It has been almost 20 years since Kelly Galloup released the two most important works on the subject to date. His book "Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout" introduced a population of fly fishermen to the concept that fishing streamers wasn't just something to do when they weren't biting dry flies. In it, he showcased large streamers at the time, and it blew people's minds. People couldn't conceive fishing 2 or 3" streamers. When he released his DVD (originally a VHS- that's how far we've come) "Articulated Streamers", everything changed. Although some people though these original flies couldn't possibly be for trout fishing, they changed their tune once anglers started moving even bigger trout. I wasn't around, but I hear it from all the guys back then that people thought they were SHARK flies- it was that inconceivable. And 20 years later, the 4-6" streamer is now commonplace.
Following Kelly's works, bigger became EVEN bigger. It was the natural evolution. If a 5" streamer was finding and catching trout previously never seen before on river systems, what could be caught or moved with a 9" trout streamer? Although it took some time to figure out, bigger ultimately wasn't better, at least by the same margin a 5" streamer was to a 2" streamer. So flies naturally started getting smaller and settled into that 4-6" range. This is the middle ground of you can still catch big fish, but you get more bites in a day.
In 2014 the first new book on the subject was published, "Strip Set" by Pennsylvania guide and author George Daniels. This was a big deal at the time, because it solidified the notion that the streamer game wasn't just a fad, it was here to stay. This book introduced even a broader audience to more streamer designers, and techniques to help anglers evolve their presentations on the water from the typical strip retrieve. It's one of my favorite books because of the way George writes and organizes his books. They are all good. If you didn't know, he also wrote one of the absolute best books on european nymphing, titled "Dynamic Nymphing".
After this book, things got crazy. We were blessed with podcasts, magazine articles, and Youtube videos on a near daily basis. Several books followed including "Catching Shadows" by Rich Strolis, "Tying Streamers" by Charlie Craven, and "Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout II" by Kelly Galloup, which continued pushing the articulated streamer agenda to new heights. At this stage, it wasn't about fishing a BIG fly, it was about dialing in your presentation with new fly rods and fly lines that were being developed. It was about designing flies with newer actions, and in general about becoming very intentional with the streamer approach. It was no longer chuck and duck- it was tactical, before fly fishing ruined the term.
As a result of all of these books, a lot of anglers went down this rabbit hole (including myself) and either found mixed results, or just ended up in pure frustration. It's easy to look on social media and see all the guides posting trophy trout eating big streamers on what seems like a near daily basis, but like much of social media posts, it's usually not the whole picture.
For one thing, as a weekend angler, it's impossible to appreciate how much time these guys spend on the water every year. You can't learn the same things they can learn, and what you can learn comes slower. It's really critical to listen to these guys when they are on podcasts, or youtube videos- or to simply bug them with questions.
But to the main point, WHY is the streamer game changing? Part of the reason is simple evolution. In twenty years there are now more tools available to the modern streamer angler. We have our choice of rods and lines today that can dial our presentation in on these river systems, that just didn't exist in the past. We also have better designed fly patterns that can do more than previous fly patterns could, and the material boom helped push this forward.
The main reason the streamer game is changing is because of CLIMATE CHANGE. Okay guys- don't be triggered. What I mean is simply a change in river conditions from the general weather. I don't have an agenda, I don't have the science, but it's clear if you talk to guides around the country the river systems aren't the same today as they were 5, or 10 years ago. This is a result from changing weather patterns, an increase in extreme weather events.
The changes most guys are seeing is thinner, clearer water and warmer water. This will effect trout and how to fish for them. Ultimately, anglers have had to adapt and what you are seeing is a major downsizing in the flies. A 6" fly 5 years ago was fine in high dirty water, but now it's clear so you need to really convince them to eat it so we're seeing more 3" and 4" streamers. Also, there has been a switch away from gaudy attractor patterns to more prey based imitations. And all of this is a good thing. The one thing about the big streamer bite was it was a grind for the ONE. But if you downsize your streamer, you can still catch the one, but you can also catch many more.
This has also lead to a new niche in the streamer game, the rise of the micro streamers. These flies are typically tied on size 10 or 12 jig hooks, and are fished using the european nymphing method. You can also regularly see mini articulated flies for sale by guys like Kelly Galloup, who has since released a mini version of almost all of his streamers.
In conclusion, to quote Russ Maddin who had the first commercially produced articulated streamer fly ever....
In the next article I'll be covering how to choose the right fly box for your style of streamer fishing, and how to design a box that will serve you best on your waters.
Daniel Podobed III
P R I M E F L Y