Do you know what your fly is doing? (Streamer Edition)

Do you know what your streamer is doing? I mean, do you really know how deep it is, how fast it’s sinking, how fast (or slow) it’s moving, and in which direction(s)? I think many anglers don’t. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once, but there’s a clear way out of it.

Many years ago I tied up a streamer called the Hi-Liter. Part of its raison d’être was to be easily seen (its colors are hot pink and chartreuse) not just by the fish, but by me. I used the Hi-Liter to get a better visual handle on where the streamer actually was. A few years later I was interviewing George Daniel, and I was pleased to discover that he was doing the same thing. I’ll let George pick up the story:

“Take your favorite streamer, tie it in a bright, obnoxious color and fish it. You’ll be amazed to see what level and direction your fly is moving. You’ll learn a lot by changing the leader length, retrieve, and type of fly line — and that will allow you to really dial in your presentations.”

I spent a good chunk of time yesterday on the Housatonic, perched above the water on a rock, doing just that. The water was low and exceptionally clear, with none of the normal tea tinge that river usually displays. Not only did I get to observe and experiment with presentation, I also got to witness how smallmouth attack a streamer.

I used a white tungsten cone head Woolly Bugger for my experiments. The closing and attack speed of smallmouth is astonishing. One moment, your streamer is in isolation. In the blink of an eye, a shadow materializes at lightning speed out of nowhere. Smallmouth are classic ambush predators, attacking from below, behind, from an oblique blind side — or any combination thereof. You cannot strip a fly faster than they can swim, although they do not always want to chase and eat. I had several tremendous hits after I performed a combination of rapid long strips, then let the streamer begin to settle. WHACK! Where you cast is also important, as I had a good half dozen takes moments after the streamer hit the water.

Housy Smallmouth Report: Crazy 8s

Yesterday was 8/8/16, a nice bit of numerology even if you’re not mathematically inclined. (For the record, I am not. But I do love and am attuned to numbers.) Water flow was a low 178cfs, voluminous compared to the current trickle that is the Farmington. And warm. Mid-to-upper 70s warm. (I can confirm this from personal sampling as I managed to fall into the river twice. A treacherous wade, that TMA.) There is something to be said about the cooling effects of wet wading inside your breathable Simms on a hot, sunny day.

To the fishing. I am not long on smallie experience, but I am a quick study. Here’s what I can tell you.

I fished from the general area of the West Cornwall covered bridge down to the Rt. 7 bridge. Six hours, 3pm-9pm. My M.O. was fish, drive, park, repeat. While the sun was up, the bass were, without exception, in brisk, moving water. They also tended to be on the small (5″-7″) side. I found players in every run I fished.

A smallmouth that Goldilocks would have loved. I like how the surface blends with the depths. The Hous is a weird-colored river.



Fly selection was irrelevant. Bright white and fluorescent chartreuse? Loved it. Muted earth tones? Attacked it with prejudice. Horrible, dreadful pattern (like the TeQueely)? Total annihilation. The only fly I didn’t hook up on was the Gurgler, and that’s because I fished it in daytime and the little guys couldn’t manage the wide gap size 2 hook. This is the first time I fished the Deep Threat for smallmouth, and it was met with unilateral approval.

Crayfish are an anecdotal smallmouth favorite, as are flies in browns/orange/olives/black/etc. The river is loaded with the naturals.



Once the sun dipped behind the hills and trees, the bigger fish action turned on. I lost count of the number of smallmouth I caught long before I took this shot, an attempt at an artsy silhouette portrait. 



The vaunted white fly hatch never materialized. From 8pm-8:30 there was a consistent surface bite, but I had to work for every fish, and quite frankly, what was rising wasn’t worth the effort I was putting in with my Light Cahill dries (12-16). As dusk deepened, I decided to bail on the dries and go surface streamer. First cast toward the bank with the Zoo Cougar and I was on — and I mean on fast and hard. For the next half hour, I was in smallmouth heaven. Pound-for-pound, these might be the hardest fighting fish I’ve ever experienced. Tremendous sport.

My biggest smallmouth came as night settled in over the water. Sadly, he slipped the net while I was getting my camera ready, so you’ll have to be content with this shot of his younger brother.



You know how sometimes on the drive home from the river something doesn’t sit quite right with you? Sure, you caught fish, but you may have LDRed a good one. Perhaps you lost a favorite fly on the bottom. Maybe there was that one fish you just couldn’t fool. You’re glad you got out, but there’s that little negative something inside that keeps gnawing away at you — and in a way, it wrecks the whole thing?

This trip wasn’t one of those.