This evening I have just returned from a familiar quest, a search for blue chenille, a key component in my favorite streamer for trout fishing in the Allegheny River. This calls for some explanation.
Deer season is over, except for the late archery and flintlock season that starts the day after Christmas. Now it looks like a good time to stay indoors waiting for the ice to get firm. This does not have to be wasted time. It is a time when I start tinkering with fishing tackle. This week has been devoted to tying flies.
Through the several decades that I have tied flies, one fly stands out as my best creation, a streamer I call the Tailwaters Special.
Pictured at the top is a Tailwatters Special and at the bottom, a Snowman. Both are effective for Allegheny River trout and steelhead.
It was midwinter in the early 1970s and there was a nice break in the weather. Doc Myers and I decided to try fly-fishing for brown trout at the Kinzua tailwaters. In preparation I had tied a few streamers, most familiar old patterns including my favorite, the Black Ghost, also a new pattern I devised to appear as much like an emerald shiner as I could manage.
This streamer, which I named the Tailwaters Special after that first day of winter fly-fishing in the tailwaters, has a body of medium-blue chenille and silver tinsel, a white bucktail belly, and a whitetail wing with a small amount of blue bucktail on top. I had to die my own blue bucktail since it was not readily available at that time.
The day Doc and I hit the tailwaters for the first time with flies was a beautiful day, sunny with a blue sky and puffy white clouds, and temperatures above freezing. Outflow from the dam was pretty normal, probably about 2,000 cfs. We started fishing along the bank where the hatchery now stands.
Action did not start right away, but quickly enough. I could see my fly throughout the retrieve, and I saw the first brown trout a second or two before it took the streamer. Luck was with me. The hook found its mark and I landed a brown trout about 18 inches in length.
Action was pretty good most of the time we were there, although many more trout swung at the fly than actually got hooked. It was fantastic fly-fishing.
More recently I have tied updated versions of the Tailwaters Special using newer materials. None have matched the effectiveness of the original to this day, hence my search around Erie for blue chenille. I had enough on hand to tie about a half-dozen Tailwaters Specials. For any more I will have to mail-order more chenille.
Two winters back I came up with another streamer pattern worth repeating. This streamer, which I call the Snowman, is intended for steelhead, although it will catch trout in the Allegheny River also.
The Snowman is about as simple as a streamer pattern can get, and as versatile. It is actually a series of streamer patterns, all starting with a white base, then adding a few strands of another color on the top, or back. Just about every color variation I have tied has gotten action. Pink probably has hooked more steelhead than any other, maybe rivaled by red.
Snowmen are tied with more recently developed fly-tying materials. The white body is white Orvis Super Hair, which is also known by other names. Most important is that it is an opaque color. The other color is usually some type of sparkly material, such as Krystal Flash, used sparsely.
These artificial hairs are tied forward, then turned back around the hook and wrapped behind the head, Thunder Creek style. An eye is added, then the head is coated with epoxy. Specifically, I use Pacer Z-Poxy Quick Set Formula, which Jim Simonelli introduced me to at Gander Mountain during a Thursday evening meeting of the Gem City Fly-Tiers. This material has become my standard streamer head coating because of the shiny, smooth appearance.
Since I have never been a really good fly tier, I tie simple patterns. One which is very effective and easy to tie is the Wooly Bugger. I tie a variation of it which I call the Marabugger.
The Marabugger is tied just as the Wooly Bugger is tied, but before finishing, the hackles are trimmed from the top of the fly. A long marabou wing is then tied at the top. I think it makes a fairly good representation of a hellgrammite. If not a hellgrammite, then it certainly looks like something brown trout, steelhead, and smallmouth bass will inhale. It can be tied in various colors and color combinations. Most productive that I have tried is all black, second best is all brown.