Trout streamer: the Hi-Liter

It was the mid 1980s. I’d just landed that coveted first job as a junior copywriter at a mid-sized Connecticut advertising agency. Every job that came across my desk included a creative brief: the background, current situation, brand essence, single most important thought, and support points for what I’d ultimately be creating. I’d pore over the brief with the eagerness of the cub writer I was. But then, I’d want that brief to be even briefer. So I’d reach into my drawer and pull out a highlighter marker. Usually bright green or fluorescent yellow. Sometimes pink. When I was done, that brief would be focused on the essentials. I could see at a glance what was really important.

That’s the energy behind the Hi-Lighter streamer.

The moment it hits the water, trout can see what the most important object in the pool is. It’s that thing. That bright, moving, flowing thing. Can’t miss it. There it is. Never seen a baitfish in those colors. But oh, look how it moves and pulses and flashes. The heck with those little black stones. I want that thing. Now. Better eat it before it gets away.

I’d like to tell you that I thought long and hard about the Hi-Liter, and that I field tested it for months. But the truth is that I made it up on the spur of the moment several years ago just hours before I stepped into the river. The trout liked it that day. And they still do.

The Hi-Liter. It looks substantial here, but it casts small, and slims down dramatically in the water. 

HiLiter studio

Hook: 4XL streamer, size 6
Thread: Chartreuse
Bead: Spirit River Hot Bead 3/16″ Chartreuse, seated with .010 wire
Tail: Hot or fluorescent pink marabou over 8 strands pink Krystal flash
Body: Pearl braid
Wing: 8 strands pink Krystal flash to mid-point of tail
Hackle: 4 turns chartreuse marabou blood quill

A wallflower this streamer is not. Subtlety escapes it. See how the colors pop against muted earth tones? I love the Hi-Liter on bright, sunny days.


All wet. My original prototype from years ago.

Highlighter Streamer

Tying notes: With the bead head and the wire seating, the fly will ride hook point up. The weight addition is subtle; this is not intended as a “carpet bomb the bottom” fly. For a more traditional style streamer, skip the bead and the wire. Besides the marking pen reference, the original color scheme draws from the extensive use of chartreuse and pink in striper files. I also tie this fly with a fluorescent yellow or chartreuse tail, and a white hackle. Try not to over-dress the fly; you want the hackle to act as a veil, creating a translucent effect against the body.


The Hi-Liter Rogues’ Gallery:

Farmington River someteen-inch brown, 3/13/15

16%22 late winter brown


Farmington River, 1/21/15

Streamer Brown 1:15

12 comments on “Trout streamer: the Hi-Liter

  1. Dwight says:

    I’ve never veiled a streamer with marabou. Any chance you could post a photo showing how to prepare mount the feather? I’d love to learn this technique– and there are so many pretty steelhead patterns with a marabou “spey” hackle.

    • Steve Culton says:

      Can’t do it right now, but shall endeavor to. In the meantime, there’s not that much to it. I wet my fingers and moisten the tip of a blood quill, separating the fibers from the rest of the stem. That wet/dry point is the tie in point. Now, wind the hackle, stroking the fibers rearward as you wind forward. Make sense?

      • Dwight says:

        Thanks! Here in SC/NC we’re almost into dry fly season, but I may have to tie your highlighter now for the fun of it.

  2. Mark Sofman says:

    Steve, the Hi-Liter looks like it would be an excellent fly for shad. Any experience with that?

  3. Brian Labowsky says:

    Thanks Steve. Looks good, have to tie some up.

  4. tidewaterfly says:

    “Steve, the Hi-Liter looks like it would be an excellent fly for shad.”

    That was my very thought too!

    Big Yellow Perch are starting to be caught here, and soon White Perch too as they move to their spawning grounds. I would bet It would work equally well for them, and later as Crappies get more active. Likely a very good all around style streamer!

  5. says:

    Hi, They look very good. I will try to tie them and fish with them when my wife is better. Thanks for the pattern. Hank Hollis

  6. bmanser says:

    sorry to change the subject but…. did you ever do a followup article on the grey ghost wooly bugger mentioned in a much earlier post? i searched but…. thx for your reply.

  7. Steve Culton says:

    I love Don’s work. Nice guy, too.

    I’m still not sure what you’re asking me. I don’t recall hearing about the fly, and I’ve never tied nor fished one. I can’t even find the fly by doing a search of Don’s site.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s