or lakes as well. Sinking lines are a great starting point, but don’t be afraid to experiment with this type of fly.
MID WATER COLUMN FLIES:
The big flows on the White River system mean I’m going to have one of these in the game if not two most days.
I’m talking unweighted bucktail Deceivers or synthetics like the Twerking Minnow. These flies have plenty of lateral action, tall baitfish profiles, and in a 6” version can be fished all day in most hands: though I love the look of an 8” baitfish coming back to the boat, screaming “eat me big boy”
If you wonder whether a 8” baitfish is on the largish size, I’ll introduce you to a couple of streamer junky clients of mine who are still telling the tale of the 30”-plus brown which tried to snatch Kenny’s 18” hooked fish off the line.
Being unweighted these flies are led into the depth by fast sinking lines: Let the fly land and settle vertically. Sitting on the oars you see a lot of flies pulled out of the ambush zone, either deliberately or by accident as the caster stands tall to strip, before they have had a chance to swim.
Push the tip of the rod deep if you have good depth, and now see where that fly is running coming back to the boat? If it looks faint, blurred then you are in the hunt.
Some days there is no substitute for getting it deep fast, and that alluring up and down action of a weighted head. In fast rivers with steep banks sometimes flies which fall on their nose fast are worth their weight in gold.
Whether you are talking simple lead eyed Clousers, proven Dungeons or Hippie Chicks and BaitFish Head Twerking Minnows sticking weight on the nose of a fly is going to make it dance vertically. And its going to be easier to run deeper.
Dungeons have always been a favorite for those tight banks where you need to cast a small heavy wriggly package in tight. The BFH Twerking Minnows I love for the way they swim to the bottom, when your stall the retrieve, it has proven an effective trigger.
If I want to run these truly deep, I run a slow vertical jig strip with the rod tip moving up and down in line with the fly line, gathering slack on the drop to better detect subtle eats. It’s not easy moving a big fly among the structure but the eats can be worth it.
Good luck and just remember, strip set.
(All images by Steve Dally)
Steve Dally was raised fishing the saltwater surround his island home of Tasmania. But it wasn’t until his late 20s he picked up a fly rod and was smitten by the long wand. He learnt his craft on the wild brown trout of this Australian trout mecca before moving to the US in 2000.
As a freelance photo-journalist he fished some of the US’s finest waters from Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Michigan, and more before settling in Arkansas on the trophy tailwaters of the White River. Steve guides on the White and Norfork Rivers, and partner and manager of Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher in Cotter.