Heisenberg Streamer

Sometimes trout get extremely selective and key in on tiny insects, necessitating flies you practically need a microscope to see. These are times when sensitive rods, delicate presentations and long, fine leaders are called for. These are small dry flies, most notably midges, mayflies and caddisflies. Other times, particularly in the fall, trout - especially larger trout - respond to bigger mouthfuls. In these scenarios, often imitating baitfish, small trout, and sculpins, streamer flies are often called for. The time most fishermen pull out streamers is usually early and late in the day, often in fall, when big fish like trout and bass feel relatively safe and want to bulk up for winter. In these streamer situations, we cast these robust streamer flies into woody structures and deep holes, hoping to tempt large fish. It must be said that this streamer fishing is not a numbers game; if you’re looking to bolster your fish count, you’d do better to try to coax, in most situations, trout that are looking for nymphs down deep..

Westlope cutthroat trout in the South Fork Flathead River, Flathead National Forest, Montana. Courtesy photo by Pat Van Eimeren. Original public domain image from Flickr

The why and how of streamer fishing is simply a matter of size. Big trout like a big meal, and largely ignore insects, except in the densest of hatches. Rainbow trout, cutthroat and brook trout exhibit this aggressive, even cannibalistic behavior, but the species most associated with streamer consumption is the brown trout. Modern streamer fishing is most popular in the Rocky Mountains, in states like Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, but Canada, Patagonia, the Great Lakes and New Zealand offer excellent streamer opportunities as well.

A good streamer fly has the right amount of motion, silhouette, contrast and color. You want a fly that looks like it moves, pulses, even breathes. We’re trying to trigger a reaction bite - a meal that can’t be passed up, that a trout will take the risk of leaving its lie to take. 

Tying Heisenberg Streamer Fly with loop

Admittedly, I’m not that much of a streamer tier but lately I’ve been playing around with the Heisenberg streamer. This is a fly by Nick Blanco. It’s got a lot of appeal, with marabou for motion, schlappen, optional flash, rubber legs, and a UV ice dub head. It’s best fished on a sink tip line, down and across the current after being sunk for a few seconds. Since baitfish and sculpins usually flee a hole downstream, it’s also a good idea to make some casts down and across, letting a belly form in the line while quickly stripping and letting the fly swim downstream. The deeper the better, as big fish like to stay hidden. When I tie this fly it usually ends up being about 3.5-4 inches, but I do like smaller streamers a lot. 

Heisenberg Streamers of varying sizes

As you can see from the photos, I tend to tie this fly a bit differently each time, as I’m not sure on the exact materials and shape I prefer yet. The basic shape is the same, however. My favorite from the photo of four is the top right. This is one fly where you want the bite, which might be from a trophy trout, to stick, so we use two hooks. Just as important, we want the added motion that the articulation of two hooks provides. This fly should really wag in the current. To make that articulated effect, thread a loop of (hopefully fine) backing or braid through the eye as in the attached photo. You want to go up towards the up end in the hook to make it lie flush. Here are the materials to make this fly:

  • Rear hook: Octopus or similar up-eye trailer hook, size 4-6
  • Back tail: brown-olive marabou barred black, with lighter marabou (possibly white) on bottom of shank
  • Rear rubber legs: rubber or sili legs of choice, olive or brown, tied on top
  • Front of tail: here’s where it gets optional- I couldn’t find my krystal chenille but the production fly calls for a length of that wrapped with palmered schlappen over. I’ve added some polar chenille in olive or brown but I don’t really love how it looks. You could just add some hackle or marabou (top and bottom of shank, with preferably light colors on the bottom) and call it good. 
  • Front hook: short shank streamer or saltwater hook (in this case), size 6 or 4. 
  • Flash: polar chenille palmered, olive, brown, copper, etc. 
  • Back of fly: black barred marabou, olive-brown or brown
  • Belly: olive marabou, preferably lighter than back. You could also use white here. Make this shorter than the top back marabou.
  • Rubber legs: barred, extending to mid of rear hook. 
  • Front hackle: brown or olive schlappen hackle. (Optional: hen hackle in front or back of schlappen)
  • Eyes: dumbbell, orange, yellow or olive
  • Head: UV ice dub of choice (here UV brown), spun in dubbing loop as long-fibered as possible (brushed and parted, consider using water to compress) and wrapped around crosswise over eyes.

That’s the fly. I have to say I like it! Try it for yourself and let us know what you come up with.

 Finished Heisenberg Fly in hand

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