I’ve got a big streamer stuck in a wine cork that sits on my desk at work. If you fly fish then it’s probably nothing I need to explain. It’s about as at home on my desk as a snow globe would be on Santa Claus’, except way cooler. I know how cool it is because my boss was talking to me the other day and when it caught his eye he stopped mid-sentence and started rifling off questions about it. He doesn’t even fish. Not even worm and bobber fishing, nothing. Did you tie that? You can cast something that big? What would even go after something like that? It’s always fun when non fly anglers start asking you questions about fly fishing, because you can feel like you’re teaching someone about something you’re totally consumed by, even though in the end they’re probably going to forget everything you said before you're done saying it because they don’t care enough to remember but are intrigued just enough to ask.
I told him they make pretty big rods for casting huge streamers and chasing big powerful fish, and that JP was in the process of building me a 9wt, which sounds big, but it’s at the small end of big rods. There are anglers casting 12 weights to muskies and salt water fish, and they still think they need something bigger. But his last question totally steered my mind away from work and had me leaning back in my chair staring at the streamer and picturing toothy missiles glaring from weed beds, studying a bunch of feathers and deer hair with violent intentions. Why would they want to eat that? It doesn’t look like anything real to me. I could see two glaring eyes and a long body slowly rising horizontally, completely still like a submarine rising from the depths. Why indeed would a fish want to eat it?
I’ve always thought that as much as fishermen talk about matching hatches and local bait fish that there was a certain amount of BS that went with the design of quite a few streamers and the wacky soft plastics that spin fishermen cast. On the soft plastics, I can’t say I’ve ever flipped over a rock in a creek and found a cray fish that looked like it parents were an octopus and lobster that mated during a nuclear winter. As for the big colorful streamers, sure, you can match the colors of a juvenile bass or a trout, but in all reality, that’s all you’ve done is match the colors…somewhat. Go ahead, put that streamer in the water next to what you say you’re trying to imitate and it doesn’t hardly resemble it except for size and color. But I guess that must be enough sometimes.
But then there’s the big flashy multi colored, double articulated jobs that I’d like to dare you to show me something it looks even remotely close to. It’s just not going to happen. I have to believe that the fish aren’t eating these things because they look like something they’ve eaten before, but because it simply looks alive. If it moves like it’s alive, then it must be alive. And things that are alive are usually edible. I guess the other reason could be that it just pisses them off, but I’m not a fish, I don’t speak fish, and so I’m the realist that admits I’m just tossing stuff that I hope does one of those things well enough. Looks alive, makes them mad, something, anything.
I’d venture that on some days you really do need the right colors under the right moon phase with the right barometric pressure, only because I’ve been skunked enough times to realize that I haven’t found the right combination of the variables yet. But then on other days if that fish has been having a bad day and just wants to kill something with extreme prejudice, you could probably cast a wet sock and end up with a hell of a story in the end. So it just might be a good idea to come up with a pattern that imitates a sock, because using an actual sock would be cheating. And fly fishermen never cheat. We may lie, but by God, we’ll tie something monstrously ugly and claim it’s a good imitation before we’ll cast the real thing.