The Power of (Streamer) Attraction
Updated: Apr 2
I was just clicking around online getting reacquainted with what's out there in the world of streamers. Most of my fly fishing here in South Florida is done with just a few different but very simple patterns, all of which produce very well for me. With that said, it's still fun to stay in-tune with the flies that far more creative minds are coming up with and even experiment with patterns I've never tried. Fly designs are all over the map, and of course so are sizes. With this said, do you ever take into consideration the "drawing power" of the fly you're throwing?
Since I conventional fish as well, you'll see me often using examples and making comparisons to that side of the angling world. In this instance, I really became in-tune with the drawing power of different bass lures years ago before I really picked up on that specific phrase. While that phrase sums up the concept pretty quickly, to put it into layman's terms it refers to the power your offering has to attract or draw attention from the fish.
The conventional bass market is absolutely saturated with different baits. From skinny little finesse plastics to huge 12-inch swimbaits that imitate trout us fly folks wouldn't mind actually catching, there's seemingly infinite categories, sizes, styles, and colors available. Each bait is crafted with specific characteristics and typically is made to be fished a certain way or ways. The size, design, and color of specific baits also has a lot to do with how effectively they cover water or draw the attention of fish. A bigger swimming bait or one that makes noise will obviously get noticed much more readily than a quiet little plastic worm being dragged across the bottom. With these factors in mind, this doesn't just affect how I animate a particular bait, but also how I cover water with it. The exact same can be said for flies, too.
While the title of this article mentions streamers, of course this concept of drawing power can relate to any surface or subsurface fly. Streamers just happen to be the style that are often the most noticeable. To put it really simply—the larger, bulkier, noisier, brighter, flashier, and/or the more visibly a fly swims, the more attention it commands and from a greater distance.
It's all relative to the size of the fly and the current conditions. A large stonefly nymph is far easier to see than a little Hare's Ear, but it's obviously not on the same level as a 4-inch streamer darting through the water column. Not only is that streamer blatantly more visible from further away, but if it has additional attractors like rattles, flash, or a bulky design that pushes a lot of water as it moves, it can draw even more attention. Of course, the more stained the water is or the less light you have, the more it's going to suppress the drawing power of whatever fly you're throwing to some degree. However, drawing power can become even more critical then, especially when fishing at night and you need to get that fly noticed in the darkness.
After getting those basic points out of the way, I'd like to touch on how I fish flies depending on how much attention they attract.
There's no way to know for sure how far a fish is going to move to take a particular fly, but experience allows me to make an educated guess on day to day conditions. As primarily a streamer flinger, the more noticeable my streamer is in the given conditions, generally the broader I feel I can cover the water.
If using a very subtle fly that doesn't particularly stand out, I'll typically keep my presentations a little closer together to systematically blanket a likely area while ensuring that any fish around will be more likely to spot my fly passing nearby. This can take a while if the fish are spread out over a wide zone and I need to search for them. Now, if I'm fishing that same area with a fly that's way more easily noticed, I'll be more inclined to spread my casts out further while searching. This lets me cover more open water with less casts since the fly can pull fish in from a greater distance.
As mentioned, however, water clarity and light come into play; but also the activity levels of the fish. If there’s less visibility and/or less active fish, then I often won’t have as wide of a spread between presentations through a likely area.
Doing so increases the odds of my fly passing close to fish that may have difficulty intercepting it or may not want to move very far to eat it—even with the most attention-grabbing fly. Whatever the conditions or chosen fly, when a fish is finally hooked, I'll saturate that immediate area before moving on.
Size and color are perhaps the best ways to increase the drawing power of any fly's design. Speaking on size, a bigger fly is also more likely to attract a bigger bite. In water temps that aren't optimal, that bigger fly may also persuade a lazy fish to move in for the kill since it represents a much more substantial meal that's worth the energy to swim over and eat. When you're cozy on the couch, would you be more likely to get up for a few potato chips or a whole slice of hot pizza? I know what I'd probably pick!
This article was created to shed some light on how I perceive flies to attract and how that affects the way I like to fish them. Small and subtle patterns can still be the best choice in many circumstances, but the next time you find yourself fishing a fly that noticeably stands out, consider altering your presentation style if you already don't. In addition, if there's diminished visibility or the fish seem inactive, going to a fly with increased attracting power might be the ticket to finally drawing a strike!