. . . Remember that Mark taught me to keep the streamer moving downstream at one pace, without pause. Now think about the way you fish a streamer. You strip it, right? Strip, strip, jerk, strip, strip, jig, strip.
And at the end of every strip, there’s a pause when you let go of the line and re-grasp it further ahead (preparing for the next strip). That pause, and the look that it gives the streamer, is completely different than what Mark showed me at fourteen years old.
Like anything else in fishing, you can get the tactic pretty close and have some success, or you can dig deep into the details, refine it and triple your production . . .
You gear up, lock the truck and hike down the ravine. Following the path of a shallow ditch, you enter the water where the spring-seep trickles in, and you cross the river where it’s wide and shallow. On the far side, you navigate over a maze of zig-zagging deer trails and around fallen timber for about a half mile. You climb the hillside to the railroad tracks and walk another quarter mile, scanning the river below for the spot — the one you and your fishing buddies refer to as Upper Honey.
In the off season like this, there are no leaves on the trees, and you can usually spot the ancient sycamore teetering bank-side, leaning about thirty degrees over, patiently waiting, month after month, year after year, for the day when it slips the bonds of its streamside earth and crashes into the water.
And oh my, those roots. Underneath the massive sycamore sits an exposed tangle of underground limbs — wet, flexible pipes as thick as your leg, with a shadowy cover where no sunlight penetrates . . .
. . . “Great. I have some ideas on how to make your fly better,” Bruce said flatly.
That stung a little too. What improvements are needed? I wondered while Bruce stashed my beloved streamer into his fly box. I watched until the end, until the shadow of the closing lid engulfed the mallard flank, and the glint from the copper conehead was no more. Farewell, good friend.
Seven days later, Bruce sent me photos of his “improved” version, noting that he’d substituted white for tan marabou, changed the collar dubbing to something “with necessary flash,” and added opal tinsel to the tail. “The fly just looks bare without it,” Bruce assured me. Accompanying the pics and descriptions of what he changed, Bruce ended with the following: “This spruced up fly gets a lot more attention!!”
Now how the hell does he know that, I wondered. It’s only been a week . . .
If you could plunge your head underwater and see what the trout sees, you’d have a much better idea of how to drift your flies. I once bought a wet suit and snorkel, with full intentions of doing just that. The experience was a bust, and my wife has some favorite anecdotes she likes to tell about that short period of our life.
Some of the things that trout eat can only dead drift, while others have little outboard motors for propulsion. Most trout foods have at least some wiggle to them, but which things can actually move across current seams at will? Baitfish can, of course. So when we’re representing minnows, sculpins, small trout or crayfish with our streamers, crossing seams might be a good idea. Likewise, stoneflies have a lot more swimming power than most caddis and mayflies, but their ability to cross current seams is nothing compared to baitfish. All of this is something to think about . . .
It was constructed by four muscular hands over two days and with one purpose — to float. Built to the specs of intricate line drawings printed on rough paper, the boat came to match the blueprints ordered from an ad in the back of a Popular Science magazine.
The builders used it for two seasons, and then it sat. The boat collected rain and bred microscopic life, providing food for mosquitoes and midge larva which hatched in their own time and fed the swallows nesting in the rafters of a nearby farmhouse turned post-war residence.
Year after year the boat sat, unused, lonely and forgotten.
Then it was sold — bartered actually — for enough groceries to fill one large brown bag. The hands of a builder passed ownership to the hands of a fisherman, having his own purposes for a boat . . .
There are precious few situations where one leader setup does the trick all day long. And taking the middle of the road approach leaves you average at both ends.
Take the time to make the changes.
Use the moments while tying knots for breathing a little deeper — for reflecting a little on where you are. Because trout take us into some amazing places. Look up at the swaying hemlock boughs as you make those five turns in a blood knot. See things and enjoy them. That kind of time is not wasted . . .
Tom and I talked about streamers, mostly — about how fast the industry has moved into what I think of as the modern streamer code. And about how, in my mind, I juxtapose that with an old-school streamer style that (maybe) a lot of anglers have forgotten about . . .
Sometimes the worst things become the most popular. The industry standard for attaching a leader to a fly line is the loop to loop connection. But it has a some inherent failings that cause major problems.
In time, all things in a river sink to the bottom. How much time do you have? Getting our flies down is the ever-present objective. It’s what good fly anglers think about. But is it as simple as adding split shot or swapping out to a heavier tungsten beaded fly? No, it’s not.
There are seven ways to get the fly deeper. Understanding all of them, and seeing how each interacts with or affects the others, is a major key to gaining a complete picture of your underwater fishing system.