It was late February and we were fishing one of our favorite western New York tributaries for steelhead and lake run brown trout. We had a nice warm stretch of weather and the streams had been free and clear of ice for a few days. The water was high but not muddy and we knew there would be fish here.
My friend started upstream from me fishing an egg pattern through some pocket water. I stayed at the bridge and started fishing the back end of the pool with a streamer. I was using a 5 foot sink tip that I could loop to the end of my floating line. I then looped 5 foot straight piece of 10lb. tippet to the sink tip and then tied on a size 6 white bucktail streamer.
I stripped out about 20 feet of fly line and threw a roll cast just upstream and to the far side of the creek. I then threw in a big mend and let the fly sink and drift. When the current started to drag the fly, I started to strip the fly in at a slow and steady pace, two feet at a time. Soon I could see my fly downstream from me and near the shore. And right behind it was a lake run brown trout of about 7 or 8 lbs. The fish was following the fly but it didn't seem to be very aggressive. So I stopped stripping the fly to see if the fish would take. The fish then turned and swam back into the middle of the pool. I took a deep breath and tried not to yell at myself for making a poor choice. I then made another cast and mend, trying to replicate the same drift in the same spot. I was hoping that the brown would still be interested. It was! As I was stripping the fly in, I saw the fish follow my fly for the second time. This time I kept up the slow steady pace, drawing the fly closer and closer hoping for a take. Then in an instant the fish accelerated, opened its mouth and drew in the fly just feet below where I was standing, fish on!.
This scenario does not always play out like it did for me that morning. Sometimes the fish will see the fly drifting near the bottom, follow it, and wait until it starts to swing to gently take it. Then the fish turns downstream, slowly putting a bend in the rod until you realize that a fish has taken your fly. Other times the fish will follow and slash at the fly with such aggression that they almost rip the rod out of your hand. The important thing to remember is to be ready for anything!
And if you don't have a sink tip....don't worry, you can fish weighted streamers on a longer leader with just your floating line. The best thing to do is have a variety of weighted streamers such as cone head, bead head or bead chain eyed woolly buggers and rabbit strip leach patterns to cover all water conditions. I sometimes add 10 or 12 wraps of lead wire behind the cone or bead for really high water. And depending on the water you will need between a 7 or 9 foot tapered leader tapered down to 8 or 10lb test. You can make it your self or buy one. The longer leader will allow the weighted fly to sink better and have less drag from fly line. I try to use a 7 foot leader for moderate to lower water, and 9 foot leaders for higher water. This set up is also easier to switch from streamer to nymph rig much more quickly especially if you only have one rod with you.
As for fly color....I have heard a guide say "You can fish any color as long as it's white." This is probably the best all around color to use, but I would also carry some darker patterns like black, olive or brown as they may be a better option in stained water under low light conditions. They would also work well on very skinny water where small patterns in natural colors may work better.
Okay already! Enough writing, time to go fishing!