The Scleech is my favorite double-hook streamer. The title is a bit of a lie. It’s not actually a true articulated pattern, rather a single-hook streamer with a stinger hook and the fly’s body on the connection between the main hook and the stinger. If I wasn’t yacking, I can tie these in about ten minutes, much less than most similar-sized streamers.
This is a great fly in early spring (late March through early June) on the Yellowstone, but it can work all summer and fall too. Usually I fish the fly on a seven-weight rod, with a type-IV sink tip line and about 10lb Maxima for tippet. Strip and rip, but don’t hesitate to high-stick nymph it through the turbulent, foamie, bankside pockets, particularly in midsummer when the big browns sit in those spots and don’t like it when other fish invade their territory.
More info at Walter’s personal blog, at https://fishstories.ycflyfishing.com
Streamer Fishing the Yellowstone River: Tips and Tricks
Streamer Fishing the Yellowstone River in its Black and Grand Canyons
A lot of folks are surprised to learn our single most effective tactic in the Yellowstone’s Black and Grand Canyons, both for numbers of fish and larger fish, all through the season, is stripping streamers aggressively. Cutthroat trout love chasing streamers, whether these fish are six inches long or twenty. They tend to like very specific flies and presentations, however. The following article provides some tips on streamer fishing the Yellowstone River.
Fish Six and Seven-Weight Rods
Your five-weight dry fly rod won’t cut it with the big, weighted streamers and sink-tip lines (or sinking polyleaders) that are usually necessary. In fact, we usually use six-weight rods at all times on the Yellowstone, whether we’re streamer fishing the Yellowstone River or throwing dries or nymphs.
Fish Short, Fast-sinking Sink-tips or Polyleaders
There’s no need for subtlety here. A short sink-tip line or sinking polyleader that sinks between five and seven inches per second is what you’re after. Yes, it lands with a clunk and sinks too fast in slow, shallow water. When streamer fishing the Yellowstone River, you’re going to be fishing deep, often fast water where you don’t get long presentations. Fish a tip that helps get your flies down fast.
Fish Heavy Tippets
Regardless of the time of year or clarity of the water, you should fish heavy tippets when streamer fishing the Yellowstone River. I generally use 1X or 2X mono to my first, larger fly, and 2X or 3X to the dropper. Always drop down a size between the first fly and the second.
Fly Choice: Keep it Simple
There is seldom any reason to make complicated fly choices. Articulated streamers with more than one intact hook are banned in Yellowstone Park (alas), as are lead-headed flies. This means many contemporary and popular flies are out. My choices are pretty simple: Woolly Buggers, Slumpbusters, and Muddlers, for the most part, with all save the Muddlers weighted with cones, tungsten or large brass beads, or brass dumbbell eyes. Here’s a sample fly list that will cover 95% of your bases through the season, listed in approximate order of importance:
Chocolate Brown Minch’s Bully Bugger (ostrich-bodied leech-like beadhead Bugger), #10-12
Olive Conehead Flash-a-Bugger, #4-6
Black Conehead Flash-a-Bugger, #4-6
Gold Minch’s Bully Bugger, #10-12
Tan Wiese’s PT-Bugger (sculpin-hued Bugger with dumbbell eyes), #4-6
Last season, I don’t think I had a client use anything besides the flies listed above when streamer fishing the Yellowstone River in its canyons. Other stretches are a different matter.
Double Up Your Streamers
Fish two streamers in tandem. Usually this means securing your larger streamer to your main leader, then running a smaller one on a dropper from the first hook. This might seem like the mouse chasing the cat. In reality, the first fly gets the trout’s attention and causes it to chase, while the second offers a smaller, less-threatening meal. Unless the fish are really aggressive, more will take the second fly. They often don’t do so fishing the smaller bug by itself.
Strip Your Streamers Aggressively
While swinging can certainly work, and is often important for getting your flies down regardless of whether a fish eats while the fly is swinging or not, it’s not the main retrieve you should be using. Instead, use an aggressive strip, with significant pauses between each strip. I can’t stress this enough. Most strips are “wimpy.” Jerk the line abruptly at least a foot, and perhaps as much as eighteen inches, so that the fly moves sharply up and towards you, then stops and falls. The fly should have a significant “jigging” action in the water, one reason weighted flies are so important. The abrupt strip is what makes the fish chase, but they usually eat when the fly drops.
When Stripping isn’t Possible, Use Your Rod Tip
When there’s no room to strip your flies, either because they’ve gotten too close to you or because you cast into a small slow spot, provide action with your rod tip. These twitches can be of smaller magnitude than your strips, since at short range more of the motion you impart will transfer down the line to the fly.
Note that most retrieves will include both stripping and twitching: stripping through the main part of the retrieve, then twitching when the fly is getting close to your and/or when the fly is in a good spot such as just above or below a rock.
Retrieve All the Way to the Drop-Off
Cutthroats love to chase streamers for long distances, and they’ll often follow them almost to shore, before either eating just before the first sharp dropoff or turning away. For this reason, it’s important to retrieve all the way into shallow water. A good rule of thumb (when the water is clear, at least) is to retrieve all the way until the general emerald green color of the river transitions to a shade wherein it’s easy for you to see the true color of the rocks. The last foot or two over the transition is the place to twitch rather than strip, just in case a following fish wants a change in retrieve to make it strike.
Watch Your Flies!
I can’t stress this enough. Streamer fishing the Yellowstone River is visual, often as visual as dry fly fishing. Watch to see how your flies are moving: where they are in the water column, whether they’re moving across the current or up or down stream. Watch the fish. Are they chasing long distances? Not moving much at all? Are they flashing at your fly but “missing it?” Usually the latter actually means they’re spooking at the last moment and perhaps you should go with a drabber or smaller fly.
When it comes to strikes, this is often visual too. If you feel a pluck or even just weight on your line, great. This should not be your main strike trigger. Instead, you should look for the fish flashing or opening their mouths. Since many of the strikes are at short range, this is easier than it might sound.
Change Everything Else, before You Change Your Flies
Cast upstream, across stream, or downstream. Change your retrieve speed. Change how long your strips are. Twitch the rod tip rather than stripping. Swap to a heavier or lighter fly or tip, so your fly rides differently in the water column. The fly is usually the last of your worries. Every fly I gave in the list above will typically get some strikes when streamer fishing the Yellowstone River. The real trick is making the fly behave how the trout want it. Once you get it right, you’ll often be into a bunch of fish when five minutes before you couldn’t buy a strike.
This fly worked like a charm on Yellowstone River float trips last season, the only place where I tried it. I also suspect it will work well in the Black and Grand Canyons of the Yellowstone and perhaps in the Lamar drainage and on the Madison and Gallatin.
For 2019, all of the most popular and effective colors of Bob Hoppers will be available in additional sizes. Peach and pink, the two most effective colors in general, will be available in #10 through #14. Depending on color, we’ll have most colors in at least one additional size, sometimes #10 and sometimes #12, and we’ll certainly be playing with even larger versions. Salmonfly Bobs, anyone? In the past, we’ve only had these in #14. The larger versions worked great with the high water and plentiful grasshoppers we had last year, and are big enough to float tungsten-headed nymphs. Full availability for these new sizes of Bob Hoppers will be in late May and June. We expect to sell out of all of them no later than late August, except for guide use, of course…
Check out this post for a video on how to tie these larger Bobs.
Provided it’s warm enough you can stand it and not so windy you blow away, late February can be a great time to fish the Paradise Valley spring creeks. While streamers can draw a few big eats and if you luck into a calm day in the 30s or 40s there could be midge or winter BWO hatches, nymphing is the way to rack up the numbers. Here are my top three flies for late February. They remain good in March, too.
If you don’t care to tie these flies, we sell the first and third in the shop.
NOTE: rainbow trout spawning activity begins on the creeks in February. It’s important to let them do their business in peace. Make sure to avoid fishing or walking over redds (spawning nests), which are areas of shallow gravel that the fish have swept clean of algae and debris. These areas will look paler or brighter in color than other gravel. Some redds can be quite large, larger than a dining room table, but most are perhaps three feet in diameter. It’s okay to fish the deeper water downstream of these redds, and in fact these areas are often the best areas to target non-spawning fish, since the spawning activity leaves eggs in the drift and also disturbs aquatic insect larvae/pupae and nymphs, which the fish in the deeper water pick off.
All of these pattern should generally be ticked along the bottom with or without a shot, and should be fished in pretty small sizes. Use 5X or 6X tippet. Fluorocarbon is not a bad choice.
This simple nymph is my favorite pattern overall in February, regardless of where I’m fishing. It does a good job imitating both BWO nymphs and midge pupae, making it an excellent crossover pattern covering the two most important food items on the menu at this time of year. Fish it in #18 and #20, with or without a gold beadhead. The wing case can be replaced with tinsel if you want a bit more flash in the pattern.
Hook: #18-22 scud.
Bead (optional): gold brass.
Thread and Abdomen: 8/0 olive-dun.
Tail: lemon wood duck flank.
Wing Case: lemon wood duck flank.
Thorax: gray dubbing.
Red/Black/Brown Triple Threat Worm
San Juan Worms of all kinds are good choices in late winter and spring, but on the creeks they must be slender and sparse. The tricolor Triple Threat Worm has worked well for me on the creeks for more than a decade.
Hook: #16-18 scud (on the creeks, #12 is great on larger water).
Bead: gold brass.
Thread: 8/0 or 10/0 black.
Front Segment: red midge Ultra Chenille.
Rear Segment: brown midge Ultra Chenille.
Body: Black micro tubing coated with head cement.
Pink Flashtail Mini Egg
Some might regard eggs as cheating, but they do “match the hatch,” since as I noted above some eggs drift loose after spawning. These eggs invariably die, and take on a pale creamy pink appearance when they do. This particular egg pattern adds a hint of flash and is realistically small. Other similarly-small egg patterns are also worth a shot.
Hook: #16-18 scud.
Thread: white 75-100 denier gel spun.
Tail: small pearl or opal tinsel.
Egg: January or other pale pink McFlyFoam, with an orange eye spot, spun and clipped round.