Looking for big trout?
Twin tail on streamer pattern makes the difference
October 8, 2005
Colton Lewer, 10, and his father, Scott Lewer, caught the rainbow trout of a lifetime in the Yampa River last month. Make that two rainbow trout of two lifetimes.
Fly-fishing a private section of the Yampa River upstream from Steamboat Springs on Sept. 24, Scott landed a 23-inch trout on a custom woolly bugger tied by Tony Nunnikhoven. Before the fishing outing had ended, Colton out-did his dad. Just before dark, he reeled in a chunky 26-incher on spinning tackle. His lure was a Mepps spinner.
Using a formula based on the bigger trout’s length and girth, Scott estimated Colton’s fish to be in the 10-pound class. It appears to be every bit of that in photographs.
Scott saved some face by catching three fish nudging 20 inches that evening.
Scott said his strategy for big trout involves getting his fly down deep and retrieving it in short, rapid jerks.
“I’m a big believer in thinking like a fish,” he said. Fishing with streamers, he casts upstream at 45 degrees and allows the minnow imitation to dead drift for about 10 feet until it crosses in front of his face. Holding his rod tip about a foot above the water, he retrieves the streamer.
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Scott refers to the pattern of the fly he used to catch the big rainbow “Tony’s Tiger” in honor of Nunnikhoven and because it has a little yellow marabou in its tail. However, Nunnikhoven said he couldn’t claim the streamer pattern for his own.
“This pattern is heavily influenced by Steve Henderson of Steamboat Flyfishers, who adapted it from a fly known as J.J.’s Special. There’s a little genius in it,” Nunnikhoven said.
The fly closely resembles the standard olive-bodied, black-hackled, black-marabou-tailed woolly bugger that catches fish in area rivers and high mountain lakes. The difference is its two-toned tail, Nunnikhoven said.
The tail of the fly is tied with the usual black tail, he said, but in addition, he ties in a yellow tail that is half the length of the first. The contrasting colors result in “way over-the-top” lifelike appearance when the streamer is immersed in water, he said.
“It gives the pattern a pale contrast like a real minnow would have,” Nunnikhoven said. “I also do some subtle things to catch the light.”
He incorporates an olive-brown dubbing material called “spin ice” in the ribbing of the fly. The spin ice seems to have a bluish tint, he said.
Nunnikhoven’s more complete recipe for his killer woolly bugger begins with a size four streamer hook with a 3X shank. He uses a gold bead for a weighted head, and wraps the shank from hook point to bead head with 30-thousandths weight lead. He ties in the twin tails and wraps the body with black and olive variegated chenille that almost gives the fly a checkered appearance. In preparation for wrapping the body of the streamer with a palmered black hackle, he ties in a length of blue brassie wire that will constitute the ribbing. But before he proceeds, he wraps the spin ice around the wire. After palmering the hackle, he reverse wraps the wire to give the fly extra durability.
All that remains is to tie the fly on the line and pound the river.
“I told Colton that some guys have been fishing their whole lives for a fish like his,” Scott said.
And that raises the question: What does a guy do for thrills after he’s landed a 26-inch rainbow at age 10?