Friday, May 23, 2014

Leopard Dace Flatwing Streamer

      Currently, there seems to be two major schools of thought operational in the design of streamer flies meant for trout fishing: The school of Less-Is-More; & the school of More-Is-Mo-Bettah. A glance at those catalogs coming in the mail seems to indicate a trend toward the latter mode of thought. And in that we see how trends are market-driven, for better or worse, yet in the end have little to do with what our local water & fish are telling us; & knowing that helps give us realistic perspective. Of course, this is one of the reasons we tie our own.

Generally, I hang loose with the Less-Is-More school. The big, mechanically-articulated, plastic-eyed, stuffed-animal sculpin simulators so popular in the catalogs do have their day (or night!), I'm fairly certain. Yet, sculpin & dace are important forage in the water I fish & I fish the imitations a lot, & I've yet to have somebody show up, pull out a goggle-eyed, articulated double bunny, then clown me & my old-timey notions with it. Aint saying it can't happen. Just hasn't happened yet. But I'm starting to brag & rant, & that's not the point.    

Always those ambiguous dualities…

Remember, as a general rule-of-thumb: the more there is for trout to look at, the more there is for trout to be suspicious of.   

Though it is true there are some that straddle definition, there are, basically, two types of streamer flies:

Attractors: which are lures, or ‘reaction baits’, to borrow from bass fishing parlance, tied in color combinations known to ‘trigger’ fish to strike. The Mickey Finn (see my last post) is a good example of this type.

Imitator/Simulators: which seek to imitate or simulate a particular species of baitfish. The flatwing sculpin of recent posts, & the dace pattern featured in this post are examples of this type.

The Leopard Dace is a basic Rhody bucktail-flatwing style, tied to simulate leopard & speckled dace, a couple of western species common to my neighborhood. As is, or with slight modification, the pattern might serve to cover other chubs, trout parr, or yellow perch fry. Note that it is tied fairly sparse. Bucktail is a tried & true fish getter in all mediums, & there is no synthetic substitute for bucktail. Unlike natural hairs, synthetic fibers possess no ‘spine’ or shape-retaining ‘memory’, nor does plastic approach the nuance of coloration possible with natural hairs. When dry, bucktail might seem a fairly stiff material to those concerned with action, yet it softens when wet, breathes & produces a subtle waving movement that fairly simulates the motion of real baitfish. And it might do well to note that baitfish & sculpin do not wriggle through the water like snakes, in reality, they kick & dart, they pulse, with very little discernible wriggle. To my mind, a streamer constructed of materials that breathe & pulse serves to more closely simulate the actual movement of baitfish than a fly articulated to swim like a water snake or a pollywog. The key to constructing an effective bucktail streamer is to not overdress it. The completed fly should not resemble a shaving brush, the bucktail sparse enough for light to pass through the construction, the hairs not bunched, but separated so that their movement is not impaired. Living minnows reflect their background, so ideally the background will show through the bucktail construction. For trout flies, choose the finer hairs from near the tip of the tail for backs & bellies, reserving the thicker hairs from the base for use as lateral lines (the middle color).

Leopard Dace Flatwing

Hook: #6 TMC 200R

Thread: Olive or brown

Rib: Gold mylar tinsel

Body: Silver mylar tinsel (The durability of fragile mylar tinsel bodies can be greatly enhanced by applying a coat of Loon Hard Head over the finished body)

Belly: White bucktail – a pinch tied in beneath the hook shank, extending about twice the length of the hook

Overwing (back): In order tied in: a pinch of *yellow bucktail; a single *olive dyed grizzly saddle hackle tied in flat, concave side down; 2 strands of pearl midge flash; a pinch of mixed shades of natural brown bucktail – all winging materials extending about twice the length of the hook shank – the overall result, tied on a #6, 3x hook, is about 2.5 inches long. I like to finish these with jungle cock nail eyes.

*Substituting pink for the yellow bucktail produces a trout parr imitation. I also tie a version substituting red for the yellow bucktail, combined with a solid black saddle hackle, to produce a ‘spawning dace’ pattern. Possible riffs on the basic design, three layers of bucktail & a single saddle hackle, are endless.               
Leopard Dace flatwing streamer tied by Steven Bird

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