Streamers Steam Stream Smallies

Sept. 26, 2004...

There is a class of fly caster who disdains all but the dry fly. Their fly boxes contain no streamers, no nymphs, but when it comes to flat out fish-catching on a fly rod, these top water fellows aren't going to fare well on Indiana streams this time of year.

No, there is nothing that beats the excitement of "fishing dry" as some call their devotion to the dry fly. Very few fly caster would disagree. Seeing the fish hit, even seeing it as it comes to the fly, nothing beats it. However, the dry fly is not the fly for all seasons in southern Indiana where streams are as likely to be muddy or murky as they are clear.

My favorite smallmouth streams are no secret. Indian Creek, sections of the East Fork, Blue River's upper stretches, and a few too small to name are among them. I have floated them, waded them, fished them with both spinning gear and fly. So, for you fly casters out there interested in testing some Indiana creeks, here is the best tip I can give you: make sure you have plenty of streamers in your fly box.

For those of you not familiar with flies and fly fishing, a streamer is a fly so tied as to mimic a small fish. Streamers do not float, the sink slowly, and you work them just like a spin caster might work a jig…retrieving with a steady motion with some drops added just to tease any fish that might be looking.

My favorite streamers are tied using marabou "wings" in black, white, and chartreuse. I like a few strands of crystal flash in the tail, and maybe a few short strands of red squirrel tail. I favor yarn for the streamer's body and often add a wrap of copper or silver wire. Silver hollow tube material is ideal for body material, because the weave of the tube material gives the look of tiny scales.

Finally, I like a tiny bit some kind of red material near the head of the fly to mimic either gills or blood. I seldom use a hook larger than No. 4, long shank wire. Whip finish and super glue the knot or even the entire "head" of the fly.

If you do not tie your own flies, the old stand-by Wooly Bugger will work just fine. You can buy these in most any fly shop or mail order catalogue. I am not sure what Wooly Buggers look like to fish, but in a dark color they look like leaches to me. With lots of maribou and a light color, they could be taken for small fish.

Fishing streamers is more difficult than fishing dry flies, because you usually cannot see the fly once it sinks a few inches. You have to imagine the fly in your mind, and what the leader is doing. Strip in line as you think necessary to keep as tight a line as possible. In my experience on Hoosier streams, strikes from smallmouth come on the first drop, so picking the right spot to cast and dropping the fly on that spot are number one skills.

Most often, the right spot is smack up against a bank full of exposed tree roots, or a rocky pool just below a riffle. Casting in slow water is more difficult because it is hard to judge depth, and you have to make the streamer move. Casting below riffles is much easier, because the current does you work for you.

This is what streamers are really best at, fishing moving water, but don't just let your streamers "stream" downstream. Imagine casting a dry fly and letting it go with the drift, mending slack line as it goes. With a dry fly, the end of the drift means either a strike or nothing as the current takes the fly underwater. With a streamer, the end of the drift may also mean a strike, but your cast isn't done at that point. The streamer will rise in the water, but you can strip it in, letting it drop now then if you like. Do not make the mistake of just standing there with your streamer downstream from you in one place.

What color streamer to use is pretty basic. Dark color in muddy water, light color in murky to clear water. Chartreuse is best in murky to clear water, and black works amazingly well in muddy water.

Yes, there are other "wet flies" that will work in our streams, including weighted flies with rubber legs that are very good in big, slow water. Nymphs and big wet bugs that mimic hellgrammites are unbeatable in some spots.

Streamers are the best all-around though, if you are forced to abandon your rubber spiders and deer hair grasshoppers. You can take a look at some of my streamers and sinking bugs tied especially for southern Indiana smallmouth in the photo above.

Copyright 2004 through 2009. Jordan Communications

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